CATaloguing your personality

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

YouTube cat videos have, in total, amassed over  26 billion plays. That’s, on average, 12,000 plays for every cat video (more than any other category). But how often do you watch cat videos, and what does this say about your personality?

(1) Never, (2) less than once a month, (3) 2–3 times a month, (4) once a week, (5) 2–3 times a week, (6) daily, (7) multiple times a day.

When this question was put to almost 7,000 respondents to an internet survey (conducted by Jessica Myrick at Indiana University’s Media School), the average was somewhere in between 2-3 times a week and daily.

So to count as an above-averagely-enthusiastic viewer, you have to watch cat videos almost every day. If you are in this, ahem, category, then – at least according to this survey – you are, on average more agreeable than the average person (i.e., easier to get on with), but also more shy (presumably more outgoing people venture out into the real world for their cat fix). Perhaps surprisingly, you are also, on average, more likely than other people to have affective support: someone available “to show you love and affection, to hug you, to love you, and to make you feel wanted” (which suggests that viewers are not using online cats as a substitute for human affection).

If you watch cat videos once or twice a week or less, then you are, on average, less emotionally stable than the average person. That’s right – watching lots of cat videos tends to be a sign of emotional stability. You would also score lower, on average, on the World Health Organization’s emotional-wellbeing scale, which rates participants for how often in the last two weeks they have (amongst other things) “felt cheerful and in good spirits”. Miaow!

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Are You Smarter Than A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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