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.