Dis­cov­er­ing un­known quirks with a se­ries of ques­tions


“The un­con­scious is a pow­er­ful de­ter­mi­nant of be­hav­ior,” writes psy­chol­o­gist Bruno Bet­tel­heim in The Uses of En­chant­ment. The un­con­scious can be a bot­tom­less pit, at some point a trea­sure trove, of the un­known: there are char­ac­ter­is­tics that are yet to be re­vealed, re­pressed de­sire and past ex­pe­ri­ences un­know­ingly thrown in this deep hole.

No amount of sci­en­tific re­search can fully ex­plain what goes on in the un­con­scious. Past aca­demic jar­gon, peo­ple seek sim­pler ways to un­der­stand their per­son­al­i­ties. Re­cently, a cube per­son­al­ity video test posted by Buz­zFeed went vi­ral, with peo­ple at­test­ing its ac­cu­racy. The said test is an ex­am­ple of a Kokol­ogy quiz.

Kokol­ogy is the study of the kokoro, which means “mind” in Ja­panese. It is a se­ries of psy­cho­log­i­cal games created by Tadahiko Na­gao and Pro­fes­sor Isamu Saito of Ris­sho Univer­sity in 1998. Much like the Rorschach test, it at­tempts to de­fine known traits and un­ravel un­known char­ac­ter­is­tics of a per­son through ran­dom ques­tions. At times, Kokol­ogy may re­quire you to draw or write in de­tail as some in­ter­pre­ta­tions rely on the de­tails of your an­swers.

In Kokol­ogy 2, Pro­fes­sor Saito men­tions that Kokol­ogy is de­signed af­ter psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples from the West. This in­cludes the works of Sig­mund Freud and Carl Jung. For Pro­fes­sor Saito, cre­at­ing Kokol­ogy brings those prin­ci­ples closer to peo­ple with­out the psy­cho­log­i­cal jar­gons.

The ques­tions in Kokol­ogy are de­signed to be sim­ple and fun in or­der to elicit an­swers on the top of your mind. There are no right or wrong re­marks—as long as you an­swer the ques­tions hon­estly. The queries also re­quire you to keep an open mind, as the in­ter­pre­ta­tions might be sur­pris­ingly true, al­beit some­how clash­ing with how you al­ready per­ceive your­self.

While Kokol­ogy may be pop­u­lar for its sit­u­a­tional ques­tions, it also re­lies heav­ily on sym­bols in ex­plain­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics and re­la­tion­ships. For in­stance, an item re­quires you to think of what to say to a moun­tain. The in­ter­pre­ta­tion then re­veals that the words you thought of are ac­tu­ally what you want to say to your fa­ther. Another ex­am­ple asks you to choose be­tween a baby whale swim­ming be­hind its mother, a baby whale snug­gling against its mother, a baby whale swim­ming with both par­ents, and a baby whale swim­ming alone. That item aims to il­lus­trate your de­gree of in­de­pen­dence and your re­la­tion­ship with your par­ents.

The in­ter­pre­ta­tions may be quite as­ton­ish­ing or ap­palling, but Kokol­ogy main­tains an amus­ing way to un­der­stand the self. In the end, Kokol­ogy’s main goal, ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Saito, is to open your in­ner eye and see your true self.

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