Quiz: What’s Your Personality Type — for Play?

What’s your personality — for play?

As I’ve worked on my happiness project, the importance of play has becoming increasingly apparent to me. For a happy life, it’s not enough to have an absence of bad feelings — we also need sources of good feelings.

For many adults, however, it’s surprisingly hard to know how to have more fun. If you don’t know what to do for fun, a good question to consider is: What did you do for fun when you were ten years old? Because that’s probably something you’d enjoy now, whether walking in the woods, playing with your dog, making things with your hands, taking pictures, playing basketball, or dancing around the living room. When I was ten years old, I spent hours copying my favorite quotations into “blank books” and illustrating the passages with pictures I cut from magazines. Exactly what I do on my blog!

Because of my interest in play, I couldn’t resist picking up Stuart Brown’s Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

I was particularly struck by Brown’s analysis of the question, “What is your play personality?” He makes clear that these categories aren’t scientifically based, but a product of his years of observation.

Where do you fit in these eight personalities?

1. The Joker — makes people laugh, plays practical jokes.

2. The Kinesthete — loves to move, dance, swim, play sports.

3. The Explorer — goes to new places, meets new people, seeks out new experiences (physically or mentally).

4. The Competitor — loves all forms of competition, has fun keeping score.

5. The Director — enjoys planning and executing events and experiences, like throwing parties, organizing outings, and leading.

6. The Collector — loves the thrill of collecting, whether objects or experiences.

7. The Artist/Creator — finds joy in making things, fixing things, decorating, working with his or her hands.

8. The Storyteller — loves to use imagination to create and absorb stories, in novels, movies, plays, performances.

What do you think? Does this accurately capture the different worlds of play?

I found it extremely helpful to see these categories, because it made clear some questions that have long mystified me. How is it possible that some people seem positively to enjoy planning big events? Why don’t I enjoy having a collection the way so many people do? Why don’t I much like playing cards or board games?

I am #8 through and through, with only a bit of #7. How about you? I wonder if some people have strong appreciation for more than a few categories, or if I’m typical, with a strong inclination for a single category.

Do you see yourself in this scheme? What do you do for play, and where does it fit in here?


  • I feel I’m the artist/creator and storyteller type. Loved to play with lego to build architectures and also to read my storybooks 😉

  • Corrie

    I am pretty equally divided between #8 (reading and writing) and #7 (many crafts, especially scrapbooking and knitting). I do love board games so I guess I have a dash of #4 too. No identification at all with the rest of the categories but can think of people that I know to fit each one.

  • Fenner Kb

    When I was ten, my now-known-to-be-gay BFF and I played with my 22 inch Italian dolls, making up stories about some women characters in The Big Valley. Alas, it’s hard to get gay guys to play dolls with me any more.

    I do improv comedy for fun, now–long form, so it’s not about the immediate yucks, so I guess it’s like number 8.

    Back then, I wouldn’t have been caught dead choosing to walk outdoors, now I adore it, so….

  • This is fun! I am #7, the artist/creator and #3 the explorer. I have a great art room with all kinds of crafts but I am guilty of not playing in there enough! I need to change this! Love to travel and meet new people and make new friends!

  • Amy

    I think maybe I am 1, 2, and 8 with a little bit of 3, 5, and 7.


  • Brittanylane

    I’m a solid #7, but my husband doesn’t fit into any of these categories. He is a logical, left-brained, information-loving brainiac. He finds enjoyment in numbers, fixing and building things, reading, and figuring out puzzles.

    • nel

      I agree that there’s a category missing – for those who like math and game theory and logic puzzles, not for the “win” but for the joy of the process (and figuring out more efficient method or lateral methods or just off-the-wall exceptions that work)

      • I agree … it seems like there needs to be a mental version of #2/#3 for people who enjoy challenging themselves intellectually and learning new things. I think this is a pretty common type of “fun” for the geek personality.

        The complement to #2 would cover interests like logic puzzles, crosswords, mathematics — basically challenging the mind in a similar way to sports that challenge the body.

        The complement to #3 would cover those who get excited about learning about economics one week, reading studies on body language and memory the next week, and learning how to debone a chicken the following week. Someone who’s interested in exploring the world from an intellectual perspective and is made happy by learning new and esoteric things.

      • gretchenrubin

        This is such an interesting point. I’m looking again at PLAY, where Brown
        explains the categories at greater length. You know, I really don’t think
        there’s a slot for this! And I know a lot of people who are like this —
        people who love being tax lawyers, or write code in their free time, just as
        you describe.

        I think it would be in #7, but his description of #7 tilts toward the
        creation of physical objects. But I think that’s closest.

        • Katie D.

          Another activity that doesn’t immediately seem to fall into a category is playing a musical instrument (or singing). The closest would maybe be the Creative/Artistic category if you’re a songwriter. But it’s often about finessing a song written by someone else. So maybe there should be a category about Mastering.

        • PeggySu

          I struggled with this list and was glad to see these comments. I’m another one who loves to write code in their spare time.

  • Megan

    I’m a mix of 1, 4, 5, and 8! How crazy!? As I kid, I kept a large spiral notebook filled with quotations, too! And after beating my 4th grade class at Clue, I set up a “trial” and tried Miss Scarlet for killing Professor Plum…guess that’s the lawyer in me 😉

  • Hmm, it’s odd to me as I think about what I enjoy best, that I think I maybe see myself differently than I really am. I love words, love to write, love to read, and usually think of myself as a writer and storyteller type person. But the activities that bring me the most joy are decorating, crafting, making materials that work perfectly for my job as a speech language pathologist, cooking, and gardening…all very much involving working with my hands. I wonder if I see myself as a writer because it seems more intelligent than an artist/creator. When I’m honest, though, I have to admit that, as much as I love words and writing, maybe it’s the creative and artistic aspect of it, more than the storytelling, that really draws me in.

  • #8, #4, #2!

    when i was 10, my favorite activities were probably:

    a) writing stories and diary entries –> my blog t0day!

    b) cartwheeling around the house –> just got back from a yoga class filled with backbends and handstands

    c) reading books –> reading books

    not sure where playing my NES [nintendo entertainment system, obvs!] fits in, but i think i’m glad i can’t draw a parallel there!!

  • Ginger

    I see myself in at least two categories full in, and maybe a little of one more…I play all the time…sports, planning events with my friends, and fixing things…playing is what we have to do everyday to be really happy…have you had your fun today?

  • I don’t think you could put me in any one compartment, but I still have the imagination of a child and that keeps me on young and open minded!

  • JanT

    I’d see myself mainly as number 8 – I LOVE to escape with a good book or a movie and one of the games that my friend and I love to play is imagining where, if we could be anywhere but here, we would be! I’m also a bit of number 3 though – this year is all about trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone. So far, I’ve signed up for a creative writing class, a sailing lesson, started swimming lessons and I’m making my first trip to the US later this year (I’m from Scotland)!

  • I love this list of playful personality types, thank you for sharing!
    After watching your video on this topic, I’ve recently posted on my blog a few things I’ve found fun when I was ten years old, and how those resonate with today’s having fun and my job(s) http://goo.gl/Swulu it was so much fun to see how much similarity there is in the ten years old Estrella and the almost 24 years old 😉

    As for my personality type, I think I’m a definite #7 and #8 with a touch of #6/3

  • Peninitih1

    I’m definitely a 7&8 combination. I have two rooms pretty much devoted to my quilting and if caught lying awake at night I am designing a quilt. I love to play with fabric, colors and design. When I entertain I love to make pretty and interesting table settings as well as cook an interesting meal. I have written a novel and poetry cycles too, and of course I am steeped in reading as well as writing.

  • I’m a mash up of 2, 3, 4 and 7. But I have never scored “normally” on any of these types of things so who knows…

  • Lori

    I can relate to them ALL! Not too surprising as someone once told me I was the only person they knew who could have a good time walking across the street to the mailbox. Simply put, I’m easily amused, curious about everything, and enjoy life to the fullest. Great list – I’ll have to look up the book!

  • Ooo I am definitely an Explorer, my happiest times are when I am discovering something new….even if it’s just a new recipe! When I was younger I was always going on an adventure down in the woods with a long stick and my mum’s favourite silk hankerchief tied up in a bundle at the top. 🙂

  • You’re not alone. I’m fully a 3, 7 and 8! I love to explore, have new experiences, take photos of them and then write about them.

  • I’m probably number 7 and 8 and maybe a bit of 2. Definitely not “The Director” type. I wouldn’t even want to plan my own wedding!

  • Charlotte Watts1

    I am number 3 completely. Its interesting how sometimes just seeing something you already knew about yourself written down makes you feel a little more sure about it. And seeing the description of an “explorer” written down sort of justified my love for exploring to myself. I already knew how much I enjoyed trying new things, and meeting new people, etc., but didn’t know that could be considered my form of play.. Now I’ll keep exploring away! 🙂

  • I’m definitely split between numbers 7 & 8, although more evenly between the two. It definitely makes sense, as my favorite childhood past times were making clothes for my barbies and doing school musicals and now I’m a jewelry designer/stylist and a singer in a band!

  • What I am: The Storyteller. LOVE movies and TV and novels and writing and blogging about the most insanely random (but alphabetical!) things.
    What I WISH I were: The Kinesthete. I would do so much just for the pure pleasure of it. Imagine how fit and thin and energetic I would be…
    …any way to change what we like? (Didn’t think so…)

  • I am strongly 2 and 7, then 3, 6, and 8. A tiny dash of Director. Not much of the Competitor or Joker in me at all.

  • I am a strong #8 with a touch of #4 – but more along the board games kind of competition!

  • Stephanie

    I’d say I’m a bit of #2, #7 and #8 in equal measure, with a dash of #3 and an occasional pinch of #5.

  • Kate

    Reading this I was immediately struck as being a fairly even split between 5/Director, not because I like big events but BOY do I like planning and list-making and scheduling even a tiny dinner party!, and 8/Storyteller (I am a non-profit grantwriter by profession, bookworm by nature, and I love a good antecdote). I’d also say I’m a touch # 1/Joker. I definitely like to make people laugh, but I abhor “practical jokes.”

  • Si_hosea

    I was very surprised to read this post (I loved it) since I had been writing a similar post a couple of months ago. I will be referring to this post in my own blogpost, since they’re so similar. My types of people (so not types of play) were (without trying to capture them all): the Helper, the Organizer, the Researcher, the Discoverer, the Builder, the Leader(http://bit.ly/dIFTqC). Some overlap, and some don’t… Interesting stuff! And thank you for your thoughts on it!

  • I’m just finishing Brown’s book and have enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m a #7 through and through. Occasionally the spirit of the director will overtake me, but only when it’s my own idea. I make signs and set up displays in my businesses. I’m definitely not a#4 – no chess, bridge, or pinochle for me.

  • I’m primarily #8, with a little #3 and #7 thrown in 🙂

  • CB

    I’m a bit of everything except 4 and 5. I don’t go in for competition sports, or board games. I also don’t like organizing/planning/leading things. I guess that’s why most of what gives me joy are solitary ventures (hiking, reading, drawing, riding my bicycle, sewing, poking around an antique or junk shop, riding my motorcycle). I’m happy to do these things alone or with company. Either way they are enjoyable.

  • It’s hard to narrow down what I really am because sometimes I have enjoyed playing most the roles presented here. Mmm. ok I’m a mix of 2, 3, 4 and 6. I enjoy being the participant in any game or activity. It doesn’t matter if I have never done it before because I like collecting all sorts of experiences. And I will surely bring it on regardless of what is at stake. May it be just a simple tennis game or winning a bet.

  • I’m so glad you’re highlighting Stuart Brown’s book. I read it after I heard him interviewed in 2008 on Speaking of Faith, and it really changed my world view. You can download the interview here: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/play/

  • Thank you so much for mentioning this book. I read it and am still thinking about how these differing styles of play affect relationships and bonding within a family.

  • Hm. I’m guessing I’m a mix of #7 & #8, at least when it comes to play. I wonder if these aren’t also fairly fluid. And what I REALLY wonder is if/when there will be an app to remind us to play, and in which persona. (Also, all playful parts of me thank you kindly for the shout-out. Which is totally not like shouting at all, ever, coming from you!)

  • Jay Fogg

    In my early 20s many years ago I was lucky enough to have a friend and mentor who sometimes nearly all the time spoke in iambic pentameter. The thing that he told me as the one thing to remember if I only remember one thing was “Have fun!” That’s been my overriding mantra ever since.
    As to the “personalities”, they strike me like all the personality matrices that are floating around out there. “Oh, that’s me, I’m number 6.” or “I’m a bit of 6, with a touch of 5 and a lot of 3”, etc. As Americans/Westerners, we want to find our label. I’d rather side with the Plains Indians (Seven Arrows, H. Storm) and say, my gifts are of the storyteller, artist/creator and kinesthete… but in my playful pursuit to become a complete human being I look forward to developing my skills in each of the other five (each of which I have dabbled in at some point and always enjoyed so long as I remembered the prime directive: Have fun!)

  • Sandra

    Gretchen, you are one of the most avid collectors I’ve ever encountered – your thing is information and your passion for it is so inspiring…

    • Lizhsp

      Absolutely agree with this! When I read in the book that Gretchen was pushing herself to collect bluebirds, I wanted to shout through the pages, “You are already a collector! Of quotes! Of information! Even biographies.” A real collector doesn’t try to force it. Much like Gretchen’s archive of quotations, it’s a natural obsession.

  • Phyllis

    Truly a 3, with more than a smattering of 7 due to my fondness for theater, music, books, and museums -My taste are ecletic – and it’s probably the explorer in me than finds enjoyment in discovering new ways to look at the world, respond to beauty, and celebrate humanity and nature. Thx for the illustration of play!

  • Anne

    #7. I love making things for the people I love. My craft room is a haven for artmaking, sewing, beading. . .all things creative. Like most other commenters I also relate to the other play personality types sometimes, but at my core I am a #7.

  • Anne

    p.s. Yes, the things I do for fun now are almost exactly the types of things I did when I was 10 years old. Mostly an artist with a bit of all the others thrown in.

  • Christine

    Wow, I couldn’t think of anything I did at age 10 that I would want to do now (like playing with Barbies, etc.) but when I read the categories, I realized that I am “The Director.” When I was 8, I planned a surprise birthday party for my mom and called up everyone in her roladex to come over that night and please bring a present. LOL!

    I’m still the planner and enjoy setting up social activities and outings for my family. I even organized a book club that is meeting monthly to do the Happiness Project!

  • This is fun to think about!! I’m actually kind of having a hard time settling on one, though. Well, I think I’m mostly #7, but I also relate to #3 and I also LOVE throwing parties.

  • Sturdy Peasant Woman

    I have just discovered The Happiness Project and am not quite certain yet what it is, but I will find out.

    From the list above, I am equally a six and a seven, with enough three and four thrown in to allow me to continue being a six and a seven.  Every time I see a new…anything, I want to know, “How did they do that?”  Then I think, “I can do that!” or, “I want to learn how to do that!”

    My main source(s) of unhappiness, as far as I can tell, is being good at a job I hate but not being able to make enough to live on doing the things I love to do.  No one where I work can understand how I can be good at this and not like it.

  • Marie

    Play is a luxury.  True play can only happen when our attachment needs have been satiated.  Are we driven to collect or compete? Or is the energy more gentle and free flowing? Play is about fun and is never compulsive. Are we directing because it is less vulnerable to be in the lead and because we have problems depending? Without an understanding of attachment it is hard to label play.   

  • Gmolly

    Contemplating my play type I had to laugh, because I think I’m pretty much all play.  My struggle was finding a work type for me.  Couldn’t make a living as a professional player, so I just squeezed what I do best – play – into the background while I struggled with work.  Now, as a retired school teacher, I look back at my teaching career and realize that I was the best at teaching when I brought play into the classroom.  I sometimes thought this was cheating or time out until we got back to the serious business of learning, but deep inside I knew that the play/learning combination was probably the most effective way I taught.  Now I’m sorry I didn’t indulge even more in that.

    Definitely a three with a two wing.

  • I’m a 7 or 8.  4 would be the last thing on the list.  I hate things that are competitive.

  • Both seven and eight. Eight is what I’ve had more opportunity to pursue, but seven has worked it’s way into my life lately and I love it. 

  • person

    Dear lord, I’m all of them!! It’s crazy! I love laughing and making people laugh. I’m a bit less of a kinsthete, but undeniably dancing and playing quidditch are 2 of my favo passtimes. The new places/people/experiences thing is right up my alley – I can’t help myself! It’s just so much fun! I may be a bit less competitor as well, but keeping score is fun for me, not crucial, so I don’t know – maybe. Collector – well, kind of. I love old things, retro things, second-hand stuff that I find in my grandma’s house that once belonged to my uncle’s best friend. Then we have the artist, which I am UNDENIABLY. I can’t stop – sometimes I just need to write or paint (even though I’m coswallop at painting) or SOMETHING like that. And finally, the storyteller. Really? Not like I have any control over my immense need to read EVERY SINGLE DAY (seriously. I feel malnourished if I don’t). And movies, plays, performances? COME ON!! If only it wasn’t exam time…
    so what do I do? Where do I fit?

  • Wendy

    I’m a very definite 3/7/8. 🙂

  • Wow! I like all ten categories! Life is so much fun!

  • I think I’m mostly a storyteller, but I’m also a bit of an artist/creator and an explorer.

  • LaughingSun Yoga

    i was immediately struck by a missing “play personality:”  #9.  The Aesthete/Observer.  some of the best fun i have is in observing – watching plays, theater, concerts, dance, good movies, going to museums, going to a park, sitting in a cafe and people watching, even shopping for me is really just a chance to fill the well with beautiful imagery and observations and inspiration.  yes, i’m a 7/8/2 with a little bit of 3 tossed in, but for me the play is less in the action and more in the observation.  i think a lot of people play this way – not just mindless tv watching, but true observation and aesthetic appreciation.

    • Eve

      Thanks a lot for introducing #9, which was and still is most probably MY number, too! 😉
      As a child there had also been some 8/1/6 tossed in, whereas now as an adult I seem more like an 9/8/1/3 … the # 3 part still surpries me and makes me happy … makes me feel so bold and daring, lol!

  • Evanna

    I am definitely #2. If I’m not moving, it’s usually no fun for me. For instance, I’ve never enjoyed watching movies.

  • Caroline Cheng

    It’s good to see that there are other people who fall into multiple areas as well — I’m every category except for #4 The Competitor, haven’t got a competitive bone in me at all. But I just think this means that in terms of deriving fun from life, I’ve got 7 different areas I can draw from which makes my life really full and vibrant – exactly how I want it! Also often I’m combining different areas into one event or task – I love planning parties and being the host, making people laugh at my party with outrageous jokes and if my friends bring their friends who I’ve never met before, meeting new people (the explorer category). That’s three categories at once!

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  • Cathy Everitt

    Hi, Gretchen,

    I am really enjoying your blog. You have mentioned loving children/young people’s literature. I wonder if you have read my friend Maria Burke’s book which has been the number one selling children’s book in the Republic of Ireland since shortly after publication last year? It’s called The Ark of Dun Ruah by Maria Burke. It’s intended for children 10 and older. I enjoyed it and she did the cover art as well. It’s available from amazon.

    Thanks for all your encouragement!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ll check it out! Love getting suggestions.

  • Aneesh786

    Now reading others results and reading Vani’s Strings description, I think I’m more like that in reality.

    more info: http://www.quizdeal.com/

  • Zander

    I am just about 50-50 with #3 and #7 🙂

  • Lisa Gluck

    Explorer, Artist, & Collector. All at once sometimes. I found out I’ve become more of a questioner over the years than the outright rebel of my youth, which is a very good thing. We ladies love quizzes. I wonder if that has to do with all of those quizzes in the teen magazines and Cosmo growing up. I we question ourselves much more than men do, and perhaps were taught to do so without even being aware of it. It is a good tool. I think if more people questioned themselves, the world might be more compassionate toward ‘the other’.

  • Cerise

    Found this online quiz to help determine your play personality. Enjoy playing! Your Play Personality Quiz

  • Myriam

    I don’t fit in any of it. I think you need another category for people who loves to learn new things, considering new ideas, being in the future and the possibilities, reading, etc. Something a bit more intellectual!