Thinking on your Feet: A Trio of Cognitive Tests

Thinking on Your Feet is a new test at Test My Brain. I was planning to do the creepy Face in the Branches test today but it’s no longer available. Instead I took Thinking on Your Feet, which isn’t an Asperger’s test but does test some of the cognitive areas that can be impacted by ASD.

Thinking on your Feet consists of three short tests:

  1. Find the flickering dot: You’re shown a set of blue and yellow dots that flash intermittently and you have to find the dot that’s changing color. There are sixteen sets of dots.
  2. Visual working memory: You’re briefly shown a set of four shapes arrayed around a plus (+) sign. The set disappears and one shape reappears. You press “s” if the shape is the same as the one you saw in that position in the set and “d” if it is different. There are 42 sets of shapes.
  3. Visual reasoning: You’re shown a matrix of shapes and have to identify the “missing piece” from 5 possible choices. There are 35 matrices and they become increasingly difficult.
Example of a nonverbal reasoning matrix
Example of a nonverbal reasoning matrix

As I was taking the tests, they reminded me of some of the cognitive tests I took during my Asperger’s evaluation.

The first and third tests measure components of executive function: attention and working memory. Executive function is way of describing our brain’s command and control center. It encompasses things like planning, problem solving, and verbal reasoning as well as starting, stopping, switching and monitoring tasks. Many aspies, including me, have impaired executive function.

The second test–visual reasoning–relies on nonverbal reasoning. Many aspies excel at tasks requiring nonverbal reasoning, either because they think visually or are skilled at pattern recognition.

Working with those general assumptions, individuals on the spectrum are probably more likely to score above average on the second test and average or below average on the other two.

Taking the Test

First a warning: One section of this test has a set of colored dots that flash at a steady rate. The flashing isn’t rapid, but the dots are quite bright and you have to study them as they flash to find one that is different. Is this sounds like it may be uncomfortable or triggering for you, don’t take this test.

The test guidelines say it takes about 30 minutes to complete. I finished in a little over 20. The first and third tests go pretty quickly, but you may want to spend more time on the visual reasoning section, depending on how quickly you can solve the harder puzzles and how much you care about your score.

When you’re ready to give it a try, go to the Test My Brain site and click the Go! button next to the Thinking on Your Feet test. You’ll be asked to agree to the consent form and provide some demographic information (age, handedness, primary language, etc.) to help the researchers analyze the data they’re collecting via these tests. It’s all anonymous and you won’t be asked for any personally identifying data.

Before each section of the test, you’ll be given written directions as well as two practice trials to be sure you understand what to do. After the three tests are complete, you’ll be asked for your SAT scores. If you don’t remember them or never took the SAT you can skip this section. It has no impact on the results you receive.

Scoring the Test

You’ll get three separate scores. Here are mine:

Find the Flickering Dot: Β I got 14.63, which is a measure of the average number of screen flashes it took me to find the dot. The average score on this test is 20.53.

My scores on the Find the Flickering Dot test
I scored better than 30% of other test takers

Visual Reasoning Test: I got 31 out of 35 correct. The average score is 25.76

My visual reasoning score is in the 90th percentile group
My visual reasoning score is in the 90th percentile group

Visual Working Memory: I got 37 out of 42 correct. The average score is 33.91.

My visual working memory score is better than 60% of the other test takers
My visual working memory score is better than 60% of the other test takers

If we assume that the scores are normally distributed, then scores that fall between the 25th and 75th percentile are in the average range of ability. Or to put it another way, if your blue guy is standing somewhere in the middle of the pack, your scores are average. If he’s standing in the first two or last positions, you’re above or below average.

For the flickering dot and visual working memory scores, my blue guy is standing in the middle six, which means I have average scores . On the visual reasoning test, my blue guy is in the second to last position, meaning I have an above average score.

I went back and looked at my ASD evaluation report to compare the results of the comparable cognitive tests with these and they’re quite similar. My scores were above average for perceptual reasoning and average for attention. I didn’t take a visual working memory test so I don’t have a direct comparison there. I did take two verbal working memory tests and my results were “impaired” on both, meaning my little blue guy was standing in the first position in line.

It’s no surprise to me that I scored better on visual working memory than verbal. My verbal cognitive test scores are poor across the board and I’m much more comfortable working from printed or visual material than from oral directions.

The Bottom Line

This set of tests is an interesting look at some of the cognitive elements that are thought to be ASD strengths and weaknesses.

26 thoughts on “Thinking on your Feet: A Trio of Cognitive Tests”

  1. Score:
    Flickering Dot = 13.27
    Visual Reasoning = 30
    Visual Working Memory = 37

    My visual working memory would have been higher, but I got so nervous when it said, I’d chosen the wrong one, I screwed up the next TWO as well, before I could calm down and concentrate again. πŸ™‚

  2. Flickering Dot = 10.53
    Visual Reasoning = 27
    Visual Working Memory = 42
    Bit disappointed with the visual reasoning, but I panicked because I wasn’t sure how long they would give us to come up with an answer. Not surprised by the Vis working memory because I know it is a core skill of mine – I forget faces all the time, but I never forget an image. And I am an artist by trade lol!

  3. Dots= 9.63
    Visual Reasoning= 32
    Visual Working Memory= 37
    I didn’t quite get the dot thing until a few ones in, so my first few tries took a while.

  4. flickering dot: 8.44
    visual reasoning: 31
    visual working memory: 32 — would have been higher but i kept hitting the wrong when after it said “incorrect” and also i kept getting left and right confused and forgetting whether s or d meant same or different.

  5. I look forward to these Take A Test Tuesdays! I’ve been so busy at work that I didn’t get a chance to try this one until now. It’s always very interesting to see everyone else’s scores πŸ™‚

    Oddly the site didn’t give me my scores that I could see, just immediately redirected me to the homepage on completion. I had to get them out of the javascript source code for drawing the results graph:

    name:”Find the Flickering Dot”,
    score:”11″,
    max_score:”40″,
    avg_score:”21″,
    num_below:”620″,
    num_results:”3654″

    name:”Visual Reasoning Test”,
    score:”28″,
    max_score:”35″,
    avg_score:”26″,
    num_below:”2729″,
    num_results:”5196″

    name:”Visual Working Memory”,
    score:”29″,
    max_score:”42″,
    avg_score:”34″,
    num_below:”137″,
    num_results:”1467″

    That’s actually very useful information really, better than what the results actually say πŸ™‚

    I found the flickering dot ridiculously hard, stared at it for ages and thought I was doing really badly, apparently I was still significantly below the average …which is meant to be better? ‘You scored higher than one out of every ten people who took this test’. I’m confused about whether this was scaled to compensate given the graph is labelled ‘% Correct’. The graph just puts them in score order when you sort by ‘Best’ or ‘Worse’, so either it’s making meaningless comparisons and is worse than useless or there’s a scaling factor?! …doesn’t seem to be scaling, based on the relationship with the figures above and the display of the comparisons to average and out of ten people.

    So maybe almost everyone finds this hard and I actually do relatively well. Interesting! People on the spectrum are supposed to be good at finding small flaws in things due to ‘weak central coherence’, so I suppose that makes sense.

    Visual reasoning, I’m surprised that I got 8 wrong because I was only finding it challenging towards the end. I definitely accidentally answered wrong in at least one case and was doing best guess in a few others. ‘You scored higher than five out of every ten’. I know I can do this as I passed my 11 plus exam which was full of these things (the exam was to get me into a selective state school, but then we moved to a different county to avoid me having to go to it, thankfully.

    Visual working memory …well I have pretty severely verbal poor working memory as all previous tests of it, including my WAIS assessment, have found out. I don’t think visual is any better because my memory problems are bad enough that they’re pretty much disabling in my everyday life unless I set up lots of accommodations to compensate. Given it was only between ‘s’ and ‘d’, my score is barely better than if I’d not seen the pictures at all and just guessed. ‘You scored higher than zero out of every ten people’. Yup! By converting the raw data to percentiles I think I was actually in the 9th percentile, on my WAIS I was in the 1st and 3rd for some of my working memory related tests, although they were looking at fragility (having to process the information in my working memory, or keep hold of it when distracted).

    Conclusion: I have a ‘spiky cognitive profile’ …as is common in autistic spectrum conditions and dyspraxia. Where the peaks and troughs are varies from person to person on the spectrum though, which is why two different people with the same label can have wildly differing abilities. Autistic people can range from forgetting an image almost immediately after seeing it, like me, to being so good at visual memory that they can draw incredibly detailed images of something they only saw briefly (and get labeled a ‘prodigious savant’).

    So yes, this post has proven to be very interesting as always, thank you! πŸ™‚

    1. Now that I’ve seen the javascipt results I’m curious about the “number of results” statistics. Why is the total number of results so low for the final test and so high for the middle one? Strange. I wonder if people bail in the middle of the visual reasoning test?

      I don’t understand how the rankings work for the flickering dot test either. You did much better than I did and yet it seems like it’s saying you did worse based on the ranking and relative relationship to the average score. You make a great point about the forced choice of s or d on the visual working memory. If I’d been required to describe or draw a randomly designated figure after they were taken away I would have been in the absolute lowest percentile. My working memory tests on the WAIS were dismal as well. In fact, my Rey-Osterrieth figure done from recall looked like it had been drawn by a 4 year old.

      In the process of writing up my diagnosis, I started talking about the spiky cognitive profile issue and I think it deserves it’s own post. I’m writing something about doubly exceptional children so it might fit there but I also have an idea for a post on the dissociation between verbal and nonverbal skills so it might be more appropriate for that one.

      So glad you’re enjoying these! Next week we’re doing the alexithymia questionnaire.

  6. What an interesting test! My results were in line with my expectations, but further from the mean than I had anticipated.

    Flickering dot: 7.94 (top percentile)
    I used a systematic approach, scanning the dots until I found the one that was changing.
    Visual reasoning: 35 (top percentile)
    Always found this kind of thing pretty intuitive.
    Visual working memory: 31 (second-bottom percentile)
    Whether I got it correct depended mostly on whether I was focusing on the right spot when the image changed from the group of 4 to the single symbol. Otherwise I just went with my “gut feeling”, which was wrong as often as it was right.

    1. I know what you mean about the visual working memory. I had a lot of difficulty holding more than one or two figures in my memory at a time so I felt like I was getting quite a few correct on luck.

  7. Your score was 0. The average score is 20.5.

    You scored higher than zero out of every ten people who took this test:

    Visual Reasoning Test – Your score was 26. The average score is 25.76:

    You scored higher than three out of every ten people who took this test:

    Visual Working Memory – Your score was 34. The average score is 33.93:

    You scored higher than three out of every ten people who took this test:

    Apparently I rocked the dot test! Everything else I’m average or below on. Very interesting test. I did not like the one with the shapes that kept changing places, etc. That one made my eyes hurt and the pattern one just made me feel confused as hell. Uggg. I did like the dot test thing though. It was pretty cool. πŸ™‚

    1. I think your dot test result was defective for some reason. Unless you’re psychic and were able to find the missing dot with zero views? πŸ™‚

      It’s also really strange that you scored slightly above the average score on each test and yet were in a lower percentile. So I’m guessing that scores aren’t normally distributed.

      1. Actually I don’t think it was a mistake because it only took me 3 to 5 flashes to find the dot on each one. I flew through it easily. I guess maybe what they meant was no one else had done it that fast? It was easy for me because I wasn’t looking at individual dots when they flashed. I was watching the entire screen in groups. I picked up on the one that was changing color very quickly. Who knows? I may an anomoly. I’ll give it another try later tonight if I get a chance.

        1. Wow, 3-5 has to be in the top percentile for sure. You rocked it! I had a lot of trouble getting all of the dots to come into one field of view and had to scan around for the flashing one, so I basically failed big time. πŸ™‚

  8. tuesday morning: just woke up, no coffee:
    dot: 15.14
    reasoning:30
    memory: 29
    headache: 10/10

    thursday night: up for 14 hours, fairly tired
    dot: 14.92
    reasoning: 30
    memory: 27

    Ill try again on sat morning after coffee and breakfast

  9. I haven’t been diagnosed with Asperger’s, but it’s suspected I found my results interesting, as well as some things you say here.

    Flickering Dot–11.38
    Visual Reasoning–26
    Visual Memory–32

    Like bjforshaw, I used a systematic approach for the flickering dot test, scanning until I saw one. Sometimes I’d intuitively sense where the dot was and stare at that area for a few minutes until I found it. For the third test, sometimes it depended on where I was looking. Usually, my intuition was correct. Like others mentioned, I got startled when it told me I was incorrect, so I missed a couple because I stopped paying attention at that point.

    The second and third test results seem to be average, and that surprises me. Well, I do have a decent memory, so the third one isn’t so much, perhaps. But I’m often bad at detecting visual patterns and reading diagrams. I’m more comfortable working with printed material than oral material, definitely. I zone out with oral directions unless I write them down as I’m listening, lol. But I’m a word person, not a pictorial pattern person. I’ve always had much better verbal/language skills than visual skills. In fact, my poor spatial skills, as well as my occasional confusion when presented with diagrams that rely on patterns, are what kept me from being in my school’s gifted program for a long time. In high school, though, they did let me in because of my language skills.

    1. Difficulty with verbal directions or verbal material in general is a hallmark of Asperger’s. And like you I’m very good with words/language in general but not good at all when it comes to verbal language. Aspies tend to have very incongruent cognitive profiles so perhaps one more check in the “for” box for you. πŸ™‚

  10. Flickering dot: 8. That one was easy and fun. I would have had a better score, if it hadn’t been for a couple of finger coordination failures where I accidentally clicked the wrong dot although I had seen the right one.
    Visual reasoning: 28. Not so easy.
    Visual working memory: 32. I didn’t like the way the things looked. I know from another type of (brief) visual working memory test that I do actually otherwise have excellent visual working memory.

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