Psychological tests are ordinarily administered by clinical psychologists.
Together with interviewing and observing, the psychologist will use tests to
form a diagnosis. Tests can also be used in education to determine the
effectiveness of educational programs or to evaluate students' abilities.
They can be used to select employees for corporations, or to admit lawyers to
Psychological tests can be considered to be of two kinds: projective tests
and standardized tests. The differences between the two groups reside in
their purpose, design, administration, and evaluation. Projective tests are
used to study personality or diagnostic a mental disturbance. They present
the subject with an ambiguous stimulus, and the subject's response is
analyzed to see if it conforms to a pattern or another. Standardized tests
are used to measure skills or performance. They may be used, for instance, to
select students for special instruction, for college, and for graduate study.
The use of projective tests was influenced by the arising of Freud's
psychodynamic theories. They began with the use of the technique of word
association and their use spread out with the publication in the 1920s by
Hermann Rorschach of the test that bears his name. Psychodynamic theorists
pointed that it revealed psychic contents unconscious to the individual.
Projective tests are unstructured and intentionally vague, in order to
enhance the odds that the response reveal the manner in which the person
perceives the world.
Rorschach (1884-1922) was a Swiss psychiatrist who, during ten years,
developed a test composed of ten images (five in color and five in black and
white) similar to inkblots. When the subject was asked what he thought the
blots were alike, it was assumed that the content of the answer revealed the
individual's personality. Later the analysis was refined to include other
aspects besides content, like answering that an object was in motion or
pointing to a color or a shade.
Another widely used test is the Thematic Apperception Test, developed by
Henry A. Murray at Harvard. It is composed of thirty pictures, and the
subject must tell a story about them. This test is supposed to address more
conscious aspects of the subject's personality, as his interpersonal
relationships. Despite some opinions in contrary, the validity of projective
tests remains in doubt, mainly because their interpretation is very
Standardized tests are tests of the multiple-choice kind, whose results
(scores) are reported in terms of a reference (or norm) group. In this case,
scores indicate the location of the subject within the norm group and not the
number of items answered correctly--usually called the raw score.
Standardization is made assuming a normal distribution for the variable
measured, which is a correct assumption in the majority of cases.
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