360° Coverage : The Reason Personality Tests Go Viral Will Blow Your Mind

2 Updates
The Reason Personality Tests Go Viral Will Blow Your Mind

The Reason Personality Tests Go Viral Will Blow Your Mind

Jan 19 2014, 3:07am CST | by

Please tell me the web personality quiz is NOT making a comeback. Maybe the popularity of these quizzes never even declined. After rolling my eyes many many times this week, I eventually caved in. I...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

32 weeks ago

The Reason Personality Tests Go Viral Will Blow Your Mind

Jan 19 2014, 3:07am CST | by

Please tell me the web personality quiz is NOT making a comeback. Maybe the popularity of these quizzes never even declined.

After rolling my eyes many many times this week, I eventually caved in. I finally took BuzzFeed’s “What City Should You Actually Live In?quiz. In case you’re wondering, I belong in Paris. Without even a hint of irony, I had clicked through their “Which Muppet Are You?” quiz a few days ago. Bunsen Honeydew (I love anything Muppet). Because Facebook was overrun with Zimbio’s “Which Star Wars Character Are You?.” I just caved and took the quiz while writing this post.

Apparently, I’m Darth Vader.

Yes. There’s some truth to that. I feel the temptation to be seduced by the dark side of the force whenever I see these stupid quizzes.

Quizzes like this are a magazine standard. I Googled “most popular magazine quizzes”:

  • Are you a good kisser? (Seventeen)

  • How millennial are you? (Time)

  • What’s his intimacy IQ? (Cosmopolitan)

  • What does your favorite snack food say about your personality? (Ladies Home Journal)

What is it about these quizzes, I wondered, that attracts us? Surely, nobody believes in the outcomes. It is just entertainment. So why do these quizzes amuse us?

I’ll admit that when I clicked through the choices on “Which Muppet Are you?”, I secretly hoped I’d get Animal or Dr. Teeth. I’d have settled for Kermit or Gonzo. I was checking to see how well my preference measured up to the results.

But why? I know these quizzes are based on nothing. I know there’s not even a kernel of truth in the result. No methodology is listed. The authors credentials are nowhere to be found. And how does one even earn the qualifications necessary to undertake an assessment of “Muppet-ness?”

The entire thing is absurd.

You’d probably say I’m overthinking it. You might believe that people take these quizes just for fun. But frankly, I find it bizarre that any of us want to be analyzed by simple algorithms that divide and reduce us into a limited number of categories. Where does this desire come from?

Essentially, entertainment quizzes are diluted novelty versions of the psychological personality tests that gained popularity in the 1920s. The Rorschach Inkblot test was introduced in 1921, the same year Carl Gustav Jung wrote his famous book Psychological Types.

Carl Jung’s character typology laid the foundation for the popular Isabella Myers-Briggs’ test, developed in 1923. In Jung’s book, he named psychic functions: feeling, thinking, sensation, and intuition. And attitudes: introverted and extroverted. According to Jung, we all have a little bit of everything, but in each individual certain functions and attitudes are more dominant than others.

Despite Jung’s original intentions, the Myers-Briggs test has, ironically, become most popular as a method for evaluating your professional aptitude and choosing strategies best suited for getting yourself ahead in the world. Jung’s theories, however, primarily aimed to help us identify a common psychic imbalance that was, in the Western World, disproportionately tilted toward a heroic, competitive, success-driven mindset. Paradoxically, his project was always to help us move away from the deterministic, definition-driven, certainty that’s implicit in any typology’s dependence on categorization.

Jung’s theories, like other typologies before and after, eventually led to a thriving industry which sells the professional personality test, used mostly to assess whether or not an applicant has the appropriate psychological disposition for a particular job.

As to be expected, the general opinion in the industrial age was that we had the achieved a heretofore unmatched level of scientific progress that guaranteed efficiency, accuracy, and precision. Never mind that these tests are hardly different from the typological categorization that was already popular in the ancient world. Hippocrates described four basic human temperaments, called “humors.” Plato divided us into philosophers, guardians, artisans, and scientists.

In 1935, Leopold Szondi created a non-verbal personality test called the “Szondi Test.” His was based on Freud’s drive theory. But by the late 1950s he may have been disillusioned with psychometrics. He said, “in the last decades, the specifically psychological thinking has been almost completely suppressed and removed, and replaced by a statistical thinking. Precisely here we see the cancer of testology and testomania of today.”

Testomania is right. Consumers love personality quizzes. At the time of this writing, Buzzfeed’s “What City” test had already been viewed over 14 Million times in 2 days. Google reports 135,000 monthly queries for “Myers-Briggs” and 301,000 monthly queries for “personality test.”

Apparently, we enjoy being categorized.

Still, I’m confused.

Simultaneously, my Facebook feed is saturated in personality quizzes and also links to snarky opinion posts about Google’s $3.2 Billion acquisition of Nest. At first these two things seem unrelated, but on closer inspection an inherent contradiction is revealed.

What scares us about Google (and the NSA, for that matter) is the big-brother-like way a connected world–an internet of things–uses algorithms to file us into categories that allow targeted advertising, profiling, and surveillance.

Why is it that when it comes to novelty quizzes we enjoy being analyzed by simple algorithms that divide and reduce us into a limited number of determinate categories, but when it comes to Google and the NSA we’re terrified of the same thing? My theory is that it is a collective manifestation of a psychological function that Sigmund Freud called “displacement.”

Displacement, according to Freud, is an unconscious process through which the psyche transfers energy, ideas, and emotions away from things that cause anxiety, and toward similar things that are superficial, whimsical, and distracting.

In this case, rather than focusing on the algorithmic targeting and surveillance that has become so ordinary in our everyday lives, we distract ourselves by focusing on meaningless algorithmic categorization.

What’s more, because these novelty quizzes are so obviously inaccurate, they don’t scare us. Heck, they don’t even challenge us to be introspective.

We brush them off as “merely entertainment,” forgetting that by participating–through the act clicking–we’ve once again provided Google with a plethora of personality data that is forever stored in our file.

Jordan Shapiro is author of  FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss. For information on his upcoming books and events click here.

Source: Forbes Business

 
Update
2

4 days ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workforce of 20,000 by 30 per ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

5 days ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of th ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

US doctor tests positive for Ebola in Liberia
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) An American missionary doctor working in Liberia has tested positive for the Ebola virus, his organisation SIM USA announced Tuesday.
 
 
IS video shows beheading of second US journalist
Washington, Sep 2 (IANS) Days after the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley, Sunni militant group Islamic State (IS) has posted a video showing the beheading of another kidnapped American journalist Steven Sotloff, CNN reported.
 
 
IS beheads second US journalist
Washington, Sep 2 (IANS) The Islamic State militant organisation has posted a video titled "A second message to America", showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, CNN reported.
 
 
India offers red carpet, not red tape, Modi hard sells India (Roundup)
Tokyo, Sep 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday hard sold India to Japanese investors saying that his country offers only a red carpet and not red tape while dubbing his five-day trip to Japan that ends Wednesday as "very successful".
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

11 killed in Argentina van accident
Buenos Aires, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) At least 11 people were killed Tuesday when a van carrying teachers collided with a truck in Argentina, police said. The accident occurred about 7.45 a.m. near El Simbol, 1,000 km north...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Diana Ross hosts 'barbecue' for son-daughter-in-law
Los Angeles, Sep 3 (IANS) Legendary singer Diana Ross hosted a "barbecue" for son Evan Ross and his wife Ashley Simpson. The 70-year-old star threw the party Monday for the couple, who exchanged vows on Sunday, to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Rebels seeking total independence from Ukraine
Kiev, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine urged Kiev Tuesday to recognise their independence and denied that peace proposals presented a day earlier in Minsk contemplated any plan to stay within Ukraine...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Britney Spears spends $31,000 on pets
Los Angeles, Sep 3 (IANS) Singer Britney Spears' pets are living the life most humans would envy - she reportedly spent over $30,000 on her dogs. Tmz.com reports that according to new legal documents filed in her...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
UN says Gaza destruction 'unprecedented'
United Nations, Sep 3 (IANS) The recent conflict in the Gaza Strip has caused "unprecedented" destruction, leaving hundreds of thousands people homeless, the UN said Tuesday, quoting the latest assessment after the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Over 7,200 killed in Syria in August
Cairo, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) As many as 7,219 people have been killed in Syria in August as fierce fighting continued due to the three-year-old civil war in the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US doctor tests positive for Ebola in Liberia
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) An American missionary doctor working in Liberia has tested positive for the Ebola virus, his organisation SIM USA announced Tuesday. The doctor was treating obstetrics patients at ELWA...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Anastacia slams Kim, Kanye
Los Angeles, Sep 3 (IANS) Singer Anastacia slams reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West saying their need for attention is just so ill placed. The 45-year-old hit out at the star couple for having...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
EU to decide on new sanctions on Russia
Brussels, Sep 3 (IANS) The incoming European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini Tuesday said the EU leaders will decide on new sanctions on Russia by Friday. "The package (of further sanctions) will be...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Israel 'stands by' new land appropriation in West Bank
Jerusalem, Sep 3 (IANS) Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday said his country "stands by its decision" to appropriate 1,000 acre land in the West Bank. "Gush Etzion settlement bloc reflects a wide...
Read more on Politics Balla