The Science of Quizzes

Human psychology is extraordinarily complex, which is why personality tests that try to jam everyone into black and white categories don't work very well. But there are ways that we can accurately measure a person's characteristics.

People fit into a spectrum in many different dimensions and the traditional way to measure these are with the “Big Five”: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

Quiz Insight uses these and other factors to tease out subtle differences in the test-taker. But if you really want to understand why these tests work, consider that in every ecosystem, there’s a top predator, a secondary predator, a variety of herbivores (ranging in size from tiny to huge), burrowing animals, and even flying animals. This is because species must evolve to exploit food sources or defense mechanisms.

The interesting thing is that these patterns repeat themselves. In Australia for example -- where marsupials are the primary mammalian fauna – the principal herbivores are kangaroo, the secondary herbivores are wallabies; there are tree-dwellers (koalas), burrowers (wombats), marsupial carnivores (bandicoots, Tasmanian Devils and even extinct marsupial lions), and “flying” marsupials (sugar gliders and flying squirrels).

Because humans are an ecosystem unto themselves, we each find a niche to accommodate our physical, mental and emotional makeup. And for many reasons, these niches mirror those found in the natural world. We may think we’re one kind of person, but often find ourselves behaving surprisingly differently in aggressive or competitive contexts.

Our tests employ the algorithms first used in the bestselling book The Animal in You (St. Martin’s Press), which explored how biological and social pressures conspire to shape our personalities.

After entering your scores, the test builds a proprietary mathematical profile. Each question is assigned a different weight depending on how other questions are answered. Extreme attributes are weighted exponentially higher, because some characteristics are more important when combined with others. A big man that is shy and gentle is a completely different personality from a man who’s tiny and shy.

Over 20 million people have taken our tests, and while they’re obviously not meant to be taken too seriously, judging from the thousands of emails we receive, many people are thinking about themselves in a new light. Which can't be a bad thing since thinking is always good.