Personality Tests: Objective & Projective Tests

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  • 0:04 Personality Tests
  • 1:06 Projective Personality Tests
  • 3:23 Objective Personality Tests
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Our personalities can dictate a lot in our lives, so psychologists need ways to analyze them. In this lesson, we will talk about the two main types of personality tests and see how each is used by psychologists.

Personality Tests

You are like a snowflake because you are unique. Congratulations. While there's always something affirming about hearing how unique we all are, this simple fact can represent a challenge in real life.

Every one handles things slightly differently based on our individual personalities. So, how do we begin to assess the ways that personalities will interact? Imagine studying snowflakes. Each one is unique, and if you don't have some standard metric by which to understand them, you'll never get anything done. Personalities are similar.

To help understand the role of personality in an individual's psychological health, and to help predict the ways that people of various personality types will interact, psychologists have developed a range of personality tests. How we understand personality can determine whether individual snowflakes stay floating alone, or if we can build them into something together.

Projective Personality Tests

There are two main types of personality tests, each of which works differently.

In a projective personality test, the subject is exposed to a series of intentionally ambiguous stimuli. The psychologist then observes how the subject responds to those stimuli and analyzes the response. The goal is to uncover subconscious emotions and attitudes within a subject's mind.

Psychologists may use these to help identify hidden or unconscious emotional issues that prevent a person from leading a full and happy life, such as fears or doubts. Employers may use these tests to try to determine whether or not someone's personality will fit well within the established team.

Perhaps the most famous projective personality test is the Rorschach inkblot test. In this test, subjects are given a series of cards with non-figurative inkblots. They are asked to describe what they see, as well as which parts of the image catch their attention the most.

The psychologist records everything the subject says, as well as how they interact with the cards. Do they rotate the cards, pick them up, or keep their distance? After the test is administered, the psychologist goes through a lengthy analysis, using knowledge of personality dynamics and various algorithms to correlate the subject's responses to hidden personality traits.

A Rorschach inkblot
rorschach inkblot

The Rorschach test is a well-known projective personality test, but it's not the only one. In the Thematic Apperception Test, subjects are exposed to a series of cards that contain identifiable, provocative, and still ambiguous images. The subject is then asked to spontaneously compose the most dramatic story possible about the scene or the people in the image.

What is happening in this scene? What led to this? What are the people thinking or feeling? What happens next? Like the Rorschach test, every subject's answers are unique and have to be analyzed individually to reveal subconscious emotions or attitudes impacting that person's life.

Objective Personality Tests

Projective personality tests give subjects a chance to respond to stimuli independently, which means they are highly subjective, and the results depend on both the honesty of the individual and analysis of the psychologist. While they are useful, sometimes a more standardized approach is required.

An objective personality test exposes subjects to a series of questions with restricted answers, such as true/false or scale rating. These personality tests are meant to evaluate multiple dimensions of a person's personality based on statistical analysis of their responses.

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