Why We Love Quizzes: The Psychology Behind It


What are quizzes?

Quizzes are considered a form of game or sport that we play using our mind, trying to give the right answers to the questions on an exact topic in order to win a game. A quiz is mainly used to measure the knowledge or skills a person has in different spheres. Quizzes are a good way of entertainment so they are used for that purpose as well and are the main reason why they are so popular.

The history of quizzing

We have no record of the word quiz in Ancient or even Mediaeval times so if Romans or Egyptians did play quizzes we have no recorded proof for it.

According to Britannica, the word “quiz” itself was first used in print in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which was surprisingly recent—1782—and the word back then referred to an odd-looking person. Another meaning that this word had was  “a joke/hoax”.

Although these are accepted facts, there is a myth about the creation of the word “quiz”.According to the myth, there was a person named Richard Daly who bet some people that he could create a new word within 24 hours that people would actually use. He came out with this word, called “a quiz”. After this, he goes on to hire a group of children to write his newly created word on the streets of Dublin. At first, people had no idea what it meant and thought that this word related to a sort of test, and this was when it acquired a meaning.

As a result, there was a new word and new money in Daly’s pocket. This is a really interesting story but in reality, there is no evidence to it and we don’t know for sure if this story is true as it sounds more like an anecdote. Over time the word changed its meaning. In the 19th century, it was used to refer to a  practical joke or a witticism as well as the person making it.

The meaning that we know today test that measures one knowledge of different topics first appeared in print in 1867 and survived since then and kept not only its meaning but also got more and more popular. Usually, quizzes are tests that are not long enough to qualify as examinations, hence are often not announced before being given to the surprised students.

These kinds of games are often used in North American higher education environments in order to briefly test the knowledge a student has on course material, giving teachers insights into pupil progress and any gaps of comprehension if there is any. Professors at universities and teachers at school often implement this kind of activity to make sure that their students have gained enough information on the material they studied. They can be both graded and ungraded. These games have become increasingly common despite the fact that they have lost their meaning referred to as peculiar objects and shifted to competition. Nobody knows why this strange shift happened but the fact remains a fact that for today quizzes are extremely popular.

The structure of quizzes

How are quizzes created? Generally, we need contestants, a host, questions, and a topic. In order to prepare the questions the host has to rely on different sources instead of a few websites or books. The questions must be interesting, original, and understandable without causing any debates.

There are many platforms that give you the opportunity to create engaging quizzes and tests within minutes. For example, the WordPress quiz plugin offers dozens of options to build fully customizable and advanced-level exams. The quiz should preferably have rounds, each round typically based on one topic.

They can cover a wide range of topics, from specialized subjects such as history, maths, and fashion to general knowledge.

As we already mentioned, a quiz is a short test, typically around 10 or 15 questions (with question formats including multiple choice, true or false, fill in the blanks, and short answer). Usually, quizzes do not have much impact on the final course grade and are much shorter than traditional tests.

Behind all of these, the foremost organiser is usually the host which means that he is the quizmaster and is one of the main key components of any quiz to be considered as a successful one. The host is not only responsible for preparing the question by relying on different sources but also for keeping the general audience engaged. Although the quizmasters are not typically responsible for setting the questions themselves, especially if the quiz event is large, they should have awareness of the subject matter to some extent so that they can be able to point out why a certain answer is incorrect, for example. Usually, the quizmasters have flashcards with them that have all the questions written as well as some additional information that may be needed for such debatable situations. The job of a host/quizmaster is really important as he can make a quiz event twice as good as it could be or the opposite.

We already gained enough information about what quizzes are, how they are played and why, and what anatomy they have.

Now to the most interesting part.

Why do people actually love/enjoy quizzes and why are they so popular?

First of all, they are challenging. Quizzes challenge our brains, they make us think and keep our minds working. They are mental exercises that can be rewarding and enjoyable at the same time. People are competitive by nature and what is another good and valid reason for loving quizzes is that they offer an opportunity for people to compete with each other waking up in them they want to win which is a good stimulus to play the game. The need to earn the highest point makes people excited and gives them motivation.

Although the quizzes are for testing the knowledge that people already have, they are a good way of learning too. In this way, the participants can acquire new information and as the process of learning is not dull people can easily memorize whatever they learned. Sometimes people even take quizzes in order to reinforce their existing knowledge. This educational aspect makes quizzes a valuable tool for self-development.

As mentioned above, quizzes are used for entertaining purposes as they are fun! Thanks to quizzes, the boring and monotonous daily life is broken and it provides us with the opportunity of enjoying time either alone or with friends and family. Quizzes are a great way of amusement!

They give us a sense of accomplishment as we get to know the results right after we finish the quiz in contrast to more serious tests and examinations in case of which we have to wait several days. So this instant gratification can be really satisfying.

Quizzes are not only for educational purposes but also can be a great way of self-discovery. Through personality quizzes, especially those assessing traits or preferences people find out more about themselves and the people in their surroundings. They gain insights into their relationships, personalities, and even potential career life. This can actually be an eye-opening experience.

Social activities and bonding are underestimated activities. With quizzes, we get the opportunity to make that happen as they bring people together and kick-start conversations.

Throughout the day people can get quite stressed or tired. Quizzes are in this case an enjoyable and lighthearted getaway for taking a short rest from a fast-paced world and relieving the feeling of anxiousness

Quizzes are many-sided and variable. There are many forms of them to meet the interests of every individual, making them within the reach of a wide audience. So if you are a sports fanatic, fashionista, or song enthusiast, there’s a big probability that you can find a quiz that meets your interests.

Interesting facts about quizzes

  1. “The General Knowledge Contest” is recorded as one of the earliest quiz shows. It took place in the United States in the 1930s offering prizes to those contestants who would answer little-known questions correctly.
  2. A very popular form of quizzes is “pub quizzes” which have a relatively long history that goes back to the 1970s. They are very popular in the United Kingdom and neighboring countries. As we can guess by the name, these quizzes are held in pubs.
  3. “Who wants to be a millionaire” is one of the widely known quizzes which has been translated into many languages and been broadcast in different countries gaining many followers.
  4. The largest quiz game ever recorded came to pass in Kolkata, India in 2014. It was systematized by the Times of India and had almost 2,000 participants.
  5. There are large online platforms like Kahoot!, Quizlet, and others that allow people to set, share, or participate in different quiz games.


As a summary


Quizzes have a special place in our hearts. They have lasted for a while and remain popular as they offer a good way of feeding our cravings for social interaction, thirst for mental engagement, and interests. So their lasting popularity can be ascribed to the opportunity of providing a mixture of education, entertainment, challenges, and the possibility of gathering people together.


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