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The development of the Stanford-Binet IQ test initiated the modern field of intelligence testing. The Stanford-Binet test started with the French psychologist Alfred Binet, whom the French government commissioned with developing a method of identifying intellectually deficient children for their placement in special education programs. As Binet indicated, case studies might be more detailed and helpful, but the time required to test many people would be excessive.
Later, Alfred Binet and physician Theodore Simon collaborated in studying mental retardation in French school children. Between 1905 and 1908, their research at a boys school, in Grange-aux-Belles, led to their developing the Binet-Simon tests; via increasingly difficult questions, the tests measured attention, memory, and verbal skill. Binet warned that such test scores should not be interpreted literally, because intelligence is plastic and the margin of error inherent to the test (Fancher, 1985).
In 1916, the Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman released the "Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale", the "Stanford-Binet", for short. Helped by graduate students and validation experiments, he removed some Binet-Simon test items and added new ones. Soon, the test was so popular that Robert Yerkes, the president of the American Psychological Association, decided to use it in developing the Army Alpha and the Army Beta tests to classify recruits. Thus, a high-scoring recruit might earn an A-grade (high officer material), whereas a low-scoring recruit with an E-grade would be rejected for military service. (Fancher, 1985).
Since the inception of the Stanford-Binet, it has been revised several times. Currently, the test is in its fifth edition, which is called the Stanford-Binet 5. According to the publisher's website, "The SB5 was normed on a stratified random sample of 4,800 individuals that matches the 2000 U.S. Census. Bias reviews were conducted on all items for gender, ethnic, cultural/religious, regional, and socioeconomic status issues. Validity data was obtained using such instruments as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition, the Stanford-Binet Form L-M, the Woodcock-Johnson III, the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test, the Bender-Gestalt, the WAIS-III, the WIAT-II, the WISC-III, and the WPPSI-R."[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Low variation on individuals tested more than once indicates the test has high reliability, although its validity is debated (see below). The five factors assessed in the test are: Fluid Reasoning, Knowledge, Quantitative Reasoning, Visual-Spatial Processing, and Working Memory. Each is assessed in two separate domains, verbal and nonverbal, in order to accurately assess individuals with deafness, limited English, or communication disorders. Examples of test items include verbal analogies to test Verbal Fluid Reasoning and picture absurdities to test Nonverbal Knowledge. The test makers state that the Stanford-Binet 5 accurately assesses low-functioning, normal intelligence, and high-functioning individuals (Riverside Publishing, 2004).
Students with exceptional scores on this test may be deemed bright, moderately gifted, highly gifted, extremely gifted, or profoundly gifted (contrast these with obsolete terms for low scores). These terms equate with progressively further standard deviations of IQ scores from the mean (100), bright being 1 standard deviation), moderately gifted 2 standard deviations, etc. Mensa currently requires a score of 132 on the Stanford-Binet. Since the test has a standard deviation of 16, this corresponds to 2 standard deviations above the mean in a normally distributed population. The Triple Nine Society currently requires a score of 146 on the SB-5 version, and 149 on all others.
Despite the recent revision (Stanford-Binet 5), some controversy remains as to the accuracy and bias of this test;[How to reference and link to summary or text] however, many psychologists believe the evidence available shows that the Stanford-Binet test is valid, and it remains a popular assessment of intelligence.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
As Brown & French point out, "IQ tests serve one function exceptionally well, they predict academic success or failure ... they are composed of items that are representative of the kinds of problems that traditionally dominate school curricula," (1979: 255) and thus only predict that category of school assimilation. Further, "children with the same current status on an IQ test item may vary quite widely in terms of their cognitive potential." (ibid.: 258)
The validity of standardized tests such as Stanford-Binet for testing general intelligence has been disputed by a number of commentators. Stephen Jay Gould, although not an intelligence researcher, points out in his book, The Mismeasure of Man, that Binet originally devised his test for detecting problem areas, rather than as a means of ranking the general intelligence of students. Over time, the purposes of intelligence testing have changed, however, and the Stanford-Binet 5, the 5th revision of Binet's test, now bears little resemblance to his original work. Achievement tests, rather than intelligence tests, are now typically used to assess performance in particular areas.
- Brown, A. L. and L. A. French (1979). "The zone of potential development: implications for intelligence testing in the year 2000." Intelligence 3(3): 255-271.
- Fancher, R. (1985). The Intelligence Men: Makers of the IQ Controversy. New York:W.W. Norton & Company
- Gould, Stephen Jay. (1981) The Mismeasure of Man. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co.
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