>A New Type of Discrimination

>    Every week, on NPR’s Planet Money podcast, they start the show with an “indicator.” This is a number that means something; it might be big, or it might be small, but it has something to do with the show’s topic, which is money.

    Today, I’m starting this blog post off with an indicator. That’s right, it’s a Rob’s Surf Report indicator and it is twenty-nine (29.) Twenty-nine is the score I received on the Autism Spectrum Quotient Test, designed in 2001 by psychopathology professor Simon Baron-Cohen (coincidentally, he’s Borat actor Sascha Baron-Cohen’s cousin.)
    The theory is that autism can be gauged on a continuum; or rather, that everyone is more or less autistic. If you’re interested in knowing your score, head on over to Wired Magazine and take five to ten minutes to answer this fifty-questionnaire in degrees of agreement (agree completely, agree somewhat, etc. . . ) and it will calculate your AQ, or Autism Quotient. If you’re considered “normal,” you’ll score somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen. People diagnosed with autism average a score of thirty-two.
    It turns out that what being more (or less) autistic really means to a normally-functioning person is that it identifies your balance of intelligence to social skill. People who score high and never, ever thought of themselves as autistic are probably highly intelligent and yet somewhat lacking in social skills – i.e., to some degree they’re withdrawn, introverted, and find it difficult (but not impossible) to make new friends or figure out what other people are feeling. Does this sound like the typical high school nerd? Is that a weird coincidence, or what?
    If you score high, don’t feel bad about yourself. Life didn’t deal you a harsh blow. But can the same thing be said of society?

    Take another look at the test. Does it look at all familiar to you, even vaguely? If you’ve been on a job hunt anytime in the past decade, you might have answered several questionnaires that bear a striking resemblance to this one.

    Here comes the rant.

    Is it any coincidence that there is a significant uptick of automated employee vetting machines around the same time that this questionnaire was published? Or is it, in fact, true that as soon as employers heard about this, they wanted to make sure they had the most socially adept people on their side? This looks to me like companies have profited by selling a system to potential employers that discriminates against people based on something that is beyond one’s control.
    It’s true that I have never received a job offer after taking one of these tests. You have to take one in order to apply for a job with many retailers, and I’ve always thought that was unfair because it never gave me a chance to win over a person with my confidence and my leaking surplus of elbow grease. There was no “face time” involved in the hiring process, and I always thought that it was a mistake to dump the face-to-face interview process; after all, just because you’re good with people doesn’t mean that you’re honest or hard-working, am I right?
    To me, this is no better than racial profiling. After all, it’s not fair to discriminate against someone based on their skin color, age, gender, and other features that are determined not by them, but by nature itself; why, then, is it fair to weed out people who choose to answer truthfully these questions that are posed to determine how social they are? How is it that a person who spends their work day cataloging videos and running a cash register needs to be the popular type? Do you mind being the center of attention? You’re out. Are you okay with being alone? Sorry, you’re not qualified to work for All-Mart. And doesn’t it just seem like they’re putting yet another spin on natural selection at a time when people seem to have forgotten what it is? Should we look forward to a future that looks something like the movie Idiocracy? (If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s funny.)
    Like I said, one of the fallacies in eliminating preliminary interviews with real people from the hiring process is that they assume that personality equals hard work and honesty — so not true. Con-men are big on personality, and they make their living by cheating people. I will work harder and better than any Barbie- or Ken-doll, and I prove it each and every day. Furthermore, they’re denying paying jobs to people based on their personal preferences! Isn’t that what an employee handbook is for – laying down the rules so you have a basis for firing those that break them?
    I kicked up the drama a little bit there, I know. I’m a sensitive person. To be fair, the pre-employment personality test employs several types of questions, and each type is aimed at figuring out a different aspect of your overall personality. If you intend to be honest and are extremely intelligent, you’re going to have problems. There’s an article from eHow down below that explains the average test, the mentality behind the questions, and how to beat them at their game. 
    Let’s put it this way: personality hates intelligence for no good reason. It’s like religion and science; a few people may be able to mash them together, but the majority on either side fervently believes that the two do not mix, and they still openly discriminate against each other behind an illusion of acceptance.

How to pass the test: http://www.ehow.com/how_4446746_pass-preemployment-personality-test.html

Wikipedia article (sorry, teachers! I love my Wikipedia:) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_spectrum_quotient

Chapter One of Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open was my inspiration: http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Wide-Open-Neuroscience-Everyday/dp/0743241665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276788376&sr=1-1

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