Alfred Binet



Alfred Binet


The following essay offers both a short biography of Psychologist Alfred Binet
and a present day practical application using the theory from which Binet
developed his Intelligence test.

Alfred Binet, born in Nice, France, on the eleventh of July, whose mother was an
artist and whose father was a physician, became one of the most prominent
psychologists in French history.

Having received his formal education in both Nice and later, in Paris, at the
renowned Lycee Louis -le-Grand, Binet went on to become a lawyer. This
profession, however, was not suited to him, and he found himself immersed in the
works of J.S. Mill, Bain and Sully at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. He
identified strongly with the associationism theory in following that his mentor
was J.S. Mill.

Binet began working with Charcot and Fere at the Salpetriere, a famous Parisian
hospital, where he absorbed the theories of his teachers in regards to hypnosis,
hysteria and abnormal psychology. During the following seven years, he
continuously demonstrated his loyalty in defending Charcot\'s doctrines on
hypnotic transfer and polarization until he was forced to accept the
counterattacks of Delboeuf and the Nancy School, which eventually caused a split
between student and teacher.

Having been married in 1884 to Laure Balbiani, whose father was E.G. Balbiani,
an embryologist at the College de France, Binet was given the opportunity to
work in his lab where his interest in \'comparative psychology\' was piqued and in
which he eventually wrote his thesis for his doctorate in natural science,
focusing his research on the "the behavior, physiology, histology and anatomy of
insects"(Wolfe, p.7). It was while working in Dr. Balbiani\'s lab, that Binet
wrote \'Animal Magnetism\', an obvious breaking away from associationism, showing
Binet\'s ability to adapt and learn with every opportunity.

Binet\'s next area of interest could be considered a precursor to some of
Piaget\'s work with child psychology and began with the systematic observation of
his two daughters, to whom he devoted much of his time, studying and writing
about. It was at this point, that Binet "came to realize that individual
differences had to be systematically explored before one could determine laws
which would apply to all people"(Pollack,p.xii).

Soon after, Binet was nominated co-director and one year later, became director
of the Laboratory of Physiological Psychology at the Sorbonne. He and Beaunis,
also co-director, initiated and edited the first French psychological journal
\'L\'Annee Psychologique\', which remains in press today.

Although never having attained a professorship in his own country (a bitter
disappointment for the proud nationalist) Binet did spend one spring in
Bucharest where his knowledge in experimental psychology was fully appreciated
as he taught to auditoriums filled to capacity, and was thus offered a chair in
psychophysiology. Binet refused, unable to remain away from Paris.

The \'Society Libre pour l\'Etude Psychologique de l\'Enfant\', was established in
1900 by Binet and Ferdinand Buisson. This organization\'s concerns dealt with
practical problems in the school setting. Binet, after having proven himself
through his work here, was appointed to a commission which was to adorn Binet
with his most famous contribution in Psychology...the \'Methodes Nouvelles pour
le Diagnostic du Niveau Intellectuel des Anormaux\', a series of tests developed
by he and his partner, Theodore Simone, allowing the differentiaion of normal
from retarded children in the school system, thus allowing the slower children
to be separated for remedial help. Although never used extensively in France,
this of course, was the precursor (although used for different and opposable
reasons than were initially intended by Binet) of the Stanford-Binet
Intelligence Test.

Alfred Binet "attempted to penetrate the human mind, to analyze its wellspring,
to understand [it as] a complete whole"(Wolfe, p. 327). His work was diverse,
covering areas such as systematic introspection, suggestibility, research with
abnormals, mental fatigue, psychology of legal testimony, experimental study of
children and experimental pedigogy.

Binet died in Paris in 1911. As a French Psychologist, he was never appreciated,
specifically by the French, to the extent that his work and dedication merited
him to be. Binet\'s work was diverse, showing interest in the person as a whole
and therefore, trying to understand all facets comprising man. His work,
although contributing much in the sense that it was often the precursor of more
detailed, profound research, was never detailed enough to formulate any firm
theories in any one area.

Binet\'s crownig glory was the formulation of the first intelligence test. The
development of this test is explained fully in the \'The Psychological Testing
Enterprise, An Introduction\' pages 191 to 208.

Binet\'s theory which argues that "the best way to predict success in school was
to measure success in school"(Rogers, p.653), can equally be applied in