Giving Differences Between A President And A King
PROCEDURE. Say: "_There are three main differences between a president
and a king; what are they?_" If the subject stops after one difference
is given, we urge him on, if possible, until three are given.
SCORING. The three differences relate to power, tenure, and manner of
accession. Only these differences are considered correct, and the
successful response must include at least two of the three. We disregard
crudities of expression and note merely whether the subject has the
essential idea. As regards power, for example, any of the following
responses are satisfactory: "The king is absolute and the president is
not." "The king rules by himself, but the president rules with the help
of the people." "Kings can have things their own way more than
presidents can," etc.
It may be objected that the reverse of this is sometimes true, that the
king of to-day often has less power than the average president.
Sometimes subjects mention this fact, and when they do we credit them
with this part of the test. As a matter of fact, however, this answer is
Sometimes the subject does not stop until he has given a half-dozen or
more differences, and in such cases the first three differences may be
trivial and some of the later ones essential. The question then arises
whether we should disregard the errors and pass the subject on his later
correct responses. The rule in such cases is to ask the subject to pick
out the "three main differences."
Sometimes accession and tenure are given in the form of a single
contrast, as: "The president is elected, but the king inherits his
throne and rules for life." This answer entitles the subject to credit
for both accession and tenure, the contrast as regards tenure being
Unsatisfactory contrasts are of many kinds and are often amusing. Some
of the most common are the following:--
"A king wears a crown." "A king has jewels." "A king sits on a
throne." ("A king sets on a thorn" as one feeble-minded boy put
it!) "A king lives in a palace." "A king has courtiers." "A king
is very dignified." "A king dresses up more." "A president has
less pomp and ceremony." "A president is more ready to receive
the people." "A king sits on a chair all the time and a
president does not." "No differences; it's just names." "A
president does not give titles." "A king has a larger salary."
"A king has royal blood." "A king is in more danger." "They have
a different title." "A king is more cruel." "Kings have people
beheaded." "A king rules in a monarchy and a president in a
republic." "A king rules in a foreign country." "A president is
elected and a king fights for his office." "A president appoints
governors and a king does not." "A president lets the lawyers
make the laws." "Everybody works for a king."
It is surprising to see how often trivial differences like the above are
given. About thirty "average adults" out of a hundred, including
high-school students, give at least one unsatisfactory contrast.
The test has been criticized as depending too much on schooling. The
criticism is to a certain extent valid when the test is used with young
subjects, say of 10 or 12 years. It is not valid, however, if the use of
the test is confined to older subjects. With the latter, it is not a
test of knowledge, but of the discriminative capacity to deal with
knowledge already in the possession of the subject. It would be
difficult to find an adult, not actually feeble-minded, who is ignorant
of the facts called for: That the king inherits his throne, while the
president is elected; that the tenure of the king is for life, and that
of the president for a term of years; that kings ordinarily have, or are
supposed to have, more power. Even the relatively stupid adult knows
this; but he also knows that kings are different from presidents in
having crowns, thrones, palaces, robes, courtiers, larger pay, etc., and
he makes no discrimination as regards the relative importance of these
The test is psychologically related to that of giving differences in
year VII and to the two tests of finding similarities; but it differs
from these in requiring a comparison based on fundamental rather than
accidental distinctions. The idea is good and should be worked out in
additional tests of the same type.
The test first appeared in the Binet revised scale of 1911. Kuhlmann
omits it, and besides our own there are few statistics bearing on it.
Our results show that if two essential differences are required, the
test belongs where we have placed it, but that if only one essential
difference is required, the test is easy enough for year XII.