How many times have you opened your laptop, determined to get that urgent report done for your boss, do the weekly online shop or book the kids dentist’s appointments, when suddenly a link to an online quiz pops up tantalisingly in your inbox, news app or social media feed? And what do you do? Chances are, you’ll put all your good intentions on hold, and you’ll take the quiz.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the psychology behind why we find the online quiz so irresistible. Read on to discover the real reasons we just can’t help ourselves when a quiz opportunity comes a knockin’.
They tell us about ourselves
We all have an ingrained thirst for knowledge, a curiosity, a need to learn that must be fulfilled, especially when the subject in question…is ourselves.
One of the biggest reasons most people love an online quiz is to get to know themselves better. This is something we humans have pursued since we first emerged on this planet about two million years ago. That’s why quiz titles like “Which ___ Are You Actually?” or “What Type of ___ Are You?” work so well, they tap into that inherent need to ‘find ourselves’.
We like to fit in
We find comfort in being labelled or categorised, it makes us feel that we’re not alone. Polish psychotherapist, Henry Tajfel, developed the concept of ‘social identity theory’. Tajfel says that we like to categorize ourselves to strengthen our bonds with like-minded people. The fear of not fitting in is a basic human instinct. It’s why the most read articles have titles like “10 dresses you should be wearing this summer”, “What to binge next on Netflix”. We read them because we want to make sure we’re doing the same as our own peer groups. To some degree we all want to follow the crowd, and no one likes FOMO.
They provide escapism
No matter how busy we are, most of us find time to do an online quiz, or two or three. A quiz provides the opportunity to spend a few moments focusing purely on you and you alone. Well, we can’t all afford therapy, so maybe indulging in a quiz is the next best thing!
They feel personalised
The interactive nature of a quiz makes it feel like a one-to-one conversation, that’s what makes them so compelling. Christine Whelan, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, says “People love it when you ask them questions about themselves, (they) feel good that the quiz is interested in (them).”
All types of quiz, from Internet questionnaires to Myers-Briggs personality testing, make us feel heard and understood on a personal level.
When we share our quiz results with colleagues, friends, and family we get social validation. Taking and sharing a quiz lets us start conversations with people in our social network. They empower us to put ourselves out there and approach conversations we might not otherwise think about having.
Deep down we’re all just little kids who need to be told we are doing well. We used to get validation from our caregivers, and now social media gives us the approval we need. Even if we didn’t get the validation when we were younger that only propels us to seek it more as adults. It all comes from a need to feel safe and secure.
They give us a sense of control
Bruce Carter, a professor of human development at Syracuse University said that taking quizzes gives us the impression that we have some level of control over our lives, how others see us, and the roles we play in the situations we find ourselves in:
“Clinging to these kinds of designations, whether it’s from online quizzes or psychological tests, makes us feel as though our environment is more controllable and that behaviour is more predictable,” he said.
Quizzes help us make sense of things like why we display certain behaviours and how we deal with certain scenarios.
Above all, for most people, the appeal of the online quiz is simply that they provide a bit of light relief in our busy lives, they’re entertaining, they don’t take too much time or effort and because of all the reasons above, we know we’re going to get some value out of hitting that start button.
The bottom line
We’re inherently drawn to external sources that tell us who we are, what we value, and what we need to do to be our most authentic selves and live our best lives. It’s the same reason why people turn to astrology for guidance, looking to their monthly horoscopes and the characteristics of their star signs as the roadmap of their lives. When you understand the mental processes that compel people to take an online quiz, it becomes easier to create them and ensure they become successful in achieving your goals.