Friday, February 4, 2011

One of the psychology tests that has always puzzled me is the "name as many boys' names as you can in two minutes" test. First I begin with all the "A" names, then all the "B" names, usually getting at most three or four names per letter. Then I tire of this and switch to Presidents, but once I reach "John Quincy Adams" I realize too many of these names repeat. Then I try classmates. But the names tend to repeat after a while. Then I try infields. (Alex, Derek, Robinson, Mark, Mike, Lowell, Dustin, Kevin....) But this gets tricky, because the Red Sox keep switching their shortstop.

After thinking this over, I'm concluded the fastest way for rattling off boys' names is to create alphabetical chains.

Start with three letters:
Ari, Bob, Cid, Dan, Eli, Fry, Gus, Hal, Ira, Joe, Kal, Leo, Moe, Ned, Ox, Pat, Rob, Sam, Ted, Wes, Zod

Then four lettes:
Adam, Bill, Chad, Dave, Evan, Fred, Greg, Hugh, Ivan, Jake, Kyle, Luke, Mike, Nate, Otto, Paul, Ross, Stan, Theo, Whit, Zeus

Then five letters:
Aiden, Byron, Caleb, Dylan, Emory, Frank, Gavin, Harry, Isaac, Jerry, Kerry, Larry, Merry, Nolan, Orion, Perry, Roger, Steve, Trent, Wally, Zemus


You commit each of these to memory, like the script for a play. And maybe once you reach 8-letter chains, you can go back and do more 4- and 5-letter chains. The trick is to make sure the names in each chain kind of flow together, so that you can keep the entire chains separate in your head.

Now that I've got a potential solution, it occurs to me that maybe the point of the test isn't to see how many names the patient can provide. Maybe the purpose is simply to analyze the patient's train of thought. In which case my psychologist would conclude, "This guy doesn't lay down for puzzles."

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