The Ball-and-field Test (score 2 Inferior Plan)

PROCEDURE. Draw a circle about two and one half inches in diameter,

leaving a small gap in the side next the child. Say: "_Let us suppose

that your baseball has been lost in this round field. You have no idea

what part of the field it is in. You don't know what direction it came

from, how it got there, or with what force it came. All you know is

that the ball is lost somewhere in the field. Now, take this pencil and

k out a path to show me how you would hunt for the ball so as to be

sure not to miss it. Begin at the gate and show me what path you would


Give the instructions always as worded above. Avoid using an expression

like, "_Show me how you would walk around in the field_"; the word

_around_ might suggest a circular path.

Sometimes the child merely points or tells how he would go. It is then

necessary to say: "_No; you must mark out your path with the pencil so I

can see it plainly._" Other children trace a path only a little way and

stop, saying: "Here it is." We then say: "_But suppose you have not

found it yet. Which direction would you go next?_" In this way the child

must be kept tracing a path until it is evident whether any plan governs

his procedure.

SCORING. The performances secured with this test are conveniently

classified into four groups, representing progressively higher types.

The first two types represent failures; the third is satisfactory at

year VIII, the fourth at year XII. They may be described as follows:--

_Type a_ (failure). The child fails to comprehend the

instructions and either does nothing at all or else, perhaps,

takes the pencil and makes a few random strokes which could not

be said to constitute a search.

_Type b_ (also failure). The child comprehends the instructions

and carries out a search, but without any definite plan. Absence

of plan is evidenced by the crossing and re-crossing of paths,

or by "breaks." A break means that the pencil is lifted up and

set down in another part of the field. Sometimes only two or

three fragments of paths are drawn, but more usually the field

is pretty well filled up with random meanderings which cross

each other again and again. Other illustrations of type _b_ are:

A single straight or curved line going direct to the ball, short

haphazard dashes or curves, bare suggestion of a fan or spiral.

_Type c_ (satisfactory at year VIII). A successful performance

at year VIII is characterized by the presence of a plan, but one

ill-adapted to the purpose. That some forethought is exercised

is evidenced, (1) by fewer crossings, (2) by a tendency either

to make the lines more or less parallel or else to give them

some kind of symmetry, and (3) by fewer breaks. The

possibilities of type _c_ are almost unlimited, and one is

continually meeting new forms. We have distinguished more than

twenty of these, the most common of which may be described as


1. Very rough or zigzag circles or similarly imperfect spirals.

2. Segments of curves joined in a more or less symmetrical fashion.

3. Lines going back and forth across the field, joined at the ends

and not intended to be parallel.

4. The "wheel plan," showing lines radiating from near the center

of the field toward the circumference.

5. The "fan plan," showing a number of lines radiating (usually)

from the gate and spreading out over the field.

6. "Fan ellipses" or "fan spirals" radiating from the gate like the

lines just described.

7. The "leaf plan," "rib plan," or "tree plan," with lines branching

off from a trunk line like ribs, veins of a leaf, or branches of

a tree.

8. Parallel lines which cross at right angles and mark off the field

like a checkerboard.

9. Paths making one or more fairly symmetrical geometrical figures,

like a square, a diamond, a star, a hexagon, etc.

10. A combination of two or more of the above plans.

_Type d_ (satisfactory at year XII). Performances of this type

meet perfectly, or almost perfectly, the logical requirements of

the problem. The paths are almost or quite parallel, and there

are no intersections or breaks. The possibilities of type _d_

are fewer and embrace chiefly the following:--

1. A spiral, perfect or almost perfect, and beginning either at

the gate or at the center of the field. 2. Concentric circles.

3. Transverse lines, parallel or almost so, and joined at the


Up to about 4 years most children failed entirely to comprehend the

task. By the age of 6 years the task is usually understood, but the

search is conducted without plan. Type _c_ is not attained by two

thirds before the mental level of 8 years, and score 3 ordinarily not

until 11 or 12 years.

Grading presents some difficulties because of occasional border-line

performances which have a value almost midway between the types _b_ and

_c_ or between _c_ and _d_. Frequent reference to the scoring card will

enable the examiner, after a little experience, to score nearly all the

doubtful performances satisfactorily.

REMARKS. The ball-and-field problem may be called a test of practical

judgment. Unlike a majority of the other tests, it gives the subject a

chance to show how well he can meet the demands of a real, rather

than an imagined, situation. Tests like this, involving practical

adjustments, are valuable in rounding out the scale, which, as left by

Binet, placed rather excessive emphasis on abstract reasoning and the

comprehension of language. The test requires little time and always

arouses the child's interest.

Our analysis of the responses of nearly 1500 subjects shows that

improvement with increasing mental age is steady and fairly rapid.

Occasionally, however, one meets a high-grade performance with children

of 6 or 7 years, and a low-grade performance with adults of average

intelligence. Like all the other tests of the scale, it is unreliable

when used alone.