Five Quotes by Alfred Binet on Intelligence

Alfred Binet was one of the most important psychologists in the field of education. His optimistic view of intelligence and his interest in measuring it to improve education, and personalizing teaching methods, especially in those students with problems, particularly stand out.
Five Quotes by Alfred Binet on Intelligence
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Many of Alfred Binet’s quotes concern one of the aspects that most captivated this French pedagogue and psychologist: intelligence. As a matter of fact, Alfred Binet was the first person to create the intelligence test in the educational context.

Alfred Binet was born in 1857 and died in 1911. Although he was known as a pedagogue and psychologist, he was also a graphologist. In fact, for years, he devoted himself to investigating how the education of children could be improved. More specifically, he focused his attention on those who had learning difficulties.

Motivated by the idea that they could enjoy an adapted education, Binet set out to create a standardized test that would quickly and accurately identify children with this problem. Indeed, it was around this idea that he developed his career. Furthermore, he built a valuable legacy that his contemporaries, in one way or another, could also enjoy.

illuminated brain with dots

1. Intelligence and adaptability

“Intelligence is the ability to take and maintain a certain direction, adapt to new situations and have the ability to criticize one’s actions”.

In this first quote from Alfred Binet, he offers us, as a starting point for understanding his work, his own definition of intelligence.

It’s highly likely that your own conception of intelligence is related to a brilliant person or someone who stands out from the rest. Nevertheless, Binet valued it from another point of view.

Binet saw intelligence as being able to make a decision and stick to it, adapting to new situations no matter how difficult they may be, and being able to be consistent with one’s actions.

2. Intelligence isn’t fixed

“A few modern philosophers assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism…”.

This second of Albert Binet’s quotes is a criticism of those who defended that intelligence could neither decrease nor increase. Binet pointed out that this is an extremely pessimistic and, fortunately, incorrect view.

In fact, according to Binet, with practice, training, and a specific method it’s possible to improve intelligence. He considered that memory, attention, and the use of logic constituted the three pillars of intelligence. These could be trained, thus improving intelligence.

3. Succeed in life

“It seems proven that, in life, you succeed thanks to three factors: health, intelligence and character. Let’s add a fourth factor, a little luck”.

Alfred Binet considered that intelligence was part of another series of elements that made it possible for a person to succeed. He claimed that, together with your health and your character, you can achieve the goals you set out to achieve.

However, he also added a rather interesting element to the list: luck. Binet understood luck as a kind of fortune that comes to us all. Nevertheless, he felt that only those who work to be in the right place at the right time take advantage of it. In other words, the transformation of opportunities into success is in the hands of those who are able to intelligently invest their resources.

4. The head of a chess player

“Could we look into the head of a chess player, we should see there a whole world of feelings, images, ideas, emotion and passion”.

In this fourth quote, Alfred Binet talks about the inside of a chess player’s head. Logic is important in this particular game. Binet claimed that in the mind of the chess player there are feelings, images (visualization), ideas, emotion, and passion.

As a matter of fact, all of these elements are essential to be able to play the game satisfactorily. Without them, it’d be impossible for a player to win. Furthermore, Binet indirectly related these characteristics to intelligence.

Woman with enlightened brain

5. A scale doesn’t measure intelligence

“The scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of the intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured”.

We end with one of Alfred Binet’s most significant quotes regarding the scale of intelligence. Although it was considered that the intelligence test demonstrated if one individual possessed greater abilities than another, Binet affirmed that this wasn’t the case. In fact, he stated that the scale doesn’t measure intelligence because it doesn’t compare.

Therefore, the result of the test was the identification of a series of points that should serve as a reference to adapt the teaching process to each student. Just as in a language level test, no one passes or fails. Binet thought of the intelligence test in a similar way.

Which of these quotes by Alfred Binet did you already know? Did you realize that he was the creator of the intelligence test? We hope that you’ve found the article to be of interest. Furthermore, that it’s allowed you to learn a little more about this pedagogue, graphologist, psychologist, and pioneer in the study of intelligence.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.