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Word Association Test
Another element of Hollywood Psych (along with the Inkblot Test and the "What was your mother like?" question) regarding comedic possibilities for a psychiatrist setting. Typically the scenario is that the psychiatrist will ask the patient a series of words and tell the patient to say the first word that comes to mind.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comedy 
  • In one sketch by German comedian Dieter Hallervorden. At one point, he answers to everything with "broken", even when the psychologist says "children", so he has to correct himself. Later, he misunderstands one word as an insult and insults her back, after which Volleying Insults ensue.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman Adventures #9: Bruce Wayne visits a psychiatrist who tries this on him. Bruce has to lie all the way through the session.
    Doctor: Green.
    Bruce: (thinks of Poison Ivy) Money.
    Doctor: Work.
    Bruce: (thinks of fighting crime) That's the thing that Alfred does, right?
    Doctor: Trust.
    Bruce: (Thinks of Superman) Fund.
    Doctor: Loyal.
    Doctor: Play.
    Bruce: (Thinks of the Riddler) Vickie, Silver, Julie—
    Doctor: One is enough. Good.
    Doctor: Evil.
    Bruce: (Thinks of The Joker) Taxes.
    Doctor: Friend.
    Bruce: (Thinks of Two-Face) Foe.
    Doctor: Happiness.
    Bruce: (Thinks of his parents) ... [Gets up and leaves]
  • In Batman of Arkham, psychotherapist Bruce Wayne tries this with Two-Face fruitlessly ("One." "Two." "Life." "Two." "Death." "Two."), culminating in a breakthrough when Two-Face responds to "Murder" with "Happens."
  • In yet another Batman example, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth has Batman undergoing a word examination test from a shrink as part of a gesture to show The Joker he's not mad. It quickly goes into a bad place ("Mother." "Pearl," coupled with the imagine of Martha Wayne's pearl necklace snapping) and he eventually stops it once the imagery starts piling around the death of his parents and bats, much to The Joker's delight.
  • Doc Samson does this to Multiple Man when interviewing X-Factor. The latter claims he himself isn't sure if the answers were genuine or if he made them up.
    Samson: Black. —> Jamie: Motown.
    Samson: Up. —> Jamie: And away.
    Samson: Over. —> Jamie: The Rainbow.
    Samson: In. —> Jamie: Sane.
    Samson: Alone. —> Jamie: Hell.

    Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • Played with in The Dirty Dozen. One character's responses are all about baseball.
  • In Evil Roy Slade, the title character is given a word association test as part of an attempt to rehabilitate him. Of course, Evil Roy gives violent answers (usually "my gun") to everything... almost:
    Dr. Delp: Bear
    Evil Roy: Teddy
    Dr. Delp: What?
    Evil Roy: Nothin'. Next question.
  • Used by the amateur psychiatrist to get at the root of his new wife's psychosis in Hitchcock's Marnie. Not entirely successfully as he has less skill than he thinks he does.
  • In A Dangerous Method, performed by Jung with Emma as a subject and Sabina as an assistant and an interpreter.
  • Used in Skyfall to lampshade central tropes of the James Bond franchise:
    Psychologist: I'd like to start with some simple word association, so just tell me the first word that pops into your head. For example, I might say "day", and you might say...
    Bond: Wasted.
    Psychologist: [Beat] Alright... Gun.
    Bond: Shot.
    Psychologist: Agent.
    Bond: Provocateur.
    Psychologist: Woman.
    Bond: Provocatrix.
    Psychologist: Heart.
    Bond: Target.
    Psychologist: Bird.
    Bond: Sky.
    Psychologist: M
    Bond: Bitch.
    Psychologist: Sunlight.
    Bond: Swim.
    Psychologist: Moonlight.
    Bond: Dance.
    Psychologist: Murder.
    Bond: Employment.
    Psychologist: Country.
    Bond: England.
    Psychologist: Skyfall.
    Bond: ...
    Psychologist: Skyfall.
    Bond: ...Done.
    (Walks away)

    Literature 
  • Done by the main character to David in Dan Brown's Digital Fortress.
  • In the original book Cheaper By The Dozen, the kids are given this test by a psychologist. The've seen it before, so they mess with her head by purposely giving answers that seem to indicate a morbid mindset. Then one of them gives the answer before being given the word...
  • Ben Richards gets one of these in The Running Man by Stephen King when he's trying out to get on any kind of game show so that he can get money for his sick daughter's treatment.
  • In Scorpia Rising, Julius Grief recieves such a test from his prison psychiatrist. It mostly serves to establish his lust for violence ("Dog."—>"Bone." "Kitchen."—>"Knife."), though at one point he slips up; the doctor says "Letter" and he answers "Bed", almost revealing that he recently received a secret message left under his pillow.

    Live Action TV 
  • On Just Shoot Me!, Dennis uses it on Jack. When he throws in "out of work responsibilities", Jack responds "fired".
    • In another episode, Dennis suggests this approach when thinking of lyrics for a new Christmas song with Nina, who complains that she didn't like it when they played this game at the sanitarium. The session quickly devolves into Volleying Insults.
  • Done to Thomas in Old Harry's Game. He responds to everything with either "Hate" (for words like Mother, World etc) or "Want" (for words like Money, Power etc). Although he does respond to the word "Hate" with "Alan Titchmarsh"
  • In one Saturday Night Live skit a job interviewer (Chevy Chase) gave a Word Association Test to a black job applicant (Richard Pryor). It started out normal, then the interviewer started using racist words and phrases, causing the applicant to become angry. You can read it here.
    • Another episode had Patrick Stewart as a Scottish therapist, who does word association with Mike Meyers' character, an angry Scottish man. Every response is violence ("Mother?" "Headbutt!" "Father?" "Kick in the jimmy!") until Stewart says "Brother?", to which Meyers responds "Seagull". When Stewart asks him to explain, Meyers says that his brother used to tie heavy weights to seagulls and throw them into the loch.
  • Occurs in an episode of Becker.
    Reggie Kostas: Dog.
    Becker: Leave.
    Reggie: Tree.
    Becker: Me.
    Reggie: Man.
    Becker: Alone.
    Reggie: Hey!
  • Seinfeld: Jerry and George visit George's ex-girlfriend in a institution and discuss the perks of being a mental patient, including getting those fun tests.
    Jerry: That'd be great. There's no wrong answer.
    George: Potato.
    Jerry: Tuberculosis.
    George: Blanket.
    Jerry: Leroy.
    George: Grass.
    Jerry: Tuberculosis.
  • Done in an episode of The Prisoner.
    Woman: Hope.
    Six: Anchor.
    Woman: Anchor?
  • Played straight (to devastating effect) as part of the main character's Epiphany Therapy in The Singing Detective.
  • Played for laughs in Good News Week. One of the games includes this as a round.
  • On Bones, Dr Sweets has Booth and Brennan do a word association with each other... resulting in Brennan's sudden decision that she should have a baby.
    Booth: Hunger.
    Brennan: Sex.
    Booth: Whoa!
    Brennan: Horse.
    Booth: Cowboy.
    Brennan: Child.
    Booth: Baby.
    Brennan: Booth.
    Booth: What, what do you think, I'm a baby?
    Brennan: You're a father.
    Booth: Oh. Mother.
    Brennan: Birth.
    Booth: Happy.
    Brennan: Sperm.
    Booth: Sperm? Isn't this getting a little weird?
    Sweets: No, keep going.
    Booth: Ok. Egg!
    Brennan: I want a baby.
    Booth: Whoa!
    Brennan: Horse.
  • Ginger attempts to give Gilligan a word association test on Gilligan's Island. It does not work very well, however, as Gilligan can read minds at the time.
  • This was the inspiration for the game show Password, which involves using one-word clues to describe the Password.
  • Mark has to endure this in Peep Show, and naturally decides to just lie his way through it. Because of the show's Inner Monologue device, we hear what he really thinks, followed by the answer he says out loud: "Work." Snake pit. "Snake... charmer." Eventually, they arrive at, "Mother." Sophie. "Fuck! No, not 'fuck'!"

    Music Videos 
  • Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive" has a variant where the words are actually little pictures displayed on the box masks the psychiatrist and the patient (Dolby himself) wear. Takes place around 2:38 in the video; watch it here.

    Radio 
  • Reversed in the 'Word Disassociation Game' (or 'Word for Word') of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, where the teams have to provide words that aren't associated with the previous word in any way. If the opposing team spots a connection, they buzz in and gain a point.

    Theatre 
  • In You Can't Take It with You, Mr. and Mrs. Kirby to play this game, writing down the first word they think of when Penny says a word. Mr. Kirby's answers: "potatoes—steak"; "bathroom—toothpaste"; "lust—unlawful"; "honeymoon—trip"; "sex—male." Mrs. Kirby's answers: "potatoes—starch"; "bathroom—Mr. Kirby" ("well, you do take a long time"); "lust—human" (Mr. Kirby objects when she explains that lust is a human emotion); "honeymoon—dull"; "sex—Wall Street" (for a reason she can't comfortably discuss).

    Video Games 
  • In the first episode of Sam & Max Save The World, Sybil psychoanalyses Sam and you have to get him diagnosed with the fictional Artificial Personality Dissorder. One of the method she uses is free association and you can do whathever "you feel like" (Mainly, clicking things or, when you click on her, answer a word). It's doesn't have a set of other choices and failing to get the actual one you seek will take Sybil to comment you have something but she won't tell you. Well, THAT, and the following conversation:
    Sybil: I see you are a general violent person.
    Sam: Whoa! That's a blowing.
    Max: Yeah, I always thought of you as an specifically violent person.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: The player is asked to take one during character creation, complete with a number of humorous answers, such as "Human Shield" in response to "Mother".
  • Dragon Age II - Varric and Anders' banter in the "Mark of the Assassin" expansion includes a back-and-forth version of this. Orlesian = fop, party = crash, and Templar = "Argh, Anders is talking about Templars again."

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants: In the episode "Fear of a Krabby Patty", SpongeBob visits psychiatrist Dr. P. Lankton, who lists ingredients of a Krabby Patty. SpongeBob just repeats whatever Plankton says. Plankton then explains that he supposed to say a different word. Then,
    Plankton: Tomato.
    SpongeBob: Tomato.
    Plankton: Potato.
    SpongeBob: Potato.
  • An identical scene occurs in an episode of All Grown Up!.
  • Duckman episode "Forbidden Fruit" had this example.
  • Animaniacs "De-Zanitized" Yakko responds to Dr. Scratchansniff's word association, just not the words that the doctor wanted.
    Dr Scratchansniff: Get out, get out! Get OUT!
    Yakko: Leave, leave, leave.
  • In 2 Stupid Dogs, "A Quarter":
    Doctor: Airplane.
    Little Dog: Ball!
    Big Dog: Food.
    Doctor: Women.
    Little Dog: Ball!
    Big Dog: Food.
    Doctor: Grasshopper.
    Little Dog: Ball!
    Big Dog: Food.
    Doctor: (sigh) This isn't working!
    Little Dog: Ball!
    Big Dog: Food.
    (Doctor slap his forehead.)
  • An episode of Code Monkeys has the entire staff evaluated by a psychologist. Mr. Larrity, the craziest of them, associates "orphanage" with arson.

    Real life 
  • In real-life therapy, the therapist doesn't really care about what a person responds, they are interested in seeing how long it takes to respond. The reasoning is that if a person takes a longer-than-average time to formulate a response to a particular prompt, they have a mental block (formally, a "complex") on that topic and it deserves to be probed deeper.

There Are No TherapistsHollywood Psych    

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