27 July 2010

What do you want to be when you grow up?

On 29 August 2006 I spent two days at the Johnson O'Connor foundation doing a full aptitude test suite. One of these was invaluable. Almost all of them were interesting. Altogether it was useful, although some of them seemed a little pointless. One of the ones which seemed the most pointless was the area in which I scored the best.

Psychometry is a quicksand swamp of muck. We may have all experienced our eyes glazing over at all the arguments regarding IQ, G factor, The Bell Curve, &c which seems like it was only a short while ago. The Bell Curve was published in 1994. Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye. I am not going to get into that at all, except I will say I am grateful that in my life so far I have had no practical application for this concept of IQ. My high school did a test which I saw the score on, but I do not believe they did anything with the information except collect it. One time a few years back when I was into joining things like the Audobon Society and the Green Party I visited with the Mensa folks. I met with them one time and neither they nor I were interested in more.

Anyway, my aptitude test experience was two days, twenty-seven tests, and an hour to ninety minutes to review the results with a Johnson O'Connor consultant. The most valuable result was the vocabulary test. It was like an SAT or GRE vocabulary test; they give you one word and four alternative closest synonyms and you pick one. As I recall there were fifty words. If you count every one of the four alternatives it was 250 possible words. When I sat down and took that test I was confident that I knew every single one of those 250 words with lexicographic mastery. Apparently I did not because I did not get the top score on that vocabulary test. I got a good score. You might think it a very good score. When I handed the answer sheet to the test supervisor I thought the score was going to come back 99 out of a possible 99 and I was disappointed when I saw the score I did get the next day.

I did not tell them this. But I listened very closely when they were talking to me about vocabulary. The fellow who founded their foundation, O'Connor, was keen on the importance of vocabulary and how critical it is for our success in life. The consultant who I talked to about my test told me that the highest vocabulary scores that they measure are top corporate executives. I have no idea how they classify a person as a top corporate executive. He made it sound like the one common feature of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs is that all those guys have killer vocabularies. In any event I have spent some time since August of 2006 working on my vocabulary and I consider that part of the test to have been useful, the most useful result of my test experience, and so useful that it alone was worth the time and expense of taking the tests.

One of their memory tests I completely bombed. It was like a "Where's Waldo?" game board with twenty or so images totally unrelated with no context and they gave you two minutes to try and memorize what all was there; then they showed you a bunch of pictures one after the other with one of the images missing and you were supposed to tell them what was missing. All the other memory tests were normal to above normal, but that one was almost my worst result of all the 27 tests.

The test I did the best on was called Foresight. Here is how they tested us for foresight on the day that I took the test. I am seated at a desk with a stack of blank, unlined printer paper, 8.5 X 11 inches, and six sharpened number two pencils. The tester says: "write anything that comes to mind for a few minutes and I will come back and tell you to stop".

I was told I scored the highest anybody ever got on that test in the current archived records of Johnson O'Connor . (The score was the number of words written in the fixed (15 minute?) time frame.) Now see, if I was truly foresighted I would have known that test was of dubious value and I would have conserved energy to display aptitude on something that could make me some money like vocabulary. The thing which I would like to know and forgot to ask is whether they tested me for vocabulary, then foresight; or if they tested me for foresight, then vocabulary. I know for sure the mental energy I was using on the foresight test was higher than on the vocabulary test. When I was taking the vocabulary test I was coasting. I was sure that I knew all that stuff. When I was filling those blank sheets of paper my brain was turning over at Formula One race car revolutions per minute.

I scored one other 99 and it was described as Ideaphoria, lumped together with Foresight in a Category (the twenty seven tests were lumped into twelve categories) labeled "Divergent Thinking". Like the foresight test, I really cannot make the connection of what psychometric protocol could be going on here. This was kind of like the Where's Waldo? memory puzzle, except they laid out playing card size pictures, 8 or 10 or 12 at a time, and I had to sort them into pairs of what is most closely related to what else. I would call this construction of abstract connection, not ideaphoria; and like whatever aptitude I supposedly demonstrated on the foresight test, I don't see see any clear connection to practical application of this clever aptitude I supposedly possess.

Another thing I found useful is they measured color vision, rhythmic sensibility, pitch perception, handedness, footedness, eyedness, and the only thing I knew before taking their tests from this set was that I was right-handed and not color-blind. There is a difference between not being color-blind and having high visual color acuity. This is the old Wittgentstein grue game although it goes back to Heraclitus and before. My blue is your green and your yellow might be my orange. If you do not see crap designs all over the place on the web your visual color acuity might not be too hot. Some of those are painful to look at. The other day I wanted to read a story on the Rolling Stone web site, but I could not bear to look at the page it was so badly done.

Lastly I have some information which might be useful to people who are interested, but not interested enough to pay the Johnson O'Connor fee. Part of the service they provided was a set of booklets called Self-directed search, from Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc. This is not a measurement of aptitude. It is a measurement of interest; what you would enjoy as opposed to what you would excel at. A few months before I went to Johnson O'Connor, I went to the Houston Community College counseling center and they provided this exact same material for free. And they had a career counselor there who showed me what vocational certificate programs they had available which might interest me--network communications engineer, &c.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.