Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Behavioral Study

I’ve been playing a lot of Set lately. I discovered it first on FoCB, then really pursued it during a blissful weekend celebration on the Oregon Coast with a deck that Steven brought along. I now have my own game thanks to the very keen gift-givers that are my wife’s parents. It is a brain-bender of a game, one of those that should stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease if played on a regular basis. One that my father - bio, not step - would have loved. The short explanation is that one must find patterns of both similarity and dissimilarity in groups of threes. So as it has bent my brain, I find that I am looking at the visual environment quite differently. I'm looking for patterns.

Take It

Yesterday, I received an email at work inviting me to take a "Behavioral Test." It was sent by my supervisor's supervisor, and I decided to take it. Rather, I complied without hesitation. I've taken many such "tests" before and I find them less invasive than my more conspiratorial counterparts; where some might think that The Man is trying to find a way to control them, squelch their individuality, categorize and compartmentalize and possibly even hand the supposedly confidential results over to The Bigger Man, I tend to see them as a way to organize the office. Tests don't kill individuality, individuals kill individuality, so if the exercise is in the right hands, no harm. Right? Besides, I see my own psyche as so complex that a ten-minute, multiple choice test could hardly scratch its surface. Certainly no more than an online Mensa qualifier. Am I a mover? Or a shaker? Depends on how much coffee I had that day. Still, I have to confess that I had a moment of questioning as I would before a urine analysis: Am I somehow being compromised by this?

Yesterday's test required that I pick from a list of four words the one that best describes me, as well as the one that least describes me. So I might click on "Compliant" as well as "Conspiracy Theorist." I was warned not to dwell on any given grouping of words too long, that I should go with my gut instinct for a choice and that I shouldn't take any more time than ten minutes.

I feel I should interject here that only last Saturday night, Linda Sue and I found ourselves at an outdoor wedding celebration held at what insiders know to be one of the best wineries in Napa, enjoying some of the best wine the valley has to offer, fresh out of the barrel and siphoned into stemware by way of a plastic tube. Manchego and quince paste was served as hors d'oeuvre, followed by an exquisite Paella dinner. All under a full moon. A perfect wine country evening. During it all, we shared a table and conversation with my supervisor's supervisor and her husband about everything from surfing to children, deftly avoiding workplace war stories. And it was good conversation, pushing the high regard with which I held my Sup's Sup only higher.

Hence, my immediate compliance the following Monday when she asked me to participate in the exercise.


Given my submergence into the world of Set, there was no way possible for me to take it without seeing the patterns. Four words, each distinctly designated to behavioral types that the taker might use to describe their own behavior in the workplace. Something along the lines of:
  • Miserly
  • Philanthropic
  • Necromantic
  • Mathematical

Followed by

  • Scientific
  • Superstitious
  • Generous
  • Wallet Squeaks
Anyone that knows me would know that I needed to kill the impulse to jam this particular system. The temptation to see what kind of kook I could represent myself as was great. Check off "I'm helpful" on one question and "Climbing the Ladder" on the next. I never did see "Rogue" as one of the choices, nor did I see "Odiferous." Thankfully.

I haven't yet learned of the results of the test, and I promise to post them here when I do. I did, however, stumble upon a much more important observation about my behavior. With Father's Day approaching, I am given to reflect on how my two fathers - one bio, one step - have had influence. Jim was a rogue, quick with a whoopie cushion and even more tickled by the real thing. Bob was a good sport, first on the list to commit time and energy to the "Policeman/Man with Dog" in the church play. I've inherited both qualities, whether through nature or through nurture; I try to be a good prankster, I try to be a good sport. Were they alive today, though, I'm certain that both of my fathers would talk me into the smarter decision. "Be a good sport at work. " "Kill that whoopie cushion urge." Just take the test.


Blogger Steven LaRose said...

I love personality tests! The Psuedo-psych major in me is fascinated by them. Lately however,I think of our phone activity being monitored. Why worry if you feel that you have nothing to hide? Then I think about what sort of behaviors or personality traits that I might need to hide from society in the future. I think of Allen Ginsburg's FBI file. I wonder if there is anyone out there making Art of a complex web of phone calls. It seems with six degrees of seperation and some well placed calls, anyone could be implicated in anything. Whoopie cushion backfire. Maybe they will let you take the test as an art piece? Did you know that there is a black-market for the "correct" answers to personality tests?

June 17, 2006 10:40 AM  
Blogger Steven LaRose said...

Off your thread, but on mine:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

— Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

June 19, 2006 8:27 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Foster said...

I am going to tattoo this Franklin quote somewhere where I will always be able to find it. I wish I had it in the front of my mind when I was recently agruing against the Patriot Act with a family member.

June 21, 2006 6:14 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Foster said...

Addendum: I was ultimately pegged as a "Promoter". Rah rah.

November 06, 2006 9:28 PM  
Blogger clundell said...

I took a look at Set. I'd never visited it before. It reminds me of taking an IQ test. And as such was disconcerting - am I as smart as I think I am? Do I really know what its asking for? This could drive you crazy!

November 08, 2006 4:31 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Foster said...

Set is a fascinating game, Clundell, but one that is geared toward a certain kind of intelligence. I believe there are numerous kinds of intelligence, of which pattern decipering is an indication of only one or two. My wife and I play because it is less competitive and more a group effort. No one wins, really, but we can clear the cards together.

Also, there was a study done a while back wherein some nuns were observed for alzheimer's disease. They found that those women who did brain-bending puzzles, such as crosswords, were less likely to suffer dimentia later in life! So all the more reason to play, I say!

Also, my ego loves the fact that it is endorsed by MENSA.

November 09, 2006 5:48 AM  

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