What Your Wishes Say About You

What you wish for may say much about who you are. Men wish for sex and power, and women wish for happiness.

By Annie Murphy Paul, published on November 1, 1997 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Be careful what you wish for—it could reveal who you are, says Laura King, of Southern Methodist University. In a study published in the Journal of Personality, King administered a personality test to 405 college students, then asked them a simple question: "If you could have three wishes, what would you ask for?" Responses ran the gamut, from the obvious ("to be healthy and happy") to the impossible ("to have sex with Marilyn Monroe") to the peculiar ("to eat Chinese food at every meal every day for the rest of my life"). When examining these wishes and the people who made them, King discovered some interesting connections:

The most common wishes were for friends, happiness, health, marriage, money, success, self-improvement, and to help other people.

Although men's and women's wishes were generally similar, men were more likely to wish for sex and power, while women were more likely to wish for happiness, a better appearance, and better health.

Extroverted people often wished for happiness and positive feelings, and frequently included other people in their wishes. Neurotic people wished to be more sociable and more emotionally stable—in other words, to be less neurotic. "The chances of that wish coming true are practically zero," says King, noting that personality traits are notoriously hard to change.

Those who were already satisfied with their lives were the most likely to believe that their wishes would come true.