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There is a range of personality tests based on various assumptions concerning psychological problems’ manifestation. Speaking about the objective assessments of personality, one should pay attention to the way that they are different from subjective ones and the sources of the dissimilarities. The administration of both objective and subjective tests such as MMPI and the Rorschach test requires preliminary research, professional experience, and critical thinking skills.
Objective Personality Assessments
The term “objective” is used to demonstrate that in such tests, final results do not depend on the client’s personal opinions, self-image, and similar factors. Concerning the features of objective tests, the fact that they are “less susceptible to answer distortions” and more structured compared to subjective methods is believed to have a positive impact on the reliability of results, thus increasing the effectiveness of psychological treatment strategies (Proyer & Häusler, 2007, p. 537).
Among the well-known objective measures, there are MMPI, CPI, and BDI used to measure specific traits or their combination (Roberts, Tarescavage, Ben-Porath, & Roberts, 2018; Proyer & Häusler, 2007). The first two tests are widely used in pre-employment psychological evaluations.
Objective methods are based on the assumption that to achieve accuracy, the testee should have no idea about the links between his or her answers and evaluators’ conclusions (Proyer & Häusler, 2007). Concerning its correctness, there are opinions that there is no face validity related to the purpose of questions from objective tests (Proyer & Häusler, 2007). In general, the correctness of this assumption is not a matter of dispute.
However, judging from modern researchers’ works, the technical adequacy of objective assessments varies from one test to another. Thus, there are mixed views on the effectiveness of Cattell’s Objective Analytic Test Battery, whereas the recent versions of CPI and MMPI are regarded as technically adequate (Proyer & Häusler, 2007; Roberts et al., 2018). Even if an objective test shows positive results in some population, its translated versions may need to undergo the procedures of cultural and social adaptation to be administered and interpreted correctly (Mansur-Alves, Silva, & Fernandes, 2016). Despite the presence of linguistic equivalence, the same concept can be understood in different ways based on the testee’s native culture.
Projective Personality Assessments
Projective approaches to personality assessment also belong to techniques that are used to provide timely psychological help. The term “projective” implies that, instead of reporting facts, the testee uses his or her imagination to logically structure some ambiguous situations. As for the features of such methods of assessment, projective tests do not possess a rigid structure and allow analyzing the content of responses and their deep meaning (Piotrowski, 2017). Comparing them to objective tests, it can be suggested that projective methods make use of the holistic approach to personality assessment instead of emphasizing particular personality traits.
Some researchers such as Piotrowski (2017) believe that professionals in the field have preconceived opinions about projective tests. However, some projective measures such as TAT, Rorschach’s test, and tools involving projective drawings (for instance, Draw a Person tests) are used in both developed and developing countries, especially with children (Piotrowski, 2015). Concerning the underlying assumptions, projective tests are based on the idea that very specific questions limit people’s self-expression, thus producing responses that fail to reflect clients’ hidden motivations (Piotrowski, 2015). Therefore, exposure to unstructured stimuli is seen as the factor that encourages people to express any thoughts freely.
The reliability of this assumption is often criticized regarding researchers’ biases. Some studies conducted by the opponents of projective methods show that response interpretation, just like response generation, can involve the distortions of information complicating the analysis of this assumption (Piotrowski, 2015). As for the reliability and validity of such tests, based on the study of Lilienfeld et al. conducted in 2000 and the conclusions of Mihura et al. dated 2013, the evidence proving the validity of projective techniques is scarce (Piotrowski, 2015).
Despite that, based on Piotrowski’s (2015) literature review, the use of projective methods, especially the Rorschach’s test, tends to be approved by at least one-third of specialists conducting personality assessments. One more issue surrounding projective techniques relates to social and cultural variability. For instance, according to Meyer, Giromini, Viglione, Reese, and Mihura (2015), adult clients’ educational level is associated with the Rorschach test variables related to “the articulation of subtlety and coping resources”, and research participants’ age is predictive of the logic of thought processes (p. 46). Along with culture-based differences, for instance, dissimilarities in the perception of the same symbol, the mentioned tendencies should be taken into account to use projective methods.
Synthesis, Conclusions, and Recommendations
S., an English-speaking school teacher who is 31 years old, is present to a psychologist’s office with the following complaints: workplace stress and feelings of emptiness. This African-American woman is a single mother of two children aged 4 and 6. Concerning her marital status, she broke up with her husband one year ago due to his alcohol dependence and has not had relationships with other men since then.
It would be possible to use the Rorschach test (subjective) and MMPI (objective) to shed light on the causes of the client’s problems. The objective test could be administered using the online version of MMPI-2-RF, and studying interpretative guides would be pivotal (Ben-Porath, 2019). Concerning its advantages, the use of the revised version of MMPI for adults would help to make preliminary conclusions concerning anxiety and depressive symptoms in the client probably related to her chief complaints. Speaking about potential limitations, it is known that the average MMPI scores for white and non-white testees vary (Ben-Porath, 2019). Given the identified client’s ethnicity, it can impact the quality of results.
Compared to the objective measure, the use of the subjective test would require specific psychodiagnostic plates and manuals. The administration of the inkblot test invented by Rorschach would involve a range of advantages. For instance, the need to recognize some objects in unstructured test materials would distract S. from her negative experience at work, helping her to understand its potential causes. More than that, the interpretation of her responses can add to the results of MMPI, indicating the aspects of her condition that require focused attention.
As for limitations, to use the test, any specialist is expected to have experience with projective assessments and know how to avoid distorting data during interpretation (Meyer et al., 2015). Additionally, the interpretation of responses in projective tests is usually a time-consuming practice, which is also a limitation.
Based on the analysis of arguments for and against projective and objective tests, two recommendations can be provided to improve the validity of assessments in the case of S. Thus, using MMPI, the evaluator can compare the client’s socio-economic profile to that of an average white woman of her age to consider race-based inaccuracies. In the case of Rorschach’s inkblot test, it is recommended to study factors that impact its validity and adhere to testing and coding guidelines.
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To sum up, the discussed types of personality assessment techniques vary in terms of the frequency of usage, reliability estimates, and assumptions. Both subjective and objective personality assessments should be conducted using reliable recommendations helping to improve their validity. Experience in results’ interpretation and critical thinking are also pivotal to minimize the impact of researchers’ biases and reduce some problems related to cultural and social factors.
Ben-Porath, Y. S. (2019). Uses and misuses of Ted Kaczynski’s MMPI. Journal of Personality Assessment, 101(2), 117-122. Web.
Mansur-Alves, M., Silva, R. S., & Fernandes, S. C. D. Á. (2016). Impact of the Psychological Testing Assessment System (SATEPSI) for scientific publications in psychological assessment. Psico-USF, 21(1), 179-188.
Meyer, G. J., Giromini, L., Viglione, D. J., Reese, J. B., & Mihura, J. L. (2015). The association of gender, ethnicity, age, and education with Rorschach scores. Assessment, 22(1), 46-64.
Piotrowski, C. (2015). Projective techniques usage worldwide: A review of applied settings 1995-2015. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 41(3), 9-19.
Piotrowski, C. (2017). The linchpin on the future of projective techniques: The precarious status of personality assessment in the (overcrowded) professional psychology curriculum. Journal of Projective Psychology and Mental Health, 24, 71-73.
Proyer, R. T., & Häusler, J. (2007). Assessing behavior in standardized settings: The role of objective personality tests. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 7(2), 537-546.
Roberts, R. M., Tarescavage, A. M., Ben-Porath, Y. S., & Roberts, M. D. (2018). Predicting postprobationary job performance of police officers using CPI and MMPI–2–RF test data obtained during preemployment psychological screening. Journal of Personality Assessment, 1-12. Web.