British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Wednesday 6th June

“The Dangerous Path of Practical Psychometry”: Measuring Intelligence at Spanish Schools

Professor Annette Mülberger, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Without instruments scientific research, as we know it today, would be impossible. Many phenomena would not be accessible with our unaided senses, and surely intelligence or the level of mental maturity in form of IQ would be one of them. The story of how the first mental tests emerged is well known. Even more contextualized histories about how the use of the intelligence tests like the Binet-Simon spread within the French and North-American Republics have been produced more recently (see, for example Carson, The Measure of Merit, 2007).

The story of mental measurement is complex and there are still too many open questions. One first question refers to what had happened in other cultural contexts like Spain. When, where and, especially why were mental tests used there? Some work has been done on the role of several institutions which were instrumental in the spread of mental testing in Spain, like the centers for Professional Guidance Institute. Identifying and taking care of the new human category of the “feebleminded” or “mentally abnormal” was generally included into the professional tasks of the school physician. At the same time, Spanish school teachers were experiencing innovative pedagogical tools and ideas, also showed some interest in mental measurement.

In my talk I will take a look on how the interest in registering mental capacity of children arose during the first decades of the 20th centuries in Spain, paying special attention to the initiatives launched by some self-taught teachers before and during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Thereby the following questions will be relevant: why did some Spanish teachers become interested in psychological testing in schools? Which tests did they apply and how? What consequences did the results of the testing have for the children? How did the school-physicians react to these attempts?

The in-depth-study of specific cases where psychological tests were used in Spanish schools evidences different strategies of appropriation of the scientific tool to local needs and reveals interesting shifts in the functionality of the test.

Time of all seminars: 6pm-7.30pm

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544, 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ

Directions: From the main reception, go through the double doors at the back and turn left, walk the length of this corridor and at the very end turn left again – you will find yourself in front of the ‘West’ Lifts. Take these to 5th Floor. On exiting the lift, turn right through double doors and then left through single door, walk the length of this corridor pass through another door and then turn right – you will see a marble table ahead. Room 544 is straight ahead.

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