It is something of a golden age for personality tests, isn’t it? There is of course the famed Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but there are also BuzzFeed’s many ways of divining your true self (which Disney princess? Which friend on Friends? Which Girl Scout cookie?); Science of Us has devised its fair share of these, too. Knowing thyself is very in right now.
But should you ever crave a different, weirder way of getting to know yourself better, does psychology writer Christian Jarrett have an idea for you. Over at the BBC, he describes a classic experiment that was invented in the 1960s to test a person’s introversion or extroversion; it requires a lemon, a piece of string, and a Q-tip. Jarrett takes the reader through the how-to:
You’ll need a cotton bud (or what’s called a cotton swab or Q-tip in the US) with a short piece of thread tied exactly in the middle of it. Now place one end of the cotton bud on your tongue for 20 seconds. Next, put five drops of concentrated lemon juice onto your tongue, swallow, and then put the other end of the cotton bud onto your tongue for 20 seconds. Finally, take the end of the cotton bud out of your mouth and hold the cotton bud dangling by the thread. The idea is to see whether it hangs horizontally, or whether the end that you used after the lemon juice hangs lower because it is heavier.
The test is borrowed from 1960s personality psychologists (and married couple) Hans and Sybil Eysenck, and Jarrett notes that the psychologist Brian Little describes the try-this-at-home version in his 2014 book Me, Myself and Us. Supposedly, if the side of the Q-tip you touched with your tongue after downing the lemon juice hangs to one side, that means it increased your salivation — which, in turn, means you are probably an introvert. Introverts, the Eysencks theorized, were more highly sensitive to their environments as compared to extroverts — more easily bothered by bright lights, loud noises, and, apparently, the sourness of lemon juice.
Subsequent experiments have cast some doubt on this theory, as Jarrett points out, but “while it’s still debatable whether the lemon test can accurately reveal your introversion, it certainly does tell you something interesting about your physical sensitivity.” Bonus: This strange little experiment can be done while in the privacy of your own home, which is, of course, an introvert’s favorite place to be.