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Psychological Testing: Measuring Personality Case Study

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2020


Psychological testing is a very crucial process in the implementation of effective interventions. According to American Psychology Association (2003), psychological testing entails the use of specific psychological tests to measure variables in a standardized and objective manner. The objective variables that are normally measured using the psychological tests include individual behaviors and performance on various tasks. For example, psychological testing may entail the use of particular test instrument to determine the personality of an individual. In order to conduct psychological tests, different instruments are applied to measure the variables. The selection of the test instruments depends on the variable that is intended to be measured and the projected test scores. According to Krishnamurthy et al. (2004), psychological testing forms an integral component of educational and clinical psychology. Since the start of the contemporary psychology, there have significant advancements in the psychological testing. The following paper explores the various dimensions of psychological testing in relation to personality tests, an instrument for measuring personality will be analyzed in order provide in-depth understanding of the psychological testing.

Objective and Projective Terms

Since the evolution of the contemporary psychology, personality tests have been categorized as projective or objective. However, Meyer and Kurtz (2006) argued that the terms have been dichotomously used. As a result, there is the need to retire the historical use of the terms and adopt alternatives. The term objective is normally used to classify a test; it denotes the instrument’s accuracy in describing the personality of an individual who is being tested. The test of the person may entail the application of response options provided in a test. For instance, in a test, the personality may be given as true versus false options.

Meyer and Kurtz (2006) stated that the only objectivity in such a process is that the psychologist administering the test does not rely on his judgment to classify or interpret the response provided by the client. The implication is that the test taker bears the judgment responsibility based on evaluating herself compared to others and establishes how a particular character being probed fits her personality. Essentially, the test taker is given the chance to decide; thus, the objectivity is based on the honesty of the test taker. The term ‘projective’ is used to denote the application of the test instruments that depend on a stimulus. The stimulus is applied to the person taking the test in order to produce answers. The guidance is external and should be minimal to influence the nature of the response being given by the test taker.

The Problems with the Terms

The use of the terms projective and objective in the test instruments and methods results in meaning that is not clear. In addition, Meyer and Kurtz (2006) stated that the generated meanings are subject to misleading connotations. As noted by Meyer and Kurtz (2006), the term objective is used to denote accuracy and precision because the psychologist administering the test does not influence the respondent’s answers. However, the objectivity that relate to accuracy fails to put into consideration the possibility of scoring errors. Meyer and Kurtz (2006) argued that the term negates the biases associated with self-report scales that are common to psychological tests. In fact, the examinations of the biases that arise due to the self scale reports are relatively larger; hence, the term objective is based on assumptions (Meyer & Kurtz, 2006). The self scale reports are prone to limitations that arise due to self-perception and personal dynamics.

Another problem that arises due to the use of the term objective in personality test instruments is that it results in a positive perception of the tests. The implication is that tests that are not in the category of the projective are considered less positive irrespective of the psychometric data obtained. Thus, there is a possibility of perpetuating prejudices that relate to alternative assessment methods that may not have the objective label. The term projective also has issues of connotation that relate to the tests instruments that are labeled as projective. For instance, the conceptualization implies that the features applied for the stimulus are not necessary. The projection is based on the perception that the personality characteristics can be established with some force irrespective of the medium in which the characteristics are being obtained (Meyer & Kurtz, 2006). The perception thus fails to recognize the context. The Rorschach scores are case example that shows the incorrectness of the term projective. In the scores, variability arises due complexity in the number of responses.

Alternatives to the Terms

In order to avoid the problems that relate to the connotations of the terms projective and objectives, Meyer and Kurtz (2006) suggested “self-report inventories” as an alternative to the terms. The terms can also be referred to as “patient rated questionnaires”. Meyer and Kurtz (2006) noted that the information sources in the personality assessment are not easily interchangeable. Therefore, Meyer and Kurtz (2006) suggested the need for differentiation of all questionnaire methods by clearly identifying the informant that is generating the judgment. Meyer and Kurtz (2006) acknowledged that it is difficult to come up with a single phrase or term to replace the term projective due to the differences in the instruments that are categorized as projective. The instruments labeled as projective have diverse features. Meyer and Kurtz (2006) provided the possible terms and phrases that can be used instead of the projective. The suggested phrases include:

  1. Expressive personality tests
  2. Constructive methods
  3. Behavioral tasks
  4. Performance tasks
  5. Attributive tasks
  6. Performance tasks

Personality Test: Adult Personality Inventory (Revised)

The adult personality inventory is a psychological test designed to assess the psychopathology and personality. The purpose of the tool is to analyze and report differences that occur in relation to personality. The focus of the test instrument is on issues that relate to interpersonal style such as the preferences for a career. The application of the Adult Personality Inventory is limited to people above 18 years of age. According to Beutler and Groth-Marnat (2003), the Adult Personality Inventory is applied in the measurement of characteristics that are considered relatively stable. The characteristics are used to help in understanding the current behavior patterns exhibited by the client and hence can be applied to predict the future performance. The revised manual provides a critical test instrument in the field of clinical assessment. Beutler and Groth-Marnat (2003) noted that the revised manual provides information that touch on clinical diagnosis, screening for psychopathology and treatment planning. It measures a variety of indicators in the clinical treatment. The revised manual has 27 items that eliminate the possibility of overlapping and has extra items that assist in the interpretation of the profile of the client being tested.

The Adult Personality Inventory provides descriptive and quantitative data. In the measurement of the various traits, a scale can be used to determine the level of the items being measured. For instance, in measuring whether an individual is sociable, a scale is provided to denote the level of sociability of the client being. The application of the descriptive and empirical data ensures that limits of the various indicators are established.

Hypothetical Case

The following is a case example in which the Adult Personality Inventory (Revised) is applied. Jim Bill has a high need for success and achievement in his career; he reports that he has been a performer in the various disciplines. Jim Bill has been experiencing difficulties in his career. However, he notes that of late he has been having difficulties in interpersonal relations and has tendencies of socially isolating himself. The wife reports that Jim has also developed the self-destructive behavior. Therefore, the referral question for the personality assessment is: Do the current depictions by Mr. Bill point to a case of psychopathology?

Jim Bill is a US citizen aged 32 years with a Hispanic cultural background. Mr. Bill holds a bachelor of education degree. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree. Jim is a government employee and has been working as a teacher for 7 seven year; thus, he has a constant income, which he supplements with earnings from a part-time coaching job of a basketball team. He is married to Kate, and they are blessed with a child. The demographic information is paramount in psychological assessment. The information helps in ascertaining the context of the particular client and provides the basis for answering the referral question, which forms the basis for testing. The demographic information points to the possible influence on the presented behavior. For instance, it ascertains the cultural orientation and its possible implication. In such a case, Mr. Bill’s demographic information will help in establishing the possible influences to the current depictions.

Kate reports that Mr. Bill is always drunk and his zeal for work and studies have significantly reduced. Mr. Bill has been missing most of the weekend coaching. In addition, he is withdrawn, anti-social and sometimes shouts to his students. The trend has been going on for the last eight months.

Areas of Competencies

An efficient process of a psychological test requires the psychologists administering the test to have core skills that guarantee objective testing. Therefore, in assessing the behavior presented by Mr. Jim, the psychologists should put into consideration the various contests that may influence the characteristics presented by the client. Human beings exist in political, social, historical and economic contexts. Therefore, psychologists play a critical role in helping to understand how the various contexts affect influence individual behaviors (Krishnamurthy et al., 2004). For instance, clinical psychologists use the psychological assessment tests to identify strengths, weaknesses and functioning status of the brain (Pang & Schultheiss, 2005). Bearing in mind the varying contexts, which may influence behavior, there, is the need to develop competencies in the process of the psychological testing. The core areas of competency for a clinician involved in the psychological assessment should put into consideration the context in which the psychological assessment is taking place.

Self-Cultural Awareness and Knowledge

Cultural diversity entails a commitment to cultural awareness. Cultural diversity involves the differences that arise due to personal background or ethnic affiliations. Psychologists are human beings; as a result, they should recognize their cultural orientations that may affect their professional work (APA, 2003). For instance, due to the differences in culture, a psychologist may have attitudes that may hinder positive interactions with people from different ethnic groups. For example, when dealing with a client from an ethnic background that the psychologist has formed prejudices against, there is the possibility of the preconceptions affecting the interactions.

According to APA (2003), psychologists are people, and they are influenced by many societal factors such as the cultural heritage. APA (2003) noted that all people are multicultural and that the cultural perspectives within an individual influence the experiences of all human beings. In order to avoid subjectivity, a psychologist should learn the differences in culture and their influence on the worldview. Culture influences the individual preferences and shapes attitudes. The preferences may result in social categorization. Therefore, psychologists require to be trained in the cultural and personal awareness in order to avoid the biases that may result in the creation of negative perceptions of others.

Multiculturalism and Diversity in Psychological Education.

The other area of competence is in education. For over a long period, psychology has emphasized on biological factors in determination of behavior. The focus of the psychology has been in relativity to the historical, social and political determinants of behavior. As a result, there is the possibility of stereotypes that may arise due to profiling individuals based on the either biological determinants or sociopolitical influences. Most of the interventions by psychologists are aligned to education. Therefore, as educators, psychologists need to bear in mind the processes of interactions are influenced by cultural orientations (Belter & Piotrowski, 2001). APA (2003) noted that awareness of the cultural orientation of the clients plays a critical role in drawing effective therapeutic interventions. The awareness is paramount in avoidance of stereotypical portrayal that may lead to prejudice against some people (Sibley & Liu, 2004). The psychologists involved in the test process should have the competence in matters that relate to diversity especially when engaging in multicultural counseling.

Multicultural Skills

Psychologists should also have competencies in the various dimensions of practice; psychologists are required to have culturally appropriate skills in the various areas of practice. The basis for the skills is that there are some situations in which application of culture centered adaptations will guarantee effective results. According to APA (2003), psychological practice entails the application of skills in variety of settings. However, the application of the competence should be in line with Ethics Code. Psychologists find themselves practicing with people of different ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds (APA, 2003). Therefore, cultural sensitivity in such a context is critical in promoting effective practice for different clients.


In the measurement of the various constructs that relate to the personality, a psychologist should have awareness of the contexts that may be responsible for the presenting problem. Effective psychological testing entails the use of a specific instrument to establish the personality of an individual. The Adult Personality Inventory is an example of an effective psychological test instrument that can be applied to measure personality preferences and the psychopathology of adults. In the application of the psychological tests, the psychologist should have the required competencies in order to avoid the possible biases in the test scores. Therefore, the contexts of the test such as the religious, political and cultural orientation play a very crucial role in the psychological test process.


American Psychology Association (APA) (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change psychologists. American Psychologists, 58, 377-402.

Belter, R.W., & Piotrowski, C. (2001). Current status of doctoral-level training in psychological testing. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57 (1), 717–726.

Beutler, L., & Groth-Marnat, G. (2003). Integrative assessment of adult personality. New York: Guilford Press.

Krishnamurthy, R., VandeCreek, L., Kaslow, N.J., Tazeau, Y.N., Miville, M. L., & Kerns, R. (2004). Achieving competency in psychological assessment: directions for education and training. Journal of Clinical psychology, 60 (7), 725-739.

Meyer, G., & Kurtz, J. (2006). Advancing Personality Assessment Terminology: Time to Retire “Objective” and “Projective” As Personality Test Descriptors. Journal of Personality Assessment, 87 (3), 223–225.

Pang, J. S., & Schultheiss, O. C. (2005). Assessing implicit motives in U.S college students: Effects of picture type and position, gender and ethnicity, and cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Personality Assessment, 85 (1), 280–294.

Sibley, C., & Liu, J. (2004). Short-term temporal stability and factor structure of the revised experiences in close relationships (ECR-R) measure of adult attachment. Personality and Individual Differences, 36 (4), 969-975.

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