The Human Side of Science: What is the Archetypal Researcher Personality?

Arlington. Are there some personalities that are better suited than others to a scientific career? To provide insight into this issue, The Science Advisory Board created the first-ever psychological profile of life science researchers, the Scientific Personality Assessment (SPA). The SPA is meant to help scientists better evaluate their strengths and assets as well as confront the particular challenges they face in their everyday work life. The goal is not to suggest that one personality type is better than another or that having specific character traits will engender more professional success, but rather to encourage people to align their professional aspirations with their own particular blend of expertise and skills. A summary of these results is provided at and is available for you to download. Like other personality tests, the SPA is based on the premise that the way people think, learn, communicate and interact is related to brain function. The SPA is based on the theory of "brain dominance." In 1981, Roger Sperry was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine by showing that the brain is divided into two major parts or hemispheres, the right brain and the left-brain. The left-brain is associated with verbal, logical, and analytical thinking. The left-brain categorizes things, and is involved in symbolic abstractions, speech, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Left-brain thinking has been shown to be linear and places things in sequential order. The right-brain functions in a non-verbal manner; it processes visual, spatial, perceptual, and intuitive information. Speed and non-linear, non-sequential processing characterize right-brain thinking.

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