Alfred Binet ‘s Biography

“It seems to us that in intelligence there is a fundamental faculty, the alteration or the lack of which, is of the utmost importance for practical life. This faculty is judgment, otherwise called good sense, practical sense, initiative, the faculty of adapting one’s self to circumstances. A person may be a moron or an imbecile if he is lacking in judgment, but with good judgment, he can never be either. Indeed the rest of the intellectual faculties seem of little importance in comparison with judgment” (Binet & Simon, 1916, 1973, pp.42-43).

Who was Alfred Binet? Binet was a French psychologist who invented the first practical IQ test, the Binet–Simon test (Richard L. Gregory, 1987). He produced numerous important works in diverse areas, such as cognitive and experimental psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and applied psychology. Today, much of his work is unknown, he is mostly recognized for his dominant role in the development of experimental psychology and major contributions to the measurement of Intelligence.

Born July 8, 1857, in Nice, France, Alfred Binet attended law school in Paris and graduated in 1878. He abandoned his law career after he became fascinated by the work of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot on hypnosis (Britannica, 2017). Alfred began to study science at the Sorbonne. However, Alfred was not to keen on his formal schooling, instead, he started to educate himself by reading psychology texts at the National Library in Paris. He was fascinated with John Stuart Mills idea, he believed that the operations of intelligence could be explained by the laws of associationism (Human Intelligence, 2016)

His first position was as a researcher for Jean-Martin Charcot’s neurological laboratory in Paris from 1891–1894. Binet was strongly influenced by Charcot and his experimentation with hypnotism. Binet published 4 four articles about Charcot’s work but eventually had to publicly admit that he was wrong in supporting Charcot after his work did not hold up. Due to this failure, Alfred turned his concentration to the study of development, influenced by the birth of his two daughters (Human Intelligence, 2016). His research with his daughters allowed him to refine his concept of intelligence.

In 1891, Binet went to work as a researcher and associate director of the Sorbonne’s Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and in 1894 he was then promoted as the director of the research laboratory until his death, 1911. During his time as director, Theodore Simon applied to do his doctoral research under his supervision. The beginning of their collaboration. Binet and Simon created was is known as the Binet-Simon Scale most commonly known as the Stanford-Binet scale after it was revised from the original Binet-Simon Scale by Lewis M. Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University.

As per Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon they believed intelligence to be a learned entity. This test was formed in order to measure the intelligence of children in accordance with their age. The test was used and varied among children from the ages of 3 years to 12 years. Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon believed that children had a different form of intelligence than adults, therefore, they needed to be measured in a different way. With this scale, they attempted to create a test which was standardized and would allow for the measurement of a child’s intelligence in the present. This scale was originally created with the intent of classifying children as means for them to receive special education; however, over time developed into a measurement of intelligence for all children (Anam Habib, 2011).

In 1899 Alfred Binet was asked to become a member of the Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child. In this group, he made it his problem to establish the difference that separates the normal child from the abnormal. The problem was which what should be the test given to children who could possibly have a learning disability. In 1903, he published a book in which he described his testing methods and in 1904 he devised a method that would determine which students had difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting. In 1908 and 1911, he published revisions to his test.

Binet and Simon created what is historically known as the Binet – Simon scale, composed of a variety of tasks which they thought were typical of children abilities at various ages. It was based on many years of observing children; they tested their measurement on a sample of 50 children identified by school teachers as average for their age. The purpose of the scale was normal functioning, which was later revised to compare children mental abilities to those of their age group. “The score of the child was based on his or her composite score across the various test. The emphasis here is on the quantity of test, Binet believed that one could not make solid conclusions about intelligence by only looking at how children score on one test” (Anam Habib, 2011)

The scale consisted of thirty tasks, the easiest could be completed by all children. An easy test could consist of something as simple as following a lighted match with his or her eyes. The task progressively becomes harder, asking the child to point to various named body parts, repeat digits, repeat sentences, and defining words. The more difficult test required the child to reproduce drawings from memory or harder sentences. The hardest test consisted of repeating 7-digit number sequence and answering complicated questions.

For the practical use of determining educational placement, the score on the Binet-Simon scale would reveal the child’s mental age. For example, a 6-year-old child who passed all the tasks usually passed by 6-year-olds–but nothing beyond–would have a mental age that exactly matched his chronological age, 6.0. (Fancher, 1985).

Alfred Binet made known the limitations of his scale. He stressed the remarkable diversity of intelligence and the need to study it using qualitative instead of quantitative measures, Alfred Binet also emphasized that intelligence progressed at different rates and could be impacted by different variables such as the environment.

While Alfred Binet was developing his mental scale, the United States faced issues with its diversified population and accommodating its needs. “In 1908, H.H. Goddard, a champion of the eugenics movement, found utility in mental testing as a way to evidence the superiority of the white race. After studying abroad, Goddard brought the Binet-Simon Scale to the United States and translated it into English” (Anam Habib, 2011). Lewis Terman than took the Simon-Binot. Scale and standardized it using a large American sample. A new objective of intelligence testing was illustrated in the Stanford-Binet manual with testing ultimately resulting in “curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency (White, 2000).

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