Projective tests: the 5 most used types

Although insulted by many psychologists, projective tests like Rorschach and thematic apperception can be very useful in assessing the personality of adults and minors.

In this article we will describe the 5 most used types of projective tests, Including associative and expressive or graphic techniques.

    What are projective tests?

    Projective tests are methods of assessing personality and other mental characteristics which are based on ambiguous and unstructured stimuli. The logic behind this type of testing is the assumption that test takers are more likely to project their mental processes in a test if the material is ambiguous and stimulates the imagination.

    These techniques have traditionally been framed in psychoanalytic theory, According to which the personality has a stable character and is largely determined by irrational impulses which escape the consciousness of individuals. However, psychoanalysis maintains that it is possible to identify the content of the unconscious through various procedures.

    Since the respondent is assumed not to know the purpose of the items that make up the test, projective tests are considered less susceptible to tampering than other psychological assessment methods, primarily those based on self-assessment. Projective tests are said to be masked evaluation techniques.

    If this type of test has been widely criticized by psychologists on other theoretical orientations at the methodological level, the truth is that the long tradition of using projective tests has allowed a high degree of systematization in many of them. A particularly clear case in this regard is the famous Rorschach test. However, despite this systematization, its effectiveness is seriously questioned if we allow ourselves to be guided by the meta-analyzes that have been carried out in this regard.

    Types of projective techniques

    There are different types of projective tests: the structural ones, which are based on the organization of the visual material; the themes, consisting in telling a story from different images; expressives or graphics, centered in the drawing; constructive ones, such as the imaginary village test or the diagnostic game, and associative ones (for example incomplete sentences).

    Below, we’ll describe the most popular projective tests and test types, including examples of all of the classes we mentioned in the previous paragraph. We will leave aside refractory tests such as graphology, Which seeks to determine personality in the aspect of writing and has received no empirical support.

    1. Rorschach test

    In 1921, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach published a psychological test consisting of 10 sheets with symmetrical ink blots of ambiguous appearance. Over the years, the subjectivity in the interpretation of this test has markedly diminished; in particular, the scientific research-based Exner rating system became popular in the 1980s.

    In the Rorschach test, the rater presents the slides in a certain order in which they are evaluated; in each case this reebe answer the question “What could this be?” without receiving any other indication. The reviewer then redisplays each image to find out which aspects of them elicited the responses.

    Among the indicators analyzed in the Rorschach test are the number of responses (the normal in adults is between 17 and 27 in total), the frequency of responses given to the general population or the predominance of certain content. This analysis may suggest psychopathology; for example, monotony is associated with depression.

    Subsequently, other structural tests based on inkblots were developed, such as that of Holtzman, which aims to have greater reliability and consists of 45 images, and the Zulliger Z-Test, which is consists of only 3 sheets and is intended as a screening test.

      2. Murray’s thematic perception test

      The Thematic Perception Test or TAT, developed by Henry MurrayIt is the most widely used thematic projective test, particularly in the evaluation of the elderly. It consists of 31 sheets of which only 20 are applied to each individual, depending on their biological sex and age.

      The images are much more structured than those of the Rorschach test: they show scenes related to subjects such as family, fear, sex or violence from which the subject must draw a story that includes a past, a present and a future. The goal is to analyze the psychological needs and pressures of the person being assessed.

      There are variations of the TAT for different age groups. The CAT (“infantile apperception test”) test is applied to children of various ages, cultural levels, and physical and psychological characteristics, while the old age apperception test (SAT) assesses variables typical of children. elderly people, such as loneliness or disability. .

      Two well-known thematic tests are Phillipson’s Object Relation Test and Rosenzweig’s Frustration Test. The images of the former show an intermediate degree of structuring compared to TAT and Rorschach, and the Rosenzweig test presents frustrating scenes in which the person has to add dialogue.

      3. Thematic tests for children

      Blacky and Pata Negra plate tests, Created respectively by Gerald Blum and Louis Corman, are specific thematic tests for children. Both are based on images of animals (Blacky is a dog and Black Paw a pig) that act as stimuli for the little ones to talk about their vision of themselves and their family.

      The fairy tale test is one of the more recent thematic projective tests; was developed by Carina Coulacoglou in the 1990s. In this case, the stimuli are drawings of famous characters from fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf or Snow White and the Dwarfs, and the child must answer several questions beforehand.

      4. Expressive or graphic techniques

      In this type of technique, the assessor must draw certain elements under the assessor’s instructions. Compared to the Rorschach test and the TAT, we can say that these tests they have a low level of standardization and their interpretation is quite subjective, Although that does not mean that they cannot be useful tools.

      In this category we find Buck’s Tree-House-Person (HTP) test, the person’s drawing test in the rain Abramson’s proof, Corman’s family drawing proof, Koch’s tree proof, and Machover’s human figure drawing proof.

      5. Associative techniques

      Associative techniques consist in emitting responses in relation to a given stimulus. The classic example of these tests is the word association, used by classical authors such as Galton and Jung, In which is presented a list of terms to which the assessor must respond with the first word that comes to mind.

      The incomplete sentence test is similar, although in this case, instead of associating one word with another, the sentence started by the rater should be completed. Zazzo’s Desideratum (or Bestiary) Test analyzes fear of death and defense mechanisms based on the answer to the question “What would you like to become if you ceased to have human form?”

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