Hanoi Tower test: what is it and what does it measure?

Psychological tests to measure all kinds of constructions are many and varied. Most of them use questionnaires or interviews that the assessor must complete or fill out following a set of guidelines; while others, of a much more practical nature, involve the person performing a series of practical exercises reflecting a range of cognitive skills and abilities.

One of these tests is the Hanoi Tower test, An activity which in its origins was conceived as a mathematical problem but which over time was introduced in the field of the psychological evaluation to measure the mental processes inherent in the executive functions.

    What is the Hanoi Tower test?

    There are a large number of tests designed to assess skills such as planning ability and executive functioning. One of them is the Hanoi Tower test. The test measures certain aspects of executive functions such as, to complete it, the person must anticipate and solve the unknown cognitively, Before making a move.

    This test was created in 1883 by the French mathematician Edouard Lucas. Lucas was inspired by a Hindu temple, as well as the history of its creation, to develop the characteristics of the test, as well as the three towers that make up the pot. These characteristics have remained virtually intact since its inception. However, it was not until 1975 that it began to be used for the purpose of understanding people’s behavior and evaluating different skills and strategies when solving problems.

    The features that we have discussed above, and which have given this test some fame, are both the speed and ease of application, as well as the simplicity of evaluation, analysis of results and interpretation of these.

    The person performing the Hanoi towers test he must solve a problem of transformation for which he will need mental effort, Which will help you get the answer through a series of movements. To solve the puzzle, one must use complex reasoning in problem solving and learning mechanisms.

    What does the test consist of?

    The Hanoi towers test manager is move the disc tower along three rods that are in front of the person, From the initial configuration to a final configuration indicated by the evaluator. This tower is divided into blocks or disks, which the patient will have to move to return the tower to its final position.

    The second rod consists of a “support” tower which will allow the person to temporarily place the discs. However, one of the requirements of the test is that the person should perform as few movements as possible and as few failures as possible.

    In addition, the test was developed with three conditions that restrict the movements that the person can or cannot make. These restrictions are:

    • The person is not allowed to place a large disk on another smaller disk.
    • the person it can only perform movements in the same order in which the discs are placed. Always starting with the disc you find first.
    • The discs must always be on one of the three axes. In other words, the person cannot stay in their hand or leave it on the table

    Any movement or attempt that involves having to skip one of these two conditions will be counted as an error and communicated to the person. In the digital variant of the test, the program directly prevents one of these movements and is also notified by an audible signal.

    Technical characteristics of the test

    Like all tests used in psychological assessment, the Hanoi Towers test has a number of technical characteristics in terms of test administration, population, material, etc.

    1. Target population

    The Hanoi towers test it can be given to both children, adolescents and adults, Adapt in each case the difficulty levels of the test.

    2. Material

    The material consists of three small towers composed of a stake each and three tiles of different sizes.

    3. Administration

    The development of the test consists in that the person has to change the arrangement of the discs from the initial configuration to the final configuration with the minimum number of movements and with the fewest errors.

    The difficulty of the test may vary and increase, Use of 3 to 9 different discs.

    4. Score

    The assessor should collect the number of movements the person performs until reaching the final configuration. In the same way, you will have to count the number of errors and the time that the person needs solve the problem.

    The scores are converted and turned into a final total score that reflects the person’s ability to solve the problem. Finally, it is interpreted that a low number of movements and errors is the reflection of a good execution.

    In what contexts is it administered?

    Although little known, the Hanoi towers test it is a basic and practical assessment toolIts administration can therefore be useful in many areas. However, the contexts in which it is used the most are:

    • Psychological clinics.
    • Vocational guidance and personnel selection centers.
    • Teaching centers.
    • Military and defense context.

    What does the test measure?

    As stated at the beginning of the article, the purpose of the Hanoi Towers test is to assess a person’s executive functions. Specifically, the ability to plan and solve problems.

    Executive functions they refer to all the complex mental tasks that the person has to perform to plan, organize, direct, verify and evaluate the behaviors or behaviors necessary for adaptation to the environment and for problem solving.

    The mental processes of executive functions are:

    • Working memory.

    • Planning.
    • reasoning.
    • Flexibility.
    • inhibition.
    • Decision making.
    • Time estimate.
    • Double execution.
    • Ability to multitask.

    However, in the test of the towers of Hanoi aims to focus on the assessment of planning and problem-solving capacity.

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