Spatial reasoning is a branch of problem-solving ability that is often assessed through pre-employment tests. It is one of the most basic reasoning abilities and is highly correlated to general intelligence, or cognitive aptitude. Employers are often interested in evaluating cognitive aptitude in their job applicants since it’s one of the best ways to predict long-term job performance. However, it may not seem immediately obvious how spatial reasoning is relevant to a lot of jobs. Let’s start by looking at what spatial reasoning actually is.
Spatial reasoning, also called spatial visualization ability, refers to the ability to see a two or three-dimensional object and then mentally manipulate it. The video game Tetris is a great example of using spatial reasoning to solve problems. A player is presented with a two-dimensional shape and must rotate this shape in order to most efficiently fill gaps within a growing wall of blocks. Spatial reasoning is just that: the ability to visualize a pattern, make a spatial judgment, and solve a problem. Put another way, spatial reasoning is the ability to visualize how disparate pieces may or may not fit together.
So how is this abstract skill so universally job-relevant? Spatial reasoning relates to how well someone will be able to take in new and potentially abstract information and then apply that information appropriately. In this way, it’s directly related to problem solving ability and critical thinking, two major components of cognitive aptitude. This ability is relevant to nearly every job since most positions require some sort of critical thinking and problem-solving ability on a day-to-day basis.
There’s another plus to assessing spatial reasoning ability in your candidates: it’s generally independent of education, culture, and language. Being able to visualize and manipulate shapes and pictures doesn’t require any specific training. This quality makes spatial reasoning one of the most widely applicable and accessible traits used to measure a person’s innate aptitude. For instance, spatial reasoning is a great way to evaluate cognitive aptitude in international candidates who speak different languages because it makes the assessment process more standardized. It can also help to minimize some of the unconscious bias that can creep into the hiring process.
Spatial reasoning is an extremely important component of cognitive aptitude and a crucial skill to look for when hiring almost for any job. However, it’s important to remember that it’s also one piece of the larger puzzle. When interpreting pre-employment test results, it’s important to look at everything that goes into a score in order to help you make the most informed hiring decisions.