One man’s journey into the minds of four high school students: for better or worse.
April 7, 2014
DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am not, nor am I claiming to be, a doctor or professional of any sort. I am a high school student, and the conducted analyses which you will read about below are a part of a project for my journalism class. These analyses were developed as an evaluation of my own potential, and not the psychological state of any other person. As somebody who does not legally identify as a doctor, I have not supplied the ensuing test subjects with any of the test results or any advice, therapy, or treatment. The test subjects have remained anonymous to non-affiliates, and shall remain so.
OTHER DISCLAIMER: If you are a frequent visitor of The Glen Echo, you may be aware that the majority of my written pieces are satires, and are written to achieve a comedic effect. Although this is (misleadingly) connoted by the job title adjacent to my name, this article is purely genuine, and should be absorbed with the utmost seriousness.
GLEN ROCK, N.J. – “Psychological analysis,” by my own personal definition, is the analysis of one’s psychological state by means of studying their sociological tendencies and both cerebral and emotional cognition.
As somebody who possesses absolutely no formal knowledge in the fields of either psychology or sociology at all, but has always had somewhat of an intrinsic fascination with both, I have, as of late, developed an indwelling curiosity of the internal mechanisms of people’s conscious, preconscious, and subconscious rationale.
I decided that the best way to ascertain the modes of psycho/sociology would be to employ the infinitesimal and insubstantial quantity of knowledge that I possess on the topic. And, after a short period of contemplation, it inevitably dawned on me that the best way to do this would be to conduct an amateur psychoanalysis on a few of my peers.
In an effort to devise a somewhat diverse demographic, I decided to assess four random1 students. For the purpose of this piece, the subjects have been made anonymous with the monikers “Subject A,” “Subject B,” “Subject C,” and “Subject D.”
1As we all well know, the human brain is anything but random, so there is no way I could have selected four students truly arbitrarily other than by assigning the name of each student in the school a number, and subsequently using a random number generator to select the students. However, the four students that were selected have (as far as I know) no direct correlation, and as such, the tested demographic is satisfactorily diversified and isolated.
I fully understand that the demographic that I tested was by no means perfect. If I had all of the resources of an actual psychologist or sociologist, I would have vastly diversified the range of people, included several different genders and ages, varied the ethnicities and cultures of subjected peoples, included more people, etc.
When it came time to devise a cognitive test for the subjects, I chose a few specific topics to stress: philosophical perception, self-worth, estimated worth to others, capacity of humane sympathy, apparent pathological mental state, short-term reactionary intellect, and societal and communicative competency.
Next, it came time to work out the best ways of gauging these matters. A few methods immediately came to mind: philosophical perception would be easily calculated by presenting either paradoxical statements, and requesting the subject to evaluate them, or else by proposing often-debated philosophical keynotes and requesting them to reveal their stance. I ultimately decided on the latter.
I also determined that self-worth would be very simply evaluated by asking inherently direct questions, such as “use three adjectives to describe yourself,” or “until which age do you think you will live?” In my day-to-day life, I have noticed that for most people, admitting the existence of positive attributes is extremely difficult. However, their ability to do so has very telling implications of their mental state.
Retrospectively, the inclusion of “philosophical perception” was somewhat of a mistake. I learned soon after testing the selected individuals that it is not an easy thing to rate or gauge, and ultimately was not included in the analysis.
“Apparent pathological metal state” is something that I concluded would not be worth publishing. I found that the only questions I was qualified to ask that pertained to this topic were “Have you ever participated in mentally therapeutic sessions?” or “Do you have any mental abnormalities or instabilities?” These queries were deeply personal, and I felt rather odd about asking them, and consequently, their results were not published either.
So, with all of that in mind, here are the incongruous and disorganized published results of my short-lived experience as a psychologist, along with several scattered notes.
The first question:
The first question which I presented was simple, and put forth an effort to introduce the subjects: “Do you have any interesting dogmas, mantras, philosophies, or policies, which you invariably live by, that are worth mentioning?”
Although each person had a very unique response, they were all positive, and, if you ask me, I’d say that they’re decent sayings to abide by. Subject A had a few philosophies: “Do what you want,” “This too shall pass,” and “Be honest.” It was immediately apparent to me that Subject A values honesty, patience, and a freedom of choice.
Subject B’s policies were: “Day by day, try to stay positive,” and “Don’t watch the storm, learn to go dance in the rain.” This told me that Subject B is somebody who is a “glass-half-full” kind of person and supports getting out there and participating in events, as opposed to watching from the sidelines.
The singular saying that Subject C revealed to me was: “Live life to the fullest— you don’t want to have regrets.” Subject C’s dogma told me that s/he wishes to be as happy as possible in life, and that life is far too short to hold regrets or remorse.
Subject D instantaneously appeared to me to be somebody who also values their short time here on earth, as their motto is “Girls just wanna have fun.”
Question two, evaluation of self
The second question that I posed, which I included in an effort to analyze the subjects’ self-worth, was “Do you consider yourself to be a rather well-liked person?”
Subject B was the only person who gave me the definitive answer of “yes.” This is rather well-exemplified by one of their mottos, “Day by day, try to stay positive.”
Regardless, Subjects A, C, and D’s answers were not as clear. Subject A’s response was “Yeah, I hope.” Subject A seemed to me to be a person who believes that people like them, but aren’t quite clear about whether they do.
Subject C’s reply was “I am well-liked to some. I know some people won’t like me.” I found this interesting, because it became immediately clear to me that Subject C is somebody who doesn’t necessarily regard what every person thinks of them.
Subject D’s succinct response to this query was “Maybe, sometimes.” Subject D seemed to emerge as somebody who is rather unclear about their societal status. Referring back to their aforementioned motto of “Girls just wanna have fun,” could it be possible that their experiences with fun and amusement are based on their social standing?
Aiming to further evaluate self-worth, the next request that I presented was for each test subject to use three adjectives to describe themselves, and subsequently to use three adjectives that the people in their lives (friends, family, etc.) may use to describe them. Intriguingly, few of the subjects had a single disparaging word to say about themselves.
Subject A said that the adjectives they would use to describe themself would be “honest,” “independent,” and “worry-free.” They also said that the people in their life would use the adjectives “kind,” “smart,” and “hardworking” when describing them. The first set of adjectives complies with Subject A’s policies listed earlier: “Be honest” and “Do what you want.” I was also intrigued by the fact that the three adjectives that they used for themself were vastly different from the ones that they presumed that their peers and family members would use. Do they perhaps consider themselves to be a different person to themself than they are to other people?
Subject B’s three personal adjectives were “independent,” “friendly,” and “responsible.” These, however, were not largely different from the three other adjectives (of other people) that they supplied: “intelligent,” “caring,” and “responsible.” It was immediately apparent to me that Subject B believes that they are the same person to themself as they are to other people. It also seemed to me that they value their independence and responsibility— May they possibly favor adulthood and maturity over childhood and juvenility?
Similar to Subject B, Subject C’s first and second sets of adjectives were rather similar to each other. Their first set was: “fun,” “loud,” and “crazy.” Their second set was: “loud,” “wild,” and “funny.” It appeared to me that Subject B values jocularity and whimsy, and maybe they even prefer their humor to be slightly more vulgar than is typically appreciated. It is presumably this humor and amusement that they enjoy indulging in, in compliance with their motto: “Live life to the fullest— you don’t want to have regrets.”
Subject D was the only person who provided an adjective with wholly negative connotations. Their first three choices, to describe themself, were “fun,” “impatient,” and “organized.” The three adjectives that they presumed other people would use to describe them were “outgoing,” “talkative,” and “mean.” The two obviously negative adjectives here are “impatient,” and “mean.” The mention of these words told me that Subject D recognizes some of their negative attributes and is capable of admitting them. I would assume that they are active in trying to remedy such attributes.
The stories from question three
I wanted to delve deeper into these peoples’ minds, so I consequently asked them each for a small anecdote that would “take me on an introspective journey through [their] mind[s].” With such broad instructions, I was very interested in observing the results: I was by no means disappointed. Each test subject interpreted the given prompt very differently.
Please absorb the following stories with an open mind, and keep in mind that their intention was for their respective paragraphs to represent what frequently goes on in their minds. Everything inside of the ensuing quotations is entirely unedited, and in the exact words of its authors, sic erat ipsum.
Subject A: There’s a place I think about going to from time to time to ease my mind of the troublesome thoughts it has. This place isn’t imaginary. It’s 100% real and completely in walking distance from my house, but I find I travel there more in thought than in actuality. Maybe this is because it’s easier or maybe it’s because I always say, “I’d go tomorrow if I had nothing else to do.” But the thing is there is always something else to do. Even if that thing is just sitting in my room, thinking of a place to ease my mind that’s just down the road, and relaxing all the while.”
I found this blurb to be the most curious of the four and very telling of its writer’s mental state. The general connotations in the story are of remorse, regret, and longing. However, there are also implications of relaxation, contentedness, and peace. Could those be what Subject A feels when in solitude? Does their mind often wander into a state of “limbo,” a somewhat purgatorial state which does not lean to one way or the other?
Subject B: “So in journalism class I was asked by one of my classmates to take part in an interview for his feature article. He told me that he was going to ask me questions and do like a psychoanalysis of what I am thinking and what’s going on in my head. The interview was very interesting. At first I didn’t know what to expect. The questions were extremely random and I was asked questions about things that I didn’t even know what they are. I felt like it was a good experience to have because it made me think deeper and it made me realize what’s really going on in my mind.”
Considering the fact that this “story” is about the preliminary research I conducted for this article, it tells me that Subject B somewhat supports a policy of realism. They seem to be more inclined towards the “Left-Brain” school of logic, and have a tendency to be analytical, and as a result, see things how they are innately.
Subject C: “A girl went on a plane to England with her family the flight was a 6 hour flight and she thought it would be a good idea to stay up all night so she could sleep through the long flight. 25 minutes into the flight she took a nap while her parent stayed up. Her father was on his computer and her mother was reading her favorite novel. When she woke she looked around the plane with fuzzy eyes and didn’t see anyone sitting next to her. She unclipped her seat and stood up ‘maybe the flight’s over,’ she thought to herself, ‘but where are my parents and the rest of the passengers?’ she wondered. The girl walked throughout the plane and out the door that was parked at an airport terminal.”
This story particularly intrigued me. It reads almost with the haziness of a dream, and, if I had to guess, I would say that that would be what it was based off of. I would have to assume that this person has somewhat of a fear of people leaving them, although, it could also mean that they are benignly independent. Maybe it means that this person feels that everybody else is out, achieving their goals, while they are sleeping on planes. It could also mean that they have an ambition to travel, but are somewhat uncomfortable with the prospect of it.
Subject D: “In my mind there are images of colorful psychedelic things floating around. There is a princess that wanders through a forest to find a magical kingdom where she will live. She marries a prince and has the perfect glamorous life.”
Subject D’s few short sentences, although just that— short— are very impactful. Upon first hearing them, I immediately thought that this person has an intense desire to fall in love: They may even consider themselves a “hopeless romantic.” This, along with a segment from the first sentence, “images of colorful psychedelic things floating around,” narrate to me that Subject D is subjected to a more “Right-Brain” rationale, meaning that they prefer creativity and imagination to reason and sequence.
I wanted to present the subjects with a negative and subsequently a positive hypothetical scenario, and then ask them the first word that popped into their minds after hearing them. This would, as I had originally thought, determine their capacity for experiencing sympathy, and similar emotions.
However, after I concluded testing the subjects, it dawned on me that the subjects had probably seen right through my intentions, and may have potentially answered with an empathetic word just to appear normal. (However, this is not to say that I, in any way, consider them to be psychopathic. In fact, it is incredibly unlikely that they are. What I’m saying is that on the minute chance that they were, I would not have been able to detect it.) So, because of this, I have not provided any notes on the replies.
In any case, below are the scenarios and the subjects’ responses.
Negative hypothetical scenario: You read a story about a young child who went missing.
The first word that came to Subject A’s mind was “Again?”
The first word that came to Subject B’s mind was “Awful.”
The first word that came to Subject C’s mind was “Kidnap.”
The first word that came to Subject D’s mind was “Scary.”
Positive hypothetical scenario: You read a story in the news about an orphaned child who has been adopted by an American family.
The first word that came to Subject A’s mind was “Goodwill.”
The first word that came to Subject B’s mind was “Helpful.”
The first word that came to Subject C’s mind was “Kind.”
The first word that came to Subject D’s mind was “Generous.”
Inkblots on the mind
As a part of this whole evaluation, I also was able to do something I’d always wanted to do: Administer a Rorschach test: Ten pictures of inkblots presented to a test subject, with increasing complexity. The idea is to have the subjects reveal their interpretations of the complex and indiscernible figures.
However, not wanting to bore the test subjects, and in the interest of simplicity, I only gave them two pictures, and asked them to regurgitate up to three words to describe what they saw in the pictures. The two pictures are shown below, and are taken from Swedish psychologist Hermann Rorschach’s original test which he developed in 1921.
Subject A: “Bat.”
Subject B: “Butterfly.”
Subject C: “Moth.”
Subject D: “A bat.”
Interestingly, “bat,” “moth,” and “butterfly” are considered to be the three most common perceptions of this inkblot. This shows me that there is some normality in the mental state of all of the test subjects.
Subject A: “Boots.”
Subject B: “Top of Elephant.”
Subject C: “Monster from Goosebumps.”
Subject D: “Ink.”
There are two responses which I shall expound upon with this inkblot: Subject B’s and Subject D’s.
According to a common belief shared among psychologists, the identification of this inkblot as being either animalistic or humanistic portrays a sense of authority in the identifier. Subject B’s interpretation as “Top of Elephant” could possibly be revealing that Subject B possesses a general feeling of authority over other people in their day-to-day life.
The reason that I found Subject D’s interpretation of “ink” interesting is because this is a rather analytical and unimaginative response. This would be indicative of a “Left-Brain” way of thinking, except for the fact that this contradicts my analysis of Subject D’s story.
Singing in the brain
Many of the questions with which I evaluated the subjects were done in an effort to discover how they metonymize their own mental state: To describe their conscious thoughts with a few succinct words. (I.e. the stories from before).
One fun and interesting way that I devised to do just this was to have each test subject describe their general thoughts and internal mental mechanisms with a genre of music. Wanting to compare it to something, I chose to also ask them the genre of music that they most frequently listen to. I assumed that if the two genres matched up, it would indicate that they were mentally at peace.
There are other obvious denotations that would come into play as well: I thought that obviously, if a person described their conscious thinking as “psychedelic rock,” then they probably frequently imagine distorted figures and colorful images, and if they said that their mental state pertained more to “math rock,” they probably think in complex algorithms and patterns.
Subject A described their mental state as “big band jazz,” and said that they most frequently listen to “electronic rock.”
Subject B identified their mental condition with “chill music,” and declared that they most frequently indulge in “pop.”
Subject C said that their mental state is reminiscent of “today’s pop music,” and that they most-often are partisans of “country.”
Subject D exclaimed that both their psychological state and most frequently-listened to genre of music was relevant to alternative rock. This indicates to me that they are in a state of mental peace.
In conclusion, I would say that my short-lived experience as a psychologist was both amusing and intriguing, and both captivated and satisfied my enthrallment with the small area of the subject that I explored.
Some things are better learned without the aid of teachers, textbooks, and other current pedagogical conventions. Regardless of whether or not this is one of those things, and with no disrespect to teachers and students of psychology and sociology, I would say that my voluntary immersion in the topic was very fruitful, and that I discovered more about myself than I had ever hoped to.
So, what are the ultimate results of this little experiment?
Well, for one, I proved (or hope that I proved) that average doses of societal interaction and mediocre, but consistent, social observations qualify one to skim the very surface of one’s mental state. (Not to demean psychologists. I know next to nothing compared to somebody who has actually extensively studied the subject. Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that the average person is often capable of detecting how another person feels or what they may be thinking about.)
One thing that I learned is that philosophy has a severely less substantial impact on the results of a psychoanalysis than I had thought prior to conducting the experiment.
I also am able to take away a massive amount of respect for psychologists in general: I was taught by this experiment that the human brain is a far more complex entity than I had previously believed, and therefore an insanely difficult thing to study.
Another reason that my respect for psychologists has increased is because they study things that are wholly impalpable. If you are a heart surgeon, for example, you can see diagrams and visuals of hearts as you’re being educated about them. However, psychologists are not able to see the objects of their study: Thoughts, opinions, decisions, feelings, emotions, etc. (Again, not to disparage heart surgeons in any way.)
So, all in all, I would contend that this has been a very benevolent experience for me. I would like to thank Subjects A, B, C, and D: You know who you are, and I appreciate you agreeing to allow me to probe your thoughts.