This article focuses on psychological tests and how they are used for children and adults. The different types of psychological tests and descriptions of some of the more commonly used psychological assessments are also included, as well as reasons for testing and general precautions when administering the tests and discussing results with stakeholders.
Keywords Ability Tests; Achievement Tests; Age- & Grade-Equivalent Scores; Assessment; Cognitive; Intelligence Quotient; Intelligence Testing; Neuropsychological Tests; Norms; Percentile; Personality Testing; Psychopathology; Standard Deviation; Standardized Test
Psychological tests are implemented in order to evaluate cognitive and emotional performance in people of all ages. The exams can be administered via written, visual, or verbal assessments. The results can be a valuable means of calculating the different mental capacities, skills, and abilities, as well as the achievement capabilities of personality and neurological functioning. Psychological testing can help others understand personality and how it affects psychological disorders.
Types of Personality Assessment
There are different types of psychological assessments.
Among personality tests are projective tests, which try to assess one’s persona around the idea that people will project their own unconscious opinions and thoughts into ambiguous circumstances and situations. The Rorschach Test, developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, is the best known example of this type of psychological assessment. Rorschach showed a selection of standardized inkblots to his patients and asked them what they thought. The Thematic Apperception Test was developed by American psychologist Henry Murray. He used a normal series of photographs and asked his patients to tell a story based on what they saw and then later analyzed each story to try to determine attitudes and patterns of reaction.
Questionnaire Based Tests
Other personality tests use questionnaires to determine personality. These types of assessments are generally answered with true, false, or cannot determine, which makes them objective tests. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a commonly used objective test, was created in 1942 to try to define what constituted a "normal" personality and to try to detect personality deviances. The Minnesota Mulitphasic Personality Inventory produces profiles that are used to classify subjects for psychological disorders like schizophrenia, sociopathy, depression and hysteria and is useful in determining mental illness. However, the inventory is not as useful in diagnosing specific mental disorders.
Behavioral assessments also fall into the broad category of psychological testing. With behavioral assessment, a psychologist observes an individual's actions in their natural setting. Using a checklist system, behavioral assessments can be used by both parents and teachers to evaluate children's behavior at home and in the classroom to assist the psychologist.
Achievement and intelligence tests fall under the auspices of psychological testing. Achievement and aptitude tests can sometimes be mistaken for intelligence tests because they all have commonalities and the format is similar. While intelligence tests sample behavior already learned in an attempt to predict future learning, achievement tests attempt to measure what children already know about specific content areas such as mathematics and English, and aptitude tests are used to try to predict future performance. Schools can use aptitude and achievement exams in order to evaluate students' capabilities with their accomplishments to see if there is any disconnect. Schools may also use educational aptitude and achievement tests for older students to determine if students have special talents, any specific vocational interests, or superior motor skills needed for certain careers. These help guide students who are undecided about what they would like to do when they finish high school.
Types of Psychological Tests
Personality tests can be administered to diagnose psychopathology and to help determine personality strengths and weaknesses. Personality tests usually assess the attitudes and emotions that make up an individual’s personality, such as hypochondria, depression, hysteria, paranoia, and social introversion. There are many personality assessments available, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, which can be used to examine students for psychopathologies or emotional instability. The Rorschach Inkblot Test and Thematic Apperception Test are examples of projective personality assessments in which students' responses can give the examiner insight into their thought processes and personality traits.
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is intended to be used with students age 18 and older who can read at or beyond the sixth grade level. The assessment can be given by using pencils and paper, audiocassette or CD recording, or via computer and is available in English, Spanish, and French. It consists of 567 true/false items and can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes to complete. However, a shortened version of the assessment of only the first 370 items may be given. The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory is intended to be used with students age 18 and older who can read at or beyond the eighth grade level. The assessment can be administered in a paper-and-pencil format, audiocassette or CD recording, or via computer. It is much shorter than the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and takes only 25-30 minutes to complete with 175 true/false items.
Rorschach Inkblot Test
The Rorschach Inkblot Test assesses basic personality structure using 10 inkblot plates. It can be used with students who are at least five years of age. Since reading is not required to take the assessment, barriers associated with reading and comprehensions are overcome. There is no set time for completing the assessment (Rorschach, n.d.). The Thematic Apperception Test uses 10 picture cards to stimulate stories or descriptions and can be administered in an individual or group setting. It may also be self-administered. There are specific cards for boys and girls, and they can respond either orally or in writing. The Thematic Apperception Test is intended for individuals who are 10 years of age or older, and there is no set time for completing the assessment.
Neuropsychological tests help evaluate students' level of performance and can also point out areas of mental inadequacy. These assessments can also help to screen students for delays in development or learning disabilities. There is quite a bit of overlap with personality and achievement and ability assessments because neuropsychological tests can stretch over many types of mental ailments, including those of simple motor functions to reasoning and problem solving skills. In objective neuropsychological examinations, quantitative results are compared with normative standards, including data from groups of normal functioning people and people who have different types of brain impairments. The norms can be based on age and educational achievement. Qualitative assessment of neuropsychological tests can provide a look at the learning processes a student may use. The key to effective neuropsychological assessment is analyzing a pattern of performance among a large number of tests, which means a combination of objective scores, behavioral process observations, and a pattern of results is necessary for an accurate...
The Rorschach Inkblot Test is a projective psychological test consisting of 10 inkblots printed on cards (five in black and white, five in color) created in 1921 with the publication of Psychodiagnostik by Hermann Rorschach. During the 1940s and 1950s, the test was synonymous with clinical psychology. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Rorschach inkblot test was a commonly used and interpreted psychological test. In surveys in 1947 (Louttit and Browne) and 1961 (Sundberg), for instance, it was the fourth and first, respectively, most frequently used psychological test.
Despite its widespread use, it has also been the center of much controversy. It has often proven to be difficult for researchers to study the test and its results in any systematic manner, and the use of multiple kinds of scoring systems for the responses given to each inkblot has led to some confusion.
History of the Rorschach
Hermann Rorschach did not make it clear where he got the idea from the test. However, like most children of his time, he often played the popular game called Blotto (Klecksographie), which involved creating poem-like associations or playing charades with inkblots. The inkblots could be purchased easily in many stores at the time. It is also thought that a close personal friend and teacher, Konrad Gehring, may have also suggested the use of inkblots as a psychological tool.
When Eugen Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia in 1911, Rorschach took interest and wrote his dissertation about hallucinations (Bleuler was Rorschach’s dissertation chairperson). In his work on schizophrenia patients, Rorschach inadvertently discovered that they responded quite differently to the Blotto game than others. He made a brief report of this finding to a local psychiatric society, but nothing more came of it at the time. It wasn’t until he was established in his psychiatric practice in Russia’s Krombach hospital in Herisau in 1917 that he became interested in systematically studying the Blotto game.
Rorschach used about 40 inkblots in his original studies in 1918 through 1921, but he would administer only about 15 of them regularly to his patients. Ultimately he collected data from 405 subjects (117 non-patients which he used as his control group). His scoring method minimized the importance of content, instead focusing on how to classify responses by their different characteristics. He did this using a set of codes — now called scores — to determine if the response was talking about the whole inkblot (W), for instance, a large detail (D), or a smaller detail. F was used to score for form of the inkblot, and C was used to score whether the response included color.
In 1919 and 1920, he tried to find a publisher for his findings and the 15 inkblot cards he regularly used. However, every published balked at publishing all 15 inkblots because of printing costs. Finally in 1921, he found a publisher — the House of Bircher — willing to publish his inkblots, but only 10 of them. Rorschach reworked his manuscript to include only 10 of the 15 inkblots he most commonly used. (You can review the 10 Rorschach inkblots on Wikipedia; the rest of the Wikipedia entry on the Rorschach is full of significant factual errors.)
The printer, alas, was not very good at being true to the original inkblots. Rorschach’s original inkblots had no shading to them — they were all solid colors. The printer’s reproduction of them added shading. Rorschach reportedly was actually quite pleased with the introduction of this new addition to his inkblots. After publishing his monograph with the inkblots, entitled a Form Interpretation Test, he died in 1922 after being admitted to a hospital for abdominal pains. Rorschach was only 37 years old and had been formally working on his inkblot test just four years.
The Rorschach Scoring Systems
Prior to the 1970s, there were five primary scoring systems for how people responded to the inkblots. They were dominated by two — the Beck and the Klopfer systems. Three other that were used less often were the Hertz, Piotrowski and the Rapaport-Schafer systems. In 1969, John E. Exner, Jr. published the first comparison of these five systems entitled The Rorschach Systems.
The findings of Exner’s ground-breaking analysis were that there actually weren’t five scoring systems for the Rorschach. He concluded that the five systems differed so dramatically and significantly, it was as if five uniquely different Rorschach tests had been created. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
Given Exner’s disturbing findings, he decided to undertake the creation of a new, comprehensive Rorschach scoring system that would take into account the best components of these five existing systems, combined with extensive empirical research on each component. A foundation was established in 1968 and the significant research began into creating a new scoring system for the Rorschach. The result was that in 1973, Exner published the first edition of The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System. In it, he laid out the new scoring system that would become the new gold standard (and the only scoring system now taught).
What the Rorschach Measures
The Rorschach Inkblot test was not originally intended to be a projective measure of personality. Instead, it was meant to produce a profile of people with schizophrenia (or other mental disorders) based upon score frequencies. Rorschach himself was skeptical of his test being used as a projective measure.
The Rorschach is, at its most basic level, a problem-solving task that provides a picture of the psychology of the person taking it, and some level of understanding the person’s past and future behavior. Imagination is involved most often in the embellishment of a response, but the basic process of the task has little to do with imagination or creativity.