Caution warranted in extrapolating from Boston Naming Test item gradation construct

Robert A. Beattey, Hilary Murphy, Melinda Cornwell, Thomas Braun, Victoria Stein, Martin Goldstein, Heidi Allison Bender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The Boston Naming Test (BNT) was designed to present items in order of difficulty based on word frequency. Changes in word frequencies over time, however, would frustrate extrapolation in clinical and research settings based on the theoretical construct because performance on the BNT might reflect changes in ecological frequency of the test items, rather than performance across items of increasing difficulty. This study identifies the ecological frequency of BNT items at the time of publication using the American Heritage Word Frequency Book and determines changes in frequency over time based on the frequency distribution of BNT items across a current corpus, the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Findings reveal an uneven distribution of BNT items across 2 corpora and instances of negligible differentiation in relative word frequency across test items. As BNT items are not presented in order from least to most frequent, clinicians and researchers should exercise caution in relying on the BNT as presenting items in increasing order of difficulty. A method is proposed for distributing confrontation-naming items to be explicitly measured against test items that are normally distributed across the corpus of a given language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-72
Number of pages8
JournalApplied neuropsychology. Adult
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017


  • Aphasia
  • Boston Naming Test
  • confrontation naming
  • word frequency


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