How would you test if someone has trouble conceiving of new ideas?
September 23, 2004 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Putzface_dickman's question below and some issues I'm having with a co-worker prompt this: if you suspect someone of having no imagination, what's a good way to "test" them?
posted by PinkStainlessTail to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling
towards you. You reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?"
posted by falconred at 8:30 AM on September 23, 2004

Ask them to come up with a "test" for imagination. (This comment contains 50% post-consumer snark)
posted by revgeorge at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2004

You mean you can't think of anything, Pink? ;)

You're watching a stage play. A banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entree consists of boiled dog. How do you feel?

Seriously - I'm not sure it's that possible to judge this, but I have always had fun with the "choice A or choice B?" quick-fire questions - throw in the occasional "why?" when a response interests you. It's a good way to get a quick feel for someone.
posted by nthdegx at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2004

If you suspect that person's imagination is limited or nonexistant, just move on. Treat the person with the same courtesy and reapect as you would anyone else, but don't fool yourself into thinking you can be a muse toward unlocking their hidden vision. That can only aggrivate a person to no end, particularly if they have a true cognitive gap, and are not appearently repressed.

Should your suspicions be correct, avoid attempting to deal with the person as a "special" case; they may have trouble with suspension of belief, but they'll certainly have feelings, the ability to reason, and a memory as well. You could wind up at the end of a harrassment complaint.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2004

"reapect respect". Heh.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:51 AM on September 23, 2004

I think there is a clinical test that does this, but I don't know the name. All I know is during an evaluation of some sort (during high school) the doctor held up photos and asked me to make up a story to fit the situation.
posted by o2b at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2004

o2b: That's probably the Thematic Apperception Test. It isn't about imagination, but to see what themes repeat themselves in your stories to divine what criteria you use to organize your world. There was an article that referred to it in last week's or the week before's New Yorker, but I can't find it online.
posted by dame at 9:08 AM on September 23, 2004

What precisely do you mean by "no imagination?" It seems to me that a person with absolutely no imagination--as I understand the term--would be unable to function in society. For example, I don't cross a street without looking both ways, precisely because I imagine that if I did, I might get hit by a car. Predicting the possible consequences of one's actions is a form of imagination, is it not?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:21 AM on September 23, 2004

I have to agree with DevilsAdvocate. Everyone has some imagination.
posted by agregoli at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2004

Ask them what the opposite of a hat is. Press for reasons.
posted by kenko at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2004

Off topic / devil's advocate to DevilsAdvocate:

If looking both ways before crossing the street is caused by imagination, why all the fuss in kindergarten and primary school, then? If people (children) would just look both ways out of imagination, why spend the energy teaching it?
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2004

DevilsAdvocate, aren't you being a bit strict in your definition of "imagination"? Thinking about the future doesn't require imagination, just speculation. And seriously, when I look both ways before I cross the street it's out of habit, not because I think about being hit by a car.

Imagination is more like being able to think about things that don't exist, things that don't make sense, that don't really happen. It's the ability to fantasize about things that don't happen every day, that aren't a part of your world. Looking both ways before crossing the street is just prudent; it's far from imaginative. You can't really get more mundane and practical than that.

So anyways, to test if somebody has no imagination? I'd say that imagination and a sense of humor go hand in hand--most jokes are funny because they're unexpected.

But it's more like when you get silly with somebody, and you start riffing these stupid jokes off each other, and you get to the point where you're both laughing louder and louder at your absurd jokes and then somebody else walks in the room at looks at you like you're both idiots.

I love that stuff. You know, when you know the other person is able to keep up with you. So say something ridiculous, and see if they look puzzled or go along with you.

If you could do that with someone, they'd have to have some semblance of an imagination, I'd say.

And they probably wouldn't figure out that you're testing them, either.
posted by Khalad at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2004

Play Jeopardy.

Answer: When it starts to feel less soft and cushy, and more hard and crusty. About a week.
Question: ...
posted by Khalad at 10:26 AM on September 23, 2004

AwkwardPause, Khalad, I wasn't trying to say that my example was the only, or even the correct definition of imagination. My point was merely that "imagination" is vaguely defined, and may mean different things to different people. And that I don't think we can give a meaningful answer to PinkStainlessTail until we understand what it is that PinkStainlessTail means by imagination.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2004

Question: What is the typical length of tenure of Ed Asner's scalp masseuse?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:55 AM on September 23, 2004

Put him on an island where he has to fend for himself against wildebeests...

I think there are various types of imagination, and they can't really be tested under duress. The quality of noncomformity is not strain'd...
posted by inksyndicate at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2004

" For example, I don't cross a street without looking both ways, precisely because I imagine that if I did, I might get hit by a car. Predicting the possible consequences of one's actions is a form of imagination, is it not?"

No, someone with an imagination would look both ways when crossing the street to make sure not to be run over by a parade of purple elephants on roller skates.

Or something.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:40 AM on September 23, 2004

Crash, that's PINK elephants to you.
posted by shepd at 12:02 PM on September 23, 2004

In the graphic artist/art director/web designer field we have developed a highly effective test. We can look around the room and instantly point out the people with no imagination. We call these people "clients."
posted by ssmith at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2004

I kid. Sort of. Sorry for abusing the AxeMe guidelines.
posted by ssmith at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2004

Sorry, that was a little vague, wasn't it? I think what I meant was:

How do you tell the difference between someone who is resistant to new ideas/possibilities, and someone who is not actively resistant to new ideas but has difficulty conceiving them? Assume for this individual that it is one or the other.

Does that make more sense?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:21 PM on September 23, 2004

falconred - Tell me about your mother.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 PM on September 23, 2004

Try to help them conceive of new ideas.

For example if you want to know whether the person you're dealing with will always vote with one party or bases their vote on the individual candidate, ask them to take the opposite side. See if they can come up with reasons to vote against the candidate they favour. Make them play devil's advocate.
posted by euphorb at 6:02 PM on September 23, 2004

Question: When should you begin picking your scabs?

That test is no good. I actually have no semblance of imagination
posted by Octaviuz at 7:00 PM on September 23, 2004

Ask them what the opposite of a hat is.

Surely this can't be debated: it's an antimatter hat.
posted by nicwolff at 2:41 AM on September 24, 2004

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