I logged on to a dating site the other day and was greeted by large, flashing message. It promised that if I took the time to answer a series of questions that they would find a "perfect match" for me.
All the work and worry of being single - gone! We truly have evolved! Not only can computer programs manage the entire traffic system of a city and make chess grandmasters cry, but now they can lead my perfect match right to my doorstep.
I always wanted a Stepford wife, I hope it comes assembled. The recent trend in Internet Dating has been the use of a "computer personality test" of some sort.
Websites claim that these tests, usually developed by a "top psychologist", have the ability to understand you and your needs through a series of questions.
Confused? Lost in love?
Problems communicating? Don't worry, the Online Dating Hal 5000 can figure you out!
In fact, when you're done, this computer program will know your needs and desires better than you do. Remember the Broadway play “Fiddler on The Roof”? You might not, it was the first Broadway play I went to when I was seven.
A song that always stuck in my head for some reason was “matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…” The song starts as a plea to the matchmaker to bring true love straight to the altar; someone beautiful, rich, intelligent, and perfect.
But by the end of the song, the singer realizes that the Matchmaker might not be up to the task. She decides that “playing with matches, a girl can get burned”.
So, do these tests really work?
Personality tests have a long history.
Really, really smart guys with names like Freud, Maslov, Fromm, and Jung developed respected psychological theories, and these theories are used as the basis for all types of tests.
“The Big Five” theory suggests that there are five dimensions of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Some popular personality tests use this as a foundation. Others go the “Big Three” route, which does away with the “openness” and “agreeableness” dimensions - mostly because it’s easier to remember.
I joke a little about these theories, but the truth is that they’ve survived the test of time and there is a ton of scientific research behind them.
The real question is if these tests can be effective in applying a theory to the complexity of a human being.