Dr. Grace Arthur, a psychologist, devised the game in 1929 as part of a set of culture-free intelligence tests. These were needed to assess immigrants who couldn’t read or write English and weren’t familiar with American culture. It was successfully used by both schools and by the army, as it is suitable for all ages.
The test required you to reproduce a symmetrical design using six square cards and twelve stencils made of cardboard (later plastic). In total there were 20 increasingly complex designs to be reproduced. Your score was the number of designs completed correctly within a four-minute time limit. The test was administered individually, with a psychologist observing and scoring.
In the 1980’s, another psychologist, Dr. Reuven Feuerstein, developed a pen-and-paper (representational) version of the game which made it accessible to large groups of students simultaneously. But rather than using the stencils as a tool for testing intelligence, Feuerstein used the stencils as part of a set of tools for teaching higher order thinking skills. His extensive studies showed that intelligence is not fixed, but ‘modifiable’, and that learning about meta-cognition helped students to think more effectively and perform better in intelligence tests.
Ravioli is a modern version of the test presented in the format of a fun and challenging mobile phone game.