Friday, April 18, 2008

How Does Your Brain Work?

At the most excellent blog Out in Left Field the question was asked, Are all epiphanies right-brained?

Two movies released this week feature introverted, soul-deadened, betweeded professors who are as academically eggheaded, i.e., as left-brained, as they are clueless about all that right-brained stuff: human relationships and spirituality...In the stories we like best, it always seems to be a right-brained epiphany.

I left a comment letting the author know that I had indeed had a left-brained epiphany.

Then I started really looking at math while homeschooling my kids and engaging in demanding debates and suddenly I've had a blossoming of rational thought and a found a lot of joy in numbers. It has been wonderful.

I've always thought I was a right-brained thinker. I tended to be empathic and artsy and well, I am left handed. All the things associated with being right-brained right?

Well, first there was the epiphany and then some tests that Lefty provided in the comments on Empathy versus Systemizing.

I took the Systemizing Quotient test.

0 - 19 = low
20 - 39 = average (most women score about 24 and most men score about 30)
40 - 50 = above average (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score in this range)
51 - 80 is very high (three times as many people with Asperger Syndrome score in this range, compared to typical men, and almost no women score in this range)
80 is maximum

I'm a 34. That's within average but quite a bit higher then what most women score and even higher then what most men score. That's a challenge to my notions about myself.

I then took the Empathy Quotient test.

0 - 32 = low (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 20)
33 - 52 = average (most women score about 47 and most men score about 42)
53 - 63 is above average
64 - 80 is very high
80 is maximum

I scored 52. That's more like it. A little above what most women score and what I expected.

Okay. Then I took the Autism Spectrum Quotient test.

0 - 10 = low
11 - 22 = average (most women score about 15 and most men score about 17)
23 - 31 = above average
32 - 50 is very high (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 35)
50 is maximum

23. 23!

I had always chalked up my interest in drawing, singing and the arts in general to some vague right-brained artiness. The first two tests had me questioning that. The more I think about it my interest usually lies in the structure of a piece or a song rather then what emotion it evokes. Is it maybe not the interest in art the points to how you think but rather, what excites you about art? I remember seeing a piece of art that basically looked like a close up of backlit window blinds. The person I was with said it left her cold and dismissed it. I thought it was fantastic and kept poring over the details - the structure.

The tests also had me reflecting on my childhood and I was surprised to learn that the images I often called up were ones that supported my previous idea that I was an right-brained thinker rather then a systematic thinker. The emotional attachment to paper scraps, the empathy for other kids. What did I often not recall? Things I don't quite know how to even explain. Like an an obsession with counting things and needing them to end in even numbers or having to mentally reconstruct scenes I was looking at to make them symmetrical or follow a consistant pattern. I haven't even thought much about those so I don't know how to properly communicate what I was doing but I did realize I've cherry-picked my memory to conform to my idea of myself.

I don't know how accurate the tests are. What I do know is that they've challenged me to think about myself and who I think I am. To not whittle myself down to some personality type but explore the possibility that I'm probably a person that encompasses a whole spectrum of personalities types. I suspect the same is true for most of us.


kitten said...

Here is my scores....
Systemizing quotient: Your score: 31
Empathy quotient: Your score: 41 (gosh, I scored lower than most men)
Autism Spectrum quotient: Your score: 22
Reading the mind in the eyes: Your score: 30
A typical score is in the range 22-30. If you scored over 30,
you are very accurate at decoding a person's facial expressions
around their eyes. A score under 22 indicates you find this quite difficult.

I found this very fun!

Dawn said...

Did it make you rethink anything about yourself? Some long held ideas?

kitten said...

Yes, some. I will share later.

JJ Ross said...

LOL Dawn -- if you really are such a structural systemizer and above average on autism responses, then wouldn't that be more likely to make you rethink the structure of the tests than your own life story and personality?? Seems like you'd focus on that rather than getting all introspective . . .

And while I got a very low autism spectrum score (12) and a high-average empathy score (58) which should mean I wouldn't care much about the test's structural integrity or about right-wrong absolutes, I actually did, more than you seem to! Even though I scored perfectly well (30) on the Mind's Eye test, I went straight to the listed "incorrect" answers and quarreled with all five of the ones I supposedly missed. I wuz robbed!

(Doesn't that basically belie the findings for both of us?)
[evil grin]