ALFRED BINET AND THEODORE SIMON
Alfred Binet (1857–1911) noticed that his daughters thought about the world differently,
each with a distinct style. Madeleine, whom he called l'observateur, was cautious and
careful, with observations that were detailed and precise. Alice, on the other hand, was his
l'imaginitif—seeing drama and adventure in the simplest things. His parents had also been
quite different: his mother an amateur artist, and his father a stern medical doctor who was
physically and emotionally distant. These family experiences underscored for Binet that
people are individuals and that observers are not readily dispassionate. Never formally
trained in psychology, Binet had some unfortunate public humiliations regarding his re-
search method. In 1880, an enthusiastic Binet published his first paper, but his work on the
sensation of touch was flawed methodologically: he had failed to conduct a thorough lit-
erature review, and his “new” idea was already in print. He then volunteered as a research
assistant at Paris's Salpêtrière Hospital to learn from Jean-Martin Charcot, the leading au-
thority on hypnosis and a proponent of a particular theory regarding hysteria, but not a
careful experimentalist. In 1891, Binet volunteered for the new Laboratory for Physiologi-
cal Psychology at the Sorbonne, Paris, and developed a wide array of projects. The quality
and variety were sufficient to convince the laboratory's director, Henri Beaunis, that a new
journal was warranted, so L'Année Psychologique went to press in 1895. Though he was
unable to offer academic credit or degrees, Binet's work attracted a number of students.
Theodore Simon (1873–1961), a physician with interests in mentally delayed children, ar-
rived in Paris in 1899 to learn from Binet. In addition to his psychological writings, Binet
coauthored lurid plays with the “Prince of Terror,” André de Lorde, which featured tor-
mented and murderous characters.
LEVEL OF SUBNORMALS
Before explaining these methods let us recall exactly the conditions of the problem which we are attempting to solve. Our purpose is to be able to measure the intellectual capacity of a child who is brought to us in order to know whether he is normal or retarded. We should therefore, study his condition at the time and that only. We have nothing to do either with his past history or with his future; consequently we shall neglect his etiology, and we shall make no attempt to distinguish between acquired and congenital idiocy; for a stronger reason we shall set aside all consideration of pathological anatomy which might explain his intellectual deficiency. So much for his past. As to that which concerns his future, we shall exercise the same abstinence; we do not attempt to establish or prepare a prognosis and we leave unanswered the question of whether this retardation is curable, or even improvable. We shall limit ourselves to ascertaining the truth in regard to his present mental state.
Furthermore, in the definition of this state, we should
From Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. “New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Subnormals.” L'Annee Psy-
chologique 12 (1905): 191–244. Reprinted in E. Kite (Trans.) The Development of Intelligence in Children (pp. 37–75 Nashville,
TN: Williams Printing Co., 1980)
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions. Contributors: Margaret P. Munger - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 270.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.