Superior Adult 4: Repeating Thought Of Passage
PROCEDURE. Say: "_I am going to read a little selection of about six or
eight lines. When I am through I will ask you to repeat as much of it as
you can. It doesn't make any difference whether you remember the exact
words or not, but you must listen carefully so that you can tell me
everything it says._" Then read the following selections, pausing after
each for the subject's report, which should be recorded _verbatim_:--
(a) "_Tests such as we are now making are of value both for the
advancement of science and for the information of the person
who is tested. It is important for science to learn how people
differ and on what factors these differences depend. If we can
separate the influence of heredity from the influence of
environment, we may be able to apply our knowledge so as to
guide human development. We may thus in some cases correct
defects and develop abilities which we might otherwise
(b) "_Many opinions have been given on the value of life. Some
call it good, others call it bad. It would be nearer correct
to say that it is mediocre; for on the one hand, our
happiness is never as great as we should like, and on the
other hand, our misfortunes are never as great as our enemies
would wish for us. It is this mediocrity of life which
prevents it from being radically unjust._"
Sometimes the subject hesitates to begin, thinking, in spite of our
wording of the instructions, that a perfect reproduction is expected.
Others fall into the opposite misunderstanding and think that they are
prohibited from using the words of the text and must give the thought
entirely in their own language. In cases of hesitation we should urge
the subject a little and remind him that he is to express the thought of
the selection in whatever way he prefers; that the main thing is to tell
what the selection says.
SCORING. The test is passed if the subject is able to repeat in
reasonably consecutive order the main thoughts of at least one of the
selections. Neither elegance of expression nor _verbatim_ repetition is
expected. We merely want to know whether the leading thoughts in the
selection have been grasped and remembered.
All grades of accuracy are found, both in the comprehension of the
selection and in the recall, and it is not always easy to draw the line
between satisfactory and unsatisfactory responses. The following sample
performances will serve as a guide:--
_Satisfactory._ "The tests which we are making are given for the
advancement of science and for the information of the person
tested. By scientific means we will be able to separate
characteristics derived from heredity and environment and to
treat each class separately. By doing so we can more accurately
"Tests like these are for two purposes. First to develop a
science, and second to apply it to the person to help him. The
tests are to find out how you differ from another and to measure
the difference between your heredity and environment."
"These tests are given to see if we can separate heredity and
environment and to see if we can find out how one person differs
from another. We can then correct these differences and teach
people more effectively."
"The tests that we are now making are valuable along both
scientific and personal lines. By using them it can be found out
where a person is weak and where he is strong. We can then
strengthen his weak points and remedy some things that would
otherwise be neglected. They are of great benefit to science and
to the person concerned."
"Tests such as we are now making are of great importance because
they aim to show in what respects we differ from others and why,
and if they do this they will be able to guide us into the right
channel and bring success instead of failure."
_Unsatisfactory._ "Tests such as we are now making are of value
both for the advancement of science and for the information of
the person interested. It is necessary to know this."
"Such tests as we are now making show about the human mind and
show in what channels we are fitted. It is the testing of each
individual between his effects of inheritancy and environment."
"It is very interesting for us to study science for two reasons;
first, to test our mental ability, and second for the further
development of science."
"Tests such as we are now making help in two ways; it helps the
scientists and it gives information to the people."
"Tests are being given to pupils to-day to better them and to
aid science for generations to come. If each person knows
exactly his own beliefs and ideas and faults he can find out
exactly what kind of work he is fitted for by heredity. The
tests show that environment doesn't count, for if you are all
right you will get along anyway." (Note invention.)
_Satisfactory._ "There are different opinions about life. Some
call it good and some bad. It would be more correct to say that
it is middling, because we are never as happy as we would like
to be and we are never as sad as our enemies want us to be."
"One hears many judgments about life. Some say it is good, while
others say it is bad. But it is really neither of the extremes.
Life is mediocre. We do not have as much good as we desire, nor
do we have as much misfortune as others want us to have.
Nevertheless, we have enough good to keep life from being
"Some people have different views of life from others. Some say
it is bad, others say it is good. It is better to class life as
mediocre, as it is never as good as we wish it, and on the other
hand, it might be worse."
"Some people think differently of life. Some think it good, some
bad, others mediocre, which is nearest correct. It brings
unhappiness to us, but not as much as our enemies want us to
_Unsatisfactory._ "Some say life is good, some say it is
mediocre. Even though some say it is mediocre they say it is
"There are two sides of life. Some say it is good while others
say it is bad. To some, life is happy and they get all they can
out of life. For others life is not happy and therefore they
fail to get all there is in life."
"One hears many different judgments of life. Some call it good,
some call it bad. It brings unhappiness and it does not have
enough pleasure. It should be better distributed."
"There are different opinions of the value of life. Some say it
is good and some say it is bad. Some say it is mediocrity. Some
think it brings happiness while others do not."
"Nowadays there is much said about the value of life. Some say
it is good, while others say it is bad. A person should not have
an ill feeling toward the value of life, and he should not be
unjust to any one. Honesty is the best policy. People who are
unjust are more likely to be injured by their enemies." (Note
REMARKS. Contrary to what the subject is led to expect, the test is less
a test of memory than of ability to comprehend the drift of an abstract
passage. A subject who fully grasps the meaning of the selection as it
is read is not likely to fail because of poor memory. Mere verbal memory
improves but little after the age of 14 or 15 years, as is shown by the
fact that our adults do little better than eighth-grade children in
repeating sentences of twenty-eight syllables. On the other hand, adult
intelligence is vastly superior in the comprehension and retention of a
logically presented group of abstract ideas.
There is nothing in which stupid persons cut a poorer figure than in
grappling with the abstract. Their thinking clings tenaciously to the
concrete; their concepts are vague or inaccurate; the interrelations
among their concepts are scanty in the extreme; and such poor mental
stores as they have are little available for ready use.
A few critics have objected to the use of tests demanding abstract
thinking, on the ground that abstract thought is a very special aspect
of intelligence and that facility in it depends almost entirely on
occupational habits and the accidents of education. Some have even gone
so far as to say that we are not justified, on the basis of any number
of such tests, in pronouncing a subject backward or defective. It is
supposed that a subject who has no capacity in the use of abstract ideas
may nevertheless have excellent intelligence "along other lines." In
such cases, it is said, we should not penalize the subject for his
failures in handling abstractions, but substitute, instead, tests
requiring motor cooerdination and the manipulation of things, tests in
which the supposedly dull child often succeeds fairly well.
From the psychological point of view, such a proposal is naively
unpsychological. It is in the very essence of the higher thought
processes to be conceptual and abstract. What the above proposal amounts
to is, that if the subject is not capable of the more complex and
strictly human type of thinking, we should ignore this fact and estimate
his intelligence entirely on the ability he displays to carry on mental
operations of a more simple and primitive kind. This would be like
asking the physician to ignore the diseased parts of his patient's body
and to base his diagnosis on an examination of the organs which are
The present test throws light in an interesting way on the integrity of
the critical faculty. Some subjects are unwilling to extend the report
in the least beyond what they know to be approximately correct, while
others with defective powers of auto-criticism manufacture a report
which draws heavily on the imagination, perhaps continuing in garrulous
fashion as long as they can think of anything having the remotest
connection with any thought in the selection. We have included, for each
selection, one illustration of this type in the sample failures given
The worst fault of the test is its susceptibility to the influence of
schooling. Our uneducated adults of even "superior adult" intelligence
often fail, while about two thirds of high-school pupils succeed. The
unschooled adults have a marked tendency either to give a summary which
is inadequate because of its extreme brevity, or else to give a
criticism of the thought which the passage contains.
This test first appeared in Binet's 1911 revision, in the adult group.
Binet used only selection (b), and in a slightly more difficult form
than we have given above. Goddard gives the test like Binet and retains
it in the adult group. Kuhlmann locates it in year XV, using only
selection (a). On the basis of over 300 tests of adults we find the
test too difficult for the "average adult" level, even on the basis of
only one success in two trials and when scored on the rather liberal
standard above set forth.