How Rational Are You?

Check how rational are you with this simple survey by yourself


People have different ideas and beliefs. We are interested in your
opinion about the following statements. Using the scale below,
select the number that best reflects your belief about each statement.

1 = Totally agree
2 = Mostly agree
3 = Slightly agree
4 = Slightly disagree
5 = Mostly disagree
6 = Totally disagree

1. Dealing with some people can be very unpleasant, but
it can never be awful or horrible.
2. When I make a mistake, I often tell myself, “I shouldn’t
have done that.”
3. Absolutely, people must obey the law.
4. There is nothing that I “can’t stand.”
5. Being ignored, or being socially awkward at a party,
would reduce my sense of self-worth.
6. Some situations in life are truly terrible.
7. In some areas I absolutely should be more competent.
8. My parents should be reasonable in what they ask
of me.
9. There are some things that I just can’t stand.
10. My self-worth is not higher because of my successes in
school or on the job.
11. The way some children behave is just awful.
12. I absolutely should not have made certain obvious mistakes
in my life.
13. Even if they had promised, and it was important to me,
there is no reason why my friends have to do what I
14. I can’t deal with it when my friends (or my children) behave
immaturely, wildly, or improperly.
15. There are good people and bad people, as can be seen
by watching what they do.
16. There are times when awful things happen.
17. There is nothing that I must do in life.
18. Children must eventually learn to live up to their obligations.
19. Sometimes I just can’t tolerate my poor achievement in
school or at work.
20. Even when I make serious or costly mistakes, or hurt
others, my self-worth does not change.
21. It would be terrible if I could not succeed at pleasing
the people I love.
22. I would like to do better at school (or at work) but there
is no reason why I absolutely must do better.
23. I believe that people definitely should not behave
poorly in public.
24. I just can’t take a lot of pressure and stress.
25. The approval or disapproval of my friends or family
does not affect my self-worth.
26. It would be unfortunate, but certainly not terrible, if
someone in my family had serious medical problems.
27. I definitely have to do a good job on all things that I decide
to do.
28. It’s generally okay for teenagers to act differently by eating
pizza for breakfast and leaving clothing and books
all over the floor in their room.
29. I can’t stand some of the things that have been done by
my friends or members of my family.
30. A person who sins or harms others repeatedly is a “bad
31. It would be awful if someone I loved developed serious
mental problems and had to be hospitalized.
32. I have to make absolutely sure that everything is going
well in important areas of my life.
33. If it’s important to me, close friends should want to do
the favors that I ask of them.
34. I can easily tolerate very unpleasant situations and uncomfortable,
awkward interactions with friends.
35. The way others evaluate me (friends, supervisors, teachers)
is very important in determining the way I rate myself.
36. It’s terrible when my friends behave poorly and inappropriately
in public.
37. I clearly should not make some of the mistakes I make.
38. There is no reason why my family members must act the
way I want them to.
39. It’s unbearable when lots and lots of things go wrong.
40. I often rate myself based upon my success at work or
school, or upon my social achievements.
41. It would be terrible if I totally failed in school or at
42. There is no reason why I should be a better person than
I am.
43. There are clearly some things that other people must
not do.
44. There are some things about people at work (or in
school) that I just can’t stand.
45. Serious emotional or legal problems would lower my
sense of self-worth.
46. Even very bad and distasteful situations like failing, or
losing a lot of money or a job, are not terrible.
47. There are some good reasons why I must not make errors
at school or at work.
48. Absolutely, my friends and family should treat me better
than they sometimes do.
49. I can easily accept it when my friends don’t behave the
way I expect them to.
50. It is important to teach children that they can become
“good boys” and “good girls” by performing well in
school and earning the approval of their parents.


First, you must reverse the score (1 = 6, 2 = 5, 3 = 4, 4 = 3, 5 = 2,
and 6 = 1) for the following items: 1, 4, 10, 13, 17, 20, 22, 25, 26,
28, 34, 38, 42, 46, and 49.
Next, you can find scores on five subscales.
The names of the subscales and the items on each subscale
are as follows:
Awfulizing (Aw) 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41, and 46;
Self-Directed Shoulds (SDS) 2, 7, 12, 17, 22, 27, 32, 37, 42, and 47;
Other-Directed Shoulds (ODS) 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33, 38, 43, and 48;
Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29, 34, 39, 44, and 49; and
Self-Worth (SW) 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50.
Your grand total is obtained by adding together the five subscale scores.


About the Survey of Personal Beliefs

The Survey of Personal Beliefs reflects an approach to psychotherapy
called rational emotive therapy, developed by psychologist
Albert Ellis. Ellis argued that while people tend to
believe they are anxious, depressed, or otherwise unhappy because
of the things that happen to them, they are really distressed by the things they say to themselves about the things that happen
to them. To illustrate this distinction, suppose you go to work
one morning and your boss greets you with the news that you are
fired. While it may make sense to you that your bad feelings are
a result of your termination and uncertain future, Ellis’s response
would be, “You’re not depressed because you lost your
job, you’re depressed because of what you are saying to yourself
about losing your job. You’re probably telling yourself that losing
your job is a tragedy, that it proves what a loser you are, and that
you will never find suitable work again.” Ellis would go on to tell
you that it was too bad you lost your job, but it is not the end of
the world. You should use the experience to learn something
about yourself that will increase the odds of success on your next
job. And it is doubtful that you were actually happy in a job from
which you were fired, so this experience offers you the opportunity
to find work that will be more satisfying. Ellis argues that to
tell yourself that losing your job is a tragedy is irrational and that
to feel better, you must adopt more rational, logical ways of viewing
the world.
Ellis outlined numerous irrational beliefs that were especially
prevalent among unhappy, distressed people, and the Survey of
Personal Beliefs was developed by Howard Kassinove and Andrew
Berger to reflect these common, irrational beliefs. As you
can see from reading the items on this test, Ellis’s list of irrational
beliefs reflects a handful of common themes. One of these is that
to feel worthwhile, we must be loved and approved of by virtually
everyone. While most of us would agree that it is impossible for
everyone to like or approve of us, many people feel genuinely
devastated when they learn that a colleague or acquaintance harbors
negative feelings about them. Many others will make poor
decisions with the hope that it will inspire liking and approval
from others. (Do the names of any politicians come to mind?)
Healthy people can accept that they are disliked by others, and
they are able to make the right decision even when they know it
will anger some people.
A second, and in my mind an especially common irrational belief,
is that all problems have good solutions. In my experience as
a therapist, I have seen many clients who seek help, believing the
perfect answer to their dilemma is just waiting to be found. The
truth is that many problems simply do not have “good” solutions
and we must settle for the least onerous alternative. The middleaged
woman married to a philanderer who is a good father and
a kind companion must decide which alternative, none of which
are good, works best for her. And then she must remind herself
that while it is unfortunate that her husband is a womanizer, it is
not the end of the world. By making the best of whatever alternative
she does select, she has an excellent chance of experiencing
joy and happiness again.
As you can see from the norms, we can all be a little irrational
at times. While Ellis would have us believe that it is irrational to
think it terrible if we failed at school or work (item 41), the average
person does “Slightly Agree” with this statement. Only those
people who “Totally Agree” or “Mostly Agree” are likely to end
up with a score that results in their being labeled as irrational. I
do like Ellis’s approach to psychotherapy, but I believe there are
times when he is guilty of overstating his case. I suspect the difference
between people who function at a high level and others
is a matter of degree. Even the best-adjusted person could be expected
to feel devastated by losing a job, but they can also recover
relatively quickly. They realize they have no choice but to
move on and to make the best of the situation.
If you did score below the 30th percentile on this test, the
odds are good that you could have a more satisfying life by modifying
the things you say to yourself. The first step is to use your
responses to the individual items to identify your trouble spots.
Do you believe you have to be successful at everything you try in
order to be worthwhile? Are you too concerned with the approval
of others? Do you feel your past makes it impossible for
you to find happiness? As always, the place to start is to know
thine enemy.
Ellis’s classic book, A Guide to Rational Living, is an excellent
guide to help in your effort to think more rationally and logically,
but the essence of this technique is to articulate these rational
statements when you find you are feeling bad. So, if you
feel depressed when you learn a coworker has said something
nasty about you, tell yourself, “I can’t please everyone. I would be
a rather bland person if no one disliked me.” If you feel anxious
while thinking about some small problem, remind yourself that
it is beyond your control and that your life is not going to be
much different no matter what happens. As always, keep in mind
that the key to success in making these changes is persistence
and consistency.


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