A New Use For Zoo Biscuits (Or: More Dodgy Psychological Experiments)


If you want to understand a person’s mind, why mess around with ink blots when you can use animals? The Rorschach test is over-rated in my opinion. As a friend of mine said, ‘Who wants to look at a bunch of vaginas anyway? Not me. A total waste of my time. Why do they feel the need to make all the inkblots look like privates?’

But everybody loves an animal, and the great thing is it’s not always the same kind. You get cat people versus dog people – though who, for example, is a cockroach person rather than a grasshopper person? They’re out there. And what about those who prefer millipedes to centipedes – is the millipede the Donald Trump of insects (‘the most…the longest…’)? An ex-boyfriend of mine’s favourite animal was the stick insect.

If you want to do a projective test, a type of psychological test where the individual


An axoloti having a good time

responds to ambiguous scenes, words or images, just ask somebody what animal they would like to be. For example, I want to be an axoloti, or Mexican walking fish. Tellingly, axolotis don’t develop adult characteristics but retain their gills, fins and other larval characteristics throughout their life. Their name is derived from the word ‘xoloti’ meaning monster. Make of that what you will.

When I asked my spouse, he said he wanted to be a mountain gorilla, but then he changed his mind and said, ‘No, a more patriotic choice: a Cape baboon’. Fitting. The kids were keen on dinosaurs naturally. If you’re powerless and vulnerable, what better choice than a big and vicious T-Rex? Of course nobody in the family chose a battery chicken or a pig. You don’t want to be any animal that humans have set their rampant appetites on.

And let’s not stop at projective tests – what about dating apps? You put yourself on as your favourite animal and look for something that matches you. I don’t imagine a gazelle would choose a lion – or perhaps I’m wrong and that’s exactly how it would pan out. Would venture capitalists throw their money at this app plan? Maybe not. But I think it could be an entertaining way to burn off one’s life savings in a month or two developing such an app.

So leave off the ink blot tests and go for the animals. Perhaps they could even be combined. I was at a family dinner party a while back where an elderly French lady described her experience of giant beavers in Patagonia, and how much she enjoyed watching them swim in the icy streams. ‘Do you like beavers?’ my mother kept hectoring a friend of mine, who was also at the table, until eventually he cracked and admitted to liking them rather a lot. This confession of fondness somehow triggered a new question from her. ‘Can one eat giant beavers?’ she asked him. Now she would have been a good subject for a Rorschach test.













My Facebook experiment: oral sex vs lemon meringue pie

lemon merigue

My pie does look pretty damned good. I’d eat it.

I didn’t mean to use my Facebook friends as guinea pigs, but this weekend it happened inadvertently. I uploaded a picture of Susan Minot’s novella, which is about a single act of oral sex. Few people liked it. Then I came up with the idea of posting a picture of my weekend baking. What do people like more: oral sex or lemon meringue pie? Breathless excitement followed by blissful exhaustion, or tasty baked goods? The answer, after a rigorous scientific experiment, is: pie. 

But maybe what people like on Facebook isn’t really what they *like* in real life. It’s very easy to like a picture of lemon meringue pie. It says very little about you, whereas Minot’s novella commits you to something potentially more damning. You are a sensualist, even a pervert, if you like a book about oral sex.

So here’s my theory: Facebook likes are not always about actual interests, but are often about what is easy to like. It’s the equivalent of a platitude or a bland remark at a social gathering: something designed to create harmony between very different people.

On Facebook, it’s easy to like a birthday post, a smiling child bouncing about in the sea or a brag, especially one disguised in self-deprecation (for example: ‘I’m so CLUMSY! – I just spilt wine on my kid’s report’ [picture of kid’s sterling report, all As]). Brags are easy to like, because we’re used to seeing them so frequently. It’s partly what Facebook is about.

It’s harder to define difficult likes than easy ones. Easy likes require very little commitment from us. They say nothing about who we are, or they say that we are like all our friends.

Honestly, though, after my experiment, I have more questions than answers. Another option, and I’m not willing to throw it out quite yet, is that people genuinely prefer lemon meringue pie to oral sex.

Current tally of likes:
Oral sex: 3
Lemon Meringue Pie: 17