October 30th, 2005
As you know I always like a truly terrible questionnaire. Particularly one that promises to diagnose you. In the News of the World today there’s a classic example – 20 questions that will apparently ‘reveal if you’ll play away’. In other words 20 questions that will diagnose if you’re likely to be unfaithful.
The questions covered issues like parental infidelity, attitudes to sexual fidelity, relationship satisfaction that does make sense in relation to views about cheating. However many then went completely off piste and included gems like:
Do you turn up late for meetings or social events?
a.quite often, b.never, c.seldom
Do you like playing practical jokes on people?
a.not at all, b.from time to time, c.often, sometimes cruel ones
Do you like looking in mirrors?
a. admire self in mirror quite frequently, b.not as a rule, c. check appearance from time to time
Are you careful to turn off the lights when you leave a room?
a. yes always, b. most of the time, c. not bothered
Do you enjoy horror movies?
a. absolutely, b. once in a while, c. never
Do you get strongly attached to pets?
a. somewhat, b. don’t really care for them, c. yes, rather too much
Do you buy things impulsively that you can’t really afford?
a. never, b. sometimes, c. often
From these questions and others in the ‘test’ the ‘cheat’ is characterised as an impulsive, selfish, sex maniac who is wasteful, vain and untrustworthy. The person unlikely to cheat is reliable, predictable, doesn’t like cruel teases or horror films, and has a low sex drive and an unhealthy attachment to their pets.
What constitutes ‘cheating’ is widely assumed to be an agreed-upon concept. But if you ask people what ‘cheating’ means you’ll get a variety of responses. Depending on their age, gender, religion, culture and level of education you’ll get different views. There are people who get distressed if their partner even looks at another person through to people who’re comfortable with their partner having sex with someone else. It’s up to a person to decide their comfort zone, not for us to define it for them.
All ‘tests’ like this do is imply that sex outside a relationship is wrong, and also there’s a clear division of blame – the cheater is always easy to identify and in the wrong.
Some of the questions (including the ones above) are standard within personality tests. However a personality test is not designed nor validated to be used as a predictor of infidelity. Using these measures implies a particular personality type might be predisposed to cheating or being faithful. Yet lumping together these questions in this way neither predicts personality nor likelihood of cheating.
Of course the questions aren’t a real diagnose-it-yourself test. They’re advertising a forthcoming television series about infidelity.
I’d like to think everyone who read the 20 questions would find them as daft as I did. But sadly knowing how insecure people are about relationships there may well be some people who either took the test seriously or really believed you could diagnose a cheat from 20 thrown-together questions.
And based on those questions I suspect there’ll be a number of partners sleeping on the couch tonight.Tweet