the personality test: a quick walkthrough

(UPDATE: Looking over these explanations, you might conclude that this test is all about social ease, whether or not you are settled into a routine, and whether or not you enjoy analyzing things. This is exactly why it’s a bad idea to create a rubric. In the context of other answers, a lot of the questions on those topics take on new dimensions.)

So, this was interesting: my disclaimer didn’t work. I got a comment as well as emails and chat messages asking for some way of measuring the results of the Quantum-Botticelli Test.

We’re used to being able to score personality tests after taking them, and we’re used to being able to do so without revealing to anybody else, unless we wish to, how we answered each question. This, however, creates two problems. First of all, it means that the meaning of each answer cannot be affected by any other answer. In real life, however, individual reactions and preferences are very much part of a larger personal and social fabric.

Second, it means that the test creator develops a map of human personalities, and places every respondent somewhere within it. A new category cannot spring into existence, simultaneously, based on a surprising set of test results. Not only is this problematic from an ethical standpoint, it can also be really unsatisfying, as anyone who’s gotten a “weak” result on a personality test can tell you. If I’m “a little” introverted, does that make me somehow less of a personality, perhaps even slightly less real, than somebody who is strongly introverted?

Thus, no rubric. I can, however, explain the thinking behind each question. While this won’t come anywhere close to the “result” I would get from looking at an actual set of answers (matched to the questions), it might give you a rough idea of how I’d proceed. Let’s start with some general observations.

The general methodology

The test isn’t complete. 31 questions was an arbitrary number. I intentionally stopped at an unsatisfying number (rather than 30, for example) to indicate that the test is not complete, and in a sense, can’t be completed either. If it could, then after a certain point, people would be finished learning about each other, which they never are.

This test doesn’t try to understand the structures of your thought — for example, I want nothing to do with the Meyers-Briggs distinction between “thinking” and “perceiving.” As a pragmatist, I consider that completely undeterminable. How am I supposed to guess how holistic your thought-perceptions may be? Asking you doesn’t help, either, since I think most people are capable of imagining either sort of thought, and of picking the one they idealize more, which is precisely the kind of fudging the test should try to circumvent.

I didn’t include any questions where, for me, the answer would overshadow every other result. Thus no questions about the murders you may or may not have committed, for example. Likewise, no questions with right answers; regardless of my answer, I made sure I could think of somebody I respected who’d go the other way.

The sequencing of the answer choices was as consistent as I could make it. Every “yes/no” question presented “yes” and “no” in the same order. Likewise, for every question involving an amount, the answer choices were in ascending order.

Your results on the test are supposed to be alterable over time. Most patently, if you start or stop drinking coffee, that will affect your answer to #23, and that in turn will affect your overall results. People actually do change, quite frequently and quite a bit, and there’s very little sense in making a test where the results don’t change along with them.

Finally, this walkthrough is based on my own life experiences, and (like the questions themselves) should be taken with a great deal of pink Himalayan salt. If you see things differently, speak up in the comments section! I might well leave myself a comment one or ten years from now.

The walkthrough

1. Icy water

This was meant to be a fun question and a bit of an icebreaker (ha!). It’s really a question about how you respond to anxiety: do you slow down or go on the attack? Personally, I ease in.

2. Rebellion, wildness, “crazy” experiences

One of the more decisive questions on the test, because it’s such an important divide in our society. Probably most people will answer “frequently,” but if you don’t, that’s huge.

3. Quoting

A question about how much you like analysis and abstraction. Also, a question about how much you seek out humor. People who like to make jokes also like to quote funny stuff; it’s what they do when they can’t think of something original.

4. Illness

Being chronically ill has a major impact on one’s life, and changes the correct interpretation of many other answers. This is true regardless of why one is ill, or whether the illness is physical or mental. It is not wrong to answer (a). I can’t stand the practice of blaming people for their illnesses.

5. E-mail

This is really a question about how many different parts combine to make the whole of your life. If you live a complexly distributed existence, or are in a period of transition, you accumulate e-mail addresses. Otherwise, it’s easier to have just one or two. (Note: spam catcher email addresses, created for online shopping, don’t count.)

6. Talking about the future

Partly a test of how much you like abstractions, partly a test of how settled you are. If you are pretty certain about the future, you’ll tend to think more about concrete things. Of course, the question deals with materialism versus idealism, but I haven’t met anybody who’s purely one or the other.

7. Personal hero

A question about how certain you are of your values, as embodied in your hero. If you’re quite certain about them, they may be more conventional, but there are endless exceptions to that rule.

8. Volunteering

A question about how invested you are in your immediate community. Not volunteering isn’t a sign that you’re a selfish person; it just means you put your energies elsewhere.

9. Talking about ancient history

A question about how invested you are in making sense of your past, and in having a “story” that explains you. Lord knows I am — I blog about it.

10. Extended family

Everybody values family, but not everyone is in close touch with a lot of extended family. Those who are, spend correspondingly less time on other peripheral relationships, which in turn affects their circle of acquaintances, how they spend holidays, and much else.

11. New technology

In the context of other answers, this speaks to how settled you are and what your ambitions might be. Still slightly age- and gender-biased, but less so all the time.

12. Fashion

The major hedonism question on the test; to a lesser degree, a question about your level of concern with how you are perceived by others. If you think hard-partying dudes are hedonists who don’t care about fashion, I beg you to consider Steven Tyler.

13. Remembering your dreams

There’s only one way to remember your dreams, and that’s by working at it. Otherwise, you naturally forget them. If you replay dreams in your head or keep a dream journal, the chances are good that “dreaming” (in every sense) means something to you, and that’s significant.

14. Keeping a detailed calendar

If you’re really pushing yourself (or under significant work pressure at a broadly defined job), you are generally going to keep a calendar, because your schedule would be unmanageable otherwise. That doesn’t mean “yes” is the right answer. All that stress, over a lifetime, takes an incredible toll.

15. Not being superstitious

A test for rationalism; if you’re highly invested in being rational, that affects a lot about your social life, and probably narrows down your occupation. (Not a test of actual rationality!)

16. Sports

A test of social ease. Most people who are fairly relaxed in social situations follow sports of some kind, at least here in the States. It’s not simply being able to talk about them; it’s something they pick up from their various connections.

17. Morning/night person

A contextual question. Affects how one might interpret other answers; that’s all. For example, both morning people and night people like fashion, but not always the same fashions.

18. Shyness

A test of confidence. Since confidence tends to be self-reinforcing, self-perceptions are more useful in this case. If personality tests studying introversion/extroversion had no questionable motives, they’d present questions like this, and be over in two minutes.

19. Concluding a letter to a friend

A question about how much you like analyzing stuff, and to what extent analysis forms part of the basis of your friendships. To a lesser extent, a question about how much you enjoy writing; if you don’t like doing it, you won’t write many letters, and the letters you do write will therefore tend to be more personal (holidays, romances, etc). But that depends on context.

20. Bad radio show vs. traffic jam

A question about how much “stupidity” bothers you. It bothers everyone, but not everyone takes it equally seriously, especially compared to something physical that is actively stalling them.

21. The slowest part of the day

A question about numerous things: how much do you like your job, as opposed to your leisure hours? How easy is it for you to settle in and be productive in the morning? How much sleep are you getting, relative to what you need? Do you like to work in short or long bursts?

22. On breathing

The “spirituality question.” If you are a religious or spiritual person, you probably attach some significance to breath. If not, probably not.

23. Coffee

In my experience, coffee drinkers tend to be more high-strung, though this is less true in older persons. It’s as much because of natural affinity as it is because of the caffeine itself. In some cases, as with a person who keeps a detailed calendar and doesn’t drink coffee, the semi-discrepancy can merit a closer look.

24. How much is new?

A question about how settled you are, but also a question about how dramatically you interpret the events of your life, especially when talking about them to another person.

25. Doodling

A lot of creative people doodle, though not all of them do (or still do). A test of goofiness/silliness, albeit to a lesser extent.

26. Human laziness

The closest thing to a “political” question on the test; more conservative people tend to believe that laziness is a common and severe human weakness. It also helps predict, for example, how alike you think people are.

27. Exotic punctuation

A question about how much you enjoy reading and writing; if you do enjoy it, you’ll tend to use more diverse punctuation in order to have more range of expression. There are exceptions, including the notable one of Hemingway, and people who use a lot of exclamation points (though actually, in my experience, a lot of them love to write).

28. Getting mail

A question about how generally happy and satisfied you are. Although a lot of mail has now been converted to e-mail, it’s significant whether you’re looking forward to opening your mailbox, or dreading it.

29. Getting out of the house

A question about how social you are, including hobbies. (Different from a test of social ease, though.) Certainly, some hobbies and social events happen at home. If you spend a lot of time on those — for example, reading or playing games — that greatly affects the rest of your life.

30. Managing people

The “leadership” question. People who are leaders end up leading, essentially because they really want to do it, and nobody else does. It’s not especially useful to ask whether people see themselves as leaders or not, for a variety of reasons, including that “being a leader” is one of the best-known “prizes” at the end of personality tests, and so people will fudge.

31. The imaginary restaurant

A question about self-esteem, and one’s baseline level of excitement over new things; to a lesser extent, a question about vanity and willingness to conform. Very context-dependent.

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