"Do you belong to Gryffindor or Slytherin?" "What color is your aura?" "See what your favorite type of cheese says about you!" We know it's undeniable: People love online personality quizzes. It's not always obvious why, but we seem to be drawn to any cluster of questions that's posted on social media as long as it carries a catchy title and a guarantee of providing some insight into the one person we already know pretty well — ourselves.
The most curious part about our collective obsession with figuring out which Game of Thrones character we are is that, most of the time, we go into each quiz with the expectation that its results will be entirely inaccurate, because how could four questions tell me more about myself than I've been able to glean in 29 years of inner dialogue and painstaking over-analysis of my own thoughts? Yet, we take that quiz anyway — we take it with reckless abandon — ready to emerge from the haze of our lives with, at minimum, the distinct clarity that can only be brought by the affirmation that green is, indeed, our favorite color, having left nothing more than a pile of discarded multiple choice answers and a few wasted minutes in our wake. It's all reward with no risk, and when you're done, you can share those results with your friends, so that's fun.
If you want to know what weird and inbred dog you are, you guessed it, there's even a quiz for that, but, you probably knew you were a harlequin great dane already.
So, why is it that these online quizzes are so insanely addictive? Why can't we resist their allure? Here are three possible reasons.
1. We need to know our hero's story.
The most obvious reason we take any online quiz is that they appeal to our deepest narcissistic predilections. Narcissism isn't a bad thing, necessarily, it's an irrefutable facet of humanity: We are, after all, the center of our own universes. When it comes to any quiz that promises to tell us something about ourselves, psychological experts believe this appeals to our need to be narrative biographers. We are the heroes in our own story, and receiving affirmation about our preferences and tendencies helps us write the book of who we are, where we're going, and what it all means... to us, of course.
2. They make the subjective objective.
The quizzes we take allow us to place ourselves in easily recognizable categories. If we get instant feedback from a quiz that tells us we are fun and spunky, or have a quiet confidence that people are drawn to, it's not a personal assessment of ourselves, it's a legitimate reinforcement of our own beliefs from a third party. This makes the results of an online test, at times, more validating than our own opinions of ourselves.
"I took X test, it told me Y, therefore I can continue to believe I'm a kick-ass individual with some very unique qualities." See? Very validating.
3. Test results allow us to bond with people, or stand out as individuals.
When you hit "Share!" on your quiz results, there's one thing on your mind — feedback. Even if you don't care what people think about you as a Twin Peaks character, you had a reaction to the results, and it's important in that moment that others know what those results were, whether or not you agree with them. In a sense, sharing your results is providing your own feedback on them. And what if your Facebook friend was also Josie Packard at the end of that quiz? It's likely you'll both have a moment of true oneness in the comments section discussing it and virtually high-fiving each other over your newly minted Dynamic Duo status. (Full disclosure: Josie was my result. Shoutout to my fellow femme fatales.)
Conversely, maybe none of your acquaintances got your result. Congrats, my friend, you are a lone wolf, a real trailblazer, and definitely cut from a different cloth. Chances are, you've been described as all these things before, but now that you took that quiz, you can be secure in this belief.
The popularity of online quizzes has grown exponentially in recent years, and it doesn't feel like it will be slowing down any time soon. Personally, this does not bother me in the least. While I don't take many of them, it's always comforting to know that the next time I suffer a late-night identity crisis, an anonymous group of armchair psychologists have crafted a quiz that will settle my uneasy brain as quickly as I can perform a Google search.
When you aren't sure where life is taking you, or whether your ex was right about your career choices, just remember: You are the grilled cheese, you belong at Yale, and everything's going to be OK.