No two people are the same, just like snowflakes. Most people are familiar with the fact that people have different personalities and cognitive abilities, such as problem solving or recalling information.

However, it is widely believed that people are more able to match, recognize and categorize objects than they are. These perceptual skills are essential for many everyday tasks, hobbies, and critical jobs, such as interpreting satellite imagery, matching fingerprints, or diagnosing medical conditions. People who are smart, motivated and have the right training will eventually be able excel in occupations that require many perceptual decisions each day.

Psychologists are trained to assess how people perform on difficult perceptual tasks. The evidence does not support the belief that all people have the same perceptual abilities.

You don’t have to be a professional birdwatcher if you want to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air. Perceptual decisions can have a significant impact on safety, legal, and health outcomes. It is important to find people who are able to achieve the highest performance. Some people are better at perceptually discriminating objects than others, according to our research.

The correlation between performance in cognitive tasks that test memory, math, and verbal skills was discovered by classic psychological studies. This means that someone who excels at Sudoku will also be able to remember their shopping list. This discovery led to the modern concept of general intelligence. It describes a group of faculties that collectively predict a variety of outcomes, including income, health, and longevity.

Similar to our previous research, we found that people who excel at bird identification may also be good at identifying planes. We also discovered that they are more likely to be able spot cancers on chest X-rays. Similar research showed that the same ability could predict better performance in reading musical notes or recognising images of prepared foods.

People have different experiences with medical images or birds. You will recognize them better the more you become familiar with them. Training and experience are important in determining how visual information is used to make decisions. However, does everyone begin on the same level when they start training?

We wanted to see if everyone begins at the same level of perceptual ability. To test this hypothesis, we measured the abilities of people with artificial objects that they had not seen before to see if there was any advantage from different levels.

We evaluated 246 people over 13 hours, and tested them on a variety of tasks using six types of artificial objects. People were asked to identify and match objects, remember them, and make judgements about the parts.

These tasks reveal that people have different perceptual skills as well as cognitive abilities. We found that 89% of differences in people’s performance on these tasks and categories can be explained by general abilities. This was based on statistical methods used to test intelligence and personality. This ability was called “o” for object recognition, and “g” for general intelligence.

We found that o is the same for real and artificial objects. People with high o can compute summary statistics for groups (such as the average of many objects), and are also more adept at recognizing objects by touch. This demo will allow you to compare yourself with others.

It is not just another name for general intelligence, since it is so broad. We don’t believe so.

One study found that neither IQ or SAT scores can predict recognition of new objects. Other work showed that o was not only distinct from g but also distinguished from the personality trait conscientiousness. This suggests that even though book knowledge is important, it may not be sufficient to excel in areas that heavily rely on perceptual skills.

This idea was tested by comparing the abilities of radiologists with and without radiology expertise to detect lung nodules on chest X-rays. Even after accounting for intelligence and radiology experience, those with the highest o performed better in this task. This proves the value of measuring o. Even though medical students are smart and receive training, this may not guarantee that they will be able to perform well in specializations that require perceptual skills.

If you can demonstrate your cognitive talent, many doors will open for you. This seems fair. It is only fair to the extent that general intelligence can be used to predict success in any given area. Many have warned that intelligence testing could lead to inequalities in job placements or hiring based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Many thinkers over the years have emphasized environmental influences and downplayed natural talents. These thinkers argued that success could be achieved through deliberate practice, programs to change one’s attitude about learning, and hours of playing videogames.

The evidence supports the influence of inborn talents. However, denying them or exaggerating the effectiveness of environmental factors can sometimes prove to be detrimental. People may waste their time and money, or risk being stigmatized if they fail to succeed due to factors that are beyond their control.

This problem can be solved by learning more about talents other than intelligence and making better use of them. The classic notions of intelligence are only one of many factors that influence overall ability. A greater focus on perceptual skills, particularly those that are general, may help to reduce inequalities. While differences in experience may lead to sex differences when it comes to the recognition of objects within familiar categories, we have not found any such differences in general ability.

Isabel Gauthier, David K. Wilson Psychology Professor, Vanderbilt University, and Jason Chow Ph.D. Student, Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University

This article was republished by The Conversation under Creative Commons. You can read the original article.