This weekend, I was searching online governmental archives for historic photos to use in my upcoming book about intelligence. Here is a photo taken in 1917 or 1918 at Camp Meade, Maryland, that didn’t make the cut to be included in the section (4 paragraphs) about the Army Alpha and Army Beta. I had seen this image in a low resolution format before, but stumbling on this high resolution image was a treat.

The men sitting cross legged are army draftees during World War I. They are likely about to take the Army Alpha, which was a brief intelligence test designed for men who could fluently read English. (Another test, the Army Beta, was designed for illiterate men or those who were not fluent in written English.) They are sitting on the floor because the army testing program was started so quickly that often facilities were not ready in time. These men are taking the test in a hospital. They each hold a pencil in a raised hand to show that they have not started the test yet and that they can understand the verbal instructions (see Yerkes, 1921, p. 157, for Army Alpha instructions).

Finding these photographs has been more difficult than I anticipated. Images related to intelligence testing are not well cataloged in government archives. The image above is in a group of photographs related to the Camp Meade medical department and hospitals. It is the only image in the group that is related in any way to the Army Alpha and Army Beta. The only reason I found it is because it has a note on it with two words: “Mental test.” That’s not a description that will rank high on the SEO list.

So what photographs did make the cut? You’ll find out in late 2020 when the book, tentatively titled In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths About Human Intelligence, is published by Cambridge University Press. [Update: The book has been released.]


Yerkes, R. M. (1921). Psychological examining in the United States Army. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.