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Who Invented the IQ Test?

Updated on February 21, 2014
Alfred Binet 1857-1911
Alfred Binet 1857-1911

Have you ever wondered who invented the IQ test?

Alfred Binet

An interest in intelligence has plagued man for thousands of years. In 1905, a French psychologist by the name of Alfred Binet made a “fundamental contribution to the measurement of intelligence” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009, para.1).

Alfred Binet constructed the first IQ test. Binet’s IQ test came as a result of a special commission by the French government. The French government wanted a method of measuring the “intellectual potential of individual school children” (Wood, Wood, Boyd, 2002).

Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale

Therefore, Alfred Binet with the help of his fellow colleague, psychiatrist Theodore Simon, developed what is historically called the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale.

However, their IQ test had a complication with its scoring method and a series of revisions occurred. Despite the issue with Binet’s Intelligence Scale, this new testing method helped to further the psychological understanding of human intelligence.


Binet was Self-Taught in Psychology

Alfred Binet was born in Nice France in 1857 and was self taught in psychology. He studied extensively and read “psychology texts at the National Library in Paris” (Indiana University, 2007).

Binet was also fascinated with the ideas of John Stuart Mill and the work of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot on hypnosis. Both of these men greatly influenced Binet in his own thinking.

Binet's Partner Theodore Simon

In 1894, Alfred Binet went to work at the “Sorbonne’s Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and was appointed its Director” (Indiana University, 2007).

Coincidentally, Binet also became the co-founder of the major psychology journal L’Annee Psychologique in that same year. However, it was at Sorbonne’s Laboratory that Alfred Binet would met Theodore Simon and they would begin “their long, fruitful collaboration” (Indiana University, 2007).

The Binet-Simon Scale would become the “basis for intelligence tests still used today” (Wagner, 2008).


IQ Test Development Process

By developing a number of questions which focused on memory, attention, and problem-solving skills Binet was able to test school children and determine which questions “severed as the best predictions of school success” (Wagner, 2008).

After testing and assessing numerous school children, Binet developed the concept of a mental age. Meaning, a child’s measure of intelligence was to be based upon the “average abilities of the children of a certain age group” (Wagner, 2008).

The Concept of Mental Age

The concept of mental age became Binet’s and Simon’s scoring method. However, this method was faulty in that it did not express a degree for retardation at different ages.

Alfred Binet did admit that the IQ test had limitations. To fix the problem, German psychologist William Stern devised a simple formula in 1912 for calculating an index of intelligence, which he called the intelligence quotient (Wood, et. al., 2002).

The Stanford-Binet IQ Test

In 1916, the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale was brought to the United States where psychologist Lewis M. Terman, a professor at Stanford University, revised and perfected the scoring of intelligence.

As a result, the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale was renamed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. The new testing system incorporated the use of Stern’s intelligence quotient or IQ score and Terman’s formula for calculating an IQ.

Present Day Testing

Today the Stanford-Binet IQ test continues to be a widely used intelligence assessment tool despite its numerous revisions since its inception.

Alfred Binet along with the help of other psychologists brought psychology into a better understanding of human intelligence with the construction of the IQ test. The interest in intelligence has been partially satisfied thanks to Binet’s lifelong work.

References and Further Reading

  • Wood, S., Wood, E., Boyd, D. (2002). Mastering the World of Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson.


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