Sunday, March 14, 2021

A "Wonderlic" Test for Agency (@pdxsag)

[From our guest correspondent, @pdxsag.]

As a follow-up to CBS' post on "What Intellectual Progress Did I Make in the 2010s," I got to thinking pretty hard about the differences between high agency people and everyone else. I remember a while back disparaging a guy at work that was pretty well off from having worked at Intel in the 80's and 90's, and here he was pushing 65 still doing the same day-to-day crap that I and a bunch of other engineers 20+ years younger were doing. I joked that rich guys who work 9-5 jobs into their 60's have no imagination.

One thing led to another and in a nod to Steve Sailer, I got to thinking to whether one could come up with a simple and quick test - ala Wonderlic IQ - for "Agency":

"When you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind, how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something?"

Key to a meaningful Agency Wonderlic is separating risk takers that have gotten temporarily lucky, often swept up by events greater than themselves, (AKA survivorship bias) from actual high agency people that have charted their own course because that is what appealed to them.

Similarly, but from the other side of coin, we must separate high agency people from run-of-the-mill artist/hipster/MGTOW types that act like they are following their muse for self-actualization, but really they are just imitating the things that everyone else they want to be like does. Often these people aren't iconoclasts at all, but are just losers looking for a cope, or unimaginative rich kids looks to be unique and give themselves a meaning.

Next, we need to split OCD types that lucked into some positive habit, but in reality could have just as easily landed with a self-destructive obsession. A lot of body builders and fitness buffs fall into this category. On first blush they are high agency, but dig deeper and they have a lot of OCD tendencies. Credit to the guys that have reined in those demons and harnessed them for good, but it's not always the case they are high agency.

Finally, we need to split IQ from Agency. There are plenty of 65 yo professionals with million dollar homes and multi-million dollar retirement accounts still punching the proverbial clock. Are they doing it because they love the status of being one of the top dogs at the office, and because they love their expensive all-inclusive vacation packages? Not high agency. Being highly intelligent and making a top 10% salary, winning the rat race as it were, should not be confused with high agency.

1) How did the Covid 19 lock-downs affect your weight?
Gain -1 / Lose 0 / Stay the same +1

2) On March 31, 2020 were you more worried about the health risks of Covid 19 than you were on Jan 31, 2020?
Didn't know much about it on Jan 31 -1 / More worried 0 / Less worried +1

3) Were you wearing a mask in public in August-September 2020?
Yes -1 / Yes to avoid confrontation 0 / Heh, not over my nose +1 / No +2

4) Have you taken an unpaid sabbatical from work greater than 60 days? (Gap years after high school or college don't count unless they were done in spite of parental wishes. Recovery from a medical condition doesn't count, that's not a sabbatical.)
No 0 / When I was single +1 / When I was married with kids +2

5) Have you moved more than 1000 miles from where you were raised? (College, military, first job out of college, and a job transfer by your employer don't count.)
No 0 / Yes +1 / To a foreign country +2

6) Did you join the military against your parent's wishes?
No 0 / Yes +1 / Virtually without them knowing until you shipped out +2

7) Have you healed yourself from a chronic medical condition after doctors and the mainstream standard of care failed to help?
No -1 / Never had a chronic condition 0 / Yes +1

8) Do you even lift?
Run marathons or sub-marathons -1 / No 0 / Yes +1

9) Are these guys glib shysters Nassim Taleb/Malcom Gladwell/William F. Buckley/Carl Bernstein?
Who? -1 / Half of them are 0 / Yes +1

10) Do you believe the official story for JFK, Oklahoma City, and 9/11?
Yes -1 / Impossible for us to know 0 / No +1

11) Do you have a “boss”?
Yes 0 / No +1

12) Have you tried starting your own company?
Never -1 / Thought about it 0 / Tried, but it didn’t work +1 / Tried, more than once even, and/or work for myself right now +2

13) Have you ever planned an event for a group of non-family member guests (besides your wedding)?
No 0 / Yes +1

14) How often do you pick up the phone and make a cold call to someone whom you don't know with a proposal or idea for them to consider?
Never -1 / Rarely 0 / All the time +1

15) If you graph your social circle (ignoring family members), would you be in a cluster of interconnected people (who all know each other), or are you a bridge that spans many otherwise unconnected groups?
No social circle beyond family members -1 / Mostly a cluster of similar people at work, school, etc. 0 / Bridge that spans +1

EDIT: By popular demand, a new question.

16)Are you taking the "vaccine"?
Yes and I took a selfie -2 / Yes and I refer to it as a "jab" -1 / yes 0 / no +1

Post your scores in the comments!

21 comments:

CP said...

The majority of work on sense of agency in old age has focussed on examining the link between general changes in sense of agency (based on self-reports) and old age, and how these relate to various indices of health and well-being. Based on this work it is clear that old age is associated with a reduction in the sense of agency. For example, in a large-scale survey of Americans, Lachman and Firth (2004) found that 62% of older adults disagreed with the statement “What happens in my life is beyond my control” whereas almost 80% of young adults (25–39 years) disagreed with it. This reduction begins at around the age of 50 years and continues into older adulthood, with the most rapid decline occurring between 60 and 80 years (Mirowsky, 1995). Importantly, this reduction in sense of agency is associated with poor health and a reduction in quality of life (Langer and Rodin, 1976; Rodin and Langer, 1977), which itself highlights the pressing need for rigorous experimental research.

A key factor in this reduced feeling of control is likely to be a reduction in the basic capacity for agency due physical impairment (Mirowsky, 1995). However, there might also be neurocognitive factors underpinning this reduction in the sense of agency. To-date, few studies have directly examined this from an experimental psychology or cognitive neuroscience perspective. One of the few that have is a study by Metcalfe et al. (2010). They found that the experience of control in older adults less sensitive to three external performance manipulations (such as the insertion of a temporal delay between their movement and a cursor moving on the screen) than a control group of younger adults. The pattern of results is intriguing, suggesting that older adults have a reduced sensitivity to external sensory cues to agency. Future research should explore this in more detail. By uncovering the agency processing abnormalities in older adults it will then be possible to start developing interventions aimed at remedying them.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5002400/

Allan Folz said...

The awarding of points on the first question is in error. Gaining muscle should be zero points. A high agency person is already in the shape they want to be in. High agency people do not need an excuse of a global pandemic to make time to get into better shape.

This is a hard test. I wasn't aiming for a full range distribution because it is my theory that not only is the median person low agency, even people at +1 agency don't have enough agency to move the needle on freedom among the body politic.

I'll share my results, but not too soon. I don't want to prejudice results. :)

Finally, lying on an online pseudo-anonymous poll is -1000 agency points.

Stagflationary Mark said...

1: Lost weight (0)
2. More worried (0)
3. Yes (-1)
4. When I was single, assuming retiring at 35 counts (+1)
5. Only moved 300 miles. From a small farming community to Seattle doesn’t count? Dammit! ;) (0)
6. No (0)
7. No (-1)
8. No. Walk about 7 miles everyday. You said “run” though! Hahaha! ;) (0)
9. At least half? (0)
10. Impossible to know. (0)
11. No. Life goal not to work for “the man” all my life. (+1)
12. Never. Life goal not to work. (-1)
13. No. (0)
14. Never. (-1)
15. Similar people. Few. Very Introverted. (0)

Total: -2. Not looking good for me winning this competition! :)

That said, what happens in my life is and mostly always has been seemingly in my control. I’ve certainly made mistakes, but I was in control when I made them.

My relatively short career was mostly at a game company. I was asked what my life goals were during the initial interview. I said that I wanted to retire early and I would work as hard as I could to make that happen. They must have believed me because I got the job. They believed me because it was true.

Regarding question 5, 0 is fair. I may have moved 300 miles west until I hit the ocean, but I never left the state. My girlfriend/partner also moved west until she hit the ocean. She moved from Tennessee though. Much braver than me.

Allan Folz said...

LOL. I suspected the Agency post was not going to be kind to you, Mark.

Is it still high agency if one's highest self-actualization is being able to do absolutely nothing?

You've always reminded me of Peter in 'The Office.' Lawerence says to Peter, "You don't need to be a millionaire to do nothing, man."

CP said...

I get ~11 on the quiz.

CP said...

Added a question.

Allan Folz said...

I get a 10.

This was before the addendum, which is not canonical.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Allan,

Is it still high agency if one's highest self-actualization is being able to do absolutely nothing?

It depends. Is the laziest locust in the swarm the hero or the villain? :)

You've always reminded me of Peter in 'The Office.'

I can completely relate to Peter’s motivations and laid back attitude. Morale was miserable at my company due to fraud and endless rounds of layoffs. And then one day all those negative waves were gone. I quit.

We see our role as essentially defensive in nature. - Oddball, Kelly’s Heroes

Oddball and Peter, my heroes! :)

(You meant Office Space, of course.)

CP,

I get ~11 on the quiz.

That does not surprise me at all. One of the reasons I read your blog is so that I can live vicariously through... your links.

Allan Folz said...

And Mark, I wouldn't answer that last question if I were you either. It is a transparent attempt by our blog host to dunk on you, bro.

CP said...

And Mark, I wouldn't answer that last question if I were you either. It is a transparent attempt by our blog host to dunk on you, bro.

It really wasn't!

Allan is a bit sour because I added a few questions that punish introverts to his quiz.

Being high agency means transcending your MBTI type.

Extroverts need to read some books and get information a different way than talking. (Which is very low bandwidth and vastly limited compared to the printed word.) This has been a lifelong, insurmountable problem for Trump.

Introverts need to be better "brokers." (As in, Brokerage & Closure and Structural Holes.) Failing to do this is why engineers don't capture the value they create.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Allan,

Do I look like a selfie and/or jab person?

I want the vaccine. No selfie. Not calling it a jab. Score unchanged. A zero only helps me dilute my average score per question! ;)

CP said...

Some pdx pal results

16 - https://twitter.com/sometimesmrk/status/1371607351342428161

9 - https://twitter.com/SandpiperFax/status/1371609718540562434

10/11 - https://twitter.com/NathanEqualsOne/status/1371583450302476289

10 - https://twitter.com/PdxSag/status/1371560380032446465

CP said...

PDX?

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am prone to what essentially comes down to crippling introversion. If Carl Jung stuck his finger in my butthole, he’d say I’m an INTP.
https://rojobag.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/things-i-do-to-honor-and-evade-a-crippling-introversion/

Allan Folz said...

Not me. I can't play an instrument and Carl Jung ain't gettin' anywhere near my butthole.

But I definitely empathize with the post. I don't think anything is crippling about my introversion, but as an engineer I've not had to constantly cold call strangers to wrestle up employment.

I definitely agree with his point that introversion is not shyness.

I think of introversion as finding my own thoughts interesting and engrossing and the average person's thoughts, well, not. It's kind of boring being around random other people, so that takes a lot of mental energy to stay engaged. Nobody ever describes it that way, though, so the onus falls on introverts to adapt and put themselves out there instead of extroverts to think before they start prattling on mindlessly about peaches.

From time to time I do wonder what it's like for an extravert to be an a room by themselves for more than 5 minutes. Do they even have thoughts? Extroverts strike me as not being able to think except in conversation with another person. That's pretty weird when you think about it. There's nothing there until they have a stimulus to respond to.

Allan Folz said...

As Stag Mark is wont to say... introverts are not easily bored. I bet Mark is INTP too.

Allan Folz said...

It occurs to me there must be a type that attracts INTP's. Hmm, now that's fascinating to think about...

Stagflationary Mark said...

Allan,

It's kind of boring being around random other people, so that takes a lot of mental energy to stay engaged. Nobody ever describes it that way, though, so the onus falls on introverts to adapt and put themselves out there instead of extroverts to think before they start prattling on mindlessly about peaches.

You had me at peaches, lol. Seriously, I didn’t think we were on the same page here at all, but then you provided me with an epiphany. I am definitely not easily bored, but I’ve been around at least a few extroverts who could easily take me there. To be fair, I’ve also known introverts that can take me there too. Of all the things I’d enjoy talking about, peaches have to be near the bottom of the list. If we must talk about fruits, couldn’t it at least be something more exotic?

I bet Mark is INTP too.

So close. Simple online tests say I’m INTJ. It’s the “I” that’s truly dominant though. That pegs at 100%. Like you, I wouldn’t call it crippling.

From time to time I do wonder what it's like for an extravert to be an a room by themselves for more than 5 minutes.

My parents would jokingly complain that sending me to my room wasn’t a punishment, it was a reward. Even if they were to completely strip my room of books and toys, it might have been. As INT* types, we’d know what to do though. Let’s talk peaches for an hour so you can’t easily ponder introverted thought experiments! OMG! The horror! Hahaha! :)

Do they even have thoughts?

They do. Believe me. If a peach tree falls in a forest and only one extrovert is around to hear it, does it make a sound worthy of a 60 minute conversation about peaches at some later time? Hahaha! :)

Just trying to share the inner workings of one introvert mind. I can’t speak for others, but it’s hard to be bored if you can crack yourself up. (With the help of another introvert, apparently. ;))

I am very easily amused today, apparently. But what’s new?

Stagflationary Mark said...

https://personalityjunkie.com/08/intj-vs-intp-type-differences/

Allan Folz said...

I, too, often find my own cryptic in-jokes to be the best jokes. Heh. Comma placement critical. Get it! LOL.

Stagflationary Mark said...

I, too, often find my own cryptic in-jokes to be the best jokes. Heh. Comma placement critical. Get it! LOL.

In my experience, all too often, some accused low agency people who don’t get inside jokes based on punctuation will laugh anyway just to fit in.

In theory, they should be easy to spot by high agency people, assuming the punctuation style of the low agency person deviates from their normal behavior when laughing nervously and cluelessly.

In practice, things might not always be as they seem though, especially if a semicolon is involved. Hahaha. ;)

This sure is a peachy day!

Anonymous said...

Here is a thread for the low-agency hall of shame:

https://twitter.com/TESLAcharts/status/1387148668655083520