Types of Assessments Used in Psychology

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  • 0:02 Psychological Assessment
  • 1:10 Projective Tests
  • 3:07 Inventory-Type Tests
  • 4:44 Aptitude Tests
  • 6:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Psychological assessments are tests that are meant to analyze a person's abilities or personality. In this lesson, we'll examine some common types of psychological tests, including projective tests, inventories, and aptitude tests.

Psychological Assessment

Who are you? What are you good at? What's your personality like? These are big questions that can be hard to answer, partly because many people aren't really sure of what the answers are. Psychological assessment involves tests that are designed to tell a person something about him or herself.

For example, a psychological assessment can tell you about your personality, like whether you are introverted or extroverted or whether you are a dreamer or more levelheaded. Psychological tests can also tell you about your skills and abilities, including your intelligence and what types of things you're good at. They can even point you to a career based on your personality and skills.

If it sounds like psychological assessments can tell you a lot of information, it's because they can! But one assessment is not going to be enough to tell you all of those things. There are many, many different types of psychological tests, and they all serve different purposes.

Let's look closer at some of the general categories of psychological assessments and what they can tell you about yourself.

Projective Tests

Let's start with the questions of who you are and what your personality is like. These might seem like daunting questions; how can you possibly understand everything that's inside of you? How can you explain who you are, especially when sometimes you don't even know who you are?

Projective tests involve showing images to a person and asking them to interpret the images. Remember the word 'project' to help you remember 'projective tests': it is like the person is projecting themselves onto the image.

You've probably seen examples of projective tests in movies or television. The most common two types of projective tests are the Rorschach inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Test, also known as the TAT. You know in movies when a psychologist holds up a piece of paper with a random inkblot on it and asks their patient what the patient sees? That's the Rorschach test, and it is typical of a projective test.

One great thing about projective tests is that they can get at subconscious aspects of a person. Patterns in thoughts and feelings can sometimes be difficult to see when you are living with them, but through projective tests, those patterns begin to emerge. For example, if you tend to see death and destruction when you look at inkblots or the images in the TAT, you may have an issue with depression. You may not even realize that it's a part of the way you see the world day in and day out; it's just a part of you. But the projective tests can get at that part of you in a way other tests can't.

However, projective tests do have downsides. The most common issue with them is that the results are difficult to interpret. If you see a flower in an inkblot, what does that mean about you? The interpretation of the results is highly subjective. That is, you can say the same thing to two different psychologists and get two different analyses of what it means.

Inventory-Type Tests

To try to make a test that is more standardized and less subjective, inventories, or inventory-type tests, were developed. These include surveys that try to measure a person's characteristics or attitudes. They might include things like true-false questions or questions that ask you to rate an idea on a scale of one to five.

The most famous psychological inventories are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Both of these try to figure out what a person is like based on how they respond to questions about what they believe or think or feel.

As we mentioned, inventories have the advantage of being more standardized and objective than projective tests. If a person marks true to a statement about family being important, then it's pretty clear that family is important to them!

But inventories have their own problems. One common issue with inventories is that they depend on a person answering questions about who they are. Why is this an issue? Some people might lie, either intentionally or not. For example, a person might not want to mark that family is not very important to them because they might feel that they would then be judged as a bad person.

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