Bender Gestalt Visual Motor Test
Format: The Bender Gestalt is a brief developmental test (children) or neurological screening instrument (adults). It was developed by Lauretta Bender in 1938. The test involves giving an 8.5 wide by 11 high piece of paper, and 9 cards with designs A and 1-8 for the client to copy.

Intro: "Here I have nine cards with designs on them for you to copy. Make your designs look as much like the ones on the cards as possible." If they are hesitant, offer, "It's not an art test, but a drawing test/hand-eye coordination test."

Use and Ages: The test is a very, very brief neurological screening test. You can use it with children age 5 and up to adults, depending upon the norms you use.

The sheet in the library uses Lack's norms, which are for adults. They take you through 12 or 13 types of errors and then apply them selectively to the cards. Including excessive time as an error is optional (6 mins is average, 15 is extreme). Making 5 or more errors indicates the possibility of some right hemisphere impairment. Perseveration (as Lacks notes), Contamination (combining two designs in your head and drawing the resulting one), and Overlapping of designs (one on top of the other) are the most serious indicators of brain impairment.

The Koppitz norms for children go through design by design, and tell you all the errors that could be seen on that card, as well as how children's drawings of the designs at different ages can appear. Using the test as a developmental screener seems sound up until about age 8, since most children can draw the figures without error by age 9. Use to estimate IQs is shaky too (correlations of .66 at best), and use to predict achievement is unsupported (correlations of .40 at best).

One other way to use the test that does have some reliable data behind it is to use the emotional indicators for children. The characteristics of the drawings that are meaningful relate to "scatter" or disorganization among the designs, collisions, and overworkings. As always, drawing tests with children can be good indications for further investigation, but are not sufficient to determine anything on their own.

Inappropriate Uses of the Test: First, the Bender is a rough neurological screener. It is not a test of neurological functioning, and so a "positive" Bender does not indicate brain damage. Second, it is only a rough screening instrument, since you can have some pretty severe left hemisphere damage and not show any problems on the Bender. You can also have some types of right brain damage that do not show up as well. Thus, a "clean" Bender does not indicate the absence of neurological problems.

Third, I have seen people do projective personality interpretations on the designs. For example, design 7 has two figures, with one "leaning" on the other and can be interpreted to indicate high dependency if one leans too far over, and some aggressiveness about it if the ends are sharp and pointy. This is some really, really shaky use of the test.

Conclusions: As a brief (5 to 15 minute) screening instrument, the Bender is not bad, and it's worth it to throw it into a test battery for "a little extra." It is only "a little extra" though.