How are projective tests used to measure personality? (3 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “How are projective tests used to measure personality?” and explores what projective tests are, their classification, different types and the 3 ways in which projective tests are used to measure personality. 

How are projective tests used to measure personality?

Projective tests are used to measure personality in the following 3 ways –

  • Presenting an ambiguous visual.
  • Receiving and interpreting unstructured responses.
  • Revealing underlying and unconscious intentions or attitudes.

What are these 3 ways projective tests are used to measure personality?

Presenting an ambiguous visual.

People are presented with an ambiguous visual and then asked to offer the first response that comes to mind in several projective tests. The ambiguity of the stimuli is crucial in projective tests.

Receiving and interpreting unstructured responses.

The responses are frequently unstructured, and there are no response alternatives, but you can respond with whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong responses; the answers can range widely.

Using well-defined questions, according to the premise behind such tests, might result in replies that are meticulously designed by the conscious mind. When you are asked a simple question on a subject, you must spend time carefully constructing an answer.

Whether or not you’re intending to fool the test provider, this can add prejudices and even lies. For example, a responder may offer responses that are more socially acceptable or desired but are not always the best accurate representation of their genuine sentiments or behaviour.

The fundamental goal of projective tests is to assess and measure a person’s personality by interpreting the test findings and help you understand your strengths, weaknesses, and other emotions, as well as improve your personality traits.

Revealing underlying and unconscious intentions or attitudes.

Your underlying and unconscious intentions or attitudes are revealed when you are asked a question or given a stimulus that is unclear. Because the questions are unclear, the expectation is that individuals will be less able to depend on any signals about what the tester expects to see. 

In many circumstances, we can identify the most socially acceptable or desired replies using objective personality evaluation procedures, which might lead to deceptive results. Many of these assessments, however, include a measure of social desirability.

According to the ideas that underpin projective exams, the more ambiguous it is, the better it might represent the subject’s inner reality. The more organised the questions and responses are, the easier it will be to fool the conscious mind and disguise the outcome.

According to proponents of projective tests, because the cues are vague, the individual does not know what response is socially “acceptable,” and hence responds based on their underlying motives and sentiments. Faking the answer will be extremely tough.

Projective tests are designed to reveal sentiments, wants, and conflicts that are not readily apparent. Psychoanalysts attempt to identify unconscious sentiments that are producing issues in a person’s life by evaluating reactions to ambiguous signals.

What are projective tests?

Projective tests are a form of personality test in which the subject is asked to respond to confusing scenarios, phrases, or images, or even draw in certain circumstances. 

The purpose of these tests is to identify any latent problems or emotions that you project onto the exam in the hopes that these issues may be addressed through psychotherapy or other suitable therapies.

It varies from objective tests in that the responses might be highly different, and there are no right or wrong solutions. 

Despite the fact that there exist criteria for correcting projective tests (and even significant training), it is possible for two specialists to get different findings based on the same tests. In objective examinations, however, this is nearly impossible.

The goal of projective tests is to learn about a person’s structure and functioning, as well as to identify emotions or internal conflicts that the person will project in their responses. After that, the therapist can guide the client through psychotherapy.

The psychoanalytic school of thinking argued that humans had unconscious ideas and impulses, which led to this projective personality assessment. 

It was able to bring to light those sentiments, wants, and conflicts that were concealed in our unconscious and generate issues in the patient through the psychoanalyst’s interpretation of the replies.

Despite the controversies surrounding the use of projective tests, they are nevertheless widely used in clinical and forensic settings (assessment of offenders). In fact, the Rorschach Test is the third most utilised procedure among Spanish psychologists.

Despite the fact that projective tests might differ greatly, we can discover certain common assumptions among them:

  • Projective tests assume that a person’s personality structure is basic and consistent. This structure is made up of a unique arrangement of measurements, characteristics, or structures. The results of projective testing will be used to investigate this.
  • Because there is a link between the structure’s unobservability and the person’s behavioural expressions, analysing the structure can help anticipate future behaviour.
  • Any answer to projective tests is noteworthy and will be seen as an indication of the individual’s personality.
  • The ambiguous qualities of the projective test reflect the person’s personality the more.
  • It is difficult to falsify since the person is unaware of the link between his replies and his inner reality.
  • The replies are analysed globally.

Classification of projective tests.

  • Structural – Very abstract visual content that the individual must characterise by describing or implying what he sees (Rorschach).
  • Thematic – Visual content with varying degrees of clarity, human or parahuman content, with the goal of telling a story (TAT: Test of Thematic Perception).
  • Expressive – Drawing instructions (test of the tree, the human figure, the house).
  • Constructive – The subject is given concrete materials with which to build anything.
  • Associations – According to specific directions, the patient must vocally associate or complete words, phrases, or tales.

What are the different types of projective tests? 

Various sorts of projective tests are performed on individuals based on their needs.

Rorschach test.

Experts typically utilise the Rorschach inkblot test for projective testing. There are several inkblots drawn symmetrically yet in an unusual place in this exam. 

The subject is then asked to describe what they notice in the blots. They acquire a variety of replies from the Rorschach test, which are subsequently examined using numerous factors.

The specialists look at how long it took the subject to answer, what they said about the inkblots, and what the most essential point was.

Example – If the respondent sees frightening pictures, they presume the individual is experiencing paranoia.

Holtzman Inkblot test.

The Holtzman test is a Rorschach test modification. In comparison to the last test, the number of photos used for the respondent is substantially higher here. 

The main difference between the two tests is that in this one, objective scoring is more significant — during the inkblot test, professionals really examine the individual’s response time.

Thematic apperception test.

The Thematic Apperception Test is another well-known exam, sometimes known as the TAT test. The subject is instructed to gaze at several confusing scenarios in this sort of exam. The respondent is given the opportunity to evaluate the scenes and comprehend many components of the image or scenario.

Behavioural test.

The responder will be asked to offer information regarding the sort of image displayed – what characters are there; what emotions are displayed in these characters; or what will happen next. The professionals examine these reactions and reach a judgement, allowing them to determine the person’s mental state.


Various studies have shown that a person’s handwriting may convey a lot of information. Graphology is a handwriting talent that allows professionals to deduce your personality and physical attributes.

When responders write, specialists can quickly deduce the person’s current state of mind, as well as assess the person’s personality attributes. Even though graphology has been the subject of numerous debates, it is still utilised for projective testing with favourable outcomes.

Sentence completion test.

As the name implies, this exam requires the respondent to complete particular phrases. When the responder completes the phrases in their own words, it shows the person’s conscious and unconscious attitudes, beliefs, and motivation.

While completing the sentences, the individual might be in any state of mind, which will show in the exam, allowing the expert to assess the person’s nature and state of mind.

The Draw-A-Person Test.

This projective test relies entirely on your creativity. As the name implies, you must sketch a person, which will subsequently be assessed by the test interpreter. 

When examining an image, the examiner looks for a few things, like – 

  • Dimensions of various bodily parts
  • The figure is described in full.
  • The image’s overall form.

According to the examiner, the image is what helps you comprehend the psychological state of the individual who took the test. 

However, because this test is also regarded as invalid, many people disagree with the psychological inclinations and instead feel the individual has weak sketching abilities.

The House-Tree-Person Test.

John Buck created this exam, which consists of a collection of 60 questions to ask the respondent. During the test, the test interpreter can add some of his own questions.

The candidate is said to draw an image of a home, tree, and person in this house-tree-person exercise. Following the completion of the sketch, the examiner asks the respondent a few questions and analyses the responses.

Among the inquiries are:

  • Who lives here, exactly?
  • Who pays a visit to the resident?
  • Is the resident content? 

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “How are projective tests used to measure personality?” and reviewed what projective tests are, their classification, different types and the 3 ways in which projective tests are used to measure personality. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

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