Thurstones Primary Mental Abilities

Thurstones Primary Mental Abilities is a test created to measure the primary mental abilities of superior children. As a clinical test, it would measure these seven abilities: word fluency, verbal comprehension, spatial visualization, number facility, associative memory, reasoning, and perceptual speed in advanced children. Louis Leon Thurstone had a vast interest in the measurement of mental functions, wanting to adapt statistical processes to psychological tests. Additionally, Thurstone wished to calculate the components of human knowledge using his seven factors. Thurstone also criticized the test methods behind ideal mental ages, setting the process into motion of using percentile ranges to identify comparisons in performances. His rating scale located individual attitudes as well as opinions in his rankings.>


Created in 1938, Thurstone looked into each of these abilities after gaining interest in how the measurement of attitude and intelligence was being calculated. Thurstone’s testing found that mental abilities of children with similar IQ scores had differing primary mental abilities. Though this was a new way to identify comprehension, Thurstone failed to find that the primary mental abilities were separate entities, seeing that there were general factors as well as the seven specific skills. This thought process led him to create the Multiple Factor Analysis in 1947 where he was able to work with his proposed statistical techniques.

Thurstones Primary Mental Abilities Test

To measure these abilities, each child would go through each of the seven mental abilities tests. For example, The Primary Mental Abilities – Reasoning, or PMA-R, would ask the child to complete a sequence of letters such as ijm, klm, mnm, and the answer would be “o” in the next series. These children were expected to complete a set of 30 questions in five minutes. For spatial, PMA-S, the children would be shown six figures that were mirrored or rotated with the possible answers being two or more. The scoring on this test was the difference between correct and incorrect responses with the measurement of 20 questions. Additionally, a verbal test was administered utilizing pen and paper. The PMR-V test had the children select synonyms for the word given and would allow for one correct answer with 50 items, to be completed in four minutes.

Though the test was seemingly recreated by Thurstone into the Multiple Factor Analysis, Thurstones Primary Mental Abilities Test provided the groundwork for the future, allowing the thought to go toward multiple intelligences. Thurstone was able to apply his mathematical abilities to solve the contradictory results he would find in the Primary Mental Abilities testing and was able to address these issues in his Multiple Factor Analysis of which comprises of general factors as well as his seven abilities. Furthermore, he was able to put significant findings into the attitude and opinions presented in different patients. His ability to measure human intelligence utilizing mathematics and the seven factors he proposed allowed to see the dynamics that may also be a part of thought processes. The Primary Mental Abilities test paved the way for the development of psychometrics, or the measurement of mental capacities.