Serious efforts have been made to construct tests that will be less dependent on the subject’s specific culture than are the more familiar tests of the Binet type. Among these efforts are the tests constructed by Catell (1949), called a “culture-free” test, and by Davis and Eells (1953), called a “culture-fair”test. Both attempts to provide tests that will not penalize the subject from a culturally different background.

This item requires the child taking the test to note that banana, apple, and plum are fruits and that store, basket, and seed are non-fruits. It is hard to believe that nine-and ten-year-old children, even from underprivileged homes, would be unacquainted with the six words, or with the fruits, although we know little at present about the effects of severe environmental restriction upon the ability to categorize. Such an item may be “culture-fair,” even though it shows class differences in its answer the classes may actually differ in cognitive performance as measured by items that are “fair”.

Although high hopes were expressed for culture-fair tests by those who developed them, the subsequent results have not been encouraging. In some cases class differences in scores have been reduced, but for the most part the class differences found with these tests are very similar to the differences found will the more usual tests.

Moreover, as predictors of scholastic achievement, the newer tests are interior to the more conventional ones, Perhaps a culture-fair test is impossible in principle; an individual’s performance will always be affected by cultural background regardless of the nature of the test.


Hence, with all their difficulties, the ordinary Binet-type tests serve their predictive purposes as well as or better than these substitute tests that have not been extensively validated.

A study of children in a rural village in Nigeria illustrates how cultural experiences can influence performance on the Kohs block test, a task included in several intelligence scales.

The test consists of sixteen painted blocks, each cube having two sides painted red, two white and two divided diagonally into red and white. The child is shown a drawing of a design and asked to arrange the blocks to form the same design.

When rural eight-year-old Nigerian children were shown the designs pictured in Figure, they succeeded very well with the first figure, moderately well with the second, but very poorly with the third.


The average result would yield on IQ of 80 by American norms. However, when the instructor made the design with blocks, rather than with a drawing, the children learned promptly to match the design with their blocks. Having done this, they could match other drawings with blocks, as the original test required.

The investigator concluded that these children were not interior to American children in this performance once they had “caught on” to what was expected in an otherwise alien situation. In the villages where these children are raised there is a almost total lack of familiarly with pictorial representation. Even adults are baffled by maps, or building, or (in some cases) the contents of ordinary photographs.