This Is A Test
In 1942 the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was first published.
This was the grand-daddy of all such tests, now commonly found in many Universities, mental health 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 were all nuts. What I didn't know (and found out on a NPR radio show) 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 was my background, 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. Somewhat short on the “Joy of Life” and with an excess 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.”
First posted September 18, 2004
Summer re-run series