Psychopathic traits in the human figure test

the projective test they are one of the psychodiagnostic tools that most clinical psychotherapists use. The basis of this is based on the fact that when writing drawing or speaking, we subconsciously project different aspects of our personality, our conflicts and even our aspirations.

Usually these tests have a psychoanalytic basis, because as will be remembered, it was Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, who made the first explorations of the unconscious and its importance in our daily life.

Analyze the way psychopaths draw human figures

Intense clinical experience has shown that theyour drawings of the human figure represent an intimate expression of the personality of the designer. The Machover test is based on the theoretical basis of the body diagram that we project through the drawing. Today we will talk about it, one of the most widespread projective tests, used and accepted by the psychoanalytic community; in our turn, we will examine the graphic characteristics which generally indicate a certain degree of psychopathy.

Learn more about psychopaths: “Psychopathy: what is the mind of the psychopath?”

General drawing information

Three aspects are very important when examining the drawing before studying the features projected on the human figure: dimension, el space out and the position.

Find in most drawings of psychopaths with very broad features, characteristic of a personality with a remarkable exaltation of the ego. If we also find it in the middle of the sheet, we can say that the subject needs to control his environment. If it’s on the right, we can assume that there are issues of authority and antisociality.

Hand in hand with the need to control, we find a certain dependence on their environment (Since the psychopath has a great need to exercise control) whether in the drawing he presents accessory objects external to the human figure. Other generalities that we will find in the drawings made by psychopaths are the predominance of angles and peaks, remarcamientos and intensity in the outlines. They also usually start by drawing a figure of their own gender and the head will usually be the last stroke they draw.

The head

As noted above, the head drawn by people with psychopathic personality it tends to be the last part of the body to be drawnIn addition, it is usually disproportionate to body size, which is an indicator of egocentrism, megalomania and overestimation of their intellectual capacity.

If in addition it is prolonged it will be the sign of aggressiveness; in case of being very marked, this will denote a need for domination; if there is no defined head outline, connection problems with reality can be suspected. Expression lines on the heavily populated or inward forehead and eyebrows indicate latent aggression. The detection of the emphasis on the eyes indicates paranoid tendencies while a penetrating or threatening gaze and more accentuated is a sign of latent hostility.

Very often, in addition, is in the drawings of psychopaths a remarkable remark in the nostrils, that they interpret like tests of aggressiveness. The emphasis on the mouth usually demonstrates verbal aggression and a particular tendency to irritability.

If the human figure shows language, there is orality at the primitive level in the subject. The undisputed signs of aggression in the mouth are: the presence of teeth (much more if they show cuts or expose the canines), angular features or beak, draw the mouth as a thick line intersected. When the neck is long and thinner, the subject has difficulty managing his impulses; the absence of this indicates that the subject is at their mercy.


Another of the very special characteristics that are often found in particularly aggressive psychopathic personalities and who have physically assaulted other people are: exaltation of the chest which indicates narcissism, if it is also discovered adds hostility and arrogance; with accentuated muscular characteristics is an aggressive subject.

Regarding the arms, the emphasis on musculature and the reinforcements in them show us aggressiveness and desires for physical power; to find in the drawing the arms in “jug” they show a domineering person and with anarchic tendencies; long arms indicate material ambition. Angular hands always indicate antisociality as parts of the body related to bonding and social contact.

This functionality is further enhanced if we find pointed fingers or as an express harp shape. Fist-shaped hands indicate strong repressed aggression.

Lower body area

If the legs are strongly reinforced, there is aggression; also if the legs show movement or as if they are going to be kicked out. Bare feet indicate primitive aggression, especially if toenails are shown.

When the genital area is exposed, there is exhibitionism and / or lack of control over sex drive; if the design is accentuated in the genital area such as with excessive retouching, for example, or thoroughness in the design of the closure, there may be sexual disturbances.

other considerations

It should be remembered that the subject should always be asked to express a story in relation to the drawn human figure, this story will complement the projective method to help us clarify some concerns about drawingHe.

The clothes and actions performed by the drawn individuals can also provide us with a lot of data which is usually particularly compensatory, in the costumes that psychopathic personalities prefer to draw we often find that of a well-groomed businessman (common ego among white-collar criminals) or someone who practices martial arts (with a higher incidence among those who commit physical contact crimes).

Finally, we insist that this projective test is supplemented by others which allow to deepen the unconscious aspects of the personality of the individual.

Bibliographical references:

  • Portuondo, JA, The human figure. Projective test by Karen Machover. Editorial Biblioteca Nueva.

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