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Title: Alfred Binet (1857-1911) : theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of intelligence.
Author: Faber, Diana Patricia.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 1992
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The myth that Binet's Intelligence Scales were created "overnight" has already been dismissed by Theta Wolf (1969 and 1973). However, it was felt that there was still more to be explained about the Scales. The aim of this research therefore, was to explore and throw light on the many factors involved in the making of this experimental psychologist and his contribution to the study of intelligence in the late nineteenth and first decade of the twentieth century. In line with the modern approach that makes the consideration of social factors a sine qua non of an historical account of scientific achievement, the following aspects of France and its culture were explored: the politics which pressed with optimism for free and universal education; the institutional arrangements of the New University of Paris and their implications for Binet's career; the power of medical discourse which provided the framework within which both clinical and educational concerns were articulated; the broader intellectual "climate" in which scientific ideas were disseminated, and the particular intellectual influences on Binet himself . Binet's work is also seen as operating at the day-to-day level with all its practical demands: for example, his search for subjects, visits to hospices and schools. Binet was essentially a practical and patient researcher, giving particular attention to detail within experiments and in observing subjects' behaviour. By comparing Binet's views and practice with those of other psychologists of his time, for instance Ebbinghaus, Wundt, Galton, Cattell and Spearman, the originality of Binet's psychology is highlighted. This research has shown more clearly than elsewhere how Binet came to practise the, psychology that he did, and how his flexibility enabled the transforlnation of a psychological experiment into a test item. It is proposed that the particular social nature of his experiments and use of introspections were contributing factors. To understand the nature of his achievement it was found necessary to describe the genesis of the Scales through Binet's experimental work in "Individual Psychology" and his studies of children, and to examine the items of the Scales themselves. Historical accounts of nineteenth century France frequently contain comments on the power of ┬Ěthe medical profession. The case of Binet illustrates this finding: I have proposed that the doctors' power created obstacles both potential and actual to the recognition of Binet's experimental work. Within the context of the Pedagogical Society and through a series of events medical power was shifted to allow for the psychologist to construct the diagnostic tool for assessing children's intelligence. Finally, the Intelligence Scales provoked reactions which generated controversy about the nature of intelligence and its measurement, and these are discussed in this thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology Psychology History Philosophy Religion