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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall...who's the fairest of them all?


A Projective test is a method of personality assessment in which an individual is presented with a standardized set of ambiguous, abstract stimuli and asked to interpret their meanings, wherein the individual's responses are assumed to reveal inner feelings, motives, and conflicts.
Although clinicians frequently use projectives, the subjective interpretation of responses to projective stimuli is problematic with regard to reliability and validity ( Beutler, 1995; Dawes, 1994). Recent refinements in scoring have focused on quantifying responses and comparing them to established norms ( Exner, 1993), with resulting improvement in reliability and validity.
It seems imperative that users score responses to projective tests objectively if adequate reliability and validity are to result. Without such objective scoring, the door is left open to biased interpretation. For example, if one believes the respondent is aggressive, one may tend to note responses that support such an impression and pay less attention to responses that do not fit as well.

History has shown that the scientific method is the most useful method for gaining reliable knowledge about the world. Will clinical practice improve with the adoption of empirically based rules?


Is there a place for subjective interpretation in psychological assessments and treatments or should clinical practice be guided by the scientific method?


Posted by Courtney Lynch.

6 comments:

tjasa said...

I think that projective measures are lawsuits waiting to happen! Tests such as HTP, Kinetic Family Drawing, Person in the Rain, TAT cards are all very ambiguous and I’m not surprised that many school psychologists do not feel comfortable using them. I think it’s ridiculous that someone would use projective measures as a primary basis for any decision, since they have poor technical adequacy. Use of projective measures is very difficult to justify from both ethical and psychometric grounds. The only projective measure that I think is somewhat reasonable to use is ’Sentence completion.’

SBartolozzi said...

I think that projective tests are too subjective on the part of the examiner and the interpretation could be totally off. I think that they could have some limited use to get an overall view of some of the person's feelings, but at the same time I don't think that too much can come out of them.

Roxane Nassirpour said...

I intend to use projective measures to give me a deeper understanding of the child's personality. Things like sentence completion, kinetic family drawing, and the DAP are just tools to provide further clues into the child's world.

However, I do not believe that they are reliable and valid "tests". I would not feel comfortable taking that next step and interpreting what it meant when the child turned the page.

The tests I plan to use to test my clinical hypothesizes will be normative measures proven to be highly valid and reliable (WISC, WJR, CTOPP, etc.). However, with all that data, it is beneficial to have some more personal information supplement my impression of the child.

Jessica S said...

Projective tests are useful in that they often provide more detail about a child's personal life. In addition, as with tools like sentence completion, the examiner igains a better understanding of how the child is functioning academically.

However, I would stop short of actually interpreting these tests. Interpretation is very subjective. One would have a difficult time convincing me that such interpretations would ever hold up in court.

Tammarra said...

In the last century Carl Linneus used subjective means to classify people according to race. In this instance he used his perception to help define characteristics of people. In Linneus' case the results were devastatng. It is possible to cause great harm with a misinterpretation of projective measures. Fortunately, best practice guidelines force us to look for confirmation of our hypotheses.

In certain cases, I probably would look to confirm my conclusions based on projective meausres, with conclusions based on more objective ones.

Courtney said...

I think that all of your comments are to be noted, I especially identified with the feelings of validy of projective measures and there subsequential findings in the legal forum. There is no clear law however, regarding this implementation and interpretation...so, Is it our best bet to utilize this as a tool and means to merely provide us with and understanding of the client? And if so, how do we know what is valid and what is not without a valued means and instructional methodology to guide these subjective interpretations?