Suspicious of Szondi

Anyone who has studied Psychology has inevitably been taught that due to its relative youth as a branch of knowledge, there have been a couple of wacky ideas attempting to explain human behaviour. One of these was the Szondi test, that I believed had widely been established as being faulty due to its intense basis in psychoanalysis and a misunderstanding of the activity of recessive genes.

Nevertheless, I decided to see if I could find an online Szondi test, assuming that it would be presented as a harmless look into the past methods of assessing mental illness. However, I was greeted by titles that claimed to explain my “repressed emotions” and “reveal my inner impulses”. I decided to go with the test that claimed to “reveal my deepest hidden self”, because who wouldn’t want to know about a hidden self that they had never acknowledged before?

Following the click-bait, I was surprised (which in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been) to see the apparent solemnity of the article. Surely no-one would take this problematic test seriously? After explaining the dated terms ‘repression’, ‘denial’, and ‘sublimation’, the instructions urged me to choose a person I would “never want to meet at night in the dark” out of a series of 8 portraits. Already, this online test had altered the entire premise of the Szondi test. Szondi’s original concept was to be able to predict someone’s recessive genes by their preference for the mental illness that was caused by such a gene. Instead, this test was claiming that whichever face I chose would tell me which emotions I had suppressed as a child, under the assumption that through this supposed suppression I had developed a tendency to avoid the emotion as much as possible.

After choosing the picture labelled ‘2’, I scrolled down to find that I had chosen an epileptic patient. According to this online test, I had repressed my “impulsiveness, irritability, and outbursts of anger and aggression” as a child. While the thought of repressing impulsiveness seemed counterintuitive, I did start to wonder whether being taught to stay seated at the dinner table by my parents could indeed predict my future personality. The test then transformed into a bizarrely twisted personality test. I was told that since I had repressed my impulsiveness and irritability in early life, that I was now a “meek and friendly” person, who was “stable in my feelings”.

Aside from the originally invalid construct being measured, other aspects of the test made me question both its validity and reliability. For one, it’s an internet test that was likely created by someone with a basic understanding of psychology, so all of its legitimacy goes flying out the window. The fact that there was only one ‘round’ of the test decreased the validity of my results substantially. While I understand the limitations that led to this (I doubt that there are is a collection of Szondi images readily available), I found it quite disappointing. Aside from the Szondi test itself, I am acutely aware that the personality results are formulated very much like a horoscope — that is to say, faulty and applicable to anyone.

All in all, I went into the experience with a certain set of prejudices — that internet tests are usually unreliable, that Szondi’s original construct was invalid, and that I have a great personality — and none of them were proven wrong.