Thursday, March 18, 2010

Are you a Sequential or a Spatial tester?

Introduction in a new way of thinking
A few months ago I got introduced to the concept of Spatial thinking. I never was aware about this kind of difference in thinking. Sometime you hear that you have people thinking mainly with their left hemisphere, other with their right hemisphere (Yes, this is an open door so let me state this before reading it comments: and sometimes you meet people who don’t think or start to avoid thinking)

Sometimes you hear people claiming that testers are thinking differently. They need a different mind set. I believe it is not a problem to think different; as long as you are open and aware that the human brain can work different for each person. This shaping their vision and awareness about testing.

Differences in thinking
The difference in thinking is explained on Gifted Development Center: "The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented. The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space. We only have two hemispheres, and we are doing an excellent job teaching one of them."

If this is true then it is probably that our teachers, instructors and coaches also taught us also just to approach out testing knowledge based on sequential, analytical and time-oriented way.

From: Visual-Spatial Thinking

Spatial and sequential thinking are two different mental organisations that affect the way people view the world. Sequential thinking is step by step linear thinking over time, while spatial thinking is an holistic system where all knowledge is interconnected in space.

Strengths and weaknesses of spatial thinking
To understand possibilities of spatial thinking and testing you might need to see what the strengths and weaknesses are of spatial thinking. Below you will find an short listing of possible strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that no person is for 100% a visual or spatial thinker.

From Strengths & Weaknesses of Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners Source: Dr Linda Kreger Silverman Ph.D. Director of the Gifted Development Center Denver USA

Differences in Sequential and Spatial thinking
A comparison between the two versions is explained in: Auditory-Sequential vs Visual-Spatial thinking: Also see image below. When looking at it you might be forced to speak out your preferred choice. You even might suggest that Auditory-Sequential is more appropriate for testers because they are stronger in:
- Has auditory strengths
- Is an analytical thinker
- Has good auditory short-term memory
These are just a few of them. You might check them yourself

From the site Research on the Visual-Spatial Learner a research by Dr. Silverman is published providing the following facts: (I'm not in the position to check these figures and take them as proven results)

We have high confidence (over 80%) that: - At least one-third are strongly visual-spatial - One-fifth are strongly auditory-sequential - The remainder are a balance of both learning styles
Of that remainder (who are not strongly visual-spatial nor strongly auditory-sequential), - Another 30% show a slight preference for visual-spatial learning style - Another 15% show a slight preference for auditory-sequential learning style

This provides the conclusion: "This means that more than 60% of the students in a regular classroom learn best with visual-spatial presentations and the rest learn best with auditory-sequential methods. "

Sequential or Spatial Testers

When looking at the differences, strengths and weaknesses I have the feeling that the way people think has an impact on their approach and skills in testing. A person is not fully left or right thinker. Instead of seeking the disadvantages of this way of thinking we might accept it and see how it can strengthen a test process. If you accept this, you might make the next step, how to use those skills. Before you can do this you have to identify the type of thinker/tester.

Imagine what the possibilities are if you are aware of the way people thinking in communication? How about test scripts/results, requirements? Which tester would be better to prepare an overview and who have strengths in detailed testing.

I see in this topic some opportunities and will take some time to see what this way of thinking can lead me.

For more information you also might check:
In How to spot a spatial by Betty Maxwell, M.A.: "provide some clues to help you recognize those picture thinkers lurking in your environment."
The power of visual thinking by Lesley K Sword, Director, Gifted and Creative Services Australia 2005


  1. I suggest to take a closer look as well into "Secrects of a Buccaneer-Scholar" from James Marcus Bach as well as "Pragmatic thinking and Learning" from Andy Hunt. Bach's Long Leash is exactly the right hemisphere thinking mode described here and in Hunt's book.

  2. Thanks Markus, ths book is indeed on the list to read. I started reading the ebook when it was offered. I will certainly request for the real one.

  3. I think opposite of "spatial" is not "sequential". A good alternative is "Holistic vs Analytical thinking"

    I would say "word thinker" or "number thinkers" would be opposite to "spatial thinker"

    Even following link seems to have got the names wrong/mixed up.

    If spatial thinking is holistic (eagle's view) thinking the its opposite is analytical (breaking and seeing a constituent view).

    I would suggest you study this subject a bit and do a re-write. This is really very interesting subject and certainly useful for testing.

    Thanks for bringing it to life...


  4. Hallo Shrini,
    Thanks for your remarks, perhaps you might be right. Something I forgot to mention is that I retrieved these links from a person who investigate my son on this topic.

    Here is something more interesting which happened. The investigation was in Dutch, and in that investigation the term “Beelddenker” was used. Literally this could be translated to “image thinker.” As the links were provided by an “authority” as they were hired by the school and able to diagnose my son on this. I might see them as an “oracle”. Information provided by them also should be within that perspective valid and valuable.

    I tending to agree that another option is to see it as “Holistic vs Analytical thinking”. When checking shortly on this your suggestion I noticed that more options are also available, like “Analytical vs intuitive”, “Holistic vs Atomistic” thinking.

    To me it seems that also in the profession of psychologist terms are used differently for the same thing. We do the same within testing. Some people refer to test plan with the same meaning as test script or test case.

    Looking how you defined the terms Holistic and analytical: “holistic (eagle's view) thinking the its opposite is analytical (breaking and seeing a constituent view” it seems how we have learned about these different visions. With my posting I also wanted to make people think that there is a thin line between attitude and natural behaviour. People might be able to have the skill see things in an eagle’s view perspective. They might be trained to do act like this.

    In my perspective there is here another thin line. There seems to be a movement who thinks you can diagnose it as a behaviour like ADHD. Others believe it has to do with personality, you can measure it only you cannot control it with medicines and perhaps education.

    In my article I accepted the terms as provided, don’t judge which world is true, only wanted to focus that there is more in our field of testing which we should examine.

    Your words encourage me to think further about this. Thanks Shrini!