History of the IQ Test

UnknownIf you were asked how to measure an individual’s intelligence, how would you accomplish that? The first thing to come to mind is most likely the “IQ,” or intelligence quotient test. This test is commonly used among people to compare how smart they are. However, despite its popularity nowadays, it is denounced for its inaccuracies and its overall failure to provide an accurate insight into one’s knowledge.

During the late 19th century when the concept of intelligence was all the uproar, psychologists jumped at the opportunity. Wilhelm Wundt was an active scientist who explored consciousness and was the first to propose that knowledge could be measured in some way in 1879. Around the same time, Sir Francis Galton conducted experiments to study the intelligence of a large group of individuals. His observations sparked more interest into the idea of whether knowledge is better off learned or inherent. Two French psychologists, Alfred Binet and Théodore Simon, were commissioned by the government to develop a method of measuring a child’s intelligence. The desired result was to be able to determine whether a child was capable of learning or whether they were to be put into special education. Several years and multiple prototypes later, the duo introduced the “Binet-Simon Scale” in 1911. These initial tests were composed of 30 questions that gradually became more and more complex. Alfred, the very (co-)creator of the method, was concerned and disapproved of his scale, for he averred that intelligence was never fixed, i.e., it always changes with time. He believed that the test provided a classification rather than an accurate portrayal of intelligence. Unbeknownst to Binet at the time, several American psychologists including Henry Goddard and Lewis Terman took his concept and revised it. These new tests were translated and focused on identifying “slower” and more “challenged” individuals while also seeking those who would be of greater use in the future. Lewis’ “Stanford-Binet Scale” remains ubiquitous to this day.


For further reading: The Psychology Book by DK (2012)



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