Alfred Binet

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Binet, Alfred

(älfrĕd` bēnā`), 1857–1911, French psychologist. From 1894 he was director of the psychology laboratory at the Sorbonne. He is known for his research and innovation in testing human intelligence. With Théodore Simon he devised (1905–11) a series of tests that, with revisions, came into wide use in schools, industries, and the army. The Stanford, the Herring, and the Kuhlmann are important revisions. Binet and Simon wrote Les Enfants anormaux (1907, tr. Mentally Defective Children, 1914). Most of his writings were published in Année psychologique, a journal that he founded in 1895.


See study by T. H. Wolf (1973).

Binet, Alfred


Born July 8, 1857, in Nice; died Oct. 18, 1911, in Paris. French psychologist.

After receiving a juridical education, Binet turned to neurology, histology, and pathopsychology. He was the head of the laboratory of physiological psychology at the Sorbonne (1895). He focused his attention on experimental studies of the higher psychical functions. In 1894 he founded the psychological yearbook L’Année psychologique, which was to become the leading psychological journal in France. In his works, Binet examined the thinking processes of famous calculators and chess masters, problems of intellectual fatigue, the intellectual development of children, the psychophysical problem, and so forth.

Characteristic of Binet’s works (many of which were studies made jointly with other psychologists, such as Féré, Henri, and Simon) is the tendency toward an objective experimental study of the psychical regulation of behavior along with an emphasis on the idea that this regulation is not exhausted by anatomical and physiological factors but has its own mechanisms and regularities of a purely psychological order. Binet was a pioneer in the application of experimental techniques to the study of the higher-order psychical functions, especially the thinking process, for the investigation of which he developed and perfected several new techniques: questionnaires, tests, and the clinical interview. Although he initially adhered to the postulates of associative psychology, Binet later rejected them and treated the thinking process not as a combination of images (ideas) according to the laws of association but as the operation of the general schemata of the solution of problems which are of vital importance to the subject. These schemata are treated as holistic formations that can be correlated with the goal of the thinking act and with the internal orientation of the subject. In characterizing his concept, Binet points out that it “takes activity to be the goal of thinking, and seeks for the very essence of thinking in the system of activity”; and that “psychology has become the science of activity” (Année psychologique, 1908, pp. 145, 148). Binet’s works on the diagnostics of the intellectual development of babies had an enormous effect on psychology. In attempting to solve the problem of selection of mentally retarded children for special schools, he worked out a scale of development of the intellect and at the same time devised a system of simple tests for appropriate measurements. That procedure was based on the idea of a distinction between the chronological age and the age of mental development. Binet is the founder of the testing movement.


La Suggestibilité. Paris, 1900.
L’ Étude expérimentale del’intelligence. Paris, 1903.
In Russian translation:
Psikhologiia umozakliucheniia na osnovanii eksperimental’nykh issledovanii posredstvom gipnotizma. Moscow, 1889.
Umstvennoe utomlenie. Moscow, 1899. (Coauthored with V. Henri.)
Dusha i telo. Moscow, 1910.
Sovremennye idei o detiakh. Moscow, 1910.
Nenormal’nye deti. Moscow, 1911. (Coauthored with T. Simon.)


Eksperimental’naia psikhologiia, vols. 1–2, ch. 1. Edited by P. Fraisse and J. Piaget. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from the French.)
Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii, ch. 2. Moscow, 1962.
Betrand, F.-L. Alfred Binet et son oeuvre. Paris, 1930.


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