First Answer That Comes To Mind Questions
We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.
Have you ever taken a personality test online? Has date ever bombarded you with many questions to see if you may be compatible? These kinds of questions are meant to stop you from overthinking and simply give the answer that first comes to mind.
These kinds of questions aim to take advantage of the time pressure and force you to use a lower state of mind or a more primal side of your brain. Ideally, this makes you reply candidly about what you think or want.
Keep reading to learn more about these kinds of questions and whether or not they work as intended.
What is the Point of Those Questions?
When it comes to learning more about yourself or others, we often say the phrase “whatever first comes to mind” to encourage honest answers. By not allowing yourself to think, you give a completely honest answer that isn’t overshadowed by other things.
Most of the time, these kinds of questions are more for curiosity’s sake than anything else, but they are often used in psychology experiments and personality tests to get a deeper insight into a person, like with the optical illusion of Rubin’s vase.
They may not even be phrased as questions; instead, you simply have to agree or disagree with a statement.
Are the First Answers that Come to Your Mind Reliable?
While the idea behind answering with the first thing that comes to mind is logical, recent research suggests that these kinds of answers are actually quite unreliable.
In a study published in the Psychological Science journal, researchers found that people who answered quickly (when incentivized to do so) gave more socially acceptable answers.
Unfortunately, this means that people sometimes even lie because they give an answer they don’t believe in.
This directly contrasts what was previously thought about as quick answers and that we are more honest when we’re allowed time to think about our answers.
What are the Flaws of Such Questions?
Even assuming that these questions successfully managed to get people to answer honestly, there are still flaws with these kinds of questions.
Perhaps the most prominent flaw in this kind of questioning is that it often still leaves a large amount of interpretation about a person’s answer. For example, you could ask a yes or no question about if someone likes dogs.
Someone might respond “no” because it is the first thing that pops into their head, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they hate dogs. Instead, they might be indifferent to dogs or only dislike certain breeds.
Examples of Such Questions
The Rorschach test is probably one of the most prominent examples of such questions and involves a series of inkblot images that are shown to an individual accompanied by the question, “what do you see here?”
Other scenarios involve asking someone to respond with the first word that comes to mind when another word is mentioned in an attempt to see how an individual connects and correlates concepts and items.
For example, an interviewer or interpreter might ask what you think when the word “cat” is mentioned. Some people might respond with “dog” – an example of what some consider to be opposites – while others might say something like “comfort.”
What if You Don’t Want to Answer Such Questions?
In most settings, if you don’t want to answer such questions, there is no harm in saying so. However, this might also be an insight into your personality and behaviors so just be aware that some people might still analyze that as an answer.
If you’re in a psychological or psychiatric setting, it may be in your best interest to answer these questions, though.
Without such questions, any counseling or further help may be somewhat limited. Of course, you can always express your doubts about results and ask for a second opinion.
Final Thoughts on First Answer That Comes To Mind Questions
Even though the reliability of these questions is often questioned and leaves a lot of room for interpretation, they can still be a fun or silly quiz to see how you and your friends or family compare.
There isn’t exactly a timer waiting for you to answer most of the time, and even if you think about your answer a little bit, it doesn’t invalidate it.
In fact, it may be better to think about your answers a little more before answering since new evidence suggests these are more honest answers.