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Alfred Binet

1857-1911
French psychologist and founder of experimental psychology in France and a pioneer in intelligence testing.

Alfred Binet was born in Nice, France, in 1857. After studying both law and medicine in Paris, he earned a doctorate in natural science. Binet's psychological training—mostly at Jean-Martin Charcot's neurological clinic at the Salpetriere Hospital—was in the area of abnormal psychology, particularly hysteria, and he published books on hypnosis (Le magnetisme animal, with C.S. Fere in 1886) and suggestibility (La suggestibilite, 1900). From 1895 until his death in 1911, Binet served as director of France's first psychological laboratory at the Sorbonne of the University of Paris. Also in 1895, he established the journal L'Annee psychologique. Binet had been interested in the psychology of—and individual differences in— intelligence since the 1880s and published articles on emotion, memory, attention, and problem solving. In 1899 he set up a special laboratory

Alfred Binet

where he devised a series of tests which he used to evaluate the intellectual development of his two daughters. His 1903 book, L'Etude experimentale de l'intelligence, was based on his studies of them.

In 1905, Binet and Theodore Simon created the first intelligence test to aid the French government in establishing a program to provide special education for mentally retarded children. In 1908 they revised the test, expanding it from a single scale of measurement to a battery of tests for children in different age groups, with the focus now shifted from identifying retardation to the general measurement of intelligence. A further test revision in 1911 introduced the concept of mental age. In 1916, the American psychologist Lewis Terman used the 1908 Binet-Simon scale as the basis for the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the best-known and most researched intelligence test in the United States. Binet coauthored Les enfants anormaux (Abnormal Children) (1907) with Simon and published Les idees modernes sur les enfants (Modern Ideas on Children) in 1909. He died in Paris in 1911.

Further Reading

Wolf, Theta Holmes. Alfred Binet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists