Personality Tests Proliferate on the Web
Fri Apr 23, 2004
By Martha Graybow
NEW YORK (Reuters) - How often do you balance your checkbook? What was your best subject in high school? If you were a dog, what breed would you be?
For seekers of self-knowledge, there's a plethora of online personality tests that will help gauge everything from weighty matters like what type of mate or career would be best for you, to more frivolous concerns such as whether your personality is more like that of a Golden Retriever or a Chihuahua.
This form of self-analysis is hardly new. For decades, people have taken tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an assessment developed in the 1940s based on Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung's theories about psychological type preferences.
Less scientific quizzes have long been the hallmarks of women's magazines like Cosmopolitan, whose current issue features the multiple-choice quiz "How Seductive Are You?" with questions such as "Do you dress to draw eyes to your cleavage?"
Some of the most popular online tests are found on dating sites like eHarmony.com, (http://www.eharmony.com) or Match.com (http://www.match.com). The latter offers a personality assessment as well as a "physical attraction test" that involves the physical traits -- like height or hair color -- you find appealing in a potential partner.
Many of the basic tests are free, although you're likely to get a pitch to buy more detailed reports or to subscribe to a matchmaking service once you fill out a questionnaire.
Tickle.com (http://www.tickle.com), formerly known as Emode.com, is one site that offers about 200 tests whose basic results are available at no charge. Among them is the popular "What Breed of Dog Are You?" quiz. Chihuahuas, for example, are considered energetic, devoted, saucy and intense.
The idea behind Tickle is to tap into people's favorite subject: "themselves," said company founder and Chief Executive James Currier.
"It does it in a way that's scientific, uses the best available research out there as well as makes it fun," he said.
DESIGNED FOR ENTERTAINMENT
Tickle.com's free tests are designed mostly for entertainment. But the company charges $14.95 for a premium service featuring more in-depth, "PhD certified" tests on personality, careers and relationships that the company says are drawn from the latest psychological research. The Web site also offers a matchmaking system based on compatible traits, such as intelligence and values.
Karen Schaefer, 52, an artist in Charlottesville, Virginia, said she has taken many of the personality tests on Tickle.com simply out of curiosity.
She met her fiance, who also is from Charlottesville, through the Web site's matchmaking system last August, a relationship that began with the two discussing the personality tests they both took. They got engaged a couple months later and plan to get married in October.
"I think if you answer the questions honestly, or you take a pretty good stab at it, you can find out as much about yourself that you didn't know as things you did," she said.
Not surprisingly, many experts are skeptical about whether there is any true insight to be gleaned from quizzes available on the Internet.
While answering the questions can be fun, users probably shouldn't rely too much on the scores because in most cases it's not clear how the quizzes are compiled or who is tabulating the results, said Carl Weinberg, a psychoanalyst in New York.
People who use quizzes to find dates online also should beware that many respondents are likely to fib in their responses in an effort to make themselves appear more desirable, Weinberg said. But, he added, self-analysis over the Internet is symbolic of Americans' love of fast results.
"People are looking for a quick answer," he said.
As with many other things on the Web, people should be cautious about how much information they give out online, said Jason Catlett, president and founder of junkbusters.com, a privacy advocacy Web site (http://www.junkbusters.com). But he said he had not heard of any instances of privacy breeches with online quizzes.
Most of the tests are innocuous, but some, like Tickle.com's "Are you Naughty or Nice?" asks questions about some serious matters such as whether respondents have ever shoplifted or used drugs.
Currier said the Web site closely guards customer privacy and does not give users' personal information to third parties.
Schaefer, who says she has no privacy worries about online tests, said she continues to take new quizzes, saying they are always teaching her new things about herself.
"They're fun," she said. "I love to do logic tests -- anything that makes me investigate myself a little more."