The purpose of projective tests is similar to that of personality inventories.
Psychologists want to pinpoint healthy and unhealthy areas of functioning in the
individual being tested. However, unlike personality inventories, projective tests
are derived from the psychoanalytic perspective; the images and stories
described are thought to reflect underlying unconscious urges and desires.
Because projective tests are more subject to the interpretation of the clinician
than are personality inventories, coding systems have been devised to decrease
variation in interpretation and increase their reliability in measuring personality.
Projective tests are most useful for identifying themes in a person’s life or for
delineating an individual’s problem-solving style.
Rating Scales and Direct Observation
A third type of tool used by psychologists to measure personality is the rating
scale. Rating scales are formatted similarly to checklists. You check off the
statements or behaviors that most apply to you. Because the person being
evaluated may not answer the statements truthfully, teachers, parents, partners,
and clinicians can also complete rating scales on the person being evaluated.
These alternate perspectives minimize the self-distortions that are associated
with self-report instruments.
Psychologists may also rely on directly observing a client’s behavior and
interactions with others to assess personality. Closely watching how you behave
in particular situations can be helpful in determining what happens before and
after your responses. Such information is particularly important to clinicians who
favor a social cognitive approach and who want to understand the social or
environmental factors that may be influencing problem behavior.
One tool used by most clinical psychologists is the
interview, which typically takes place during the first meeting between the client
and the clinician, involves the clinician asking the client questions to identify the
client’s difficulty in functioning. The format and length of the interview, as well
as the questions that are asked during the interview, may differ from clinician to
clinician. These differences again relate to the alternate views on personality