(Originally posted by me at Mists Will Rise.)
One of my pastimes, particularly when feeling insomniac or on a messed-up sleeping pattern, is to log on to Psychological Research on the Net and fill in a whole bunch of surveys on topics ranging from religion to sexuality, taking in mental; health, relationships and cognition along the way.
Part of it is that I find the (human) mind to be fascinating. Mine seems to be something of an outlier in several ways, so the variety and variations and well as the generalisations that most studies look for, really intrigue me. How does it all work? Sure, we can talk about the various theories of consciousness and how our awareness of the world is all really just mechanisms of physics and chemistry and biology, but reading the Laws of Association Football will not give you a fine understanding of the role of a wing-back in a 5-3-2 formation or whatever – it won’t tell you what actually happens in a football match and why those things and not other things take place – or why one team does some things and another team does something else. Which is why psychology is more interesting to me than neurology, in general.
Anyway, so I fill in these forms for researchers looking into all sorts of things, and one thing I find curious is the wide range of different levels of sophistication on questions relating to gender identity and sexuality. The ideal form, I believe, has to be the open text box for people to self-identify (I go with MAAB-slightly genderqueer when given the option, but that’s not usually available when it’s a tick-box system!) Most people use a tick-box, with options of “male” or “female” the usual binary. Some offer TS, TG and Genderqueer as alternatives. Likewise, sexuality. I don’t feel as though the traditional “gender of preferred partner” axis is the most significant aspect of my sexuality (I’m oriented along kink lines instead) but it’s rare to find an option that says “definitely bi, but never had a r/l same-sex encounter beyond kissing” – the closest to that answer that most people seem to have is “bi-curious” and I generally use that as the basis for how to identify on “straight” or “bi”: if it says “bi/bi-curious” then I choose that option, otherwise I’m more likely to pick “straight”. Again, if I’m given a text-box to self-identify, then I try to clarify the detail of my experience, and may include the “kink” element as well.
The other pondering I have is that, although I try to be consistent in my answers, I’m fairly sure I answer the same questions differently in different surveys, on different nights. Just because I look for nuance and some days one nuance seems more significant and on others, a different nuance stands out. (One reason why on the MBTI or KTS, I typically get a strong IN, but F/T and S/J can come out differently each time I do the test. I’m not sure how the Big 5 Traits are affected, but it feels to me as though the effect is there.)
I rarely fill in the extremes: on a scale of 1-5, I typically stick to 2,3,4 so I love it when there’s a 7-point scale, because then I go to 2,3,4,5,6 and have more nuance in my answers. This is because I’m always seeing things in grey (If they offered a 51-point scale, then yeah, it would be… 49 shades!) When it asks how much I agree with “I rarely find it hard to see the other side of the story” (or whatever) then I immediately start thinking of all the times I did, or do, find it hard and so I want to equivocate even though (as this paragraph is discussing) I’m always looking for ways in which things could be seen differently (even if I don’t agree with that point of view).
I would love to see a study on the types of people who love filling in these forms, and do several all at once, and how such people (i.e. me) differ from the rest of the population – but how would one find a large enough control sample versus all the regular fillers-in such as myself, that they are studying?!