Are Projective Tests Valid Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Psychology is an ever evolving science. While some still feel it is a pseudoscience, many researchers have shown the benefits of applied psychology and the effects mental health can have on an individual. However, because problems of the mind are not so easy to measure as they would be in biology, there tends to be a lot of guessing and misinterpretation. Businesses, schools, and the government use personality tests to understand a person and their motives. First developed in the 1920's personality tests have grown in popularity, giving rise to debunking the validity of such tests. Are personality tests like Rorschach Inkblots, MMPO-2, and brief anxiety scales valid? No, they are not valid. This essay will show why these kinds of tests are not valid and reliable measures of personality and psychopathology through studies revealing accuracy rates from personality test results.

Personality tests first originated in the 1920's and are questionnaires or other kinds of standardized instruments made to reveal facets of a person's psychological makeup or character. Intended to ease the process of employee selection, specifically in the armed forces, the personality test developed in later years to include a wide assortment of various testing methods from MBTI to the MMPI and the ever popular Rorschach Inkblot Test. A substantial amount of research and refinement went into personality test development. Taking three stages before a personality test reaches its end phase in development, scales made today will frequently incorporate all three general methods. These general methods are: inductive, deductive, and empirical (Kaplan & Saccuzzo, 2012, p. 18).

Deductive assessment construction starts through via selecting a construct or domain to measure (Graham, 2003, p. 559). Experts thoroughly define the construct and generate items fully representative of all the attributes of the construct's definition. They then select or eliminate test items based on which will yield the strongest internal validity in order to properly develop the scale. The deductive methodology is favored over the empirical and empirical methods because measures generated through deductive methodology are said to be as equally valid and also take much less time to build in comparison to empirical and inductive measures. This is an important thing to note because deductive reasoning is not as accurate as desired and can produce faulty or inaccurate results that could then translate to an inaccurate construct and then personality test.

Empirically derived personality evaluations also necessitate the use of statistical techniques. A main goal of empirical personality assessment is the construction of a test that accurately discriminates between two major personality features like non-depressed individuals and depressed individuals. Not many methods are developed using this kind of methodology as its main methodology. One example is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The problem with using the empirical methodology is, statistics are gained from qualitative reasoning and subjective validation, making results at best somewhat accurate.

Projective tests, a kind of personality test, has virtually the same uses, but instead of categorizing people into sub-groups, enables someone to identify or reveal any kind of feelings or thoughts 'trapped' inside the human psyche. Of the personality/projective tests out there, one of the most popular is the Rorschach test or Rorschach inkblot test. The inkblot test is a projective test designed to allow an individual to respond to vague stimuli. This in turn is expected to reveal any hidden internal conflicts and emotions projected by the individual from the test. Sometimes contrasted with a 'self-report test' or an 'objective test' the administrator of the test then analyzes the responses according to developed universal standard. Those analyzing the results often employ techniques such as complex algorithms and/or psychological interpretation to interpret the data.

Many psychologists use and have used this kind of projective test to examine an individual's emotional functioning and personality characteristics. Employed to help recognize underlying thought disorder, psychiatrists use this test especially in case where a patient shows reluctance to describe openly their thinking processes. The 1960's was when the Rorschach inkblot test reached its height of popularity, mostly used in outpatient mental health facilities. Coupled with the MCMI-III and the MMPI-2, psychiatrists use this test in forensic assessment cases. As with many personality tests, there are critics that question the accuracy of the test based on several things, the general validity of the test, inter-rater reliability, and objectivity of testers.

Since the test can only help accurately diagnose a limited number
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of psychological conditions, and is unable to replicate the test's norms, some may even say the test is invalid. Validity is a key issue for the inkblot test and other kinds of personality tests. As a projective test, Rorschach's ink blot test has results that are frequently poorly verifiable. While the Exner system of scoring somewhat addresses this problem, disagreements concerning test validity remain.

Reliability is also of concern with this test as results depend heavily on details of the testing procedure like where the subject and tester are seated, nonverbal and verbal answers and responses to subject's comments or question, any introductory words, and how responses are recorded. To circumvent this, Exner published detailed instruction, however numerous court cases have been shown to never follow them. Just as the deductive methodology is used to cut corners and make the process easier and faster, many using the test will not go through extremely time-consuming instructions and details in order to assure validity of the results. Jones v Apfel (1997), a United States court case, stated "results do not meet the requirements of standardization, reliability, or validity of clinical diagnostic tests, and interpretation thus is often controversial" (Gacono & Evans, 2012, p. 32).

A 2013 study that measured the validity of individual Rorschach variables, the results demonstrated 10 variables had modest support and 13 had little to no support, with 12 having no construct-relevent validity studies.

Using Hemphill's (2003) data-driven guidelines for interpreting the magnitude of assessment effect sizes with only externally assessed criteria, we found 13 variables had excellent support (r ? .33, p< .001; FSN > 50), 17 had good support (r ? .21, p < .05, FSN ? 10), 10 had modest support (p < .05 and either r ? .21, FSN < 10, or r = .15 -- .20, FSN ? 10), 13 had little (p < .05 and either r = < .15 or FSN < 10) or no support (p >.05), and 12 had no construct-relevant validity studies. The variables with the strongest support were largely those that assess cognitive and perceptual processes (e.g., Perceptual-Thinking Index, Synthesized Response); those with the least support tended to be very rare (e.g., Color Projection) or some of the more recently developed scales (e.g., Egocentricity Index, Isolation Index) (Mihura, Meyer, Dumitrascu & Bombel, 2013, p. 548).

Because psychology is ever-evolving, what was once considered valid and supported, has now been rejected further remarking on the true unreliability of tests such as the Rorschach inkblot test. Another article goes even further and examines the validity of projective tests in general by examining reliability of validity generalization.

The researchers find that standards are 'dumbed down' in order to get desired results. "It is shown that the corrections often used in single predictor studies yield a squared multiple correlation that appears suspect. Basically, the multiple predictor study exposes the tenuous statistical foundation of using abjectly low criterion reliabilities in single predictor VG studies" (LeBreton, Scherer & James, 2014, p. 478). These studies that supposedly provide the data needed to predict reliability of such tests may not be as accurate or as truthful as anticipated. This brings attention to the notion that results may be determined accurate through simplified standards much like the results of the inkblot tests are done by 'cutting corners'.

A third study measuring socially desirable responding and its effect on personality assessment validity shows how results can become skewed and inaccurate based the respondent's level of participation. "Large differences between some respondents' obtained test scores and their true trait scores, however, meant that the personality measure's construct validity would be severely compromised and, more specifically, that estimates of those individuals' criterion performance would be grossly in error" (Paunonen & LeBel, 2012, p. 158). Since the accuracy of the results of the test is based on the respondent's actions and the ability of the administrator of the test to accurately analyze the responses, there exists a large room of error. Personality tests as a whole are not valid or reliable because there are too many factors to consider that cannot be measured enough to prove validity.

In conclusion, psychology is evolving. While it has its use in the medical world, is too can be subject to criticism and assessment. Personality and projective tests can be a useful tool to get participants to open up about their mental state. However, to say the results gathered from such results are valid is not true. Too many things must be considered in order to prove validity. Another thing to take into account is the way these tests are constructed and if people follow instructions…

Sources Used in Documents:


Gacono, C., & Evans, B. (2012). The Handbook of Forensic Rorschach Assessment (p. 32). Routledge.

Graham, J. (2003). Handbook of psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Kaplan, R., & Saccuzzo, D. (2012). Psychological testing (8th ed., p. 18). Cegnage Learning.

LeBreton, J., Scherer, K., & James, L. (2014). Corrections for Criterion Reliability in Validity Generalization: A False Prophet in a Land of Suspended Judgment. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 7(4), 478-500.

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