Article ID: CBB594534377

Mental Association: Testing Individual Differences Before Binet (2017)


This paper challenges the historiographical discontinuity established between earlier “anthropometric testing” and the arrival of “psychological testing” with Binet and Simon's intelligence test in 1905. After some conceptual clarifications, it deals with “word association”: a kind of psychological experimentation and testing which became popular over the last two decades of the 19th century. First Galton's exploration are presented, followed by experiments performed at the Leipzig laboratory by Trautscholdt, and then Cattell and Bryant's collective testing. Additionally, I document the use of this method for the study of mental difference through the works of Münsterberg, Bourdon, Jastrow, Nevers and Calkins. The cases I present show how the method gave rise to various measurements and classifications. I conclude that the word association technique triggered reflection on mental “uniqueness”, gender traits and the influence of education, among other topics. Moreover, it prepared the terrain and anticipated some basic attractions and problems intelligence testing would later encounter.

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Authors & Contributors
Winston, Andrew S.
Tucker, William H.
Cicciola, Elisabetta
Foschi, Renato
Bisha, Robin
Gheith, Jehanne M.
History of Psychology
History of Science
History of Education
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History of Education Quarterly
British Journal for the History of Science
American Psychological Association
Indiana University Press
John Wiley & Sons
University of Illinois Press
Intelligence tests
Galton, Francis
Binet, Alfred
Freud, Sigmund
Brentano, Franz Clemens
Lewin, Kurt
Terman, Lewis Madison
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
17th century
21st century
Great Britain
United States
South Africa

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