Alfred Binet

Alfred Binet was a french psychologist who was born in 1857 and died in 1911. He is the inventor of the first usable intelligence test, which is known today as the IQ test. His main goal was to indentify students who needed special attention in when it came to learning. With the help of his collaborator,Theodore Simon, he published the last revision of his intelligence scale right before his death in 1911. Further refinements of the scale were published after his death, but they are all known as IQ tests. He was the only child and was born into a well educated family, his mother an artist and his father was physician.

His parents divorced at a young age and he moved to Paris with his mother. He attended law school, and planned on going to medical after earning his degree but later decided that he was more interested in psychology. He became somewhat of a self-taught psychologist by reading books by Charles Darwin, Alexander Bain, and others. In 1894, he conducted one of the first psychological studies into chess, to study the cognitive facilities. He hypothesized that chess depends upon the qualities of psychology in visual memory but after studying chess masters, it was concluded that memory was only the part of cognition in the game process.

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The line of psychological chess research was later followed up during the 1950s by Reuben Fine and later by Adriaan de Groot. After attending law school and earning his degree in 1878, he got his first formal job at a neurological clinic where he began as a researcher and later became promoted to the director of the lab, until he died in 1911. He became fascinated with the ideas of John Stuart Mill, who believed that the operations of intelligence could be explained by the laws of associationism. He eventually realized that there was many limitations behind this theory but his ideas continued to influence Binet’s work.

Binet later became strongly influenced by Jean Charcot’s experimenting hypnotism. Unfortunately, Charcot’s conclusions didn’t hold up and Binet had to make an embarrassing annoucement to the public that he was wrong for supporting his teachers. While directing the Laboratory, Theodore Simon asked to do doctoral research under Binet’s supervision. This became the beginning of their long, eventful collaboration. During this time, he also co-founded the French journal of psychology called the, L’Annee psychologique. In 1899, Binet was asked to become of the Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child.

Being a part of this group, he began to study children in a scientific matter. The big question became, “What should be the test given to children thought to possibly have learning disabilities, that might have a place in a special classroom? ” Binet took it upon himself to establish and measure the differences that separated the normal and abnormal children. The L’Etude experimentale de l’intelligence was the book that he used to describe his many methods. The development of new tests and experiments soon began after this book was published.

Simon worked with him on the intelligence tests that Binet is known for, and in 1905 a new test for measuring intelligence was introduced and was named the Binet-Simon scale. The scale was comprised of a variety of tasks that they thought were representative of typical children’s abilities at various ages. For the practical use of determining educational placement, the score on the scale would reveal the child’s mental age. From 1905 to 1908, Binet and Simon developed a test primarily for kids ages 3-15 that would compare their intellectual capabilities to other children of the same age.

They studied groups of “normal” children and others who were mentally challenged. The invention of the intelligence test became extremely important to the field of education. Binet published the third version of the Binet-Simon scale in 1911, right before he died, but it still was unfinished. Still to this day, the Binet-Simon scale is still very popular around the world mainly because it is easy to give and very brief. Since his death, people in many ways have honored him. In 1984, the journal Science 84, chose the Bient-Simon scale as one of this century’s most significant developments or discoveries.

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