Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ways to Measure Spatial Ability

Ways to Measure Spatial Abilitythumbnail Experts use not just one, but multiple methods to measure spatial ability. Space isn't one-dimensional, and neither is how it is perceived or measured. Just as a single IQ score doesn't completely represent a person's total intelligence, educators and psychologists believe that no one test exists to measure spatial ability, according to the authors of "Visualization, Modeling and Graphics for Engineering Design."

Simple tests can reveal a lot about spatial ability. For example, the "spot the difference" test measures how well a person observes when a group of objects has moved to another location. Another measurement, the "angle slope" test, reveals how well a person observes similarities or parallels between angles. Dr. Marcia Collaer, a behavioral neuroscientist at Middlebury College in Vermont, notes that there might be a link between high performance on the angles test and greater navigational ability.

Some tests, such as the Minnesota Paper Form Board test, measure how well a person relates to two-dimensional shapes. One problem displays three two-dimensional shape fragments. In addition, there are five composite shapes displayed, one of which is the composite form of the three fragments. The person testing must choose the correct composite. Another test, called the Differential Aptitude Test, challenges you to transition mentally from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional world. A two-dimensional pattern is marked with solid lines, which represent fold lines. If the paper were folded along these lines, it would form a three-dimensional shape. You must mentally fold the pattern and choose the correct shape from among multiple choices.

Three-dimensional spatial testing is even trickier than two-dimensional testing. For example, the Spatial Visualizations Test measures your ability to accurately observe and visualize rotations of shapes. In the test, you're shown an example of a three-dimensional shape, and another that represents the first shape, but rotated in a particular direction. You're then shown a third shape. You're also presented with a series of additional shapes. Using the rotation pattern between the two initial shapes as a guide, you must choose the shape that complements the third shape and matches the rotation pattern.

Dentists, because they must comprehend and work with human anatomy, must have excellent spatial ability. In fact, they are first given spatial tests via the Dental Admission Test to see if they qualify for training. The test most commonly used is the Perceptual Ability Test, which is an elaborate way of testing how well a subject visualizes three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional images. This ability is very important to dentists, who must visualize a person's teeth from a two-dimensional X-ray image.

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