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"Cognitive Evaluations": Fun but are they pertinent?

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4reason
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So I toyed with the idea of where to post this topic for a while... I was hoping to find a "psycho-epistemology" category, but no such luck. I did consider posting this in the epistemology section, but I think the thoughts I am seeking fall more in the category of psychology, so here goes.

I have been working with an objectivist-minded career consultant for nearly two weeks now and, as a result, have already experienced many great insights. The process began with a Myers-Briggs personality assessment, which I have taken before, but my list of surprises started with the fact that I came out as a a "different personality' (there are 16 possible types) than I did when I took the test right out of college. Before I even handed my consultant my test answers, he said he was already wuite certain what I was. Not only was he certain of the type, he also ventured to make an estimate of the number my results would fall on (I can explain the format of the test and the charts of its results, if anyone's interested, but it's not really pertinent to my initial thoughts... so I will largely glaze over it for now). I laughed... until we put my numbers together and he was 100% right about type and only off by a few points as to where I fell numerically on the chart. I have always questioned any type of personality test; it seems strange to claim you can say so much about a person after asking them only 126 weird questions. Isn't that sort of what "psychic's" do?... Nevertheless, I questioned the results, asking how I could all the sudden be a different type. While the test has a high coefficiency for results (meaning people consistly test the same most of the time, even when years pass inbetween tests) he suggested I look at the context of when I Last took the test... when I still had a lot of self-doubt and tended to answer any and all questions in a manner I felt would be most acceptable and righteous in the eyes of others. My life is different now. I took the test knowing I had no one to impress and no one's approval to gain. I was taking it for me now, thus I haven't changed, then, so much as I've grown. Anyway, in the long conversation that ensued about what to do with that information, he suggested I go for a "cognitive evaluation" with a professional psychologist which I did this afternoon.

Has anyone else ever gone through such a thing? I'm not sure how well IQ tests and all those sort of things fit into a proper epistemology, but they sure are fun to take. There were concretes to manipulate, puzzles to solve, and tests to write. I finally found out what my IQ is (whatever purpose that will serve me, I don't know but it is slightly entertaining) but what I really gained was an explicit identification of my preferred learning style. I had always suspected I relied upon a combination of visual and tactile as taking copious notes (what, me, a copious writer... never!) has always been the best way for me to remember anything. I have always known I don't do well learning auditorily. If I am told something without having the opportunity to write it down, I will tend to forget it, unless it is something directly pertinent to my life. But when the tests were "done," the psychologist was chatting with me in the hall, and he asked, out of the blue, what was the title of the book in the upper left-most corner of the bookcase, and without even having to think about it I told him the answer. I did not realize the significance of his question until I realized how strange it was that I even noticed that at all, and the fact that I remembered without hesitation was even stranger. I didn't remember looking at the bookcase, and certainly not in such great detail. He asked about ten more such questions before I interrupted him and said, "I'm not a tactile learner at all, am I?" (Meaning it's not my dominant learning style; not that i don't ever use it to learn). He said, simply "I think the visual part of your brain is probably always running at 100 miles per hour. I don't know if you can turn it off." My need to take notes to learn when I am studying new subjects then, is not my way of reinforcing knowledge by using two senses, but is more likely my adaptive way of forcing visual isolation: my eyes going back and forth from book/chalkboard to my notes. That keeps them so busy I don't get as easily distracted (consciously, anyway) by all the other visua "stuff" out there in my direct surroundings.

While I certainly don't disagree that individuals all have their own preferred way of learning, be it auditory, tactile, or visual, ( I see it among my young students everyday) I cannot really get it to mesh completely with my philosophical understanding of conceptual learning. If the subconscious serves to integrate the connections that man's mind is making consciously for the purpose of making the connections automatic, how or does volition control the process? Can I truly not turn off my visual thinking brain? or is my adaptive behavior of taking copious notes to keep my eyes "focused" prrof that i can volitionally override the process. I don't think the children I work with have the volitional ability to control the "way" by which they are learning, but a conscious, reflective adult should, right?

shoot, this is starting to sound like more of an epistemological quandary, isn't it? Let me know if I need to redirect this, and, if so, how to do that...

I still do have an important query about all this in regard to psychology, though: Do these tests serve a purpose? In knowing what "personality" combination you are, are you really learning more about yourself from knowing that, or does the wisdom come from the process you undertook to get there? The descriptions of the types go into great detail about the types and are quite alluring, but I wonder if I'm not just being misled.

Regardless of the tests' accuracy, though, I do think they are useful, or at least I think they will prove to have been so for me. it was, at the very least, an explictly guided examination of my thinking processes that called upon my conscious thinking more so than my own efforts have in the past. Now all I need is the ability to really integrate those insights with my philosophical understanding of the whole matter.

Anyone have any thoughts? Has anyone else ever done anything useful with the knowledge of what "personality" they are? And how does the apparent fact of different learning styles mesh with the conceptual learning process, especially if man's capacity for thinking conceptually is part of who he is.

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There is much debate on the board about these. I tend to fall into the category that there is some form of characterization going on that is correct, but it is only partially correct and empirical (i.e. not based upon a cognitive model, just a collection of characteristics).

That said, I took a class a while ago on Elicitation Techniques (how to get information from people) which was taught by a former CIA analyst. He said that the military had evaluated many cognitive evaluation frameworks for the specific criteria of their predictive capability, i.e. can you tell how someone might behave given you know their "type". And he told us that the Myers-Briggs assessent was shown to have some albeit not perfect predictive capability and is the one that the military uses to type intelligence "targets".

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I don't know the details of either of the tests. However, in our day to day lives, we know that different people have different characters and will likely react differently to some given event. Even a young kid knows that certain things are best told to dad and other things to mom. As lay-folk, we might not have clean categories into which we slot people, but we can probably describe the character of people around us in a few sentences. So, in principle, it ought to be possible for psychologists to have a more structured conceptualization. Whether or not these particular ones make sense, I wouldn't know. (Here is an older thread on the Briggs-Myer test).

On the main topic of this thread (Cognitive Evaluation), I suppose that if a teacher knew the learning style of a kid, then he could try to use that. I would think that a teacher would try to do two things here: use the child's "strong" learning modes to help convey knowledge more effectively; also, try to work on strengthening the learning modes in which the child is 'weak". (This assumes that there really are such differences in learning.) As a teacher, you say you observes these differences in kids. It'll be interesting to learn if and how you have tried to use that knowledge.

... individuals all have their own preferred way of learning, ... I cannot really get it to mesh completely with my philosophical understanding of conceptual learning. If the subconscious serves to integrate the connections that man's mind is making consciously for the purpose of making the connections automatic, how or does volition control the process? Can I truly not turn off my visual thinking brain? or is my adaptive behavior of taking copious notes to keep my eyes "focused" prrof that i can volitionally override the process. I don't think the children I work with have the volitional ability to control the "way" by which they are learning, but a conscious, reflective adult should, right?

shoot, this is starting to sound like more of an epistemological quandary, isn't it?

Could you elaborate on the quandary you see? (In a different thread, if you prefer not to mix it up.) Probably, a good way to think about it is to consider an extreme example: e.g. a blind child who has other senses, or a deaf child.
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