Using A Code

PROCEDURE. Show the subject the code given on the accompanying form.

Say: "_See these diagrams here. Look and you will see that they contain

all the letters of the alphabet. Now, examine the arrangement of the

letters. They go_ (pointing) _a b c, d e f, g h i, j k l, m n o, p q r,

s t u v, w x y z. You see the letters in the first two diagrams are

arranged in the up-and-down order_ (pointing again), _and the letters in

the other two diagrams run in just the opposite way from the hands of a

clock_ (pointing). _Look again and you will see that the second diagram

is drawn just like the first, except that each letter has a dot with it,

and that the last diagram is like the third except that here, also, each

letter has a dot. Now, all of this represents a code; that is, a secret

language. It is a real code, one that was used in the Civil War for

sending secret messages. This is the way it works: we draw the lines

which hold a letter, but leave out the letter. Here, for example, is the

way we would write 'spy?'_" Then write the word _spy_, pointing out

carefully where each letter comes from, and emphasizing the fact that

the dot must be used in addition to the lines in writing any letter in

the second or the fourth diagram. Illustrate also with _war_.

Then add: "_I am going to have you write something for me; remember now,

how the letters go, first_ (pointing, as before) _a b c, d e f, g h i,

then j k l, m n o, p q r, then s t u v, then w x y z. And don't forget

the dots for the letters in this diagram and this one_" (pointing). At

this point, take away the diagrams and tell the subject to write the

words _come quickly_. Say nothing about hurrying.

The subject is given a pencil, but is allowed to draw only the symbols

for the words _come quickly_. He is not permitted to reproduce the

entire code and then to copy the code letters from his reproduction.

SCORING. The test is passed if the words are written in _six minutes and

without more than two errors_. Omission of a dot counts as only a half


REMARKS. It is not easy to analyze the mental functions which contribute

to success in the code test. Contrary to what might be supposed, success

does not necessarily depend upon getting and retaining a visual picture

of the diagrams. Kinaesthetic imagery will answer the purpose just as

well, or the original visual impression may even be translated at once

into auditory-verbal imagery and remembered as such. The significance of

the test must be expressed in other terms than the kind of imagery it

may happen to bring into play.

Healy and Fernald describe the task of writing a code sentence without

copy as one which requires "close attention and steadiness of purpose."

They also emphasize the fact that the attention must be directed inward,

since there is no object of interest before the senses and since no

special stimulus to attention is offered by the experimenter.

Observations we have made on subjects during the test confirm this view

as to the factors involved.

That inability to remember the code as a whole is not a common cause of

failure is shown by the fact that subjects above 12-year intelligence

who have failed on the test are nearly always able to reproduce the

diagrams and insert the letters in their proper places. To give the code

form of a given letter without copy, however, makes a much heavier

demand on attention. Nearly all subjects find it necessary to trace the

code form, in imagination, from the beginning up to each letter whose

code form is sought. Subjects of superior intelligence, however,

sometimes hit upon the device of remembering the position of the

individual key letters e.g. (the first letter of each figure) from

which, as a base, any desired letter form may be quickly sought out.

The test correlates well with mental age, but for some reason not

apparent it is passed by a larger percentage of high-school pupils than

unschooled adults of the same mental level.

The code test was first described by Healy and Fernald in their "Tests

for Practical Mental Classification." The authors gave no data,

however, which would indicate the mental level to which the test

belongs. Dr. Goddard incorporated it in year XV of his revision of the

Binet scale, but also fails to give statistics. The location given

the test in the Stanford revision is based on tests of nearly

500 individuals ranging from a mental level of 12 years to that of

"superior adult." It appears that the test is considerably more

difficult than most had thought it to be.