Test Your Personality: Check Your Mood - Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein

Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein (2016)

Chapter 4. Test Your Personality: Check Your Mood

The Coexistence Scales

Devised by Will Hobson

People have their own ideas of how day-to-day life works, patterns of existence with which they are comfortable. For those who live alone, these flourish in isolation. They may be tested against rules of thumb, such as “everything in moderation, including moderation,” evolving slowly under the effects of reflection. But they enter a new phase when people start to cohabit and compare at first hand the way they do things. Negotiation, compromise, and revelation enter the picture.

One way to depict this process is to imagine a type of behavior as a spectrum or scale, with extreme variants at each end. People can take turns saying where they think they are on the scale and then, by answering questions about concrete examples of behavior on this spectrum, demonstrate what this means.

Five scales follow: Sociability, Flexibility, Empathy, Communication, and Ego. In some cases, there’s a question as to whether there should be more than one scale since so many things are involved, but ideally this will further stimulate conversation.


Friend of men, and enemy of almost every man he had to do with.

—Thomas Carlyle on the Marquis de Mirabeau, who wrote the treatise L’ami des hommes (1759)


1. If you read the morning paper, do you think of it as a solitary activity or an occasion for conversation and observations about the world?

2. Have you ever, like Beau Brummel, accepted an invitation on condition that your host promises not to tell anyone you have done so?

3. What is your view of Sir Alex Ferguson’s comment, “Kenny Dalglish has associates, but only a few friends. There’s nothing wrong with that because, at the end of the day, you only need six people to carry your coffin”?

4. Do you often need to lie down after visiting/being visited?

5. If someone can’t say something nice, would you, like Roseanne Barr, probably like them?

6. What’s the highest number of times you’ve changed your outfit in a night?

7. Do you hide when the doorbell rings? Or the telephone?

8. Do you prepare notes of things to talk about?

9. Have you ever stayed too long at the fair?

10. Do you believe that laughing for no reason, as the Russian proverb has it, makes you a fool?


One is merely a cork. You must let yourself go along in life like a cork in the current of the stream.

—Auguste Renoir


1. When you go to bed, do you expect everyone else to follow suit?

2. Do you ever turn off the lights in a room without checking if someone is in there first?

3. Have you ever redecorated someone’s home without them asking?

4. How many times a day do you say “I’m so busy”?

5. Do you tend to do the easiest, most pragmatic thing—keep your mobile phone in your bra/sock, for instance—or do you like things to be just so?

6. Do you put everything on hold while you mull an idea over?

7. Do you like to go with the flow, see where it leads you?

8. Do you ever signal that you want people to leave by picking up a broom and sweeping energetically or taking off your shoes and starting to undress for bed?

9. Do you get anxious if your routine changes?

10. Do you constantly make remarks about people’s clothes or lives, either out of concern or otherwise?


Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill): Have you no human consideration? Margo Channing (Bette Davis): Show me a human, and I might have!

From All About Eve, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz


1. Are you good at giving people the chance to be nice?

2. Do you think unhappiness is contagious?

3. Do you see good manners, as Jonathan Swift said, as the art of putting people at their ease?

4. Given their reliability, are you ever tempted to prefer objects to people?

5. When someone is sharing something painful with you, do you
a) avoid eye contact? b) interrupt? c) change the subject? d) tell them it’s not the end of the world? e) compare their experiences with yours? f) look at the TV/your phone? g) immediately give practical advice? h) try not to do any of the above?

6. How entitled do you feel? Do you, for instance, always assume everyone will be able to afford to eat at a restaurant of your choosing?

7. Is there someone you secretly dread to whom you are similar?

8. Do you think shyness is an essential part of growing up, a sort of protective fluid that allows personalities to develop properly?

9. Emil White entitled one of his paintings Strangers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Own Loneliness! Could that ever be what you feel?

10. To change perspective entirely, would you be more inclined to go into the desert or to surround yourself with animals?


It’s impossible not to communicate. You cannot be for or against it. You can only do it more or less well—by your own standards or by other people’s—but you can’t not do it.

—Adam Phillips, Monogamy, 1996


1. Do you have a safe word? If so, is it as sublime as that of John Cena’s character in the film Sisters, whose safe word is “keep going”?

2. Would great nastiness make your life easier? Specifically, do you find yourself saying “yes” to other people because, as the artist Thomas Schütte has said, “You don’t have to explain a yes”?

3. Do you think the ideal time to announce your big news—engagement, pregnancy, etc.—is someone else’s big day?

4. What are the mixed messages you most like to give?

5. If you had slept with ten thousand people, would you, like Georges Simenon, put this down to a need to communicate?

6. Do you feel emotions welling up in you but think that expressing them would “rock the boat”?

7. Do you talk to your reflection in the mirror
a) ever? b) occasionally? c) so habitually it could have a sign saying “We Meet Again”?

8. Do you feel human-robot interactions—at supermarket self-service checkouts, for instance—should be
a) more human-friendly? b) more robot-friendly? c) avoided?

9. How many unsent emails are there in your drafts folder?

10. Groucho Marx said of S. J. Perelman’s Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge, “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.” Do you have a similar way with pleasantries?


At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.

—Salvador Dalí


1. Would you, like Herbert Lom, be tempted to choose as one of your records for Desert Island Discs an eight-minute standing ovation for yourself? Or, like Otto Preminger, your autobiography as your book?

2. Given how averse most people are to confrontation, do you think it makes sense to be as temperamental as possible?

3. When you have people over, would you consider entertaining them by reading out extracts from your long and ever-changing will?

4. Do you, like Napoleon in Woody Allen’s Love and Death, have a “great walk”?

5. Have you ever responded, “Fine,” when someone’s asked you to do something, when “fine” is the last thing it could ever be?

6. Have you ever sat on a piano to make your legs look long?

7. Have you ever banned someone from being in a photograph with you because they’re not attractive enough?

8. Do you take a selfie of yourself every night to preserve the moment?

9. After your death is there a chance you might become a god?

10. Like Ronnie Scott, are you never wrong except on the very rare occasions when you’ve thought you were wrong but you weren’t?


Personality Inventory: What Comes from Whom? This page and the one opposite were devised for the Identity exhibition at the Wellcome Trust in 2009.


Personality Tree: Starting from the bottom, fill in the names relevant to you until you reach yourself at the top.

The Story Test

This is a type of test that has been popular with many diagnosticians, for purposes similar to those behind the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The test entails inventing a story with alternative possibilities of development. The story here, adapted from a real test, has much in common with John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, which, interestingly, came to him in a dream.

This is the most simple type of story test, at each point offering only a limited number of ways to progress. Turn to page 184 for interpretations.

1. Imagine that you are entering a forest.
Is it light or dark?
Do you see a path?

2. Begin walking through the forest.
You see a cup. What does it look like?
What do you do with it?

3. You continue through the forest and come across water.
What does the water look like?
Is it moving?
How deep is it?
You need to cross the water. How do you do this?

4. You then encounter a bear.
What sort of bear is it?
What is it doing?
You need to carry on. How do you get around the bear?

5. You reach a clearing. You can see a beach.
Can you see any people?
If so, how far away are they?


Moods: Which constellation are you visiting today? Whichever it is, are you on every planet? Things could get worse (or better).

The Feeling Test

Psychotherapists and counselors often present their clients with an image, asking them to identify, at the moment of asking, with one or another of the figures whose various attitudes may seem to represent prevailing moods or dispositions. This test may provide some indication of your present condition of self-awareness or self-esteem, and even if treated with a degree of wry and self-reflexive irony it may stimulate thoughtful reflection and commentary useful to the therapy.

This test is still widely used.

The drawing on the facing page, by an unknown psychologist, is a version popular among therapists.

All other versions are by the artist Adam Dant.




The Shopping Mall: Which figure do you identify with? Turn to page 184.


The House of Personalities: Which figure are you? Turn to page 184.


The Climbing Frame: Which figure are you? Turn to page 185.

Modern Life Frustrations Test

We live in a world that constantly finds ways to frustrate us. Television, magazines, films, and advertising (especially advertising) present us with an interminably perfect image of things impossible to achieve: we’ll never be as beautiful, as rich, as perfectly dressed, or as happy as those who inhabit the looking-glass world of screen and glossy page. We know that, of course, and though it doesn’t stop us dreaming, we live, more or less happily, with the realities of our everyday existence. But the everyday of modern life provides us with a multitude of ordinary frustrations, to which we may respond in a variety of ways—with varying degrees of aggression, for example, or with other quite different defense mechanisms, such as a tendency often to take the blame for the situation on ourselves, or to deny that we have been inconvenienced or frustrated at all.

Adam Dant’s comic sequence, which follows, is inspired by a famous projective test developed by the psychologist Saul Rosenzweig, the purpose of which is to gauge the extent of a subject’s aggression in response to commonplace frustrations. The test consists of a number of cartoon images featuring two figures, one responsible for a situation that induces frustration or annoyance in the other, and whose utterance intensifies it, and the other whose empty speech bubble invites the subject to provide a verbal response. Degrees of latent aggression would be judged in accordance with the type of responses exhibited (whether recurrently aggressive or nonaggressive, or apologetic, or denying frustration) and the direction of aggression (outward toward the “frustrater” or inward toward the self). These ways of reacting may well link to the bias toward extraversion or introversion in the subject’s personality.

Adopting the format of the test, Dant’s sequence picks up humorously on the many and various annoying events which conspire to create irritation and frustration as commonplace aspects of any average “day in the life.” You may find yourself tending, characteristically, to respond in one way or another, or find that your responses vary according to the nature of the scenario or your mood. It has to be said that some of these situations might try the patience of a saint, and justifiably bring out the devil in you, and that in others, sweet reason may inspire saintly forbearance.


Three images from the twenty-four in the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study (1978). The variations on this theme on pages 108-11 were created by Adam Dant.






The Wilson-Patterson Attitude Inventory (WPAI), 1975, designed to measure people’s attitude to conservatism