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Beyond Pandora

Beyond simple curiosity, this is Thinking Too Much. If you're interested in philosophy and/or wild theories, you've come to the right place.

Location: Australia

Paddling somewhere between a mad scientist and an organisational artist. Indecisive, inconsistent and often incoherent.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Quiz/Personality Relations

I hate personality quizzes. Firstly because they are ridiculous, have no base in reality, and no semi-intelligent person would ever think of wasting their time in such a manner.

Secondly because I never, EVER, agree with my result.

And thirdly because afterwards I feel stupid for having wasted my time on something any semi-intelligent person would have recognised as ridiculous and without base in reality.

It's not that I don't understand the lure of the quiz. You think it can tell you something insightful about your own personality, or about your relationships - or possible relationships - with other people.

I'm all for learning more about myself. I mean, in the sheltered world many of us live in, there are no real tests of character. No life or death situations, no matters of just one way or the other - there always seem to be other possibilities. I believe you learn through pressure and decisions, but if there aren't any real challenges to overcome, you just drift around, unchanging.

So it's no surprise that many of us turn to personality quizzes to learn more about ourselves.
It's also no surprise that I inevitably end up dissatisfied with any quizzes I attempt. See, I just can't trust them.

Firstly, they may be too simple to possibly be specific to me. Such as those quizzes which only involve one question - for example, "When were you born?" The most common form of this quiz gives your result as your starsign, and mystics go nuts with that.
I've come across a book that has a personality map for anyone born on a specific day of the year (ie, 365 personalities).

And then, of course, there's also the Mother Goose poem:
"Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving, Saturday's child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe and good and gay."

All three notions would be equally reliable.

(For anyone who is wondering, I was born on Thursday, the 3rd of October. So I'm a Libra, and I actually haven't the slightest clue what that is supposed to mean for my personality. Regarding Mother Goose, perhaps it is accurate to say I have 'far to go'; I sympathise with Thursday's phrase more than that of any other day. On the other hand, the profile for the 3rd of October in the book I discovered suggested I was innately concerned about aesthetics - that I would have a keen fashion sense. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with me will join me in snorting in derision.)

I'd like to point out that it is relatively easy to defend the notion that some greater power decided which day you would be born on - it even seems reasonable compared to the idea of the Chinese Zodiac - that each person born in the same year will have a similar (let alone an identical) personality.

On the other hand, I imagine there would be some argument between believers of the birth-day personality regarding a ceasarian birth as opposed to a natural birth. Also, I read a while ago that the cycle of starsigns as they appear in the sky does not fit within the cycle of a year. Which means that while the dates associated with particular starsigns has remained constant, the actual relation between signs of the zodiac and days of the Earth-year has changed over time. So the starsign you think you are is porbably not the starsign you were born under.

I firmly believe that your personality is decided by the experiences that happen to you. Whether or not you have some personal characteristics 'inherent' (decided through your genes) I am as yet undecided.
So for any personality quiz to mean anything to me, I have to actually put something of my experiences at that stage in my life into the quiz machine in order to get anything meaningful out of it.

Therefore, although things like numerology and personality analyses based on what my name is could possibly describe how I was when I was born, I don't believe it can accurately portray my personality for the whole of my life.

Moving on.

Personalities are complex, so if a quiz consists of three or four questions, there is no way it could pick out the various nuances of character. There is also no way it could confirm my answers, in case I found a few questions difficult to answer.

Which brings me to another point.

I have terrible problems working my way through the questions. I find myself always wanting to choose an unavailable option, or wanting to answer 'both', or 'sometimes A, sometimes C', or 'if I was in this situation, I'd pick B'. As far as I'm concerned, I can never answer any quiz truthfully. There just aren't enough options.

And even if I could answer every question with complete confidence, I'm often dissatisfied with the method the quiz uses to arrive at my result. I hate to find that a lot of my answers have been ignored because they 'don't fit' with the rest of my answers. I can't place any trust in a quiz that doesn't accept that all my answers - the whole of my personality - are valid.

The systems that I like best are the ones that say you are 47% this and 35% that, or you are a 94% match with this type/this character's personality. They tell you how 'close' you are to being of a certain type, rather than trying to convince you that you ARE a certain type.

But even then, I still don't trust the result I'm given, simply because I disagree with the writer's perceptions. What if I don't think a character has personality traits that the author of the quiz has pinned to that character? What if I don't think that a particular type of plant would be an introvert if it was human? I would need to know that I agree with the writer's opinions before I took the quiz in the first place. And even that would only lead to...

How can I give an unbiased answer to a question if I know the destination each answer is steering me towards? Obviously I'd be tempted to give the 'right' answers for a particular personality type instead of giving 'my' answers. If I know one of the final destinations is 'insomniac', (or even if I don't) then of course I will realise that all the answers that include the word 'sleep' will lead me to 'insomniac'. If I don't want to be an insomniac, I would tend not to select the 'insomniac' answers even if they ARE what I would usually answer.

And after all that, even if I believe I've been given the right label, and even if I agree with the sentiments expressed, it is usually not enough; there is nothing new to learn. I hate to find that the quiz has just reworded or recycled my answers to the questions - I took the quiz to hear something insightful, not to expand my vocabulary! The quiz has to tell me things I might not have realised about myself; things that challenge the perception I have of myself. That was the whole point of the exercise, after all - to learn more about myself.

I need something that is complex but subtle, that won't tell me what I want to hear but will use reasoning I can understand, and is not only flexible enough to accept my personality - my whole personality - but actually requires it in order to function properly.

I don't see any mere personality quiz passing those qualifications anytime soon.

But hey, forget about the quizzes - I might as well have been describing my ideal girlfriend.


Blogger Casyn said...

You have just encapsulated why I don't do 'serious' personality tests.

I'll stick to the ones that test if I am a Sexy Microwave. That's the really important info you need to lead a fulfilled life.

1:10 am  
Blogger Draic said...

Of course, I never said I didn't do the supposedly serious personality tests. Just that they're never fun, serious, or enough.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You remind me this morning that as a Monday baby who has all her life had chubby cheeks, I grew up with this adaptation of the rhyme, thanks to my dad:

"Monday's child is full of face..."


1:47 am  

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