Saturday, September 18, 2004

This Is A Test

In 1942 the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was first published. This was the great-grand-daddy of all such tests, now commonly found in many universities, mental health evaluations and employment situations. I took it as a college freshman, and remember that as I was taking it I got the feeling that either I was nuts, the test makers were nuts, or we all were nuts.

What I didn’t know (and later found out) was how the test came to be, and how the scoring was determined. In the late thirties and early forties, a group of researchers at the U of M tested sample questions with two large groups of people. One group were persons with existing mental health conditions. The other group consisted mostly of farm or blue collar workers, of Scandinavian descent, from Minnesota. They were called “The Minnesota Normals.” This is where my background lies, and these people where all around me when I was growing up. I thought they were normal, too, but I had no other frame of reference. To generalize, they were somewhat short on joie de vivre and possessed a surplus of dour brooding.

The Coen brothers' movie Fargo, while being a broad satire, has just enough truth in it to give me the willies when thinking that at one time I was compared to these “Normals.”

By Professor Batty


Blogger Joseph Young said...

Hey, Batty. There's more on the Minnesota Normals in the August edition of The Believer if you'd like to read more. I thought of Fargo too when reading the article. Here's the address to flash-light: Also, my web site, if you're interested: See ya!


Blogger Lady of the lake said...

I used to administer this test in CA, being in the field I was in, but never knew the origins of it. It is interesting reading! Thanks Professor.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the movie "Fargo" came out, my parents were so irritated: "MinnesOOOtans don't talk that way! We don't act like that!" I remember that I believed them, until I got alittle older, went to college, and noticed that not only do my parents act and talk that way, I talk that way, I act that way. So here's a "Yeah, you betcha!" to you and your readers... I have to go and be non-confrontational.

p.s. see ya at work tomorrow Dr. Batty... Nicole

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