Shape Rotators Vs. Wordcels
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Yesterday, I bought a used treadmill from a man in Valley Glen. But when I got to his house, it turned out to be an enormous object in a small room down a narrow corridor. As I may have mentioned, although I have okay 2-D mental visualization skills, I’m terrible at 3-D problems, such as how to rotate this large shape to get it out of the house without banging up the walls.

Fortunately, the seller could still remember the complex steps of how he rotated the treadmill to get it into the room years ago, and could reverse the process in his head. So all went well, no thanks to me.

Somebody online named roon coined the term “wordcel” to refer to people who are good at mentally manipulating words but not physical objects, in opposition to “shape rotators.” (Why not “shapelords?”) Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen was tickled pink by the dichotomy and it has become a sensation.

Of course, these ideas have been around for a long time among those interested in psychometrics.

But, math and verbal abilities are positively correlated, as stated by the theory of a general factor of intelligence. And keep in mind that some people can be very good in math with a highly verbal approach and others with a highly visual approach, so the dichotomy isn’t exactly verbal vs. math.

But the biggest divergence from a simple g factor to a rule-them-all model is that 3-D mental imagination is notably less correlated with the overall g factor. So you get a fair number of inarticulate guys who can visualize objects in space really well.

This may help explain why men tend to have, even relative to their body size, bigger brains than women: just as gaming PCs have, between their CPU and GPU, more volume devoted to processing, so do male brains.

Verbal vs. visual ability seems to be like buying a PC: the power of the CPU, like the g factor, determines how well it processes verbal and quantitative data. But if you want a gaming computer for 3-D imagery, it helps to add a GPU, a graphics processing unit.

Just as most people with PCs with high-end GPU chips are male, most people with high-end shape rotation skills are male, probably for similar reasons: 3-D brainpower is useful in fighting, hunting, making objects, and moving large, bulky objects like my new treadmill.

Because the very high end of 3-D imagination skills tends to be lacking in women, but verbal skills are more equally distributed, this means 3-D jobs tend to pay more relative to IQ because the supply of potential workers is mostly male and thus smaller.

Consider the employees of the New York Times vs. Exxon or Lockheed. The NYT’s staff is shifted toward verbal ability, while energy and aerospace employ many with strong 3-D mental abilities.

Not surprisingly, this correlates with political attitudes.

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