Presence Of Others
A still more disturbing influence is the presence of
other persons. Generally speaking, if accurate results are to be secured
it is not permissible to have any auditor, besides possibly an
assistant to record the responses. Even the assistant, however quiet and
unobtrusive, is sometimes a disturbing element. Though something of a
convenience, the assistant is by no means necessary, after the examiner
has thoroughly mas
ered the procedure of the tests and has acquired some
skill in the use of abbreviations in recording the answers. If an
assistant or any other person is present, he should be seated somewhat
behind the child, not too close, and should take no notice of the child
either when he enters the room or at any time during the examination.
At all events, the presence of parent, teacher, school principal, or
governess is to be avoided. Contrary to what one might expect, these
distract the child much more than a strange personality would do. Their
critical attitude toward the child's performance is very likely to cause
embarrassment. If the child is alone with the examiner, he is more at
ease from the mere fact that he does not feel that there is a reputation
to sustain. The praise so lavishly bestowed upon him by the friendly and
sympathetic examiner lends to the same effect.
As Binet emphasizes, if the presence of others cannot be avoided, it
is at least necessary to require of them absolute silence. Parents,
and sometimes teachers, have an almost irrepressible tendency to
interrupt the examination with excuses for the child's failures and
with disturbing explanations which are likely to aid the child in
comprehending the required task. Without the least intention of doing
so, they sometimes practically tell the child how to respond. Parents,
especially, cannot refrain from scolding the child or showing impatience
when his answers do not come up to expectation. This, of course,
endangers the child's success still further.
The psychologist is not surprised at such conduct. It would be foolish
to expect average parents, even apart from their bias in the particular
case at hand, to adopt the scientific attitude of the trained examiner.
Since we cannot in a few moments at our disposal make them over into
psychologists, our only recourse is to deal with them by exclusion.
This is not to say that it is impossible to test a child satisfactorily
in the presence of others. If the examiner is experienced, and if the
child is not timid, it is sometimes possible to make a successful test
in the presence of quite a number of auditors, provided they remain
silent, refrain from staring, and otherwise conduct themselves with
discretion. But not even the veteran examiner can always be sure of the
outcome in demonstration testing.