Alfred Binet

(1857—1911) French psychologist

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French psychologist who made important contributions to the measurement of intelligence and educational achievement, particularly by devising the Binet scale for assessing the mental age of a subject.

Binet began his career in law but his fascination with the work of Jean Charcot on hypnosis led him to take up medical studies at the Salpetrière Hospital, Paris. He was strongly influenced by the theories of associationism expounded by John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer and attempted to provide sound experimental evidence in their support. He developed techniques for measuring reasoning ability and other higher mental processes using simple tests involving pencil and paper and pictures.

In 1895 Binet founded the journal L'Année psychologique, which was primarily a medium for publishing his own work and that of his followers. He also established a laboratory in Paris for the study and experimental teaching of children. In 1903 he published one of his most important studies, L'Étude expérimentale de l'intelligence (‘The Experimental Study of Intelligence’), in which he investigated the mental characteristics of his two young daughters as a systematic study of contrasting personalities. Binet pioneered the use of projective testing in which a subject's response to pictures, inkblots, and other visual material provided psychological information.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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