Ep. 285 Getting to Know You: On Our Obsession with Questionnaires and Marcel Proust


On today's show we discuss one of the root causes of the Russian troll attacks, our willingness to give out all of our most private information, often times only to have a computer guess your age, compare you to a Disney princess, or explain why you and your coworker don't get along.

This isn't a new phenomenon.  In the late 19th c. Marcel Proust popularized a form of questions along the lines of an existing list called the Pivot list.  As a parlor game, people would answer these questions and then analyze each others answers to determine certain character traits.  It's pop psychology, but a fun tool for a little insight.  In Dan's Monsters: Hope, Addiction, Ex-Girlfriends and Other Dangerous Things audiobook (available soon) he answers frequently asked questions about the book in the bonus material.  In the spirit of that kind of openness, he also took the full Proust Questionnaire as part of the audio only bonus material.  This episode discusses some of these things and invites both you, and Jeff Mallinson to answer these questions to see what they may (or may not) say about you.


The questionnaire: 


Here is Proust’s Questionnaire:

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. W3hat is your greatest fear?
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?1
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  16. When and where were you happiest?
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
  21. Where would you most like to live?
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  24. What is your favorite occupation?
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
  27. Who are your favorite writers?
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
  31. What are your favorite names?
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
  33. What is your greatest r1egret?
  34. How would you like to die?
  35. What is your motto?
Daniel van Voorhis