GEP and DSA – Findings from KiasuParents-Logicmills Cognitive Testing

We are happy to announce our findings from the experiment we conducted on the cognitive capabilities of our children (between 9-14 year olds) during the Term 3 holidays.  Based on the profile of the children, we have identified some interesting characteristics of various groups that we would like to share with the community.

To recap, partnered with Logicmills to offer a first-of-its-kind psychometric profiling test for children 9 years and older.  The test allows parents to understand the underlying socio-psychological profiles of their children, in terms of how they relate to society at large, and how they perceive and meet the challenges they may face.  It comprises a short questionnaire, and a series of games which the children will play and try to win.  By analysing the moves and strategies employed during the game, and correlating these against their answers in the questionnaire, we are able to determine the cultural preferences of the children, and their abilities in sizing up and responding to challenges, thinking ahead, and interacting with others.

As the test requires actual problem solving skills, it would be difficult to fake the results.  Empirical testing of the tool in corporate settings have shown that the results are indeed congruent with bosses’ perceptions of the socio-psychological profiles of their employees.  More importantly, it provides employers with deeper insight into the capabilities and working styles of their employees, so that they can assign tasks and roles that are most suitable to employees.  The diagnostic tool can also pinpoint weaknesses that employers can note, and address by sending their employees for additional training.

In the same way, knowing the psychological profiles, strengths and weaknesses of their children allow parents to work better with their children.  A child who is more independent and who prefers solving unstructured problems should be groomed differently from one who prefers a more structured approach to problem solving and working in teams.  The independent child could be taught to trust his instincts, and be given more leeway to set his own rules to cut out solutions by himself, while the more structured child could be taught to work with and manage others, and achieve shared objectives as a team.  If a child’s score in a certain category is below average, parents can also seek intervention and help the child address his weaker areas earlier to build up good habits of mind that he can use for a lifetime.

One of the key metrics provided by the test is the Cultural Theory Profile Analysis of the child.  Cultural Theory is developed by an eminent anthropologist, Dame Mary Douglas.  The analysis maps the socio-cultural preference of the child along 2 dimensions: Group, which measures the propensity to work with a group (Independent vs Collaborator), and Grid, which measures the preference for structured environments (Innovative vs Structured).

A collaborative person has high Group ratings, where individuals are expected to act on behalf of the group, which in turn would look after the normative interests of its members.  An independent person has low Group ratings, preferring to interact as individuals with other individuals, unbounded by group norms or regulations.  Independent personalities are competitive, and are not usually constrained by duty to others.

A structured person has high Grid ratings, preferring to be assigned roles based on public social classifications, eg. gender, bureaucratic positions, inheritance or lineage, or seniority.  An innovative person has low Grid ratings, preferring to be given roles based on their own personal abilities and requires an environment that offers equal opportunity to compete without being encumbered by rank or birth.

The different combinations of these two dimensions result in the following broad classification of personalities:

  • An Innovative-Independent (II) (individualist) person has great confidence in himself and prefers to take the road less travelled.  He prefers to solve problems by trial-and-error, believing that the world is resilient and self-correcting.  He will trust others until they give him reason not to, at which time he will retailiate in kind.  Tit-for-tat.  He believes that those who put in the most effort should also be the best rewarded.  IIs make excellent entrepreneurs and explorers.
  • An Innovative-Collaborator (IC) (egalitarian) person is a self-less individual who strives to help the community.  He sees the world as fragile and interconnected, that every action made by individuals will affect others at large.  He feels that everyone must not only start off equally, but must also end up equal too.  Hence, rewards should be distributed equally regardless of contribution of effort.  IC personalities make excellent doctors, teachers, and environmentalists.
  • Structured-Collaborator (SC) (hierarchist) person likes order and works well in a group.  To the SC, the world is stable as long as we operate within the norms and regulations that protect us from going over the brink.  Rewards should be accorded based on rank and station.  SCs make great managers given their ability to instil order within teams, and execute plans.
  • Structured-Independent (SI) (fatalist) person likes an ordered world in which he can thrive as an independent professional.  To the SI, the world is flat, featureless, and intrinsically uncontrollable.  Nothing people do will change the natural order of things, so there is no point in trying to change things.  SIs tend to be passive, and seek to protect themselves using the norms and regulations of the world, as they find it difficult to work with and trust others.  Lawyers and accountants are some examples of occupations that are suitable for such a personality.

In our experiment, we captured key profile data of participants before they took the test.  This includes whether the child is from the GEP or mainstream classes, and whether the child was successful when he applied for DSA to Secondary schools.  The purpose is to create an aggregated profile of the groups so that we can compare their general traits.  While the performance of individuals within each group can differ substantially, we found that the variance is within statistical tolerance and hence our findings are statistically significant.

GEP vs mainstream

We found that, as a group, the GEP participants were able to score better and complete their tasks faster, compared with the mainstream participants.  GEP students were able to reach higher levels of task difficulty, and exceeded the performance of mainstream students in all categories, especially in terms of “interpersonal skills“, which measures the ability to read the intentions of other players.

What is interesting is that all the GEP participants fall under only three of the four cultural theory profiles:

  • Innovative-Independent
  • Innovative-Collaborative, and
  • Structured-Collaborator

There was no GEP participant who has the Structured-Independent personality!

In contrast, Structured-Independent personalities made up about 12% of the mainstream participants.  While both groups have the same percentage (72%) of students who are in the “innovative” category, the GEP group has a much larger group of Structured-Collaborators.  It does appear that the GEP selection process discriminates against Structured-Independent personalities, either intentionally or inadvertently.

Successful DSA vs Unsuccessful DSA applicants

On the surface, there did not appear to be any significant difference between the cognitive skills of these two groups, although the group that unsuccessfully applied for DSA seemed to have somewhat higher “interpersonal skills” and are hence better at reading intentions.  However, closer examination of the cultural profiles show a stark contrast.

Those that managed to get DSA offers have all personalities except for Innovative-Independent, while such Innovative-Independent personalities took up a whopping 73% of the pool that unsuccessfully applied for DSA!  Also, there were no Structured-Independent personalities amongst the pool that did not get DSA offers.

It would appear that the DSA process seem to discriminate against individualistic personalities, and lean more towards personalities that are more collaborative.  It could be that school recruiters prefer candidates who are more compliant to rules and regulations, rather than those who may challenge authority and the norm.  This should be an interesting tip for those who might be going for future DSA interviews smiley.

Overall, the experiment has been very interesting and illuminating.  We thank all the participants who have spent their holiday time playing with our test, and we hope the test has provided parents with valuable insight into the minds of their children.  For those who missed the opportunity to test their children – don’t worry, we will be launching the official version of the test soon!

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