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Appendix: Description of the tests

Tests for ages 3-7

Embedded figures. The embedded figures test was an assessment of children's ability to distinguish a figure from a meaningful visual array [31]. The construct was developed as a measure of a person's tendency to be field-dependent (influenced by the context) or field-independent. It had two versions.

In the version administered to 3-year-olds the child was shown a picture of a common figure, and then was shown a larger picture that included the same figure and asked to point to the figure. In the first 9 of the 18 items she simply had to select the target figure from a group of other forms; in the second 9 the target figure was embedded in the larger picture. The score was the number of items located correctly.

The version for children 4-7 years old used a red triangle as the target figure. After practice, a copy of the triangle was visible to the child and she was asked to find the triangle hidden in each of 12 pictures.

Verbal inferences. This was a Guatemalan adaptation of a verbal analogies test used in both Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). Two simple test items were first given to the child, and corrections were given if he could not complete an item or completed it incorrectly. A partial sentence was read to the child, who was then expected to complete the idea by supplying the missing word. For example, The first item was: "Shoes go on feet. A hat goes on . . ." The second was: "Water is to drink. Tortillas are to . . ." If the child did not understand the first two examples, the test was not administered.

Vocabulary naming and recognition. The vocabulary test was similar to early items in the Peabody picture vocabulary test. None of the items required inferences about actions. The child was shown a notebook with about four pictures on each page, all of which were of objects common in the village, and was first asked to name each picture. Various synonyms were acceptable. The total number correct was the naming score.

After the child had seen all the pictures, the examiner named each object that the child had not named or had named incorrectly, and the child was asked to point to it. The recognition score was the total number of items named in the first part of the test plus the number recognized in the second part.

Memory for digits. The digit memory test was similar to those in Stanford-Binet and the WISC. The child was asked to repeat sequences of numbers read by the examiner at the rate of two per second. The sequences were of different lengths, the shortest consisting of two digits, with four sequences of each length. The score was the total number of digits recalled correctly plus one point for each totally correct sequence.

Memory for sentences. The child was asked to repeat meaningful sentences after the examiner, who read them at the rate of two words per second. All the words were two syllables long—for example, Mama habla. The sentences had different numbers of words, with two sentences of each length. The score was the total number of words recalled correctly plus one point for each correct sentence.

Draw a line slowly. This test was developed to measure impulse control [30]. It was significantly associated with Stanford-Binet scores in a preschool population but was unrelated to the overall activity level measured by "actometers." It may measure ability to follow instructions as well as impulse control.

The child was asked to draw a line between two X marks on a page as quickly as possible, and then to draw one as slowly as possible. The score was derived from the latter: it was the velocity of the line, i.e., the time to draw the line divided by its length. A lower score indicates greater impulse control.

Persistence on impossible puzzle. The child was given 18 pieces to fit into a puzzle, in an attempt to measure persistence in an impossible situation. In reality there was no way in which all of the pieces could be fitted into the puzzle. A maximum of three minutes was allowed, and the score was the number of 10-second intervals the child continued to work.

Reversal discrimination learning. Children were tested on their ability to make a reversal shift, that is, to transfer learning from one situation to another with reversed requirements.

Four sets of trials to discriminate between two objects were given. In the first set, the child was trained to make a distinction between the objects based on their size. If she selected the correct member of the pair (e.g., the large house), she found a piece of candy under the stimulus. The second set of trials involved discrimination on the same dimension but with different objects (e.g., cars, with the large one still being correct). If the child understands the notion of dimension, she should master the second exercise much more quickly than the first. In the third set of trials, a reversal was introduced: the same two items were presented as in the first trials (a large and a small house), but this time the small house was the correct one. The test of the child's learning from the reversal shift came in the fourth set, when she was shown the same two objects as in the second set (cars), but again with the opposite size (small) now being correct. If, in the first or the third set, the child failed five times in a row, the test was suspended. The score was the total number of trials the child took to reach the criterion.

Memory for objects. As a standard memory test and a measure of ability to use categories of objects to enhance recall, the child was shown a large circular tablet with 12 familiar objects—belonging to three conceptual categories (animals, clothing, kitchen utensils)—placed around the edge. After he had inspected the objects, they were covered with a cloth and he was asked to recall as many as possible. The score was the number of objects recalled.

Knox cubes. In this adaptation of the Arthur Point Scale of Intelligence [61], the child was asked to repeat a series of taps on four stimuli. A board with four familiar miniature objects lined up in a row (a fan, a bow, etc.) was shown to the child. The examiner tapped these items in a particular order with a stick the length of a pencil, and the child was then asked to tap them in the same order. The score was the number of series of taps correctly completed.

In the slow version, the examiner tapped the objects at the rate of one per second. The fast version, which was not used here, has four taps per second and follows the slow version.


Tests for ages 5-7

Memory for designs. This test was developed to assess children's ability to remember and reproduce a design made with one-inch cubic blocks painted a different colour on each side (red, green, yellow, and blue, plus some with diagonals). The examiner constructed a design from the blocks (using two blocks for the first two items and four blocks thereafter) and allowed the child to inspect it for five seconds. The blocks were then scrambled and the child was asked to reconstruct the design from memory. Three trials were allowed per design. The score was a number of points based on the correct colour and position of the blocks.

Incidental and intentional learning. This test measured children's ability to recall information they had not been directed to remember. It consisted of two trials.

In the first trial, the child was shown six pictures of common objects, one at a time, and asked to point to the part that was red. After finishing, she was asked to remember what the pictures were. The number of pictures correctly recalled was her incidental learning score.

She was then shown the six pictures again and asked to name them. Then she was asked to name the pictures again from memory. The number correctly recalled on the second trial was her intentional learning score.

Haptic-visual matching. This test was developed in response to the hypothesis that malnourished children are deficient in their ability to integrate among their senses (intersensory integration).

The child was asked to place his hands into a box with a little curtain over the opening and feel an object inside the box (a wooden figure about one and a half centimetres thick, like a jigsaw puzzle piece, glued onto a board) without being able to see it. He was then shown four similar forms and asked to pick the one that was the same shape as the one he had felt. There were 12 objects to be felt in all. The number of correct responses and the response times were recorded.

Matching familiar figures. This test was designed to measure a child's cognitive style: "reflectivity" (long response times and correct answers) or "impulsivity" (short response times and incorrect answers).

The child was shown a drawing of a familiar object and asked to select the one that matched it from a display of similar figures differing only in small details from the stimulus item. The display was covered with a sheet of paper until time for her to start searching so that her response time could be measured accurately. Because of a tendency in such tests for children to respond immediately to the figure in the lower right-hand corner, closest to their hand, the location of the correct response and the arrangement of the alternatives on the page were varied. Both the number of items selected correctly and the response times were recorded.

Block design. The child was shown a design on a card and asked to replicate it using a set of small, coloured cubical blocks. Some of the more difficult designs involved blocks with diagonal lines. The score was based on points for the correct colour, position, and orientation for each block plus one point for each completely correct design.

Animal houses. This test of non-verbal intelligence from the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPSSI) measures the child's ability to develop an arbitrary code pairing two stimuli. The child was first presented with four animals and shown that each one had a "house" of a different colour. He was then given a tablet with 20 pictures of animals— 5 copies of each of the four standards—and a set of coloured pegs, and was asked to place a peg of the colour of the animal's "house" under each picture as quickly as possible within a time limit. Both the time taken to complete the task and the number of correct responses were recorded.

Elimination of odd figure. The child was shown a series of five drawings in a row and asked to point to the one that was different. In some cases the odd figure differed on perceptual grounds (e.g., a child wearing black rather than white shoes) and in some on conceptual grounds (e.g., one child in the picture was engaged in a different activity from the others). The score was the total number of items correctly identified.

Face-hands touching. To test children's ability to determine on which side of their body a touch occurs, they were touched with a feather on both the face and the hands with their eyes closed and were asked to say whether the touches were on the same or different sides. The score was the number of touches correctly identified.

Incomplete figures. Both Stanford-Binet and the WPSSI contain some measure of children's ability to identify the part of a picture of a common object that is missing. The child was shown pictures of 16 items common to Guatemalan village life and was asked to point out the missing part. The score was the total number of missing parts correctly identified.

Conservation of matter. This adaptation of Piaget's conservation-of-mass test used the shapes of tortillas and salchichas (hot dogs) as stimuli in order to increase its relevance. The child was shown two balls of clay and was asked whether there was the same amount in each. The examiner then moulded the balls into different forms and afterwards reshaped the clay into a ball. After each transformation the child was asked to judge whether the quantity of clay was the same as in the initial comparison. The results were scored on a three-point scale: 0 if the child never recognized that the quantity was conserved, 1 if she recognized it in some but not all of her responses, and 2 if she recognized it every time.

Conservation of area. In this culturally appropriate adaptation of Piaget's conservation-of-area test the child was shown two large round green tablets representing fields, with a toy cow on each, and small blocks representing houses. Both "fields" were first presented in the same configuration to test for the child's recognition of their initial equality. Then, for the transformation, on one tablet the houses were grouped together and on the other they were scattered, and the child was asked whether the two cows still had the same amount to eat. The scores were 0, 1, or 2 as above.

Conservation of continuous quantity. This adaptation of Piaget's conservation-of-liquid test involved three transformations of water in glasses, using different sizes and numbers of glasses. The child was asked if the quantities of water were equal initially, then was shown a transformation and again asked if the quantities were the same. The scoring was the same as for the two conservation tests described above.


Data collection and analyses were supported by NIH grant HD22440. The study was a collaborative effort involving investigators at several institutions: R. Martorell (principal investigator, originally at Stanford University, now at Cornell University), J. Rivera (INCAP, Guatemala), E. Pollitt (University of California at Davis), and J. Haas (Cornell University).


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