Projective Tests in Psychological Assessment – Beyond the Inkblots

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Other forms of Projective Tests
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While the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test and the Human Figures Drawing Test are among the most well recognized and clinically utilized projective assessment measures, various other lesser-known projective tests exist.

Below is a list of various projective personality assessment measures (Lilienfeld, 2000).

Free Association

· Freud's "fundamental rule" of psychoanalysis. Clients say whatever comes to mind, without making a conscious effort to inhibit their speech. Unconscious troubling material is interpreted from slips of the tongue, blocking, and other verbal expressions.

Word Association Test

· Items consist of single words read aloud by the examiner and to which subjects provide the first word that comes to mind. Jung (1906) claimed that long pauses, infrequent associates, and other unusual responses suggest that the stimulus word is related to one's underlying problem.

Projective Play

· Erik Erikson's (1950) suggestion that play is a child's natural mode of expression and serves the same purpose with children as free association does with adults. The child's emotions, concerns, and other psychological processes are thought to be expressed in free play.

Handwriting Analysis

· Frank (1948) and Allport (1953), among others, suggested that personality can be interpreted from handwriting as well as from any other form of expression.

The Szondi Test

· The Szondi Test (Szondi, Moser & Webb 1959) consists of several sets of photographs of actual psychiatric patients suffering from paranoia, mania, and other disorders. Subjects are asked to select the two patients they like best and least from each set, the assumption being that these choices reveal subjects' unconscious needs.

The Hand Test

· The Hand Test (Wagner 1962) presents subjects with various drawings of moving hands and asks them to guess what each hand "might be doing." The Hand Test uses these guesses to assess aggression, anxiety, and other traits.

The Luscher Color Test

· The Luscher Color Test, which became well known following the book by Luscher and Scott (1969), purports to assess subjects' personality traits by examining their preferences for various colored cards. For example, subjects who prefer blue are hypothesized to possess needs for tranquility; subjects who prefer green are hypothesized to possess needs to impress others.

The Blacky Test

· The Blacky Test (Blum,1950) consists of twelve cartoon drawings of a black puppy engaged in ambiguous activities and requires subjects to tell a story about each drawing. This test is intended to assess the presence of psychological conflicts derived from Freudian theory. For example, a cartoon of Blacky watching a knife descend upon his sibling's tail is purported to assess castration anxiety.

The Mira Myokinetic Psychodiagnostics Test

· The Mira Myokinetic Psychodiagnostics Test (Mira,1940) claims to assess psychopathological tendencies by examining the characteristics (e.g., length, variability) of lines drawn by blindfolded subjects.

The Lowenfeld Mosaic Test

· The Lowenfeld Mosaic Test (Lowenfeld, 1949) asks subjects to create mosaic designs out of 465 multicolored wooden shapes, and is purportedly helpful in the diagnosis of schizophrenia, depression, and other conditions.

The Draw-A-Car Test

· The Draw-A-Car Test (Loney, 1971) asks children to draw a car and asks them twenty-four questions about this drawing (e.g., "How fast will it go?"). It supposedly helps to identify children with encopresis and enuresis (i.e., difficulty in inhibiting defecation and urination, respectively).

The Pigem Test

· The Pigem Test (Rabin & Haworth, 1960) assesses subjects' personality traits by asking them what kind of animal they would like to be if they "had to return to this world and could not be a person."

The Rock-A-Bye Baby Test

· The Rock-A-Bye Baby Test (Haworth, 1961) is a film consisting of puppets enacting the parts of various characters, including a child, a newborn baby, his mother, and an evil witch. It is designed to assess children's jealousy toward younger siblings, guilt regarding their aggressive feelings, and other emotions.

Bender-Gestalt Figure Drawing Test

· The Bender-Gestalt asks the subject to copy a series of drawings containing shapes, lines, and dots. Although this test is typically used to assess brain damage, many psychologists have adapted it to assess psychopathology. Certain test behaviors are believed to be indicative of schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety. In a review of the literature on the Bender-Gestalt, however, Naglieri & Pfeiffer (1992) concluded that there is little support for the use of this measure as a projective device. For example, Trahan and Stricklin (1979) found that Bender-Gestalt signs purportedly related to aggression (e.g., an increase in the size of the first several drawings, drawings that collide with each other) were not associated with overt hostility. Moreover, there is little evidence that clinical experience enhances the validity of Bender-Gestalt interpretations. Goldberg (1959) found that psychologists were no better than their secretaries at differentiating psychiatric patients from brain damaged patients on the basis of Bender-Gestalt drawings, and that the diagnostic accuracy of both groups was relatively low. (Lilienfeld, 2000).

Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study (PFS). (Rosenzweig, Fleming, and Clark 1947)

· This measure, which has the distinction of being featured in the film A Clockwork Orange, was designed to assess propensities for several types of aggression. It consists of cartoons, each of which contains two people. In each cartoon, the person on the left says something that is potentially anger-provoking, and the subject is asked to state how the person on the right would respond verbally. The evidence for the validity of the Rosenzweig PFS, unlike that for most projective tests, appears promising. For example, scores on this test increase following frustrating situations (Muehleman, Hollinden, and Batsel 1981) and correlate with self-reported (but not teacher-reported) verbal and physical aggression among children (Graybill, Williams, Bodmer, and Peterson 1991). Some of these findings, however, have been inconsistent and difficult to replicate (LaVoie 1986). (Lilienfeld, 2000).

Most of these tests have either been inadequately researched (e.g., the Pigem Test) or found to possess inadequate validity. The Szondi Test, for example, appears essentially useless in the assessment of personality (Cronbach 1970), while the Blacky Test's reliability and validity are both questionable (LaVoie 1984). Moreover, despite its popularity in parts of Europe, the Luscher Color Test has not withstood careful scrutiny. Specifically, it has been found to possess low test-retest reliability (Brauen and Bonta 1979) and to be unrelated to scores on anxiety measures (McAloon and Lester 1979) and personality inferences derived from the MMPI (Holmes et al. 1984).
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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.


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