Projective Personality Tests Measure Your Sub-Consciousness

The projective personality tests claim to measures your underlying personality traits, fears, anxieties and attitudes. However, they are the most ambiguous in their structure, interpretations and philosophy. Some recommend their usage only in the clinical atmosphere but many employers use them to apply suitability or even reject for some particular job.

Obscure series of cartoons, pictures, ink blots and incomplete sentences are used as projective techniques. The proponents of projective tests believe that you ‘project’ to these ambiguous stimuli from your sub-consciousness. That’s why you will find very few instructions to answer the questions.

An overview of the projective techniques shall help you to grasp development of projective tests.

Francis Galton; the Inventor of Projective Tests

Projective personality test

Francis Galton conceptualized the projective techniques with an experiment, in 1897. He chose a number of words and allowed himself to associate as many as words to each of them within four seconds. He categorized these associations in a number of categories and started to believe that your mental operations are wholly conducted in your sub-consciousness.

Sigmund Freud and Projective Techniques

He has not made any conscious effort to contribute in the projective tests. However, some psychologists speculate that his application of free association sprang from the experiments of Francis Galton’s experiments.

The Projective Tests in Germany & USA

Wundt, Kraepelin and Jung expounded upon the experiments of association made by Francis Galton. Jung finalized 100 stimulus words in 1910 to be used in different kinds of projective tests. For each word, the subjects were required to associate a word as quickly as possible. Most of the subject used the first word that came into their mind without even bothering of their meaningful association.

Kent and Rosanoff brought the projective personality tests in the United States. They enhanced the validity of the projective techniques by administering the 100 stimulus words upon a selection of 1000 subjects. Initially, they wanted to differentiate between reactions of normal and insane people regarding these selected words.

Hermann Rorschach's Inkblot Personality Test

While the psychologists were working upon association of words, a Swiss Psychiatrist, Hermann Rorschach was testing a completely different projective technique to study personality. He believed in the projective hypothesis that when you face ambiguous or unstructured stimuli, you inadvertently disclose your innermost needs, fantasies and conflicts. He developed 10 inkblot images in 1921 to help the subjects to ‘project’ their thoughts. He experimented with his close friends and relatives. His techniques are called inkblot personality tests.

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

Morgan and Murray developed different projective techniques in 1935 and named them as thematic apperception test (TAT). They studied normal people with their testing method. They used pictures of one or more people engaged in some ambiguous activity. You are asked to describe a dramatic story about thoughts and feelings of the people in the pictures. They believed that you expose your underlying thoughts, thrust for achievements and your reactions to the situations through your stories.

Sentence Completion

Payne started sentence completion projective technique in 1928. Now it is an important part of the most of the psychological tests. There are numerous extensions of the Payne system available in the testing market. These projective personality tests include questions like:

1- My nerves are made of…

2- I love…

3- I hate… etc

Drawing And Projective Personality Tests

Besides these major developments in the projective personality tests, some other psychologists adopted drawing techniques. Goodenough was first to use them to measure your intellectual levels as well as interests and personality traits.

Buck’s House-Tree-Person, was a bit structured and standardized projective personality test. He asked the subjects to draw a house, tree and a person. Machover’s projective tests are merely extension to the drawing projective techniques.


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