Take a Test Tuesday is back! It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since the last Take a Test Tuesday post. In that interim some new tests have popped up online that look interesting so I thought it would be fun to bring back the Tuesday posts for a few weeks. So let’s get started.
This week I took the Life Experiences and Your Cognitive Style test at the awesome Test My Brain website. The tests at Test My Brain are all part of ongoing research, so by taking them you learn some interesting tidbit about yourself and you get to help researchers answer important questions.
The question that this test is trying to answer appears to be how does childhood trauma relate to impulsivity and attention difficulties later in life? This idea has been floating around for nearly a decade. It’s unclear whether adult ADHD may be linked to traumatic childhood experiences or childhood trauma can cause symptoms similar to ADHD in adults. If you want to read more about the research that’s been done on that topic, this article has a lot of links.
The reason this test got me all excited is because the first part of it is a shorter version of the ADHD test that I took during my Asperger’s assessment.
During my diagnostic interview, the clinician asked me questions like “do you get in a lot of fender benders?” (not a lot, but the ones I do have are spectacularly weird, like backing one of the family cars into the other in the driveway and backing into a payphone) and “do you have trouble staying organized?” My answers to those questions caused him to suspect ADHD, so he included a 20-minute ADHD test as part of my Asperger’s assessment. Keep that 20-minute length in mind as you take the 4-minute version that’s part of this test.
There is a great deal of overlap between the executive function impairments in ADHD and autism. In fact, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. This test, however, evaluates the two aspects of executive function that are most impacted by ADHD: attention and inhibition. It then follows up with a quiz that tells you how rank in relation to other test takers when it comes to planning versus spontaneity. Taken together, the two tests can shine some light on whether you have ADHD-related versus autism-related EF impairments. Or perhaps both.
TAKING THE TEST
This test takes 15 to 20 minutes, so be sure you have the time to complete it before you begin. To take the test, go totestmybrain.org and click on the Go! button next to the “Life Experiences and Your Cognitive Style” test (you may have to scroll down to find it–the order of the tests changes).
You’ll be asked to make your browser window large. I kept mine the size I normally use and it worked fine. The next screen is a simplified informed consent form. You’ll be told what the research is being used for and asked to consent (agree). Once you do, you’re officially a research subject! The next screen collects some demographic information. It’s all anonymous–you won’t be asked any identifying information to get your results or anything annoying like that.
Once you’ve entered your demographic info, you’ll begin the test. The first segment tests continuous concentration. The format is very similar to the visual portion of a commonly-used clinical ADHD test. There are three practice trials to help you get familiar with the process and then a continuous 4 minute test.
The second segment, the Cognitive Style questionnaire, is a set of 30 multiple choice questions about spontaneity, impulsivity, thinking style and how you feel about change.
The final set of questions, the Life Experience Survey, has two options: answering a set of 60 questions (actually less if you answer “no” to some of them) that includes questions about childhood experience (which are primarily related to childhood trauma plus some demographic info) or a set of questions about daily living that does not include the potentially upsetting questions. I opted for the first. They’re serious when they say the questions are personal and potentially upsetting. If you have any reservations, choose the daily living survey to be sure you can complete all 3 steps and get your results.
If you’re going to take the test, do it before reading further because there are some spoilers in the form of strategies in the next section.
Scoring the Test
Segments 1 and 2 are scored. Segment 3 is collected for research purposes and not scored.
Continuous Concentration test: My score: 75. Average score: 70.69.
The numerical result reflects the percentage of time I was able to inhibit an incorrect response to the mountain scenes (by not pressing a key). I was successful 75% of the time, which is slightly above average. A higher score indicates a greater ability to visually focus on a task and inhibit incorrect responses.
Cognitive Style Questionnaire: My score: 56. Average score: 65.05.
A higher score indicates a great tendency toward spontaneity. A lower score indicates a greater tendency toward planning. I love how positively they put that. Yay for not using “rigidity” to describe a low score. People with ADHD or attention difficulties are more likely to score higher on this questionnaire. People on the spectrum are probably going to score lower. I’m curious how someone with both diagnoses would score. If you don’t mind sharing your diagnoses (ASD, ADHD or both) when you share your scores, we might be able to find a pattern.
It’s no surprise to me that I was slightly above average on the concentration task and well below average on the spontaneity questionnaire. Both of those results agree with the results of my AS assessment. Amusing side note on the cognitive style score: my little blue person was at the extreme left of the graph and The Scientist’s little blue person was at the extreme right side. Talk about opposites attracting . . .
I’m curious to know not only how you score on the attention portion but how you felt taking it. One thing I noticed was that my tendency to focus on details hurt my concentration test score. Often when the picture of the mountain with the road in the foreground popped up, I hit the spacebar because road=city. It was only when my perception of the photo widened to take in the mountain in the background that I realized I’d made a mistake. In contrast, The Scientist said he focused on the top portion of the photos and kept a wider view of the scenes, because doing so made it easier to differentiate between the two types of photos. Detail versus gestalt . . . another thing we take an opposite approach to and another common differentiator between autistic and nonautistic perception.
The Bottom Line
It’s unusual to find an interactive ADHD test online, so this is a unique opportunity to see how you fare outside of a clinical setting. It’s certainly not a conclusive measure of ADHD, but it might be helpful in differentiating between ADHD and autism executive function impairments.