The TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) has long been used to assist psychoanalysts elicit fantasy material from their patients (Morgan & Murray, 1935). According to Belleck and Murray (1973), the TAT was designed to bring forth interpretations by subject of social situations. Stories and pictures reveal some of the dominant drives, emotions, sentiments, conflicts, and complexes of a personality. The original cards used in the test were drawn or painted in color (Morge, 1995), but over time and much use, they became more and more achromatic. This achromatic appearances of the cards has caused many to speculate about their validity, especially, in patients suffering from depression. The question being asked by some researchers was, "would the achromatic appearance of the cards cause a depressed story whether or not the subject was depressed?
The Thematic Apperception Test is an untimed, individually administered psychological test used for personality assessment. It is suitable for use on persons ages 14-40 to identify dominant drives, emotions, and conflicts, as well as levels of emotional maturity, observational skills, imagination, and creativity. The subject is shown a series of pictures, one at a time, and is asked to make up a story about each one, with his responses being recorded and evaluated by a trained psychologist. The test is usually given in two sessions, with 10 pictures shown in each one. Sessions are untimed but generally last about an hour (Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2003).
Also, there is evidence that the TAT's validity is problematic in other ways. Many TAT studies do not use standardized scoring methods. A review of 105 studies of McClelland's (1961) scoring scheme (Spangler, 1992) provided both good and bad news for the TAT. The good news was that McClelland's scheme performed about as well as self-report measures of achievement when measured against objective criteria for achievement (i.e. grades). The bad news was that the TAT did not perform especially well; the correlations between objectively assessed achievement and both the TAT and self-report measures were statistically significant, (i.e. too large to have arisen by chance), but very low in magnitude (The Skeptical Inquirer).
Since there exists no definitive study based on the data concerning the achromatic pictures and their effect, it seems logical that one should be conducted in order to ascertain whether or not the achromatic cards of the TAT test can elicit false positive readings in patients being treated for clinical depression. Plans were formulated in order to test the hypothesis that false positives can result from a set of TAT cards whose scenes and objects are only presented in shades of black, white, or gray.
Restatement of the Problem
After a thorough review of the relevant literature which included anecdotal notes from test participants (Piattelli-Palmarini, 1994), (Spangler, W. 1992), (Vane, 1981) and (Gittleman, K. 1986), it was evident that there was enough evidence to support the assumption that the TAT card results were biased for the condition of depression since the cards being used are achromatic.
Statement of the Hypothesis
My hypothesis is that achromatic TAT pictures elicit false-positives for depression. If this hypothesis is proven correct, it will be invalid to use this test to assist in diagnosing clinical depression.
This is a quantitative research study and involves the collection and analysis of data in numerical form. A quantitative research project is used most often to; A) test the existence of relationships between variables of interest (based on hypotheses derived from theory) or B) make inferences about the quantity of specific attributes in a population based on measurements derived form a sample (Quantitative Research, 2002).
In contrast to qualitative researchers, quantitative researchers are more likely to assume that there is a single reality that can be determined (within a range of probability) using appropriate objective result methods. Accordingly, research instructions, interventions, and measures are standardized to minimize or control for possible sources of error or bias. Research designs and methods are chosen to enable quantitative comparison (e.g. across distinct groups, settings, and/or time periods). Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistic to permit the researcher to describe the magnitude and/or direction of observed values, trends, and relationships, and the probability that they could have occurred by chance (Alberta Consultative Health Research Network).
Criteria do exist for evaluating the quality of quantitative research. They include:
Construct validity - is there evidence that the study
Succeeded in measuring the attributes or variables the researchers intended to measure?
Reliability - is there evidence that the data collection
Instruments used provided accurate, consistent measures of the attributes or variables the researcher intended to measure?
Internal validity - did the research design adequately control for extraneous variables and eliminate plausible rival exhaustive explanations for the research findings?
External validity - did the research employ a sampling strategy that permits the generalizations of the results beyond the specific research participants, research setting, and time period, and if so, to which target population, and if so, to what target population(s) in which settings? (Alberta Consultative Health Research, 2000)
In any study, the characteristics of the subjects and the independent and dependent variables define the research question... For an experimental study, the main independent variable is the one indicating when the dependent variable is measured (e.g. before, during, and after the treatment). If there is a control group (as in controlled trials) or control treatment.
In addition to their weaknesses in terms of, projective reliability and validation tests also require more time and skill to administer than more objective testing methods. However, they continue to be employed because of their usefulness in helping psychologists obtain a comprehensive picture of an individual's personality. The results are most useful when combined with information obtained from personal observation, other test scores, and familiarity with a client's previous history. In addition, projective tests make it especially difficult for subjects to skew their answers in a particular direction as they sometimes attempt to do with other types of assessment (Skeptical Enquirer, 2000).
The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is, along with the Rorschach, among the most widely used, researched, and taught projective tests in existence. It consists of a series of pictures of relatively ambiguous scenes to which subjects are requested to make up stories or fantasies concerning what is, has, and is going to happen, along with a description of the thoughts and feelings of the various characters depicted. The test protocol thus provides the examiner with a rich source of data, based on the subject's perceptions and imagination, for use in the understanding of the subject's current needs, motives, emotions, and conflicts, both conscious and unconscious. Its use in clinical assessment is generally part of a larger battery of tests and interview data.
Description of the Research Study
The Thematic Apperception Test was first published and distributed by the Harvard Psychological Clinic in 1936 (Morgan, 1995). The first papers written about the TAT and its development credit Christine D. Morgan as the senior author. (Morgan, 1938; Morgan & Murray, 1935; 1938). The TAT was originally designed as aid to psychoanalysts who want to elicit fantasy material from their patients (Morgan & Murray). Henry Murray began with gluing pictures onto cardboard for the series "A - 3." Another widely used projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) introduced at Harvard University in 1935 by Henry Murray. Test takers look at a series of up to 20 pictures of people in a variety of recognizable settings and construct a story about what is happening in each one. They are asked to describe not only what is happening at the moment shown in the picture but also what events led up to the present situation and what the characters are thinking and feeling. They are encouraged to interpret the pictures as freely and imaginatively as they want and to be completely open and honest in their responses. As with the Rorschach test, the psychologist often interprets the test results subjectively, focusing on any recurring themes in responses to the different pictures. However, scoring methods have also been developed that focus on specific aspects of the subjects' responses, including aggression, expression of needs, and perceptions of reality.
The TAT test contains 31 cards. Thirty have pictures and one is blank. The cards are divided up onto four subgroups based on age and gender of patient. The subgroups are Girls, Boys, Men, and Women. Many of the card can be used in multiple subgroups. Each subgroup has been designated 19 of the 31 cards, therefore many of the cards can be used in more than one subcategory. The person administering the test chooses what cards they want to administer. The patient is shown the first card chosen and asked to tell a story about what they perceive to be happening and what the characters are thinking and feeling (Murray, 1943). Any number of pictures can be used.
Murray (1943) believed that the patient would tell a story that could have interpretive value to identify a patient's need, press, and thema. According…