The History of IQ test And A Review About It (Gould)

In 1905, the test was designed in order to identify children in need of remedial education. The scores was based on a comparison with the performance of the ‘average’ child at each age and gave a result called an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which is still used today.

IQ is calculated by : (Mental Age / Chronological Age) x 1oo

IQ scores are used in many contexts: as predictors of educational achievement or special needs, by social scientists who study the distribution of IQ scores in populations and the relationships between IQ score and other variables, and as predictors of job performance and income.

However, other supporters of intelligence testing became scientists who believed that individual differences are mainly due to genetic factors (this is referred to as eugenics). Those scientists in favour of eugenics arguments believe that they should identify the less intelligent and prevent them from having children. They believe that a consequence of this is that the genetic stock of the population will be improved. Goddard was one of the super strong eugenicist, he took Binet’s test to America and thought that they could use it to recognize people’s innate abilities and they could be segregated.

Interestingly, Goddard also added to the categories deficiency that were in current use. Those were:

  • Idiots; adults with mental ages of < 3
  • Imbeciles; adults with mental ages between 3 and 7
  • Moron; adults with mental age between 8 and 12

So.. does this mean we should feel better if people call us moron? I mean, it’s better than idiots. But still, I don’t think so :p

Now, another man named Robert Yerkes was a psychologist who believed that intelligence was a fixed quantity and he set out to carry out one of the largest test of intelligence in history.

By the way, this is the normal curve graph that’s usually used for evaluating if one’s intelilgence deviate from the major statistical norm.

Normal curve

And right now, we’re coming to the (drumrolls, please………….) Yerkes experiment !!

During the First World War (1914-1918) Yerkes found an opportunity to promote the use and status of mental testing and therefore the status of psychology as a serious science. The American military gave Colonel Yerkes (as he liked to call himself) permission to carry out mental tests to over 1.75 million army recruits.

In 1917, Yerkes devised three types of mental tests:

  • Army Alpha test: A written test for recruits who could read and write. The Alpha test had eight parts, including analogies, filling in the missing number, and unscrambling a sentence. These types of tests have now become common in modern IQ tests.
  • Army Beta test: A pictorial test recruits who couldn’t read and write, or failed Army Alpha test. The Beta test had seven parts including running a maze, number work and the picture completion task.
  • Individual Spoken Test: This is for those who failed Beta test (how pathetic :p)

Speaking of which, this is just an example of Army Beta test:

Example of Army Beta test

What’s missing from this pictures?

Three ‘facts’ were discovered from the intelligence testing.:

  1. The average mental age of White American adults was 13. The score of 13 was at the top of the category of ‘moronity’. That is why the title of the article is ‘A Nation of Morons’, because the ‘data’ showed that the USA was just that.
  2. It was possible to grade European immigrants by their country of origin. The average man of many countries was a moron, with the fair people of Northern and Western Europe scoring higher than the Slavs of Eastern Europe and the darker people of Southern Europe. (The average Russian had a mental age of 11.34; the Italian, 11.01; the Pole, 10.74).
  3. The average score of Black men was 10.4, which was considerably below the White average

A man named Stephen Jay Gould criticized the procedure of Yerkes’ experiment procedure. He identified many problems with the mass intelligence testing. In particular he pointed to the cultural bias in the tests.

The level of cultural and educational knowledge required is very obvious in the examples from the Alpha tests given below: (these are some words that were found and their meaning)

  • Crisco is a: patent medicine, disinfectant, toothpaste, food product
  • Washington is to Adams as first is to . . .
  • Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian.

Similarly the Beta test also required a level of cultural and educational knowledge to be completed successfully. For example, recent immigrants would have to be familiar with phonograms, tennis courts and light bulbs.

Other problems that were found are:

  • There were different requirements in different camps. In some camps, schooling to third grade is required level was required to take the Alpha test, in another camp, anyone who said he could read took the Alpha test.
  • Many who were illiterate in English were still allocated to the Alpha test and so scored zero or near to zero. Because Yerkes had overestimated the level of literacy the queues for the Beta test became very long, leading to the inappropriate re-allocation of men to the Alpha test.
  • Recruits who had failed the Alpha test were rarely recalled for the Beta test.


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