Alfred Binet is one of the most significant figures in psychology as he redefined the meaning of intelligence. He basically set a new standard in the study of the human mind through his creation of the IQ test, which basically revolutionized how to gauge a person’s intelligence. Even today, several of his major works and ideas are still being used by modern psychologists.
Early Life & Education
Although Binet was highly successful in his field, he didn’t always thrive well, especially during the early stages of his life. He was born in July 8, 1857 in Nice, France (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). His father was a physician and from here it could be surmised that he was also meant to pursue a career in the medical field.
However, his parents separated when he was still young and he and his mother relocated to Paris where he attended law school. Upon receiving his license as a lawyer in 1878, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father in the field of medicine but later decided that his interest psychology was more important (Sweet Briar College, 2007).
Beginnings & Failures
Despite his contributions to psychology, Binet, ironically, was a not formally-schooled psychologist. He mainly educated himself by studying books of Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill, among others, for several years (Indiana University, 2007).
He became particularly interested in Mill’s belief that the processes of intelligence could be expounded by the laws and principles of associationism. However, he soon realized the restrictions of this particular theory, but he was still heavily influenced by Mill’s ideas (Indiana University, 2007).
In 1880, Binet published his first paper on hypnosis, which was highly criticized for lack of scientific support (International Bureau of Education, 2000). Subsequently, he began working in Jean-Martin Charcot’s laboratory, where the main focus of research was hypnosis. Binet was heavily influenced by Charcot’s ideas and as a result, he published four papers on animal magnetism and hypnosis.
Unfortunately, his Charcot’s ideas were refuted by various scientific studies and in effect, Binet was also discredited for supporting his teacher, which was considered his first major failure (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). Shortly after abandoning his research on hypnosis, he married Laure Balbiani in 1884 with whom he had two daughters, Madeleine and Alice.
Important Contributions & Works
One of the Binet’s first significant contributions was his incorporation of chess into one of his psychological studies that dealt with the cognition of chess masters. In his experiment, he found out that memory was only part of the processes of cognition in the game of chess and that only master chess players could play the game successfully while blindfolded (Internal Bureau of Education, 2000).
He further surmised that imagination, memories of abstract, and experience were among the many factors that is required of a chess master. Furthermore, his most significant contribution is the intelligence test. In 1904, Binet and his colleague, Theodore Simon developed a test called “New Methods for Diagnosing Idiocy, Imbecility, and Moron Status” (Indiana University, 2007).
Among the tasks included in the test were to repeat a sequence of numbers from memory and to follow an object with one’s eye (Indiana University, 2007). Binet and Simon conducted the test on 50 children who acted according to their age or level.
They would then compared the results to other children of the same age and evaluate the results. Meaning to say, a 13-year old who could complete the tasks that all 13-years olds performed would have a mental age of 13. Similarly, a 13-year old who would complete all the tasks of a 15-year old would have a mental age of 15 (Indiana University, 2007).
In 1908, Simon and Binet modified their intelligence test as they theorized that intelligence increased with age and included a comparison between the chronological age and the mental age in the new test (Indian University, 2007).
However, Binet stressed that his intelligence test also had its limits and that human IQ was diverse and had to be assessed qualitatively and not only quantitatively.
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