Which shape will turn you into a zombie?

Will this personality test make you insane?

This new Internet quiz claims measure your brain's affective response system. It might also make you crazy


Drew Grant
April 8, 2011 2:08AM (UTC)

Who doesn't like to take online personality tests? They are like horoscopes or fortune cookies: you don't put that much stock in them (unless you do), but it's always fun to get results that promise some insight into yourself.

Which is what make the Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Diagnostic so damn creepy. At first, it has all the trappings of an actual psych study, with 20 questions asking you to pick "A" or "B" as their answers best correspond to different shapes on the screen. The test's objective, according to the site:

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"...is an exploration of your brain's affective response system. Nonverbal, emotional reactions to shape tableau will target the portion of your brain that is intuitive and pre-lingual. The associated questions should be answered without tying theses shapes to any narrative or storyline...."

Simple enough, right? And at first, the only thing disconcerting about the test is a mild, fuzzy strobe light effect that accompanies each shape as you answer questions like "Which of these circles is angry?" and "Which location is unsafe?" (Um, I don't know...the triangle, I guess?)

Pretty soon though, the "test" becomes even more unsettling, asking "Which shapes are diseased?" and "Where is the sin?" The strobe effect seems to be speed up as well, until by the time you are given your analysis there's a good chance you might be experiencing some of the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder yourself. The "results" of your answers seem arbitrary and innocuous. Mine read:

Your power comes from an ability to sense how things might be and to proclaim this possibility with a great force and willingness to act. You have a tendency to be romantic, and can be an idealist. This sense of how the world can be is often expressed with self-deprecatory humor. Because of your need to address the immediacy of the moment, you may not think things through to their logical end, relying instead on a feeling for how a situation SHOULD end.

I doubted my choice of "A" or "B" to the question "Has the nightmare just begun?" had little bearing on that assessment, so I took the test again, picking all the same answers. I got the same result. Then I chose "A" instead of "B" on the last question. This time I got:

Often concerned with right and wrong, and punctilious in expressing it, you are best represented by the Customs Agent or the IRS inspector. Initially seen by others as cold or uncaring, you are difficult for those more spontaneous members of society to understand. You are extremely stable, responsible and dependable. You manifest an amazing ability to concentrate on the issue at hand, and are difficult to distract from issues that are important. You manifest a great sense of loyalty to your employers and your government.

Well, maybe the test could tell I was just phoning it in. There's no results for a "Pierley" psych method on the Internet, but in 1934 there was a famous study called "La Piere," which looked at the relationship between people's attitudes and their behavior.  Over on the forum Metafilter.com, a commenter found a link between the site's responses and those of the famous Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire:

Hitting A on question 1 will give you an EXtrovert point. B will give you an INtrovert point. After question 20, tabulate() sees whether you have more EXtroversion or INtroversion, more THinking or FEeling, more SEnse or INTuition, and more JUdgement or PEreception.

Even the "assesments" read similarly to Myers-Briggs. Here's the reading of a "Whirlwind" personality as described by Myers-Briggs:  

The whirlwind lives in the physical world; it receives its power from the machinations of the physical world and yet is not of the world. Its power comes from the whirlwind’s ability to sense how things might be and to proclaim this possibility with a great force and willingness to act. … The whirlwind has a tendency to be romantic, and can often be an idealist. This sense of how the world can be is often expressed with self-deprecatory humor, which can alleviate some of the tensions that might arise from such idealism. Because of the whirlwind’s need to address the immediacy of the moment, often it may not think things through to their logical end, relying instead on its feeling for how a situation SHOULD end.

Notice how that's almost the exact same wording as the "assessment" I first received? Still, this test isn't Myers-Briggs, since those results were based on actual questions, not nightmare shapes. So it's still totally unclear what the point of this test is, except to make my eyes bleed and have a sudden urge to become a Communist whenever someone shows me a Queen of Hearts.

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Drew Grant

Drew Grant is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @videodrew.

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