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Brain Scans May Help Guide Career Choice 133

GisG writes "General aptitude tests and specific mental ability tests are important tools for vocational guidance. Researchers are now asking whether performance on such tests is based on differences in brain structure, and if so, can brain scans be helpful in choosing a career? In a first step, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Research Notes have investigated how well eight tests used in vocational guidance correlate to gray matter in areas throughout the brain." The researcher's (provisional) paper is available as a PDF.
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Brain Scans May Help Guide Career Choice

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  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:18PM (#32993440) Homepage
    Ignorance is curable ... stupid is forever.
  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:21PM (#32993482)

    Aptitude tests and mental ability tests are helpful in choosing vocation? Really?

    Maybe I'm just weird, but I did not take any aptitude nor ability tests to pick my vocation. I studied what interested me. Typically, things that interested me were things that I could actually do - I didn't have much of an interest in things I couldn't do...

    Do people actually choose their vocation (and included in that, I assume, would be education choices) based on what tests appear to show they are "good" at rather than what actually interests them - and what they have found out they can do by actually TRYING it?

  • Re:ERROR (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MalHavoc ( 590724 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:21PM (#32993490)
    I'd mod you insightful if I had points. Shades of Gattaca here, I think. I wonder if these tests will be treated like regular medical tests and somehow protected under a doctor/patient confidentiality agreement. Envision a future where employers ask you to get a brain scan to see if you're going to be good at the job you've just applied for? Might happen. Compare that to taking a test during an interview, possibly with a brain that may not score well on a scan, but may have re-wired itself to use other areas more efficiently?
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:40PM (#32993772) Homepage
    When I was in university, it seemed the top 2 reason for choosing a course of study were:

    1) High paying job upon graduation.
    2) Parents pushed me into it.

    Now, often reason 2 is because of reason 1, but at the end of the day, many people choose paths in school/life that will end up with a high paying job, rather than choose something they love. My roommate actually specifically stated that he went into mechanical engineering, specifically because he didn't want what he really liked (computers) to turn into a job. So he ended up doing something he didn't like at all (didn't graduate, because he hated the work), over something he liked, even though both courses of study would have resulted in the same amount of pay. I choose my course based on what I like to do (software engineering), and it paid off pretty well, especially when I compare myself to all the other people I know who choose their future based on money, or what their parents told them to do.
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:41PM (#32993790)

    Of course he still had to beg to be in griffendor

  • Scary future-tech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:47PM (#32993878)
    I don't really have an issue with MRIs helping guide career descisions. Well, other then the fact that this sounds like it can be done with the bullshit career planning pamphlets from highschool. I mean, did I really need to answer twenty questions to know that I'm better at math then average joe?

    But what's scary is if this is ever applied to children who haven't yet developed. I dunno much about child development, but if you're not a math genius by age 11, you're too old to really make it into the big league. The problem is how a kid develops if you tell them that they're stupid and they might as well break rocks with their noggin. I think the trick to encouraging engineering degrees is to trick children into thinking they're smart. Given a decade in the school system, it'll turn out to be true.
    It's also scary if it's used as a screening method for prospective employees.
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @03:12PM (#32994282)
    People don't make career choices based on their passions because people have to eat. Sure it would be great if we could all follow our passions, but in practice the only people who can do that either have a passion for something that happens to pay really well or have giant trust funds from their rich parents. The rest of us have to go into whatever seems the least soul-crushing that will still pay the bills.

    Your passion was software engineering which lucky for you happens to pay a lot. If your passion was playing the guitar or surfing, or even social work or teaching, your chances of making enough money to feed yourself, much less raise a family, following your dreams would be far lower.

    It's also worth noting that passions change over time. Growing up my passion was computers, and it just so happened that I entered the work force right when the Internet was starting to take off so my passion was something I could get paid a lot of money to do. Now, though, while I still enjoy working with computers I wouldn't say I'm particularly passionate about it. I have other things I like to do, but none of them are going to pay the mortgage, so I keep working with computers.

    I hear people say everyone should follow their dreams and I just want to smack them. Yes, spend some time in your early 20s following your dreams and seeing if you can make them work, but always have a backup plan. If you want to study music or underwater basket-weaving or whatever you love to do, fine, knock yourself out...but make sure you double major in something with more stable job prospects even if it doesn't get your heart racing thinking about doing it for the rest of your life. Then, if your passions don't end up being enough to live on you can go to your job that you're not passionate about all day and then go do whatever you're passionate about on the weekends like most people do.
  • Aptitude (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldmac31310 ( 1845668 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @03:13PM (#32994292) Homepage

    But what if you really enjoy certain activities even though they are things that you are not necessarily best suited to according to the scan?

    It takes more than aptitude to be good at something. How do you measure ambition, drive, passion, dedication, work ethic, etc.?

  • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:01AM (#32999618)

    I'm a prof who has worked in both the US and Japanese education systems (Japan longer). As such, I've thought a lot about this.

    The problem with your idea is right there in your last line, even though you didn't mean it to be:

    Not everyone will become or even wants to be an astronaut and are perfectly happy as a mechanic or something.

    The implication is that the former is a "higher" profession than the latter. Now, it is much harder to be qualified for, and therefore worth more money, but there's nothing low about being "a mechanic or something." In fact, if you find a good mechanic--someone who is good at understanding highly complex systems and who has the experience necessary to quickly diagnose problems in those dizzyingly complex systems--you pay through the nose for him, and are happy to do it. He probably still doesn't make that much, though.

    This is because we have something wrong with our (US) culture. We don't seem to understand the concept of middle class. We don't seem to understand that the vast majority of people are basically as smart as everyone else, regardless of education level. We also don't want to pay for basic services, so those people have to compete for cheaper and cheaper prices. It also means that we get what we pay for.

    I had a German hair stylist in the US for awhile. I loved her to death. She wasn't much for "chairside manners" (she was curt and pushy, without meaning to offend), but she was unbelievable. She could make anyone's hair do anything, and got most of her clientele through her ability to look at totally perm-or-color-ravaged hair, and fix it. I started asking how she did it. She said, "American stylists are terrible. They study for 6 months and wonder why they can't do anything right. I have a four-year degree." "A four-year degree to cut hair?" "Yes, but also coloring. We have to study organic chemistry for that and pass tests on diagnosing problems and coming up with solutions on different kinds of hair. The races have different hair, you see. What I'd use on an Asian wouldn't be what I used on you, for example."

    Germany made a choice that vocations were still really important. And they are. But we don't see that in the US.

    Japan is not as hardcore about this as Germany, but it still trains people much longer for vocations than we do in the US. Prices are higher, but so is quality, and so is the mode standard of living. I don't mind paying more to have my car fixed if I know that that guy's kids can go to college if they want, because he's very comfortably in middle class.

    Our over-emphasis on the individual in the US hurts us in many, many ways. We idolize the rich and blame poor individuals for not working hard enough or something. We impose a moral hierarchy on the socioeconomic structure, and it is killing us. A large middle class means political and economic stability, lower crime, higher standard of living, longer lifespan... Everything great about Japan, I think, is due to their commitment to taking care of and respecting everyone (of course there are exceptions--nowhere is perfect). In a very real sense, the US's obsession with superstars, captains of industry, and themselves as individuals, I think, is the reason that We Can't Have Nice Things.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam