Perhaps you already know your IQ. And you probably know your four-letter Myers-Briggs personality type. But we're willing to bet you don't know which General Mills monster cereal you are. Count Chocula? Boo Berry? Frankenberry, perhaps?
In the ceaseless drive to measure ourselves against one another, the Internet has become flooded with tests and quizzes, from serious personality analyses to goofy trivia quizzes. One of the more entertaining is the personality test that poses the question, "Which (fill in the blank) are you?"
Which Shakespearean character are you?
Which Greek goddess are you?
Which Johnny Depp character are you?
Which flavor of ice cream are you?
Which Care Bear are you?
Which New York Times op-ed columnist are you?
It's gotten so bad, there's even a quiz that asks, "Which online personality test are you?"
As with most trends, corporate marketing departments are taking note.
Little Penguin wines, introduced in America last year from Australia, includes a wine personality test on its Web site. (Most people turn out to be merlot.)
The Web site for Arm & Hammer's new kitty litter takes it a step further, including a quiz to determine your cat's personality.
Quizzes, personality and otherwise, are particularly popular with teens, who post results in blogs or online journals, or e-mail them to friends. Many quizzes also compile statistics, so you can compare yourself to other quiz-takers.
You can take -- and create -- quizzes at Web sites with names like Quizfarm and Go-Quiz (whose motto is "Discover useless things you never wanted to know about your life"). There are hundreds of thousands of quizzes archived at Quizilla.com, which boasts that, just last month, it broke the mark of a million quizzes taken in one day.
Most of the quizzes written by teens are, shall we say, a little unsophisticated. "Which of my friends are you most like?" "What item on my desk are you?" "What kind of sock are you?" They also tend to be preoccupied with the opposite sex. "Do you have what it takes to be my boyfriend?" "What's the first letter of the name of the person you'll marry?"
In the pre-wired era, these were the sorts of questions answered by apple stems, folded-paper fortunetellers and Magic 8 Balls.
Not surprisingly, many of the personality quizzes making the rounds right now deal with Harry Potter, most along the lines of, "Which Harry Potter character are you?" or "Which Hogwarts house would you be in?" There are a few interesting variations, such as "Could you resist the Imperius curse?" "Which Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor are you?" and "What would your patronus be?"
Though not as voluminous, there are online tests geared to grown-ups. The Web site SelectSmart.com, which features more than 20,000 "selectors," as it terms its quizzes, is notable for its serious content, ranging from art to history to religion to politics. Not sure whether you prefer expressionism over abstract expressionism? Wondering which church denomination best matches your beliefs? This is the place for you. (Of course, this is also the place to go to determine which household cleaning product you are, or whether or not you're a dork.) SelectSmart garnered lots of press during last year's presidential campaign with an insightful 17-question quiz geared to pick which candidate best matched your policy stands.
CoolQuiz.com is home to myriad trivia quizzes, plus a program to create personalized tests, so that, for instance, you can quiz your childhood friends about growing up together, or your high-school buddies about favorite memories, or your workmates about each other.
At Tickle.com, you can find traditional quizzes on personalities, work styles and relationships, as well as ones like "Which TV mom are you?" and "Which Desperate Housewife are You?" (for those who don't necessarily know or care which Orlando Bloom character they are).
One of the most sophisticated quizzes out there is the Book Quiz, in which you're typed as one of 64 classic books. Most people come up as The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, followed by Watership Down, Love in the Time of Cholera and Lolita. The quiz was an overnight sensation when it debuted last year at the Blue Pyramid (bluepyramid.org), a blog written by 25-year-old Storey Clayton of Oakland, Calif.
Clayton wrote his first quiz, the Country Quiz, in 2003, when he was only six months out of college. He was bored at work one day and getting frustrated with Internet quizzes that had too many questions for too few possible results. After all, it's not much fun to get the same answer as all of your friends.
Instead, Clayton modeled his quiz on the 64-team NCAA college basketball tournament bracket, only in reverse. Start with 64 possible results, then come up with a question to divide them, and so on.
Even though there are 63 total questions in each quiz, takers only need to answer six. The way you answer one question determines which question you're asked next.A student at the University of Texas at Austin actually took all of the quizzes at Blue Pyramid, mapped out each possible result and posted it on her blog. That's more than 300 questions. It took her the better part of a week.
Clayton also wrote a State Quiz (which state are you?) and in June debuted the Animal Quiz (you guessed it: which animal are you?), which has 128 possible answers. Of 52,000 quizzes taken so far, the Top 5 results are hyena, human, lion, spider and T. Rex. The band the Animals comes in at No. 8.
Clayton estimates that, all told, the four quizzes have been taken 5 million times. "Each of them seems to go through a wave of popularity that is as random as the Internet," he said. "The Country Quiz was huge in Taiwan for a while last year."
Next up for Blue Pyramid is, probably, the University Quiz. Due this month is Clayton's first professional quiz, the Trains & Railroads Quiz, written for the RMI Railworks model-railroad company.
Just for the record, Clayton is Ireland, Idaho, The Guns of August and a hyena.
Not that that really means anything, of course. Christie Napa Scollon, a psychology professor at Texas Christian University, lumps such personality quizzes into the same category as astrology and tarot cards. "Unlike the 'Star Wars' test or the ice cream test, valid personality scales rarely reveal information about one's personality that one doesn't already know," she said. "In much the same way that we want a glimpse into the future with astrology, my guess is that part of the appeal of these goofy tests is that we seek to learn something about ourselves that we don't already know, or something that we really want to believe about ourselves."
Clayton sees another aspect of the quizzes' popularity. "In America, we're really obsessed with identity. People, especially those most involved in the Internet, since they tend to be younger, are constantly looking for things to identify with, to define themselves, to latch onto. So along comes the Internet quiz to label them, to box them up and define their personality. But in a very fun, nonthreatening way. And if you don't like your result, you can just disregard it and move on to another quiz that you do like. The Internet can be very democratic that way."
And, well, let's be honest: "They're a fun way to waste time."
Quiz yourself at one of these sites to see who - or what - you are
Never mind who moved my cheese. I want to know what kind of cheese I am. I took several online personality quizzes, starting with the classic Myers-Briggs profile. I'm an ISTJ (introverted, sensing, thinking, judging), i.e., quiet, serious, dependable, practical, organized, loyal, a traditionalist.
The Book Quiz: One of the best-known online quizzes, this is part of a family of smart, funny tests that also includes the Animal Quiz, the State Quiz and the Country Quiz. I start with the Book Quiz, figuring I'm bound to come out as one of my favorites, say The Hobbit or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But no. I am Ulysses. Convinced that I can't possibly be unfathomable, nor lacking in proper punctuation, I take the quiz again. I am the dictionary. I try the Animal Quiz instead. I make my 6-year-old daughter take it first. She is a unicorn. I, well, I am a cobra. Strangely, I begin to feel the need to strike out at somebody. The site: www.bluepyramid.org.
Which "Lord of the Rings" character am I? Sam, the loyal friend of Frodo, who accompanies his master into the heart of Mordor. This is one in a funny family of personality quizzes that includes Muppets, "Star Trek," "Star Wars," The Simpsons and "Austin Powers" characters. www.matthewbarr.co.uk.
Which "Star Wars" character am I? Qui-Gon Jinn, "strong-willed, level-headed, just a plain old good guy." Great graphics and very funny questions, including, "If you had to ruthlessly murder a 'Star Trek' fan, how would you do it?" www.liquidgeneration.com/quiz/starwars_quiz.asp.
Which dead Russian composer am I? Dmitri Shostakovich, "a shy, nervous, unassuming, fidgety and stuttery little person" who made Stalin's enemies list but survived. A very funny and slyly educational quiz. www.doppelgriff.com/russian.
Which cheese am I? String cheese. I'm mild and pliable. www.selectsmart.com/FREE/select.php?client=whatcheese.
Which Winnie-the-Pooh character am I? Kanga, "warm, loving, great with children." Well, except for that cobra thing I've got going. www.quizmeme.com/poohpersonality/quiz.php.
For a good search directory of online tests, both serious and not, try AllTheTests.com.
Your personality is an open book
So what exactly are these Internet quizzes like, you wonder? We went to bluepyramid.org to find out what kind of book we were. Here, we show the six questions we were asked and how we responded. At the end is our novel status.
Are you long-winded or concise?
a. Well, I do tend to go on and on and on and . . .
Odds or evens?
Are you a child at heart?
Do you know where you're going?
Do you spend more time teaching or learning?
Are you confident?
What book we are:
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Bright, chipper, vivid, but with the emotional fortitude of cottage cheese, you make quite an impression on everyone you meet. You're impulsive, rash, honest and probably don't have a great relationship with your parents. People hurt your feelings constantly, but your brazen honesty doesn't exactly treat others with kid gloves. Ultimately, though, you win the hearts and minds of everyone that matters. You spell your name with an E and you want everyone to know about it.
-- Lisa Davis