An Extremely Lopsided Cognitive Ability Profile

in psychology •  18 days ago  (edited)

A long time ago, I took a set of standardized cognitive tests. It turned out that while my non-verbal IQ was above average my non-verbal memory was at the level of a retarded person. In the memory test, you were given time to memorize shapes of certain colors. The test administrator was baffled. Her interpretation was that I had rushed through the test and not done it properly. In my opinion, I had spent the allotted time looking at the colored shapes and done my best to remember them afterwards. But I remember it as a very difficult test because the shapes and colors were completely arbitrary. I think that was the entire point. The test was designed to measure the test taker's raw memorization ability. I do know there are techniques to make memorization easier but they all rely on coming up with a story to connect all the pieces of information to be memorized. But those techniques are a skill anyone can learn. That test wasn't designed to measure such skills.

This is how it sometimes feels like.

I've read somewhere that chimpanzees outperform humans at raw memorization. Dogs are even better than chimps. Children tend to perform at a level superior to that of adults. I don't have much difficulty remembering things that make sense. For example, when I've participated in a go tournament and thought very hard about a game of mine for hours, I can replay the first 50-100 moves many hours afterwards. But I keep forgetting names. I do remember faces quite well, which from what I've read is handled by a dedicated network in the brain, but I really, really suck at remembering names. Just this morning my daughter and I were having a conversation about her classmates. I was a bit tired when I woke up, though, but I struggled to remember the names of two of her closest friends I've both met and actually meet semi-regularly. I tend to rely heavily on online sources when I have to remember any arbitrary information.

I've always known something's off about how my brain works. Perhaps I should go and pay for taking a wide range of standardized psychometric tests to find out what's going on.

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It's been my (empirical) experience that some people have a better visual memory, and other people have a better memory for concepts and words--and of course, some lucky people are good at remembering both. I know that I have a lot of trouble remembering strictly visual information, or even visualizing something I've seen before. But I memorize numbers, quotations, passwords, and things like that without even intending to.

This is why I kind of hate standardized tests; they fail to take into account the fact that different people think in different ways. I think I'm fortunate to have grown up at a time when (in my country, at least) standardized tests weren't especially popular in educational circles, so I don't recall having to take many as a kid.

It's been my (empirical) experience that some people have a better visual memory, and other people have a better memory for concepts and words--and of course, some lucky people are good at remembering both. I know that I have a lot of trouble remembering strictly visual information, or even visualizing something I've seen before. But I memorize numbers, quotations, passwords, and things like that without even intending to.

I learn foreign language words much better than most people. I also remember numbers quite well. I have an internal sense of quantity that allows me to judge whether something seems about right in a quantitative sense.

The interesting thing here was that in that particular category (visual memory) I sucked really badly. I'm not terrible at visual processing, though. If I were, I would never have learned photography.

This is why I kind of hate standardized tests; they fail to take into account the fact that different people think in different ways.

The standardization here refers to how a test is both valid and reliable. Valid means it tests for the intended thing and reliable means that it produces the same results for the same people who take it repeatedly.

I think I'm fortunate to have grown up at a time when (in my country, at least) standardized tests weren't especially popular in educational circles, so I don't recall having to take many as a kid.

Over-generalizing and over-interpreting the results of any test is problematic. This is why I wondered whether I should take a whole battery of professionally administered valid and reliable tests to gain a fuller picture of my cognitive ability profile.

Oddly enough, I don't have problems with visual processing or spatial reasoning either, when the visual information is right in front of me. I just have trouble remembering it accurately later.

I see what you mean by standardized tests. I think there's a slightly different nuance to the idea of standardized tests, as I learned it growing up--they were standardized in the sense that they weren't tailored in any way to the students who took them. For example, not to their reading comprehension level, or mathematical sophistication, or anything like that. Everyone got the same test and some kids did poorly and some kids did well.

But I see what you mean when you talk about standardized tests aimed at adults, in particular. I'd also be interested in understanding my current cognitive profile better (although it probably changes over time and as I age). Although, on the other hand, I remember wanting to take an IQ test when I was younger, and my parents warning me that I might find that the results had a psychological effect on my sense of my own limitations. I took that advice to heart and never took the test...but now I wonder how true that is.

I should've added that standardization means also means that a test is administered to a reference population and that the scores are relative. For example, an IQ score is standardized in the sense that it expresses how good a raw score was relative to the raw scores of the population against which the test was standardized.

I have been thinking of taking a batter of tests as a form of self-discovery. Because I've long had a feeling that my cognition is plagued by some type of a narrow deficit and I can't quit put a finger on.

Yeah, that's how I'd formally define a standardized test, too. So I think we're on the same page.

Good luck in figuring out what seems off about your cognition! I hope you'll post about your journey (if you feel comfortable doing so).

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