Reading For Eight Memories
MATERIAL. We use Binet's selection, slightly adapted, as follows:--
_New York, September 5th. A fire last night burned three houses
near the center of the city. It took some time to put it out.
The loss was fifty thousand dollars, and seventeen families lost
their homes. In saving a girl, who was asleep in a bed, a
fireman was burned on the hands._
The copy of the selecti
n used by the subject should be printed in heavy
type and should not contain the bars dividing it into memories. The
Stanford record booklet contains the selection in two forms, one
suitable for use in scoring, the other in heavy type to be read by the
PROCEDURE. Hand the selection to the subject, who should be seated
comfortably in a good light, and say: "_I want you to read this for me
as nicely as you can._" The subject must read aloud.
Pronounce all the words which the subject is unable to make out, not
allowing more than five seconds' hesitation in such a case.
Record all errors made in reading the selection, and the exact time. By
"error" is meant the omission, substitution, transposition, or
mispronunciation of one word.
The subject is not warned in advance that he will be asked to report
what he has read, but as soon as he has finished reading, put the
selection out of sight and say: "_Very well done. Now, I want you to
tell me what you read. Begin at the first and tell everything you can
remember._" After the subject has repeated everything he can recall and
has stopped, say: "_And what else? Can you remember any more of it?_"
Give no other aid of any kind. It is of course not permissible, when the
child stops, to prompt him with such questions as, "_And what next?
Where were the houses burned? What happened to the fireman?_" etc. The
report must be spontaneous.
Now and then, though not often, a subject hesitates or even refuses to
try, saying he is unable to do it. Perhaps he has misunderstood the
request and thinks he is expected to repeat the selection word for word,
as in the tests of memory for sentences. We urge a little and repeat:
"_Tell me in your own words all you can remember of it._" Others
misunderstand in a different way, and thinking they are expected to tell
merely what the story is about, they say: "It was about some houses that
burned." In such cases we repeat the instructions with special emphasis
on the words _all you can remember_.
SCORING. The test is passed _if the selection is read in thirty-five
seconds with not more than two errors, and if the report contains at
least eight "memories."_ By underscoring the memories correctly
reproduced, and by interlineations to show serious departures from the
text, the record can be made complete with a minimum of trouble.
The main difficulty in scoring is to decide whether a memory has been
reproduced correctly enough to be counted. Absolutely literal
reproduction is not expected. The rule is to count all memories whose
thought is reproduced with only minor changes in the wording. "It took
quite a while" instead of "it took some time" is satisfactory; likewise,
"got burnt" for "was burned"; "who was sleeping" for "who was asleep";
"are homeless" for "lost their homes"; "in the middle" for "near the
center"; "a big fire" for "a fire," etc.
Memories as badly mutilated as the following, however, are not counted:
"A lot of buildings" for "three houses;" "a man" for "a fireman"; "who
was sick" for "who was asleep"; etc. Occasionally we may give half
credit, as in the case of "was seventeen thousand dollars" for "was
fifty thousand dollars"; "and fifteen families" for "and seventeen
REMARKS. Are we warranted in using at all as a measure of intelligence a
test which depends as much on instruction as this one does? Many are
inclined to answer this question in the negative. The test has been
omitted from the revisions of Goddard, Kuhlmann, and Binet himself. As
regards Binet's earlier test of reading for two memories, in year VIII,
there could hardly be any difference of opinion. The ability to read at
that age depends so much on the accident of environment that the test is
meaningless unless we know all about the conditions which have
surrounded the child.
The use of the test in year X, however, is a very different matter.
There are comparatively few children of that age who will fail to pass
it for lack of the requisite school instruction. Children of 10 years
who have attended school with reasonable regularity for three years are
practically always able to read the selection in thirty-five seconds and
without over two mistakes unless they are retarded almost to the
border-line of mental deficiency. Of our 10-year-olds who failed to meet
the test, only a fourth did so because of inability to meet the reading
requirements as regards time or mistakes. The remaining failures were
caused by inadequate report, and most of these subjects were of the
distinctly retarded group.
We may conclude, therefore, that given anything approaching normal
educational advantages, the test is really a measure of intelligence.
Used with due caution, it is perhaps as valuable as any other test in
the scale. It is only necessary, in case of failure, to ascertain the
facts regarding the child's educational opportunities. Even this
precaution is superfluous in case the subject tests as low as 8 years by
the remainder of the scale. A safe rule is to omit the test from the
calculation of mental age if the subject has not attended school the
equivalent of two or three years.
It has been contended by some that tests in which success depends upon
language mastery cannot be real tests of intelligence. By such critics
language tests have been set over against intelligence tests as
contrasting opposites. It is easy to show, however, that this view is
superficial and psychologically unsound. Every one who has an
acquaintance with the facts of mental growth knows that language mastery
of some degree is the _sine qua non_ of conceptual thinking. Language
growth, in fact, mirrors the entire mental development. There are few
more reliable indications of a subject's stage of intellectual maturity
than his mastery of language.
The rate of reading, for example, is a measure of the rate of
association. Letters become associated together in certain combinations
making words, words into word groups and sentences. Recognition is for
the most part an associative process. Rapid and accurate association
will mean ready recognition of the printed form. Since language units
(whether letters, words, or word groups) have more or less preferred
associations according to their habitual arrangement into larger units,
it comes about that in the normal mind under normal conditions these
preferred sequences arouse the apperceptive complex necessary to make a
running recognition rapid and easy. It is reasonable to suppose that in
the subnormal mind the habitual common associations are less firmly
fixed, thus diminishing the effectiveness of the ever-changing
apperceptive expectancy. Reading is, therefore, largely dependent on
what James calls the "fringe of consciousness" and the "consciousness of
meaning." In reading connected matter, every unit is big with a mass of
tendencies. The smaller and more isolated the unit, the greater is the
number of possibilities. Every added unit acts as a modifier limiting
the number of tendencies, until we have finally, in case of a large
mental unit, a fairly manageable whole. When the most logical and
suitable of these associations arise easily from subconsciousness to
consciousness, recognition is made easy, and their doing so will depend
on whether the habitual relations of the elements have left permanent
traces in the mind.
The reading of the subnormal subject bears a close analogy to the
reading of nonsense matter by the normal person. It has been ascertained
by experiment that such reading requires about twice as much time as the
reading of connected matter. This is true for the reason that out of
thousands of associations possible with each word, no particular
association is favored. The apperceptive expectancy, practically _nil_
in the reading of nonsense material, must be decidedly deficient in all
Furthermore, in the case of the ordinary reader there is a feeling of
rightness or wrongness about the thought sequences. That less
intelligent subjects have this sense of fitness to a much less degree is
evidenced by their passing over words so mutilated in pronunciation as
to deprive them of all meaning. The transposition of letters and words,
and the failure to observe marks of punctuation, point to the same
thing. In other words, all the reading of the stupid subject is with
material which to him is more or less nonsensical.
A little observation will convince one that mentally retarded subjects,
even when they possess a reasonable degree of fluency in recognizing
printed words, do not sense shades of meaning. Their reading is by small
units. Words and phrases do not fuse into one mental content, but remain
relatively unconnected. The expression is monotonous and the voice has
more of the unnatural "schoolroom" pitch. They read more slowly, more
often misplace the emphasis, and miscall more words. In short, one who
has psychological insight and is acquainted with reading standards can
easily detect the symptoms of intellectual inferiority by hearing a dull
subject read a brief selection.
The giving of memories is also significant. Feeble-minded adults who
have been well schooled are sometimes able to read the words of the text
fairly fluently, but are usually unable to give more than a scanty
report of what has been read. The scope of attention has been exhausted
in the mere recognition and pronouncing of words. In general, the
greater the mechanical difficulties which a subject encounters, the less
adequate is his report of memories.
The test has, however, one real fault. School children have a certain
advantage in it over older persons _of the same mental age_ whose school
experience is less recent. Adult subjects tend to give their report in
less literal form. It is necessary, therefore, to give credit for the
reproduction of the ideas of the passage rather than for strictly
The selection we have used is, with minor changes, the same as Binet's.
His selection was divided into nineteen memories. The one here given has
twenty-one memories. Binet used the test both in year VIII and year IX,
requiring two memories at year VIII and six memories at year IX. When we
require eight memories, as we have done, the test becomes difficult
enough for non-selected school children of 10 years. Location in year X
seems preferable, because it insures that the child will almost
certainly have had the schooling requisite for learning to read a
selection of this difficulty, even if he has started to school at a
later age than is customary. Naturally, placing the test higher in the
scale makes it more a test of report and less a test of ability to
recognize and pronounce printed words.