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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Rationality: A Case Study

December 17, 2004

Um. So I have this book called The Psychologist's Book of Self-Tests by Dr. Louis Janda. I came across it last night and I thought, "Hey I'll take a test, just for a lark!" So I flipped through, passing the "Who Controls Your Fate?" test and the "What Do You Think About Sex" test in order to take a quiz that I was certain would prove to be interesting. It was the "How Rational Is Your View of the World?" test.

Now, I don't know if you've noticed but quite of few of my posts seem to follow this pattern: a) Moira thinks something is an okay idea. b) Moira does it. c) Moira realizes said thing was actually a really bad idea and decides to write about it. This post is no different.

No. I found myself really wishing that I had -not- taken this test for about ... 10 minutes. Maybe longer. Because apparently, and I didn't know this, my view of the world is totally irrational. We're talkin' off the charts crazy!

People who scored a 30 were in the 85% percentile. Now, I don't know about you, but I needed to refresh my memory on those damn percentiles.

"I'm sure you all remember percentiles from all those achievement tests you took in school, but let me refresh your memory anyway. A percentile score tells you how you compare to the standardization sample and, by inference, to the rest of society. So if you have a percentile score of 15, that means that your score is equal to or higher than the scores of 15 percent of the people who take this test." (Dr. Louis Janda The Psychologist's Book of Self-Tests )

So where were we? Oh yeah... People who scored a 30 were in the 85% percentile. A score of 26 landed you in the 50th percentile. A score of 22 was the 15th percentile.

I got a 13.

Oh man!!! You know what this means? "People with low scores are likely to accept a variety of assertations from others uncritically."

So I'm irrational. That means that my belief that Jewish aliens with green-tinted skin are at this very moment circling the globe waiting for a safe time to land is irrational. Oh wait. I don't really believe that. (crosses my fingers... just in case) [Name That Reference!]

Anyway, I was very upset about the results of this quiz. So I tried to get my friends to assure me that that I was, in fact, a quite rational individual, and when they simply rolled their eyes at me, well, I wasn't happy. So I ate some more cheese curls and I started to think.

What the hell does it mean to be "rational" anyway? Does being just like everybody else in the frickin' world make me "rational"? Do I really want to be "rational" in a world that has obviously gone completely bizerk? Maybe. I wasn't sure.

Rational*

adj.


  1. Having or exercising the ability to reason.

  2. Of sound mind; sane.

  3. Consistent with or based on reason; logical: rational behavior.


Sane
adj. san·er, san·est
  1. Of sound mind; mentally healthy: “their protector, the strongest and sanest of them all” (Pat Conroy).

  2. Having or showing sound judgment; reasonable.



rea·son
n.

  1. The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence.
    Good judgment; sound sense.

  2. A normal mental state; sanity: He has lost his reason



sound
adj. sound·er, sound·est

  1. Compatible with an accepted point of view; conservative.

ooooohhh. I get it!

Okay. To be "rational" is to be "of sound mind" or "sane." To be "sane" is to be "of sound mind." The definition of sound used as an adverb is "compatible with an accepted point of view; conservative." To be "rational" is also to be "reasonable," or to exist in a "normal mental state" or to be "sane."

Two more dictionary entries and I swear I'll stop:

nor·mal

adj.


  1. Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical: normal room temperature; one's normal weight; normal diplomatic relations.

  2. Relating to or characterized by average intelligence or development.

  3. Free from mental illness; sane.


con·ser·va·tive

adj.


  1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

  2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.

  3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

Screw it! Who wants to be "rational" anyway?!? I'll take my "crappy" score on the Rational test and I'll wear it proudly. I'm "crazy," yo. Check it.

...

Strangely enough the entire "How Rational is Your View of the World" test is available online, along with a very patient explanation on how to score the test... hah! If anyone else takes it, you should tell me your score, even anoymously, just to satisfy my irrational curiousity. Thank you. And good night.

* dictionary.com

Moira at 10:56 PM :: Comments (3) :: « :: »
Comments:

Guess I failed that test! ;') But, really you can't measure sanity by conformity to the social norms or deviations. In fact it is healthy to disagree with social norms or even agree with them because they don't say much about your rationality.

I think I'll go and indulge in "irrational" behaviors such as caring what others think of me, believing that people are morally obligated to help their fellow man, and believing that crime (including sexual crime) exists.

Oh, and by the way, if you think it's logical to believe that sexual predation is not pervasive, one out of twenty women have experienced some form of sexual assault.

Posted by: Evan at December 17, 2004 11:46 PM

Hmmmm... Interesting test. They're testing emotional responses, thinking in terms of absolutes, and how closely people agree with certain "cultural norms". (I can't identify where they're getting the norms from.)

I guess they're trying to test how strongly people are influenced by their own emotions and by what others want them to think.

Based on that, I think you're looking at definition #2 when the test is more about definition #3. A better definition would be:
"Influenced by reasoning rather than by emotion".

It's not about how sane you are, but how easily you can be swayed by your own emotions. (I bet the cultural norms they are using are strongly tied to certain emotional responses and the lack of critical thinking about the norms).

Posted by: Ron Zeno at December 20, 2004 05:33 PM

I made my friend (a woman) take the quiz and she scored only slightly higher than me. I've decided that the test is gender biased.

Aside from that, I've decided that I don't care if the rest of the world considers me rational or not... I'm doing alright. Mostly. Except for that troll in my closet...

Posted by: moira at December 25, 2004 10:43 AM
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