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Showing the form which is approximated when a great many unselected individuals are arranged in order of magnitude in a given mental or physical trait, by test. This particular surface represents the distribution of 1000 individuals, each little square on the paper, within the area of the curve, standing for one person. Note the infrequency of individuals at the two extremes, and the large number clustering at the mid-point.


Figure 1, page 279, the best one to two percent,-in this instance, as respects intellectual power. These individuals, in whom we are now interested, are, therefore, as far above the average as the so-called feeble-minded are below. FIGURE 2

History of the Study of Ability

Showing how Figure 1 is approximated when birds are subjected to the test of flight (Schematic).

The major part of our discussion will be devoted to the generally competent,-those who, as we say, are of very superior general intelligence. Psychologists have learned that there is a coherence of capacities in persons, so that one who is above average in one performance is able to surpass the average in most other performances, also. It is this fact of human nature which gives rise to the term, general intelligence.

The history of the study of superior as contrasted with average individuals is very interesting. It dates back into the nineteenth century. As there were then no quantitative methods of measuring intelligence, the approach was through the study of notable achievement in the world's work. This, of course, limited the study to adults, so that the early accounts have little to say about childhood. It was ascertained that eminent persons constitute a definite, small percentage of the population; that they are most often born in cities or on the estates of nobles, in long settled countries; that they have many more distinguished relatives than people ordinarily have; and that they originate usually in families of superior social-economic status.

Although little of importance has been reported concerning the childhood of eminent persons, still one student has made this his theme. In 1894, Yoder published

a study of the boyhood of great men. Fifty individuals are included in this survey, concerning whom it appeared that they were, as children, healthy and interested in play; that they had been born over a very wide range of years in the reproductive life of parents; that many of them were "only" sons; and that a decided majority were derived from well-to-do families.

The methods of mental measurement now make possible the identification of superior intelligence, during childhood. We can approach the study of competency more directly, and at an age when education is doing its work. General intelligence in children is classified in various terms. Most often, perhaps, this is at present done in terms of IQ (intelligence quotient), which is the ratio of birthday age to intellectual development, already referred to in Chapters IV and XIII. That a child scores at an IQ of 100 means that intellectual development is that of the average child of the given birthday age. An IQ of 100 represents "par", as regards intelligence. A ratio of less than 100 means some degree of inferiority to the average, while a ratio above 100 means some degree of superiority. The best one per cent of children, as respects intelligence, test at or above 130 IQ, approximately. It is in such children that the interest of this chapter centers. It is not known just how widely intelligence can vary in terms of IQ. The most intelligent children reported up to this time test between 180 and 190 IQ, and are, of course, very infrequent.

Persons who have no organized knowledge about children, nevertheless use typical phraseology in speaking of the gifted. When we hear repeatedly, from various people, that a given child is "old for his age," "so reliable," "very old-fashioned," "quick to see a joke," "youngest in his class," or that he has "an old head on young shoulders," or "such a long memory," we usually find him to be highly intelligent, by test. The phrases used do not

The Modern

Symptoms of
Ability in

Unintentional Segregation of the Able

necessarily indicate any actual appreciation of the child's quality, but are used merely to describe present performances. That the child who is "old for his age" stands, and will continue throughout life to stand, among the highly intelligent of his generation, is not usually in the thought of those using the phrase. Also, other important symptoms of superior intelligence, such as very early interest and success in learning to read, are not popularly recognized.

Even teachers, who are no doubt among the best judges of children, have very indefinite knowledge of what are the important symptoms of intelligence. Very often they fail to think of the traits just mentioned as significant, and make the mistake of judging as "most intelligent" the children who are doing good school work in the grade where they happen to be placed. In this way teachers not uncommonly may judge as "most intelligent" very dull, over-age children, doing good work in the lower grades. Thus, for instance, they may not realize that being "youngest in the class" is an important symptom of superior ability. Teachers, of course, differ very widely among themselves in the reliability of their judgments. It has been shown that they are more accurate in their judgments of the stupid than they are in their judgments of the bright.

The methods of mental measurement have demonstrated that in this country and abroad certain schools have long been segregating bright children, for instruction, without explicit recognition of the fact. In England, Burt has shown that boys attending a famous preparatory school are intellectually gifted above the average of the juvenile population. In the United States, children attending private schools, where tuition is paid, are rather highly selected for mental endowment. Mental tests show that in many such schools the pupils have a median IQ of near 120, instead of a median at par (100

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