The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) measures several aptitudes related to how your eyes evaluate, use, and retain information. The HAB measures
- Observation (ability to notice small/detailed visual discrepancies)
- Design Memory (ability for the eyes to recall visual patterns such as graphs and charts), and
- Verbal Memory (ability to recall words from written material).
The two visual abilities that are the focus (pun intended) of this post are Visual Speed and Visual Accuracy, collectively referred to as Visual Proficiency.
Visual Proficiency (formerly labeled visual dexterity) is an individual’s ability to read and interpret written symbols quickly and accurately. It’s the ability to move the eyes across a visual field (both hard copy and electronic) and interpret the symbols seen there.
It is likely obvious that Visual Speed refers to how quickly a person moves across the symbols; Visual Accuracy refers to how accurately one does so. We look at these together to inform us of a person’s natural tendencies when handling “paperwork” or the clerical aspects of a job.
Given the amount of documentation, “paperwork,” forms, contracts, etc. everyone encounters, wouldn’t this be an important aptitude to have? The truth is, just like all of the natural abilities, the most important thing for you to know is the degree to which this ability combination is present in you. After all, isn’t it just as important to know when something doesn’t come naturally?
What Visual Proficiency Looks Like in Real Life
Say you’re in a fast-paced, numbers-oriented environment. Just for fun, let’s say you’re a bond trader. Your bond-trading job requires rapid processing of numbers and symbols, and you must make quick decisions based on that information. Strong Visual Proficiency will be advantageous.
In what other roles would this combination come in handy? More than likely this strong combination would make the work of busy bookkeepers and accountants, computing and accounting recorders, those involved with insurance, proofreaders, inventory controllers or medical records processors much easier. These types of roles and responsibilities place a heavy premium on processing visual symbols quickly and accurately.
For most of us, “paperwork” is a part of what we need to attend to in our jobs. If we understand that our ability to move our eyes quickly across a page is very strong and our ability to see and interpret that information accurately is quite weak, we know we need to slow down and take the time to double check our work. Otherwise, we run the risk of providing inaccurate information or creating the perception of “sloppiness” in our work.
For example, what’s the perception of a school principal that sends out an email to the parents of all the students containing multiple typos? Or the consultant that sends out invoices with errors or missing information? Or the manager that misaligns statistical, budget, or evaluation data resulting in do-overs?
On the flip side, strong Visual Accuracy when combined with low Visual Speed means that there’s a natural tendency to make all paperwork perfect. No typos, no transposed numbers, no addition/subtraction errors.
Examples of How to Allow for Your Visual Proficiency Abilities in the Workplace
If I’m the principal, I make sure I have someone else proof documents and then make sure I’m the last set of eyes. If I’m the consultant, I make sure to allocate enough time to review my invoices instead of sending my first draft. And, if I’m the manager, I’m looking for others to which to delegate at least some of the double-checking before I submit final paperwork.
In most jobs, a moderate level of Visual Proficiency is adequate with the emphasis on Visual Accuracy over Visual Speed. Now the question is, where do you land on the visual natural ability continuum?