While browsing through various assessment scales I came across the Sensation Seeking Scale (Word document), a psychological tool published in 1971 for identifying personality traits that make people prone to risk-taking, experience-seeking or disinhibited behaviour. It asks the individual to choose between two different statements and decide which applies more to them. For example,
1.A I like “wild” uninhibited parties.
B I prefer quiet parties with good conversation.
Oh yes, and there’s lots of quotation marks in the questions, to the point that you feel like putting down the pen at intervals to do air quotes with your fingers.
I’m finding it an absolutely fascinating artefact – not so much for what it’s telling me about psychology, but what it says about how times have changed in what’s considered risky (or risque!) behaviour. Bizarrely, I’m told some professionals still recommend this as an assessment tool. Anyway, let’s delve in and find out whether we’re sensation seekers or not.
As I’ve said, a lot of the questions simply don’t withstand the test of time. For example, this one…
2. A There are some movies I enjoy seeing a second or even a third time.
B I can’t stand watching a movie I’ve seen before.
…was clearly thought up in the era before the invention of the VCR.
Then there’s the groovy Sixties/Seventies language, such as,
12.A I dislike “swingers” (people who are uninhibited and free about sex).
B I enjoy the company of real “swingers.”
19. A I prefer the “down-to-earth” kinds of people as friends.
B I would like to make friends in some of the “far-out” groups like artists or “punks.”
“Punks” aren’t the only people they ask if you’d like to meet.
22. A I would like to meet some persons who are homosexual (men or women).
B I stay away from anyone I suspect of being “gay” or “lesbian.”
I’m imagining the 70s dinner parties now. “Oh, sweetie! Have you been to Lady Greyfriar’s Meet-A-Homosexual soirees? They’re simply divine! Last month’s homosexual was a delightful specimen named Geoff!”
35. A There is altogether too much portrayal of sex in movies.
B I enjoy watching many of the “sexy” scenes in the movies.
Oh, 1971, you have no idea what’s coming.
There’s quite a few questions about whether people are interested in various adventure sports, which seems fair enough in a question about sensation-seeking. Though some of them have rather odd wording.
23. A I would like to try parachute jumping.
B I would never want to try jumping out of a plane with or without a parachute.
Eh? Who are the people who want to jump out of a plane without a parachute?
There’s a slightly judgemental question about art.
26. A The essence of good art is in its clarity, symmetry of form and harmony of colors.
B I often find beauty in the “clashing” colors and irregular forms of modern paintings.
Yep, if you like a Picasso that makes you “far out”, Daddio.
And then there’s some that just seem a bit random.
4. A I dislike all body odors.
B I like some of the earthy body smells.
If you want a test score, you can do it on the BBC Science website (with some of the more archaic language taken out, though they still ask you if you want to meet a homosexual). I scored 33 out of 40. I guess that makes a sensation seeker. Or a groovy hip cat. Party on down, 1971!