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The Best Aptitude and Personal Strength Tests

Aptitudes, Cognitive Psychology3 min read

In the interest over the years of playing to my strengths, I have taken a number of personal assessments. No experience I have ever had has been as personally-revealing about who I am and what I am mentally designed to do as was the results review I had after my three-day test at the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. The best test I have ever taken to help me understand what my presence offers to any team or social environment is Gallup's CliftonStrengths assessment. In the interest of living a fulfilled and productive life, I think I would recommend them both to anyone.

Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation

Wikipedia says "Johnson O'Connor (1891 – 1973) was an American psychometrician, researcher, and educator. He is most remembered as a pioneer in the study of aptitude testing... O'Connor sought to expand his efforts in researching human aptitudes and in 1930 he founded the Human Engineering Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology. This organization evolved into the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, a non-profit organization with branches in several major U.S. cities."

On aptitudes, says, "[a]ptitudes are natural talents for doing certain kinds of things quickly and easily...These abilities aren’t related to what you’ve learned in school or your interests, which can change over time. Aptitudes are talents you’re born with, so you can use your test results to make decisions throughout your career."


The company widely known internationally for their opinion polls, Gallup, also has a personal strengths assessment focusing exclusively on cognitive psychology metrics. There are several qualities making up one's abilities in executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking and Gallup's CliftonStrengths test shows you what yours are. Don Clifton, the creator of CliftonStrengths, was called "the father of strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology" by the American Psychological Association.

My Aptitudes

Usually people have three to five or six aptitudes. People who have more than six are known by JOCRF to be "Many Aptitude People" (and used to be called "Too Many Aptitude People"). I have many more than that. While this is easily interpreted as bragging, it is not. More on that soon...

Blessing and a Curse

Aptitudes are not just abilities - they're needs, too. If you don't use your aptitudes you become deflated. The problem is that the world is organized for people with a few aptitudes, not a dozen. This means I am a very intellectually-needy person. The research facilitators in both Denver and New York City offices have advised that I will need to create many more outlets for my aptitudes in my professional and personal lives than most "Many Aptitude People" know what to do with. This is why they used to be called "Too Many Aptitude" people. What I do with my auditory aptitudes is the best illustration of this.

Auditory Aptitudes

All three auditory aptitudes are high for me. These three aptitudes are statistically unrelated so having all three is an unusually strong combination for music, language, sound. This helps explain why my wife and I raise our kids in Chinese, we live in Puerto Rico, I play piano for church services, sing in musical numbers, and I listen to music on all my drives. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to put these things in place in my life to complement my design leadership work and fulfill me.

  • Tonal memory: the ability to remember tunes.
  • Pitch discrimination: the ability to hear fine distinctions between close frequencies of pitch.
  • Rhythm memory: memory for the timing of music.

The following are other meaningful clusters of aptitudes:

Group Influencer

The combination of being a generalist with high ideaphoria, non-spatial thinking, an objective personality, and foresight is known to be the group influencer combination. I have been advised that these aptitudes are the most determinant for my career.

  • Objective personality: As an objective generalist, I work best collaboratively through others.
  • Foresight: this is the aptitude for seeing possibilities. People with this see beyond obstacles more naturally than others and work toward challenging, long-term goals.
  • Ideaphoria: this is the aptitude for flow of ideas. I generate a lot of ideas and need outlets for them by either informing, motivating, counseling, teaching, or selling things to others. People with high ideaphoria gravitate to work with a variety of tasks.
  • Non-spatial thinker: with only average spatial aptitudes, I am more of a non-spatial thinker. Non-spatial thinkers tend to prefer work dealing more with words, ideas, language, concepts, people, as opposed to STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, mathematics. I will gravitate more toward business and arts.


This combination of aptitudes helps explain my gravitation to the problem-solving aspect of human-centered design:

  • Preference for simplicity: the first visual designs test compares my preferences with accomplished artists and puts me right in their camp. It's one of my three 99th percentile results, which means that I want my environment and my work to be cleaner and more orderly than 99% of people.
  • Foresight: this is the aptitude for seeing possibilities. It's a problem-solver's aptitude and is one of my three 99th percentile aptitudes.
  • Analytical reasoning: this is the ability to organize information so it flows logically. This is typical of writers or editors editors and is helpful in problem solving. It is useful in design research, user research, and experimentation.
  • Design memory: the ability to remember shapes, patterns, and designs. It is useful in drawing, film, photography, and in art appreciation.
  • Color ability: the ability to make fine distinctions between close shades of color.

Quantitative Analysis

I score very high in the combination JOCRF associates with numerical analysis given this combination of high aptitudes. I've found this intellectually stimulating mostly in research contexts, but financial ones as well.

  • Analytical reasoning: this is the ability to organize information so it flows logically. This is typical of writers or editors editors, but also helpful in deriving insights from numerical data.
  • Numbers facility: this is the ability to do quick mental arithmetic.
  • Number series: this is numerical reasoning. I can understand numerical patterns and relationships and make recommendations and projections based on numerical information.
  • Clerical speed: this is visually scanning data. I can look through a spreadsheet quicker than most to get things right.

Analytical Reasoning

Analytical reasoning is only one aptitude measured, but the more aptitudes one has the more variety of information they process with facility. Because of this, "many aptitude people" are more analytical by nature.

My Team Strengths

It's obvious to see that my CliftonStrengths results are built on my intellectual wiring. I have found that my JOCRF aptitude results provide fundamental explanations for so much of people's assessments of me and my life experiences. Here were my top five strengths from answering the 177-question test and the definitions Gallup has for them.

  1. Command: "People exceptionally talented in the command have the ability to bring to light what is often avoided or unstated. This gives them the ability to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings."
  2. Analytical: "People exceptionally talented in the analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation."
  3. Focus: "People exceptionally talented in the focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act."
  4. Activator: "People exceptionally talented in the activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient."
  5. Responsibility: "People exceptionally talented in the responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty."
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