Einstein’s “Relatively” Surprising Test Results
Kimberly Probolus, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH), is a public historian whose research explores the rise and development of gifted and talented education in the postwar era. Below is an excerpt from her recent blog post on Smithsonian Voices.
“Do you prefer low, well-upholstered furniture? Do you like to sleep nude? Do you have a poor poker face? These questions may sound like another kooky BuzzFeed quiz, but they are actually taken from a test entitled ‘Who Are You?’ The test, developed by psychologist William H. Sheldon, categorized people into one of three different body types: endomorph (fat), ectomorph (thin), and mesomorph (muscular) based on their responses to questions about their daily habits, traits, and preferences.
The prolific writer Aldous Huxley helped popularize Sheldon’s theories in the 1940s and 1950s during a time when both academics and the general public increasingly turned to psychology as a way to study, research, and know the self. Even the famed physicist Albert Einstein took a version of Sheldon’s test, which revealed his preference to remain ‘inconspicuous’ at parties and his difficulty falling asleep if somebody was snoring loudly nearby.”
Kimberly Probolus, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMNH), is a public historian whose research explores the rise and development of gifted and talented education in the postwar era. She earned her Ph.D. from the American Studies Department at the George Washington University in 2019. Prior to graduate school, she spent a year teaching English at a Buddhist middle school for girls on a Fulbright Fellowship in South Korea. Among the honors she has received are the Early Career Award from the European Society for the History of the Human Sciences and the Gerald R. Ford Dissertation Award from the Ford Library. Her research has been supported by grants from the LBJ Foundation, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, the Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation, and the Rockefeller Archives Center.
As a writer for both academic and public audiences, her writing has appeared in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a textbook for secondary school students. She has taught classes at the George Washington University as both a graduate teaching assistant and as an adjunct faculty member. Her teaching has spanned topics ranging from feminist theory to immigration history, and she is certified as an instructor of writing in the disciplines. For the past three semesters, she has designed and taught an intensive, seven-week, experimental course on public history in Washington, D.C. for students who needed to make up lost credit hours. Utilizing the cultural resources in the greater Washington metropolitan region, she introduced students to key themes and methods in American Studies while reinforcing basic study skills.