Background: Immigration laws in the United States have had a strong impact on the development and utilization of intelligence testing since the early 1800's. Basic restriction laws were initially put into place to uphold the biological fitness of our country by excluding persons with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities. As the United States drew more immigrants into its country, physicians and doctors began to develop intelligence tests to examine new immigrants from all over the world. It was at Ellis Island where an extraordinary amount of scientific research took place and intelligence tests became the standard for determining mental abilities. Ellis Island physicians utilized many different performance tests, and administered them to the thousands upon thousands of immigrants hoping to live in the United States. The Objective of this study was to determine whether or not Ellis Island physicians were correctly measuring what they thought to be intelligence. Sampling and Methods: The research sample consisted of 39 male and female students in third and fourth grade. Subjects were given recreated Ellis Island puzzle tasks, the Knox Cube test as well as current measures of Intelligence from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Edition- Integrated. Results: There was no correlation between recreated Ellis Island tasks and current measures of intelligence. Conclusion: Ellis Island Physicians may not have been measuring aspects of intelligence as they thought, however they greatly contributed to the research and development of cognitive testing.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Intelligence tests--United States--History; Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.Y. and N.J.)--History; Immigrants--Government policy--United States--History

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

School Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


Scott Merydith

Advisor/Committee Member

Erin Merydith


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at BF431 .K86 2014


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes