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Assessment: Questionnaires and Projective Tests

Assessment: Questionnaires and Projective Tests

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will examine the various assessment tools utilized to measure personality.

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Hello, class. So in today's lesson, we're going to be looking at two different forms of assessment that we use to uncover different aspects of personality. So if you recall, personality psychology is the study of people's individual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving over time. So the question is, how do we determine what those patterns are for each different person.

And that's where assessments come in. Assessments, or tests, are ways to help measure the various traits and aspects of a person's personality. So we have different tests for different theories of personality, things like trait theory, psychodynamic, or humanistic theory. And each one of these types of assessments can have different strengths and weaknesses.

So today, we're going to be looking at two different forms of assessment. They're sort of on different ends of the spectrum. The first one is a questionnaire. And the second one is a projective test. So while they're different means of assessment and collecting information, they highlight important aspects of what assessments are like. So let's take a look at each of these individually.

So the first form that we'll be looking at today is the personality questionnaire. And a personality questionnaire is important, because it underlies the importance of objective assessments. And an objective assessment is when we use the same questions and measures for each person so they're not varying and we can study them more in depth. And it would also mean that a questionnaire or an objective form of assessment should give the same score when different people are correcting it. So these scores shouldn't vary depending on who's giving the test, in other words, even though it might vary depending on who's taking it, because obviously we're measuring different kinds of people.

So a personality questionnaire is a written form of test, where a person is given a list of questions that reveal different aspects of a person's personality depending on the answers they give. So they often ask in personality questionnaires about likely behaviors, about a person's feelings, and about their responses in different kinds of scenarios.

So the strengths of a questionnaire is they can be given to a large number of people. We can grab a large amount of data to support whatever our theories are. The weaknesses are that they can be inflexible. You can't change them depending on what type of person you're studying. And they can also be biased toward particular groups. So the way that they are written can affect what kinds of scores you get from different kinds of people.

Questionnaires can also vary widely in terms of reliability and validity, which are two important scientific terms. So let's look at them. Reliability means that the results are consistent. In other words, you get the same results each time you give this questionnaire. So if I were to take the same questionnaire twice in a short period of time, I should be getting basically the same score. Otherwise the test isn't reliable.

Validity means that the test measures what it's supposed to measure. It isn't being affected by any kind of outside variables. And also, its results are similar to other tests that are reliable about the same kinds of subjects. So if I were to test the validity of my questionnaire, I would look at other things that are measuring the same sorts and have been shown to be effective over time, and see if those results are about the same. That way I can tell I'm measuring what I'm trying to.

The other form of test we're talking about is the projective tests. And these are tests that are a little bit different. They tend to use ambiguous words, or images especially, to attempt to uncover unconscious thoughts or desires. So projective tests are very much focused on psychodynamic theories of the unconscious. An example of a projective test is the Rorschach inkblot tests, where people's responses to this picture of an inkblot are recorded and interpreted by an observer.

So the strengths are that projective tests are very difficult to fake, because there aren't right or wrong answers and oftentimes the person doesn't realize what they're being tested on, because they're looking at their unconscious, rather than their conscious mind. They can also provide in-depth information about the subject's mental processes that are otherwise very difficult to understand, because they're unconscious.

Weaknesses for projective tests is that they tend to be very low in validity, since it's hard to tell at times what they are measuring, because again, we're talking about the unconscious. They're also subject to some interpretation by the psychologist who's giving it, because the psychologist is recording the responses, although there are specific procedures when scoring, so it's not completely up to the psychologist. It's not up to them to decide what the interpretation will be.

Terms to Know
Objective Test

Test with standardized, consistent scoring and administration.

Personality Questionnaire

Type of objective test; a written test with questions that ask about aspects of a person’s thinking, feeling, or behavior.

Projective Test

Tests that present ambiguous stimuli; responses are analyzed for meaning.


Consistency of responses to assessment across time.


Test measures what the researcher is attempting to measure.