What is a self-report? Definition, characteristics and types

Self-assessment is defined as a self-observation made by the subject of his own behavior. In a broad sense, it refers to any message, verbal or written, that a person gives about their own thoughts, feelings, perceptions or other types of manifestations.

In the field of psychological assessment, self-assessment is a type of technique that allows the acquisition of reliable, valid, rapid and economical information from an individual, whether for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes or for the selection of personnel.

The usefulness of this technique, as well as its many advantages, made it possible to speed up the process of psychological assessment, as well as to acquire first-hand information from the assessors themselves. In this article we will see what a self-report is and what are its types and characteristics. Let’s start with the latter.


    Self-reports allow you to acquire information of a different nature, thanks to the fact that they can be designed to ask questions about different aspects of people. Some examples are:

    • Motor ducts: quantity of coffee consumed per day …
    • Physiological responses: excessive sweating, gastrointestinal problems …
    • Thoughts: suicidal ideation …
    • Subjective experience: feeling lonely, believing that there is no hope
    • Attributions: to think that the origin of the voices is not to have closed the door.
    • Future expectations: how do you think you will improve from your disorder, if your emotional situation will worsen …

    Traditionally, this type of psychological assessment technique has been used to measure personality attributes, situation dependent states, such as anxiety and fears, And collect information about problematic behaviors. The variables that measure self-reports can be divided into four classes.

    Characteristics, dimensions or factors

    Personality tests are one example..


      It assesses what the person is feeling or thinking at the exact moment their assessment is made. Outraged, it takes into account the situation in which the administration takes place and the variables that may influence the responses that gives the subject. An example of a self-report that measures states is the STAI (State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Spielberger) in which the anxiety experienced by the person at a given point in time is measured.

      Clinico-behavioral directories

      Lists of cognitive, motor or physiological behaviors are presented, presented with a certain frequency in a certain psychological disorder. Use this type of questionnaire information can be obtained about these areas of personality and thought of the modified person.

      Repertoires, processes and cognitive structures

      Cognitive processes are measured on the assumption that they play a mediating role in motor and physiological behavior.

      Types of self-reports

      Throughout the development of psychological assessment, different types of techniques have been developed to get accurate information from people. Here are the most common self-assessment techniques and some of its most remarkable features.

      1. Questionnaires, inventories and scales

      These are very structured self-statements, both in the way the questions are worded and in their answers. They assess specific behaviors, ask questions about events that usually occur with a certain frequency. They are generally used to measure personality variables.


      It is a semi-structured technique in which the subject receives a sheet of paper in which he is questioned about a certain behavior and it is the individual himself who fills it out. The assessor records his behavior, whether cognitive, motor, physiological or emotional, at the very moment it occurs.

      Thanks to that complete information about the individual can be acquired, Because when you do it at the same time as it happens to you, the memory does not break down, and you can save as much information as possible.

      3. Maintenance

      Although some do not see it as a self-assessment technique, the interview is an instrument in which two or more people interact back and forth and information is shared. Both in a psychotherapy context and in the area of ​​personnel selection this instrument implies a differentiation of roles.

      Its degree of structuring can be variable, with unstructured interviews, in which the interviewee has sufficient freedom to explain his emotional and cognitive state, and structured ones, according to a marked scenario prefixed by the interviewer.

      4. Thoughts out loud

      The person is asked to speak aloud about different aspects. This type of technique is widely used in the field of experimental research. The participant is subjected to a specific stimulus and observes how he reacts, recording what he says and does. It is a type of unstructured self-assessment because it allows you to speak freely.


      these are several of the main advantages of self-assessment:

      • The person being evaluated is the one who gives information about what he thinks and what he feels, allowing to acquire a deeper and more concrete vision of his own experience.
      • Self-reports save professionals a lot of time.
      • They can be administered quickly and consistently, and then easily corrected.
      • They motivate those evaluated, because they are questioned on aspects related to themselves and in a more intimate way.
      • The more structured, such as questionnaires and scales, have a greater degree of reliability and validity, while being economical.


      Like any psychological assessment technique, self-assessments they are not without drawbacks, and have some limitations. Here are some of the disadvantages of this type of technique, as well as the explanation of some phenomena that negatively influence the results.

      1. Simulation

      The individual is not consciously telling the truth.

      2. Social desirability

      We can pretend to give a good self-image instead of being honest.

      3. Agreement

      In closed-response self-reports, which ask for “yes / true” and “no / false”, the case of that the individual tends to respond positively.

      4. Scalar errors

      In self-ratings assessed by scales, the individual may unintentionally respond to the extreme (severity) or more central values ​​(central tendency).

      Bibliographical references:

      • Fernandez-Ballesteros, R. (2007) Psychological assessment, concepts, methods and case studies. Pg. 233-265. SPAIN: Pyramid.
      • De las Coves, C. and González de Rivera, JL (1992). Self-reports and biased responses. Annals of Psychiatry, 8 (9), 362-366.
      • Fernández-Ballesteros, R. (1992). Self-reports. In R. Fernández-BaIlesteros (comp.), Introduction to psychological assessment (I). Madrid: Pyramid.

      Leave a Comment