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Quizzical: Where to find out all about yourself online

By Joab Jackson on June 27, 2001 (8:00:00 AM)

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I've never been a fan of self-quizzes, not of the pop-psychology kind at least. Attempting to grid the vicissitudes of the human soul with a few general questions strikes me as a hopeless endeavor.

I bring this up because my co-workers and I were recently given these personality tests called the SELF Profile. A colleague had just taken one of those day-long junior-management seminars and brought back this test to administer to the rest of us so we could all understand each other, work better together, blah, blah, blah.

I instantly hated the idea, in no small part because I saw it as a way to hem me in. "Oh, Joab, he's just the idiosyncratic/confrontational type," some junior manager might sum me up, waving off my critique of whatever idiotic idea was being proposed at the moment. Besides, it looked tedious, boxing my preferences within this multiple-choice format. "After a hard day's work, I prefer to..." was a typical question. And the two choices were a) Get together with friends or b) Stay home and watch television. Well, some days I enjoy the former, and other days I want the latter. And some days I like to nap. Or get rip-roaring drunk. But those choices aren't on the questionnaire, are they?

We had three days to fill out these forms and tally the scores. From this enterprise we would derive two separate numbers, the meaning of which the aspiring junior manager would reveal at a meeting.

I never did find out what my personality type was, as, well, I never filled out the questionnaire. I was busy with real work, and besides, I had an attitude. With the deadline looming, I hurried into a co-worker's office.

"Quick," I said, "let me see your sheet."

"What, are you going to copy my work?" Jodi said jokingly, before realizing that this was exactly what I planned to do. I had no intention of actually taking the test but I needed a score, and I couldn't just put any old figures down. I had no idea what kind of scoring this involved; if the result was supposed to be a number between one and 10 and I wrote something like "27" or "H," I'd be exposed as having the "cheater" type of personality. I needed a number close to someone else's, but a tad different, to make it believable. Jodi had two and three, so I took a pair of twos. Pretty innocuous, right?

When we gathered around the meeting table to find out the import of our scores, the junior manager -- I'll call him Bob -- drew this x-y axis with four quadrants on a board, each quadrant representing a different personality type -- power seeker, lazy ass, things like that. Now here's the funny part -- the center of this axis was not zero, but 3.5. So my score was more extreme than Jodi's. Bob explained that Jodi's and my scores indicated we had "factual" personalities. I'll admit, Jodi is pretty darned studious. But my score shaded much more of the quadrant than hers. According to SELF, I was even more factual. I was like Spock, according to this test.

Anyone who knows me realizes what a crock this is. I have about as much use for facts as an elephant has for an egg timer. It's the lowliest editorial intern, like the reviled Army private getting latrine duty, who gets assigned the unenviable task of checking my stories for accuracy.

Still, I was factual enough to realize I'd be a fool not to exploit such good fortune. "You know," I reminded everyone afterward, "I'm the most factual person in this office! I'm even more factual than Jodi!" I suggested, seeing as how I was the one apparently least given to flights of fancy, that maybe I should be the one to arbitrate intra-office disputes and give final approval on projects. I foresaw winning arguments for months to come, all on my trump card of factual superiority.

Only when Jodi threatened to blow the whistle did I shut up. "You keep going with this, and the jig is up," she warned. "They'll find out how factual you really are." I suspect she was just jealous, though. We all can't be seen as so levelheaded, you know.

There are some self-knowledge quizzes on the Internet, though admittedly ones more whimsical than SELF. Emode, which promises an opportunity to "explore yourself online," offers scads of interesting insights. What kind of dog are you? Are you a great date? An inquisitive self-help addict can spend days there.

Then there are "purity tests." This seems to be an entire subculture, revolving around probing quizzes in which increasingly extreme questions are posed in "attempts to gauge how 'pure' you are within some realm of experience," according to the Purity Tests site, which gathers dozens of such quizzes, ranging in topic from engineering to pyromania to sex (but mainly sex). You can check your intelligence at Free Online IQ Test. For those of less secular mind, the Religion Selector can help you find the faith most suited to your beliefs.

If you haven't got time to fill out an entire questionnaire to determine how smart or pure you are, you can at least get yourself a new name. The Hobbit Name Generator lets you choose your Tolkien appellation. The Pagan Name Generator can cut you moniker worthy of a vision quest (Mine was "Mars Elf-Arrow Druida"). And Gorm's Viking Name Converter can give you a handle suitable for a life of raiding and plundering ("Joab Nohair").

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