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When faced with an ambiguous problem, people tend to offer solutions that reflect their own personality style. While many tests are structured and allow for only a specific range of answers, projective tests seek to assess important parts of the personality by exposing the client to relatively unstructured, ambiguous or meaningless stimuli and asking for some type of evaluation by the client. The difference between projective and more objective tests is like the difference between essay exams and tests involving multiple choice. Much more of the individual’s own way of viewing the problem often emerges on an essay than on a series of multiple choice answers.
The idea behind projective testing is that, given such vagueness, individuals will share more of their own imagination, revealing their individual needs, their problems and their way of viewing and understanding the world. Projective tests are sometimes useful in eliciting information about the person’s thinking, the degree of emotional disturbance and contact with reality. Results of such tests are rarely absolute, but often lead to educated guesses that the mental health professional can verify through further testing or treatment. Several types of projective tests are in common use.
Rorschach Inkblot Test
In this test, a person is given 10 cards with inkblot designs on them, one at a time. The person is asked to look at each card and describe what he/she sees. Responses are rated based on a standard scoring system and evaluated on a number of personality levels.
Thematic Apperception Test
In this test, also known as the “TAT”, the client is given a series of pictures that show people doing something. The client is asked to tell a story about what is going on in the picture and what the characters might be thinking and feeling.
Incomplete Sentence Formats
Incomplete sentences are a good way of obtaining relatively specific types of information in an unstructured way. In these tests, clients are given a number of phrases, such as, “The thing that I like best about myself is…” or “A husband should…” The client is asked to complete each sentence in his own words.