Saturday, December 30, 2006

That BBC Brain Quiz

First: Read this. Echidne is no slouch on statistics, and she's right that the questions are worded badly:

Notice how the emotional questions are left mostly vague but the systematizing questions have very specific examples, examples which all have to do with male roles in the society? For example, we are gently steered to think about odds in the sense of BETTING (still largely a male hobby). Then we are told to think about the ability to remember large amounts of information and the examples are FLAGS OF THE WORLD, AIRLINE LOGOS. Then there is stuff about MOTORWAYS. And references to very specific games of risk.

It would be fairly astonishing not to find the answers biased by sex even if systematizing was an equally likely characteristic of both sexes. Now think about how those questions could be changed to make the test less biased. Why not add examples which apply to hobbies women have? For example, in the statement about remembering large amounts of information, why not add an example to collections of Barbi dolls or 1930s jewelry or embroideries? And in the empathizing questions, why not give some specific examples that might apply not only to women's traditional societal roles? Something about what a man might do when coaching children in sports, for example?

Because that wouldn't prove that women are the nurturers and men are the leaders? Anyway, my results:

Part 1a: Making spatial judgments

You correctly matched 19 line(s) out of 20.

On average, men generally outperform women at this task, although it is important to note that many women score extremely well.

The first time I took this test I was at my parents', that is, on another computer, and of course the BBC didn't recognize a cookie for this machine, so I am actually re-taking it. But!--I have had a few drinks, for one, and the spatio-visual judgment ability is supposed to be the first to go when you imbibe; either that, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been lying to me all these years.

For two, the first time I took this I scored 14 out of 20, stone cold sober. So there are two differences here: The difference in my mental state, and the difference in my attitude. That last one's key.

The first time I took the test I was anxious about this part, because this is something every woman who hangs around male engineers for even five minutes hears: Women suck at judging space. Guys say this the way you'd say "all fats and oils contain 100 calories per 1-tablespoon serving." Not that you'd really say that, because what are you, Ladies Home Journal? Is that you, Marie Claire?

So the first time I took this part of the test, it was with an attitude of dread and a complete lack of confidence (how can I possibly score well at this?--I have a vagina!). And, like I said: 14 out of 20. Still higher than the average they give for females, but not by much. I was over-thinking it, peering at the page, paying too much attention to the timer (you have 10 seconds to match each angle).

This time, I decided to just go with what looked right, because I've got a buzz on and hey fuck it. This time, I did not glance at the timer once. I went with my first impression and ignored the part of my brain that wanted to measure the exact angles of each line.

Hey, ho, what do you know: Being halfway confident--that is, not consumed with fear of failure and incompetence--about your ability to do a thing helps you to do it better. See also, the self-help section of every bookstore in these United States. People, especially me, make fun of those books, but it should say something that there's that much money to be made in just telling people, "Hey, maybe you DON'T actually suck. Maybe you're even okay."

Part 1b: Spot the Difference

Oh man, this test is my childhood. Let me try to explain it without cutting myself out of the will:

One of my very close relatives can tell if you have moved an object within millimeters. Relation to other objects, angle of the moved object, distance from the edge of the surface it's sitting on--this relative can take one glance and spot it all. One of my very close relatives also used to assign me the task of dusting. In the task of dusting, it was very important that all objects removed to dust the surface underneath be replaced in their exact positions, within millimeters.

Look, I know that sounds bad. But everyone has a thing and this was that relative's thing. So I learned to study positions really closely and really carefully, but, here's my thing--this never came naturally. It is a lot of work for me. At the risk of giving away something about this test, this is typically considered a female trait, but it is a female trait at which I have traditionally sucked.

All a long way of saying I'm going to bomb this--I certainly did last time. Well, let's see:

The spot the difference task tested your ability to recall objects' positions.

You correctly identified 12 out of 14.

You incorrectly identified 0 objects.

Did you know that women tend to outperform men on this task? Some scientists think that women's oestrogen levels make them much better at noticing details of their environment and spotting changes.

Yes, it is certainly the estrogen, and not the fact that we're trained from early on to pay attention to this shit.

I admit I am kind of pleased about that 12/14, but the first time I took this I got 8/14, or just over half. And they haven't varied this test at all, so part of the reason I got 12/14 this time was because the layout didn't change, and I remembered some of it. Take the test often enough, and you could score 14/14.

Bleah. In my version of heaven, you can set any object down on any surface that you like, and whether it's in position or facing a certain way doesn't matter, and there is no dust ever at all, amen.

Part 2: The stupid thumb thing

You said your left thumb is on top. This suggests the right side of your brain is dominant.

The left side of your brain is said to be more adept at language, logic and linear thinking.

The right side of your brain is said to control your visual, spatial and intuitive processes.

I guess I should be drawing you shit instead of writing you shit, then, because my thumb says I'm so good at the drawing. Whatever and NEXT.

And now we have the part Echidne was picking on: Do you empathize or do you systematize? Guess which pays better, and heaven forbid you do both! Not much variance in the scores on this one from the first time I took it until now:

We asked the questions you just answered to find out if you are more of an empathiser or a systemiser.

Your empathising score is 12 out of 20. This is an indication of your ability to read and respond to others' emotions.

Your systemising score is 17 out of 20. This indicates how much you enjoy exploring the intricacies of systems, for example playing strategy games and putting together flat pack furniture.

Originally that was 13/20 empathizing, 16/20 systematizing. Weird! I guess I'm a mean drunk who doesn't bond with people for shit.

And I don't know what "flat-pack furniture" is, either, but I feel safe assuming it is something the Europeans came up with to make themselves feel better about living in drafty 400-year-old houses.

Although, I am typing this at a desk I assembled myself from about 17,231 parts, so I guess there's that.

The eyes and the mood thing:

I was average at this the first time and I'll be average at it again this time, because I don't just look at eyes. I mean, I do look at eyes a lot, but the second thing I look at is the mouth. The eyes are not enough to reveal mood. You need to look at the mouth and most especially the corners of it. Anyway, I'm not going through this one again because it was boring the first time.

The finger-length thing: I am totally a woman, and in fact on my dominant hand, the ratio is like 1.1. I am a freak! But I am a womanly freak. NEXT.

The attractive-faces thing: I like girly-lookin' dudes, according to the BBC. Then again, I think what they define as "masculine" facial features we used to call "Neanderthal" facial features. Anyway, I blame Hollywood and Duran Duran for this. Especially that John Taylor.

Part 6: 3D Shapes

19 out of 20, bitches. Both times.

The weird part is, I always thought I was terrible at this. You know what I think helped? Don't laugh, but: The Sims. Yeah, the computer game. Because I got really into designing houses for the little pretend people (BUT I AM NOT GIRLY, don't you dare call me that), and in doing so I had to get beyond thinking about 2-D floor plans and into thinking about, how is this going to look all over? From the front yard, the back yard, from all angles? Is it really a very good house if it looks like hell from the neighborhood screen? And so on. Sure, it's fake 3-D, but it does get you to realize: A floor plan is not a home.

And all that experience told me is, it's possible: It is possible that maybe if you gave your daughter a set of Legos instead of the latest Barbie for her birthday, women wouldn't suck and/or get to thinking they suck (when perhaps they actually don't) at this 3-D shapes business. I think this may be a skill one can hone. I do not think it has nearly so much to do with estrogen or testosterone levels in the womb as it has to do with plain practice, but what do I know.

Overall rating: About 7 points above the dude average.

Well? What did you get? Or were you smart enough not to waste your time with it?


evil_fizz said...

I spent far more time than is necessary hating the fact that all of the women in the eye pictures were wearing half an inch of eyeliner.

Lesley said...

I got 25 points towards female.

18 out of 20 on angles. 18 out of 20 on spot the difference. So clearly, I am highly masculine and highly feminine.

Right thumb on top.

7 out of 20 on empathizing. 16 out of 20 on systemizing. You think you're mean and don't bond with people?

I got 8 out of whatever the fuck it was on the eyes thing.

Finger length - She's a man, baby, a man! I was at like 0.96.

I like masculine faces. Of course, there's no cultural influence in that at all.

Shapes - 16 out of 20.

Words - average of 6.

Lesley said...

Oops, sorry, not not 18 out of 20 on spot the difference. 12 out of 14 correct and 0 incorrect.

Amanda said...

I love the way it's just assumed that men are more logical and rational than women. I'm more logical and rational in test situations than any man I know. For real. On the GRE's logic section, I apparently only missed one question.

wolfa said...

I am far dudier. 20/20 for the angles and the blocks, but 4/10 for the eyes. (I did get lots of words, though.) Also, something like 11/20 empathising, 17/20 systematising. I cheated on the remembering where things go because it's too boring.

Obviously my secondary sex characteritics are fake.

ilyka said...

I forgot to put in the words! Well, that was probably a mental block because I hated that part for its smarmy "did you know?" conclusion. "Did you know women use twice as many words as men? Even though they don't, we're going to claim it anyway, because it makes us feel extra-specially good right there."

I got 5 and 4 on the words. Does everyone get the same words? I got "grey" and "happy."

wolfa said...

I got those. I ended up listing a lot of metals. What's grey? Boring cars? Rocks? Happy was much easier -- I got about twice as many as grey.

John said...

Did you know women use twice as many words as men?"

Whoever wrote that has not read Stephen King or the Congressional Record lately.

Melody said...

The first time I tried this test, I got 20 points female, the second time I got 50 points male. (a few hours later). Apparently you can become manlier by practice with geometry problems. (actually, I scored great both times around for geometry, I just kind of lost patience with the 'spot the difference' game and picked 'female attraction' for the faces second time around. The third time, just now, I was tired and scored female again. Is this testing how awake I am, or what?

Given that the averages are so close together that you'd just get a big purple cloud if you charted all the responses, the test is meaningless. I mean, they didn't even ask questioners at the end if they really WERE male or female, to see if it matched up with their results - if a whole lot of women have a "male" type brain, can they still really say that brain type is male?

I mean, for lots of those sections, it's kind of like they said, "Well, we think this trait is kind of manly, so let's make this side the male side." I mean, with the eye judging, both sexes averaged the same, 6.6, but they said "If you scored 7 - 10: Your result suggests you are a good empathiser, sensitive to other people's emotions. Women generally fall into this category." Which is it, BBC? If women average 6.6, how are they also generally good empathisers, scoring between 7-10? And how the hell was the stupid thumb thing measured, anyway? "well, we think analytical = male, so we'll make right thumb = male, and so that leaves us visual and spatial for left thumb... crap, we think those are male too! Oh wait, we've still got intuitive. Phew, that can make left thumb = female. Glad we figured that out."

It's just so... arbitrary.

ilyka said...

It's just so... arbitrary.

Yeah, pretty much. But we're supposed to take it more seriously because it's the BBC and not Blogthings. Mm-hmm and okay.

belledame222 said...

Ha! exactly. who knew you could make a respectable scientific type career out of designing Blogthings?

i kind of suck at spatial awareness, or at least in certain ways; and math was never my strong suit; but i figure it's just one of those things.

Kaethe said...

It's interestisng that the scoring puts the average male and average female into the "balanced male-female brain", even though the extremes are stereotypically asociated.

Seriously, though, the whole thing is horrible. The results are grossly misleading, the text during the test evokes stereotype threat, the bias is thick: "You are more of the strong, silent type with a male brain. You probably find it easier to express yourself in non-verbal ways, preferring action rather than words."


ilyka said...

It's Men-Are-from-Marsism. Let's celebrate our differences!

The worst sexists always cling hardest to a romantic view of the so-called battle of the sexes, in which the poor little ladies fight so hard! against the big manly mens, like cute little kittens, but only because they (1) don't really understand what is good for them, (2) haven't been fucked by the right penis yet, (3) are way too sensitive and emotional, or (4) all of the above, plus more I've probably forgot. Anyway, also like cute little kittens, the ladies never quite win.

ilyka said...

Which makes it all the cuter!

Anonymous said...

So if something is generally true, that makes it a stereotype and therefore untrue? Is this right or left brain logic?