Spatial / Tangible / Nonspatial Orientation of Careers

Spatial / Tangible / Nonspatial Orientation of Careers
30 July 2019


We all look at the world in our own way. Some people have a spatial or 3-D orientation. Others have a nonspatial point of view. Others are somewhere in the middle. See if you can identify where you fit on this scale. The range of this ability is best described on a continuum from nonspatial to tangible to spatial, as : Nonspatial, Tagible and Spatial

Let's use the field of law to illustrate different parts of this continuum. Spatial people are most at home thinking and working with three-dimensional reality. This fits only one legal specialty, patent law. Patent lawyers look at inventions to see what features could be patentable. They have to under-stand machinery and physical things and how they operate. At the other end of the spectrum are nonspatial people who most naturally operate in a world of concepts that has little relationship with physical reality.
This describes the work of most lawyers, people who spend their days operating in a completely nonspatial world of legal concepts. At the farthest end of the nonspatial world are consti-tutional lawyers, whom you could consider philosophers of law. In the middle are tangible lawyers, people for whom the real physical world is important in their point of view but not as dominant as with spatial people. This area of law, frequently trial law, depends on a facility with tangible questions and issues, such as suspect identification, physical evidence, how long it takes someone togo from point A to point B, and so forth. In the field of medicine, surgery is spatial, as are other specialties such as radiology, where it is important to think three-dimensionally. Most medical specialties fit someone whotests in the tangi-ble part of the continuum. For example a dermatologist's day is spent with real, tangible skin, but he 

or she does not need the degree of spatial ability a surgeon does. At the nonspatial end of the scale is the psychiatrist. Businesses appropriate for a spatial-oriented person include such things as landscaping and con- struction management. Even though the manager of a construction company performs many of the same functions as any other businessperson, much of the construction manager's day involves three-dimensional thinking. Most business management is nonspatial and intangible, especially in larger corporations and in service businesses. The great majority of what is taught in an MBA program lies far over on the nonspatial end of the scale. Tangible businesses fall between the extreme ends of the spectrum; for example, managers in retail businesses, restaurants, and printing companies and super-visors in manufacturing businesses often test in the tangible range. Tangible-oriented people can often perform well in fields such as electrical engineering, which is less spatial than most engineering fields. You may or may not be able to accurately pin down where you are on this scale. Look at what you do well, think about, talk about, your hobbies, and so on. Some people, very often women, who score exceptionally high in spatial orientation may not easily find evidence of this talent as children if they were not encouraged to pursue activities considered "normal" for boys, such as building things. A rough but still helpful way to look into this for women is to remember how you played with dolls. Girls on the spatial side tend to concentrate on the physical world their dolls live in—the Barbie Beach Bunga-low with real pink sand and tiny margaritas. The nonspatial girl usually gets into acting out doll relation-ships: "Ken! Malibu Stacy and I are leaving. We are moving to her place on the beach without you." 


Spatial Orientation

High spatial orientation is an aptitude for visualizing in 3-D. The more easily and naturally you visual-ize in 3-D, the higher your spatial aptitude. About one-half of men and a quarter of women score above the 50th percentile in spatial orientation. 

Career fields that use spatial orientation: Most medical specialties (except psychiatry); forensic science; physi-cal therapy; chiropractic; dentistry; speech pathology; architecture; most engineering disciplines; physics; microbiology; organic chemistry; robotics; computer architecture; computer game design; electronics; most design fields; hairstyling; culinary arts; sports (gymnastics, golf, basketball, football, and many others); con-struction; kitchen and bath design; auto mechanics; carpentry; flying airplanes; navigating; battlefield command; manufacturing; dance and choreography; special effects in film, sculpture, and other fields that require an ability to mentally visualize in 3-D. Careers that fit people with a tangible orientation are sometimes appropriate for spatial people as well. 


Tangible Orientation

A tangible orientation, in the middle of the continuum, suggests work that intimately involves the physical world but without the necessity to actually think in 3-D. People with this quality tend to apply ideas or things to get a real-world result. This is the information technologist's ability to mentally visualize network connectivity, like a picture of a schematic in the mind's eye. FBI agents use this ability to pull together real-world facts and evidence to solve a criminal case.

Career fields that use a tangible orientation: Computer programing, IT and network engineering, database design, electrical engineering, Industrial engineering, wildlife biology, zoology, botany, naturalist, family medicine, nursing, practical psychology, graphic arts, cartooning, Web site design, display design, product development and brand management, interior decorating, Jewelry design, cosmetology, gardening, Cooking, business management in manufacturing and product distribution, car wash owner, retail dry cleaner, retail furniture, Car dealer, retail clothing sales, home furnishings, restaurant management, personal coaching. 


Nonspatial Orientation

Nonspatial-oriented people work naturally with ideas, data, and information and usually have little desire to work with three-dimensional objects. People with an MBA use this ability to run and improve business operations. Constitutional lawyers' nonspatial inclination enhances their work with legal concepts.
Sociologists work with ideas about group behavior, and economists construct conceptual models of consumer trends. Please note that some nonspatial people do have hobbies that involve tinkering with objects, but they tend to do these only occasionally. We've met trained surgeons and engineers who tested non-spatial who said they had to work harder than their peers to perform well. 

Career fields that use nonspatial orientation: All business disciplines: marketing, advertising, public relations, finance, accounting, human resources, sales, management; social sciences: economics, sociology, psychology, political science, demographics, actuarial mathematics, statistics, politics, cultural anthropology, gender studies, social history; humanities: philosophy, religion, language, literature; diplomacy, international relations, pub-lic policy; counseling, psychology, organizational behavior; journalism, publishing, editing, poetry 




Abstract, Mixed, Concrete 
Some people are naturally driven to seek concrete results—obvious)y an important trait in any get-the-job-done business. Others are perfectly happy to cogitate forever on abstractions, a trait that lends itself to theoretical work. Many economists, for example, remain unperturbed when their predic-tions about economic trends prove inaccurate.They show little interest in the practical aspects of reality. To them, economics is a theoretical abstraction. Check which part of the spectrum you think you occupy. 
Here is a grid that combines natural abstract-concrete talents with the spatial-nonspatial continuum to show sample career paths: 


Some people are naturally driven to get work done and get concrete results. Practical

Business executive
Tax auditor
Tech sales
Electrical engineer
Mechanical engineer


Part practical, Part reality

Advertising director
Federal Judge
Brand Manager
Documentary filmmaker
FBI analyst
Environmental “green” architect
Human-computer interaction designer


Some are perfectly happy to cogitate forever on abstractions. Very little Practical to reality.

Constitutional lawyer
Composer : film
Science journalist
Criminal lawyer
Thematic sculptor
Patent lawyer



Work with ideas, data and information


Work that involves the physical world.


Visualizing 3-D


Click here to take a Full Career Assessment Test to find out about your suitable Careers in detail.

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