Illustration for article titled Amuse Yourself with This Vintage Pseudoscience Personality Test

The internet is filled to the brim with personality tests like, "What kind of flavored potato chip are you?" In the old days, we had to get our pseudoscience personality tests the hard way, through literature and word-of-mouth. I finally tracked down one test that made the rounds at my school for years.


A husband and wife live on one side of a river. They're happy together, but the wife has a secret lover on the other side of the river whom she runs to every time the husband is away. She just can't resist him. When the husband goes on a business trip, the wife pleads with him to stay, knowing she won't be able to stay away from her lover. The husband refuses. She then begs him to let her come on the trip with him. He refuses again, and the wife goes to her lover when he's away.

On the morning when her husband is to return, the wife leaves her lover's house and goes to the bridge to cross the river and return to her own house. On the bridge she sees a assassin who will kill her. She runs from the bridge, down to the side of the river, and asks a boatman to take her across. The boatman asks for a huge sum of money. The wife doesn't have it, and goes back to her lover to ask him for the money. The lover also refuses, saying its her responsibility. After a lot of pleading with everyone, the wife runs across the bridge, and is killed.


The cast of characters in this little drama is - husband, wife, assassin, lover, boatman. List the characters in order you consider them responsible for the wife's death.

Illustration for article titled Amuse Yourself with This Vintage Pseudoscience Personality Test

If you're wondering what this is, it's a "personality test" that's been driving me nuts for years. These days personality tests riddle the internet, but this one was going around my middle school, often in garbled form. Kids debated intensely about who was the most and least responsible for the wife's death, especially when they found out what each of the characters represented. I thought it was some kind of psychology study. Only recently, when I thought of typing infinite combinations of the different terms on the test into Google, did I find out where it really originated. The story is from The Pigman, a young adult novel from Paul Zindel. This was from the era when young adult novels pretty much only appealed to young adults, and featured everyday teens learning about life and about themselves, rather than saving the dystopian world or becoming vampires. I rather miss that era.

Which is why, for fun, we are doing what might be the original bullshit personality test - the one that started them all. Did you play along and list the characters in order? I listed assassin, lover, wife, boatman, husband, although sometimes I vacillate and list boatman before wife. Each character is supposed to represent a different quality, and the order of the list is supposed to represent how important each quality is in your life.


Assassin = Money

Lover = Sex

Wife = Fun

Boatman = Magic

Husband = Love

That paints a rather harsh portrait of my character, I have to say. And all because I think that the person who stabbed a lady is most responsible for her death.


I post this both to see who else had this test going around their school and because I find it telling that during my time in school I learned two different versions of this. In one, the killer is an assassin, paid to kill the woman, and represents money. In another, the killer is a murderer, driven by compulsion to kill whoever comes by. Although I still think he's most responsible for the death, if he represents mental compulsion, I have a lot sympathy for him. Does that mean I value mental drive more than money, or less?

And does anyone have a line-up of personality traits more repulsive than mine?

[Via Who Did It?]


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