The Influence Of Coaching

It might be supposed that after the intelligence scale had been used with a few

pupils in a given school all of their fellows would soon be apprised of the nature of

the tests, and so learn the correct responses. Experience shows, however, that there is

little likelihood of such influence except in the case of a small

minority of the tests. Experiments in the psychology of testimony have

demonstrated that children's ability to re
ort upon a complex set of

experiences is astonishingly weak. In testing with the Stanford revision

a child is ordinarily given from twenty-four to thirty different tests,

many of which are made up of three or more items. Of the total forty to

fifty items the child is ordinarily able to report but few, and these

not always correctly.

Such tests as memory for sentences and digits, drawing the square and

diamond, reproducing the designs from memory, comparing weights and

lines, describing and interpreting pictures, aesthetic comparison,

vocabulary, dissected sentences, fables, reading for memories, finding

differences and similarities, arithmetical reasoning, and the form-board

test, are hardly subject to report at all. While almost any of the other

tests might, theoretically, be communicated, there is little danger that

many of them will be. It is assumed, of course, that the examiner will

take proper precautions to prevent any of his blanks or other materials

from falling into the hands of those who are to be examined.

The following tests are the ones most subject to the influence of

coaching: Ball and field, giving date, naming sixty words, finding

rhymes, changing hands of clock, comprehension of physical relations,

"induction test," and "ingenuity test."

In several instances we have interviewed children an hour or two after

they had taken the examination, in order to find out how many of the

tests they could recall. A boy of 4 years, after repeated questioning,

could only say: "He showed me some pictures. He had a knife and a penny.

He told me to shut the door." A girl of 3 years could recall nothing

whatever that was intelligible.

An 8-year-old boy said: "He made me tie a knot. He asked me about a ship

and an auto. He wanted me to count backwards. He made me say over some

things, numbers and things."

A boy of 12 years said: "He told me to say all the words I could think

of. He said some foolish things and asked what was foolish [he could not

repeat a single absurdity]. I had to put some blocks together. I had to

do some problems in arithmetic [he could not repeat a single problem].

He read some fables to me. [Asked about the fables he was able to recall

only part of one, that of the fox and the crow.] He showed me the

picture of a field and wanted to know how to find a ball."

It is evident from the above samples of report that the danger of

coaching increases considerably with the age of the children concerned.

With young subjects the danger is hardly present at all; with children

of the upper-grammar grades, in the high school, and most of all in

prisons and reformatories, it must be taken into account. Alternative

tests may sometimes be used to advantage when there is evidence of

coaching on any of the regular tests. It would be desirable to have two

or three additional scales which could be used interchangeably with the