Tests and Dads

Good stuff at Aeon.

1. Aptitude Tests and Measure of Human Potential.

“Whatever their stated purpose, what these tests attempt to do is create a working index of who is worthy: for academic advancement, for career success, for opportunities of every kind. They are all about making the broad, ragged cut, bestowing opportunity on some while filtering out others – an enterprise that has historically teemed with racial and social discrimination. Those of us who grew up immersed in the aptitude-testing hierarchy can testify not just to the lopsided rewards that accrue to those who test well, but to the way that our test-centric culture shapes, and often constricts, our sense of what defines human value.”

. . .

“Aptitude testing’s eugenic roots aside, Wai points out that there are progressive arguments in its favour – chief among them that the tests identify talented people who might not be recognised any other way. In a recent policy paper, he advocated for the use of spatial-abilities testing in school admissions, since the results are relatively untethered to socioeconomic status. ‘If we were able to do that,’ he says, ‘we’d pick up a lot of students from disadvantaged and poor backgrounds.’

The argument that aptitude tests transcend human bias has also lent moral weight to those who use them to screen job candidates. The big kahuna is the Wonderlic test, a 50-question gauge of cognitive skill developed in the 1930s. Most famous as the test administered to all National Football League draftees (the quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick aced it; Terry Bradshaw tanked), the Wonderlic is now a required part of the interview process at dozens of companies. While reports vary as to how much test results affect hiring decisions, it’s clear that many employers depend on the test to quickly sort the intellectual wheat from the chaff. ‘Almost immediately after we started using Wonderlic,’ reports Cindi Gilmore, a company president in Dallas, in her online testimonial, ‘we noticed the calibre of people increased.’”

 

2.  The Marvel of the Human Dad

Fathers are so critical to the survival of our children and our species that evolution has not left their suitability for the role to chance. Like mothers, fathers have been shaped by evolution to be biologically, psychologically and behaviourally primed to parent. We can no longer say that mothering is instinctive yet fathering is learned.

The hormonal and brain changes seen in new mothers are mirrored in fathers. Irreversible reductions in testosterone and changes in oxytocin levels prepare a man to be a sensitive and responsive father, attuned to his child’s needs and primed to bond – and critically, less motivated by the search for a new mate. As a man’s testosterone drops, the reward of chemical dopamine increases; this means that he receives the most wonderful neurochemical reward of all whenever he interacts with his child. His brain structure alters in those regions critical to parenting. Within the ancient, limbic core of the brain, regions linked to affection, nurturing and threat-detection see increases in grey and white matter. Likewise enhanced by connectivity and the sheer number of neurons are the higher cognitive zones of the neocortex that promote empathy, problem solving and planning.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.