Shipley Institute of Living Scale (SILS)

The Shipley Institute of Living Scale (SILS) was created in 1940 to measure an individual’s cognitive functioning abilities and mental impairment. This is especially useful when trying to assess impact from alcohol or drug addiction and abuse. Clinical trials and studies suggest that impairment affects different abilities in different ways. For example, vocabulary and word knowledge are highly resistant to activities such as heavy drinking. However, functions such as abstract thinking are more dramatically affected. The SILS takes advantage of this fact by measuring both of these abilities and then looking for the differences between the results.

How SILS Works

The scale consists of the following sections which can be completed together or separately at different times:

* A 40-question vocabulary test in which participants have to choose an answer that means the same or nearly the same as the word given.
* A 20-question abstract thinking test in which participants have to fill in the blanks with the answer that best completes the pattern.

In addition to the raw scores from each of these tests, SILS also determines the participant’s conceptual quotient (a measure of their impairment) and their abstraction quotient (the conceptual quotient adjusted for age). These are calculated from differences between the scores of both the vocabulary and abstract thinking sections.

The Revised Shipley Institute of Living Scale

In 2009, the Revised Shipley Institute of Living Scale was released to keep up with the standards of the day. One important improvement was the addition of non-verbal block patterns, a more universal method of measuring abstract thinking ability in a simpler, more easily understood way. SILS was also revised to include an extended age range, meaning that it could be used on anyone from 7 to 89 years old.

SILS and Alcoholism

Because of how it works, the Shipley Institute of Living Scale provides a good indication of how an alcoholic’s intellectual abilities have been affected by their regular activities. One study found that excessive drinkers perform poorly in abstract thinking when compared to those with more social drinking habits. This means that the test can be a useful measure of whether a patient is truly dependent on alcohol, as their conceptual and abstraction quotient scores will be lower.

In general, the severity of an alcoholic’s dependence is not correlated to how they appraise their own problem solving abilities. This means that an unbiased test must be used instead of a personal survey or interview, in order to gain more accurate results. SILS can provide this.

The test is also highly suitable for the clinical setting as it only takes twenty minutes to complete and can be administered to an individual or a group quite easily. The test is also fully computerized, so that scores are quickly and accurately calculated, and administrators have complete flexibility over how they wish to conduct the different sections of the test. This makes it an effective tool in the evaluation of new clients, and a reliable method of measuring the level of cognitive impairment experienced by the recovering alcoholic at all stages of their treatment.]]>

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