Garit Reuble has learned a lot about himself recently. He has
excellent emotional intelligence, his "inner rock star" is Beck, his
social insight is average, and his perfect religion is Unitarian
Best of all, the Seattle graphic designer was able to learn all
this in just a few minutes - without uttering a single word, or
moving from his desk.
Mr. Reuble derived his profile not through intimate chats, not
after a Zen-like period of self-reflection, but by filling out
online personality tests. And the results rang true. "Everything
sounds like me," he says.
Identity-revealing quizzes are the latest Internet craze, say
tech-industry experts. With thousands of free tests at one's
fingertips, crossing the line between self-awareness and navel-
gazing has never been easier. The tests' popularity has put a new
spin on a familiar cultural debate: Are Americans obsessed with
Where the phrase "rugged individualism" defined Americans from
Daniel Boone to test-pilot Chuck Yeager, Americans today are
increasingly exploring cerebral and emotional frontiers.
By clicking a few multiple-choice answers, millions of Web-
browsers are learning to classify themselves as "idealist,"
"rationalist," "hedonist," or "traditionalist" - and debate the
merits of each. In a testament to the spread of pop psychology in
American culture, a confession of being an "intuitive mediator"
these days can draw admiring nods on the subway - especially if the
listener is a "security-seeking guardian."
Entertainment and insight overlap
Leading the trend is www.emode.com, which has given feedback to
over 100 million curious test-takers since its launch in 1999. The
site was named "Rising Star of the Internet" at this year's
prestigious Webby Awards for being the fastest-growing website of
2002. It offers over 100 exams, and bills itself as "The No. 1
Destination for Self-Discovery."
The online tests range from deeply serious ("Do I have a
personality disorder?") to entertaining ("What is my Romantic
Personality?") to frivolous ("What does the way I eat soup say about
me?"). There are tests that take five minutes, and batteries of
introspection that rival the SAT, with virtual "pages" of questions
followed by pages of results.
The most popular tests are those that straddle entertainment and
insight. Their growing popularity is "an assertion of identity,"
says David Silver, a cyberculture expert at the University of
Washington in Seattle. He links the trend to a backlash against the
Internet's reputation as a place where people invent, rather than
"People find out who they are, and then they start forwarding e-
mails to their friends to tell them about it," says Dr. Silver.
'A social activity'
Christine Whitney, a Boston publisher who confesses to having "a
funny compulsion to take these sorts of things," calls the tests "a
social activity to some extent.... I used to do them with groups of
friends, and we'd talk through our responses as we made them, and
try to get all the dirty news."
But now, the experience is more independent - and efficient: Ms.
Whitney completes tests swiftly, then compares notes with a friend
who has taken the same ones.
The tests also serve a social function as a type of mirror. Mark
Leary, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-
Salem, N.C., says most people are "trying to confirm their self-
image. They want to make sure their perception of themselves is
That's the case for Mr. Reuble, the budding Beck disciple. He
says with satisfaction, "I pretty much like the way I am. …