Review by Alan Gill
You probably have an idea of what your IQ score is. There are stacks of tests available online – some other better than others (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/29/iq-tests-online-are-they-valid) – that can give you an idea of where you might sit. But what about your psychological and emotional intelligence?
Ben Ambridge’s book is a collection of tests, quizzes and puzzles to help you psycho-analyse yourself. As a lecturer in psychology, Ambridge draws from the toolkit psych classes use to explain and test various personality traits, from neuroticism and perceptibility to music preference and ability to make rational decisions. This book is definitely not one you would borrow from a library: Ambridge encourages you to write, mark and draw on the pages themselves, so it’s very much a one-use book.
On the whole, the tests and quizzes are engaging, informative and even witty. Ambridge also uses alternate IQ tests that don’t rely on language and general knowledge skills to give you a glimpse of how other methods might work. Some quizzes and activities are quite tedious, but if you were to skip the task and read ahead, you’d likely regret not doing what you needed to, so stick it out.
Answers, however, are a little thin on the ground. Ambridge does provide some references for further reading, but they are not as comprehensive as what I would have liked. This because especially pertinent in the IQ tests that involved mentally folding or rotating objects and patterns. If you think you’ve gotten the answer right just to be told you’re wrong, it’d be nice to know why you got it wrong. In one instance I was so driven to understanding the question I physically recreated the puzzle, only to strengthen my resolve that the book had a typo in it. Without further explanation of each puzzle, there was no way to figure out what mistake I had made.
Speaking of mistakes, while the content of the book is pretty good, the printing itself is not stellar. One quiz asks you to examine a picture, before revealing that you had overlooked an odd image within that picture. My wife and I poured over this image trying to find what it was that I missed, but couldn’t find it. Searching online for the image revealed what we were meant to see, but it simply was not there in the book. It is disappointing that the quality of printing meant this puzzle was essential un-solvable and diminished the quality of the book.
Each chapter/test is fairly short and easily digestible, so you don’t have to settle in for the long-haul if you only have a short amount of time to read. The style certainly encourages you to keep on reading and discovering more about yourself. Ambridge is also quite enthusiastic about some of the psychology classics – the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram experiment, to name a few – devoting several pages to talk you through each experiment and what it really tells us about society, as opposed to what pop culture says it tells us. I can see where Ambridge is coming from, but I can’t help but feel these snippets are padding, filling the spaces between quizzes and tests to make the book a little thicker. A book comprised of short snippets doesn’t really have momentum, per se, but these ‘explainer’ bits take a bit of energy from the ‘discover stuff about yourself’ bits. In a way, they act kind of like speed bumps.
Ben Ambridge has done a fantastic job of explaining why different tests exist and what they can tell us about ourselves. In a time where personality quizzes claiming to tell your future of Hogwarts house clog your Facebook feed, Ambridge’s grounding in psychology explains what these tests can reveal and their limitations. It’s a refreshing and accessible insight into the often murky world of psychology and behavioural science. Sit back and explore.
Alan Gill is a science communicator in Melbourne, Australia. A lover of science but not a particularly diligent scientist, Alan found his passion for talking and writing about research early on, completing a BSc (Science Communication) at the University of Western Australia and honing his skills at Scitech in Perth. Alan currently lives in Melbourne and works as a science communicator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, filling his spare time by sporadically tending to his blog, training for a university exercise study and loudly encouraging his AFL football team.