There are two major types of personality tests, projective and objective.
• Projective tests assume personality is primarily unconscious and assess individuals by how they respond to an ambiguous stimulus, such as an ink blot.
Projective tests have been in use for about 60 years and continue to be used today. Examples of such tests include the Rorschach test and the Thematic Apperception Test.
The Rorschach Test involves showing an individual a series of note cards with ambiguous ink blots on them.
The individual being tested is asked to provide interpretations of the blots on the cards by stating everything that the ink blot may resemble based on their personal interpretation.
The therapist then analyzes their responses.
Rules for scoring the test have been covered in manuals that cover a wide variety of characteristics such as content, originality of response, location of “perceived images” and several other factors.
Using these specific scoring methods, the therapist will then attempt to relate test responses to attributes of the individual’s personality and their unique characteristics.
The idea is that unconscious needs will come out in the person’s response, e.g. an aggressive person may see images of destruction.
The Thematic Apperception Test (also known as the TAT) involves presenting individuals with vague pictures/scenes and asking them to tell a story based on what they see.
Common examples of these “scenes” include images that may suggest family relationships or specific situations, such as a father and son or a man and a woman in a bedroom.
Responses are analyzed for common themes.
Responses unique to an individual are theoretically meant to indicate underlying thoughts, processes, and potentially conflicts present within the individual.
Responses are believed to be directly linked to unconscious motives. There is very little empirical evidence available to support these methods.
Objective tests assume personality is consciously accessible and that it can be measured by self-report questionnaires. Research on psychological assessment has generally found objective tests to be more valid and reliable than projective tests.
Critics have pointed to the Forer effect to suggest some of these appear to be more accurate and discriminating than they really are. Issues with these tests include false reporting because there is no way to tell if an individual is answering a question honestly or accurately.