Monday, 25 November 2019

Engineers and testing

Typical HBDI profile of an engineering student
(Du Toit & Horak, 2002)
People with technical minds, "such as engineers, scientists, computer programmers and mathematicians" (Baron-Cohen, 2012, p. 74), are essential in today's world of work. While their skills are in higher demand than they ever have been, there is currently a global shortage of people in the STEM fields.

While I know this is a rather sweeping statement, I often find engineers to be somewhat mathematically-focused, while being not so well connected to their emotions or the emotions of others around them. My observation is, however, supported by a number of research studies, including strong HBDI primary 'analytical' (blue) results in test data found in a study of civil engineering students by Du Toit and Horak (2002, as illustrated), and from research by Hunter (2009) on the MBTI ISTJ personality type and computer engineers in New Zealand.

When you meet a lot of engineers, as I do, it is fascinating to watch their reactions to the lives of those around them, and marvel "what were they thinking?!" at times. I have seen people make life-changing decisions without considering the emotional needs of those around them as if those needs were not even a distant dot of consideration on their internal decision criteria horizon.

This lack of emotional connection can make some engineers difficult to interact with. However, HBDI and MBTI testing can make it easier for both the client to understand what to work on to improve their empathetic skills; and for those around them to understand the level of limitation, and how to help the client to become more empathetic over time.

In addition, there is another test which can be done: an Autism test. It has been found that those with technical minds may display autistic behaviours more often than most (Baron-Cohen, 2012). Autism has been described as being a strong desire to systematise in some way, as when a client systematises, they "identify the rules that govern the system so [they] can predict how that system works. This fundamental drive to systemize might explain why people with autism love repetition and resist unexpected changes" (Baron-Cohen, 2012, p. 74) (and for those of you who are wondering, it is now accepted that Asperger's is part of the Autism spectrum, and not a separate syndrome).

Developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen in 2001, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient test has around 85% accuracy. It can used as an early indicator as to whether a client is on the autism spectrum, to then pursue a professional diagnosis. The test is on a number of sites, and can be accessed here and here.

Taken together, these three test instruments can help us all to better understand an engineering client's viewpoint, and help those who are high functioning and technically minded to build better relationships, contributing to more rewarding work experiences.



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