In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the person into the test. This is sometimes contrasted with a so-called “objective test” or “self-report test” in which responses are analysed according to a presumed universal standard (for example, a multiple choice exam), and are limited to the content of the test. The responses to projective tests are content analysed for meaning rather than being based on presuppositions about meaning, as is the case with objective tests. Projective tests have their origins in psychoanalytic psychology, which argues that humans have conscious and unconscious attitudes and motivations that are beyond or hidden from conscious awareness.
This holds that an individual puts structure on an ambiguous situation in a way that is consistent with their own conscious and unconscious needs. It is an indirect method- testee is talking about something that comes spontaneously from the self without conscious awareness or editing.
• Reduces temptation to fake
• Does not depend as much on verbal abilities
• Taps both conscious and unconscious traits
• Focus is clinical perspective – not normative – but has developed norms over the years
The best known and most frequently used projective test is the Rorschach inkblot test, in which a subject is shown a series of ten irregular but symmetrical inkblots, and asked to explain what they see. The subject’s responses are then analyzed in various ways, noting not only what was said, but the time taken to respond, which aspect of the drawing was focused on, and how single responses compared to other responses for the same drawing. For example, if someone consistently sees the images as threatening and frightening, the tester might infer that the subject may suffer from paranoia.
Holtzman Inkblot Test:
This is a variation of the Rorschach test, but uses a much larger pool of different images. Its main differences lie in its objective scoring criteria as well as limiting subjects to one response per inkblot (to avoid variable response productivity). Different variables such as reaction time are scored for an individual’s response upon seeing an inkblot.
Thematic Apperception Test:
Another popular projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in which an individual views ambiguous scenes of people, and is asked to describe various aspects of the scene; for example, the subject may be asked to describe what led up to this scene, the emotions of the characters, and what might happen afterwards. A clinician will evaluate these descriptions, attempting to discover the conflicts, motivations and attitudes of the respondent. A researcher may use a specific scoring system that establishes consistent criteria of expressed thoughts and described behaviors associated with a specific trait, e.g., the need for Achievement, which has a validated and reliable scoring system. In the answers, the respondent “projects” their unconscious attitudes and motivations into the picture, which is why these are referred to as “projective tests.”
The Draw-A-Person test requires the subject to draw a person. The results are based on a psychodynamic interpretation of the details of the drawing, such as the size, shape and complexity of the facial features, clothing and background of the figure. As with other projective tests, the approach has very little demonstrated validity and there is evidence that therapists may attribute pathology to individuals who are merely poor artists. A similar class of techniques is kinetic family drawing.
Animal Metaphor Test:
The Animal Metaphor test consists of a series of creative and analytical prompts in which the person filling out the test is asked to create a story and then interpret its personal significance. Unlike conventional projective tests, the Animal Metaphor Test works as both a diagnostic and therapeutic battery. Unlike the Rorschach test and TAT, the Animal Metaphor is premised on self-analysis via self-report questions. The test combines facets of art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and insight therapy, while also providing a theoretical platform of behavioral analysis. The test has been used widely as a clinical tool, as an educational assessment, and in human resource selection. The test is accompanied by an inventory, The Relational Modality Evaluation Scale, a self-report measure that targets individuals’ particular ways of resolving conflict and ways of dealing with relational stress. These tests were developed by Dr. Albert J Levis at the Center for the Study of Normative Behavior in Hamden, CT, a clinical training and research center.