For the record, I’m a grilled cheese sandwich who should have attended Yale and should live in South Africa. I’m also Dumbledore, Led Zeppelin and a tiny turtle on a skateboard.
As ludicrous as that list might sound, chances are, if you’re on social media, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Online personality quizzes by sites like BuzzFeed and Zimbio have exploded in recent months. Want to know what kind of sandwich you are? Or which Harry Potter character? How about which U.S. president?
These types of quizzes are nothing new — they’ve been featured in teen and women’s magazines for decades — but their popularity and propensity for going viral certainly are.
And it’s not just sites known for entertainment and lists that have realized this trend. The New York Times revealed its most popular story of 2013 was a dialect quiz that aimed to guess where you’re from based on your vocabulary and pronunciation.
For BuzzFeed, it all started with the realization that their most-shared post from 2013 was a quiz called “Which ‘Grease’ Pink Lady Are You?” Then in January, “What City Should You Actually Live In?” quickly became one of their most viral posts of all time.
For the most part, the nature of these quizzes is by no means scientific. In fact, the questions and answers choices seem arbitrary at best. So why are people, even those “BuzzFeed haters” who otherwise snub the site, taking these quizzes and sharing their results?
The most obvious answer might be that it’s a fun, humorous way to kill time — but psychologists say there might be more to it.
Atlanta-based psychologist Robert Simmermon told the Huffington Post it has to do with “a sense of narrative psychology.”
“It goes into our own ongoing developing narrative and it gives some credence of ourselves as heroes of our own story,” Simmermon said. “It reinforces a sense of (self), whether it has any legitimacy or not.”
While we understand these results aren’t necessarily accurate, he explains, we secretly hope they say something about who we are and where we fit in the world.
And their success, according to author Jonah Berger, is due to social networking: They “live and die by sharing.”
“People love knowing and talking about themselves. It’s social currency,” Berger told Mashable. “And these quizzes are a great opportunity for people to compare themselves with others.”