Objective Tests Self Reports

Projective tests are usually contrasted with objective tests, typically questionnaires in which subjects are asked to describe themselves by answering a series of questions. For example, a measure of conscientiousness may ask 10 questions such as "Do you always keep your desk clean?'' and "Are you devoted to your work?'' The test is considered objective because it can be scored directly, without the need for clinical interpretation: The number of conscientiousness items to which an individual responds true is that individual's score, and higher scores indicate higher levels of conscientiousness.

That basic paradigm—asking a standard set of questions and scoring responses with a predetermined key—has been used in thousands of assessment applications. Intelligence tests, vocational interest inventories, mood indicators, and measures of psychopa-thology as well as personality scales have adopted this model. Its scientific appeal lies in the fact that it can be repeated at different times and with different subjects, and consequently its accuracy can be evaluated. A whole branch of statistics, psychometrics, has been developed to analyze responses, both for what they tell us about the individual and for what they tell us about the quality of the test. Psychometric analyses provide information that can allow researchers to improve the quality of the test by changing the questions or the response format or the interpretation of the results.

If psychoanalysis formed the theoretical basis of projective tests, then trait psychology must be considered the basis of objective personality tests. Briefly, trait psychologies hold that individuals differ in a number of important ways that are usually thought to be continuously and normally distributed. Just as a few people are short, a few tall, and most average in height, so some people may be very agreeable, some very antagonistic, and most intermediate along this psychological dimension. Unlike moods, traits are enduring dispositions; and unlike specific habits, they are general and pervasive patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions. Scores on trait measures should therefore be relatively constant, and scale items mea suring different aspects of the trait should go together. These theoretical premises are the basis of the psychometric requirements of retest reliability and internal consistency in personality scales.

Among the most important personality questionnaires in current use are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), developed in the 1940s to measure aspects of psychopathology; the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, representing the personality theories of Raymond B. Cattell and Hans J. Eysenck, respectively; the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on C. J. Jung's theory of psychological types; the California Psychological Inventory, a set of scales intended to tap folk concepts, the personality constructs used in everyday life; and the Personality Research Form, a psychometrically sophisticated measure of needs or motives. The NEO Personality Inventory is a more recent addition, based on new discoveries about the basic dimensions of personality. In addition to these omnibus inventories which all measure a variety of traits, there are a number of individual scales that are widely used in personality research, such as the self-monitoring scale and the locus of control scale.

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