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How Do You Compare?    by Andrew Neil Williams order for
How Do You Compare?
by Andrew Neil Williams
Order:  USA  Can
Perigee, 2004 (2004)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Have you ever been tempted to take surveys and tests, that promise insights into your talents and personality? I must admit that I have delved into them occasionally, and I did fill in several of the '12 simple tests' inside How Do You Compare? But what I enjoyed most about this little book were its insights into other people, correlations of characteristics with test scores, presentation of strange common perceptions and peculiar factoids, and funny cartoon illustrations. The author is a social scientist, who tells us that he has selected 'gems' from thousands of psychological studies for his book. His tests measure cleverness and creativity, social and sexual skills, motivation and satisfaction.

The brief history of intelligence testing is entertaining, with some absurd positions taken, in retrospect. The test provided was developed by Mensa and takes a half hour to complete. Afterwards the author shares fascinating facts, including that research has shown that Mensa members are not really narcissistic. After intelligence, we learn about eight ingredients for a creative character, the history of creativity testing, and we get to take another test, of course. Williams tells us that creative people 'fluctuate between introversion and extroversion', rebel against rules, and oscillate emotionally, and that messy desk people (that's me!) are perceived to be more creative than others. Amongst other tidbits, he tells us how to avoid killing kids' creativity, and how to improve our own.

Relationships are up next - how skills are learned, a history of relationship testing, and tests of relationship satisfaction and strength. Entertaining information includes the 'health benefits of kissing' and we're advised how to increase relationship quality. The chapter on 'Are you a good lover?' informs us that we don't copulate as often as everyone thinks, and addresses why the topic is of such interest. There's even a history of sex testing, followed by tests on sexual attitudes and satisfaction. And did you know that jazz fans get more sex? The section on happiness intrigued me, and I liked the comment that it 'has an odd habit of sneaking up when you least expect it.' Williams tells us what it takes to be happy, leading in to happiness testing (this one seems especially simplistic), cheerfulness testing, and tips on the path to greater happiness.

The discussion of 'locus of control' fascinated me - the extent to which we believe accomplishments are due to effort versus luck, which of course influences motivation. Apparently studies have looked at relationships between this variable and things like watching action television or cheating on taxes. The book concludes with 'The Big Picture', advising us to use results to understand strengths and weaknesses and for self-improvement ... 'Only you know who you want to be. Therefore, the final comparison is yours.' Overall, How Do You Compare? is fun, informative and insightful.

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