Types of Psychological Testing
Personality assessment is designed to help a professional better understand an individual’s personality. Personality is a complex combination of factors that has been developed over a person’s entire childhood and young adulthood. There are genetic, environmental and social components to personality — our personalities are not shaped by one single influence. Therefore tests that measure personality take into account this complexity and rich texture.
There are two primary types of personality tests — objective, by far the most commonly used today, and projective. Objective tests include things like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), the 16PF, and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III). Projective tests include the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and the Draw-a-Person test.
The most common objective personality test is the MMPI-2, a 567 true/false test that is a good measure of dysfunction within personality. It is less useful as a measure of healthy or positive personality traits, because its design was based on helping a professional to find a psychiatric diagnostic label that best suited an individual. Originally developed in the 1940s, it was significantly revised in 1989 (and had another minor revision in 2001).
The MMPI-2 measures personality traits such as paranoia, hypomania, social introversion, masculinity/femininity, and psychopathology, among others. It does this by connecting an individual’s responses to dozens of questions scattered throughout the test that are positively or negatively correlated with a particular personality trait. Because the questions are not always obviously related to the trait to which they are correlated, it is difficult to “fake” this test. The MMPI-2 is most often self-administered on a computer in a clinician’s office.
The Millon (MCMI-III) is specifically used to arrive at a DSM-IV personality disorder diagnosis. Because it takes only about a third of the time to take as the MMPI-2, it is often preferred when a simple assessment of an individual’s personality disorder is needed.
Because the MMPI-2 is not an ideal measure for people with healthy personalities, other measures, such as the 16PF may be more appropriate. The 16PF measures 16 basic personality traits and can help a person better understand where their personality falls amongst those traits:
- Warmth (Reserved vs. Warm; Factor A)
- Reasoning (Concrete vs. Abstract; Factor B)
- Emotional Stability (Reactive vs. Emotionally Stable; Factor C)
- Dominance (Deferential vs. Dominant; Factor E)
- Liveliness (Serious vs. Lively; Factor F)
- Rule-Consciousness (Expedient vs. Rule-Conscious; Factor G)
- Social Boldness (Shy vs. Socially Bold; Factor H)
- Sensitivity (Utilitarian vs. Sensitive; Factor I)
- Vigilance (Trusting vs. Vigilant; Factor L)
- Abstractedness (Grounded vs. Abstracted; Factor M)
- Privateness (Forthright vs. Private; Factor N)
- Apprehension (Self-Assured vs. Apprehensive; Factor O)
- Openness to Change (Traditional vs. Open to Change; Factor Q1)
- Self-Reliance (Group-Oriented vs. Self-Reliant; Factor Q2)
- Perfectionism (Tolerates Disorder vs. Perfectionistic; Factor Q3)
- Tension (Relaxed vs. Tense; Factor Q4)
This type of assessment might be administered so that a person can better understand themselves, and it can also help a professional better understand what type of approach or strategy to employ in treatment to best help the person.