Do you stump scientists? A do-it-yourself quiz.

Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Draw a good animal in a box. Draw a bad animal in another box. Yes, it can be insects or fish…whatever. We’re using the term “animal” loosely. Don’t read any more of this post until you’re done.

(Boy from Ipanema plays softly in background.)

Are you done? Here’s what psychologists predict your results are.

According to a recent Science News article, right-handed people who put their boxed animals side by side will draw a good animal in the right-hand box, because they associate things on their right side as more accessible and useful — i.e., better. People who are left-handed will draw a good animal somewhere on the left, for the equivalent reason. If the boxes were one on top of the other, the psychologists say that their test subjects “universally” drew the good animal on top and the bad animal on the bottom, apparently because people associate good and bad with up and down.

When Joe gave me the instructions, he had me draw a large box and divide it into fourths. I’m right-handed, so it’s a little baffling that I drew the monkey holding a kitten’s head in the upper right-hand box, and a singing bird on the lower left.

When I gave this test to a couple friends, they said they drew the good animal on the left because I had mentioned it first, and left is “first” when you’re reading. I’m not sure this bias held for me, because I drew my bad monkey first and put him on the right. However, I can think of a couple of data variables that might make my left-right results fit the psychologist’s paradigm.

1) Because I spend so much time on the computer, my right wrist sometimes aches (so does the left sometimes, but not as much). So maybe I’ve come to associate right-handed activities with pain, i.e., badness, i.e., monkey holding a kitten’s head.

2) Since I don’t think of any animal as inherently bad, I decided my “bad animal” would be engaged in an immoral activity. I was quite proud of this thinking, and looked forward to the laugh Joe would get when he saw how I had chosen to portray a “bad” animal. Since I looked forward to a good reaction from the “bad” animal, had the “bad” animal become the “good” one?

Angel Joe says this is why psychology is a “soft science.”

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3 Responses to “Do you stump scientists? A do-it-yourself quiz.”

  1. Laura Says:

    Hmmm… I have a hedgehog on the upper left (spiky) and a bunny on the upper right (soft.) However, I don’t consider a hedgehog bad in any way. If asked to choose a pet, I’d go for the hedgehog, because they’re funny, personable little guys.

    Why no animals in the bottom boxes? Perhaps because I just read an article about flooding, and I know they prefer to stay dry.

  2. Amy Says:

    I drew an elephant in the lower-right box, and a cat in the upper left box. I love them both and don’t think of them as bad at all. I think your test should have included the original wording, because otherwise we’re just drawing our favorites.

    What does it say about diagonal placement?

  3. Esri Rose Says:

    Heather also didn’t draw good/bad animals, and asked me to put the original language back. She also thinks, from reading the article, that the testees are instructed to draw their own boxes, so I’ve changed the language to reflect that.

    And she pointed out a mistake in my handedness attribution, which should be fixed now.

    Amy, it said nothing specifically about diagonal placement.

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