Qualifier: These Personality Tests are not Always Right

Question: Have you ever been completely wrong in your assessment of an office?


Sam Gosling: Let me think if we’re completely wrong- well, I think there are some interesting cases where people get it wrong, and we know why they get it wrong.

And this often occurs in the case when you have very distinctive items. And so this is one of the things that one should kind of get expert at- you’ve got to watch out for- ‘cause, as I said, what we’re looking for is we’re looking for patterns- we’re looking for overall patterns, and things that are distinctive by nature of being distinctive- they’re inconsistent with the pattern- but they draw your attention. So we went into- one of the rooms we went into, everything indicated it was a socially-responsible person who was a nice person, they were organized and together, and not that reckless- pretty, sort of conservative in many ways, yet in the corner of the room, there was a plastic crate full of drug paraphernalia- a bong for smoking marijuana and stuff like that- and, of course, the judges come in and they see that, which sticks out, and they go straight over to it, and are likely to interpret it make- draw strong inferences from it.

Of course, the very reason that makes it stick out is the very reason they should have ignored it. And it turns out, when I later found out what was it doing there- turns out that this person was holding onto the- her roommate had gone traveling around the world and said, “could you look after this stuff?” She said, “yeah, sure” and she responsibly put it in the crate and put it in the corner of the room. <laughs> So it was consistent with her personality, but not in the way you’d think it was.


Recorded on: June 13, 2008.


Sam Gosling shares an anecdote about an incongruous office item.

A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree / AdobeStock
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
Keep reading Show less

​'The time is now' for cryptocurrencies, PayPal CEO says

Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?

Technology & Innovation
  • In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
  • Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
  • While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Keep reading Show less

Study suggests most "dark web" users are not engaging in illicit activities

A new study finds that some people just want privacy.

Photo by Soumil Kumar from Pexels
Technology & Innovation
  • Despite its reputation as a tool for criminals, only a small percentage of Tor users were actually going to the dark web.
  • The rate was higher in free countries and lower in countries with censored internet access.
  • The findings are controversial, and may be limited by their methodology to be general assumptions.
Keep reading Show less

Astrophysicists: Gamma-ray jets exceed the speed of light

Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.

Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab (used with permission by Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is co-managed by Robert Nemiroff at Michigan Tech).
Surprising Science
  • Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
  • The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
  • The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists find the "magic number" that links forces of the universe

Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.

Credit: Adobe Stock / Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
  • This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
  • The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
Keep reading Show less