What Is The MMPI Test And What Does It Say About You?
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated September 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Nicole Gaines, LPC
Known as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the MMPI test is a psychological exam that takes a look at your personality traits as well as your psychopathology to determine if you have mental health issues. With two primary versions available (the MMPI-2 and the MMPI-2-RF), this test is a long-form, true/false test that helps you find out more about yourself. While it's typically used by doctors to test patients who are suspected of having mental health problems, it has also been used in other settings, including professional evaluations, and legal settings—most often as a means of either proving or disproving a client’s claims that they (or someone else) should not be held responsible for their actions.
The Types of the MMPI Test
There are three MMPI tests: the MMPI-2, MMPI-2-RF, and the MMPI-A (this version of the test is titled Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent). Two (MMPI-2 and MMPI-2-RF), are primarily used for adults ( 18 years and older), and one (MMPI-A) is intended only for teenagers. The MMPI-2 is a 567 question, true/false test. Although it's the older version of the test, it's still the most commonly known and used version because it has a large base of research and more psychologists are familiar with it. However, some psychiatrists have switched to the newer version. The validity scales and test items of all of the versions have been thoroughly vetted and carefully developed to make sure that they are still able to deliver accurate results, even in the face of response inconsistency.
The MMPI-2-RF is a shorter test, first published in 2008. It has 338 true/false questions. Because it's 200 questions shorter, it takes less time to fill out. Some psychiatrists have started using this process rather than the older one because it is considered a more advanced version. With more incoming research, it's likely that additional psychiatrists will start to look at this test as a better version and will start to use it more frequently; although the validity scales were adjusted in the test revision completed in the 1980s (the form called “MMPI-2), continued revisions identify unnecessary or outdated questions in order to streamline the process and make it more bearable for test-takers and givers, alike.
Finally, the MMPI-A is used exclusively with teenagers. With this test, it is possible for psychiatrists to find out more about a child and to start a treatment plan. This test is used in conjunction with other methods to help form an accurate and thorough diagnosis. This form (MMPI-A) differs from the original test, in that it focuses primarily on the clinical scales and validity scales, and administers only the first 350 questions of the test. The original scale was developed in order to measure an adult’s mental health, and adolescents do not typically hold the same experiences and responsibilities as adults, necessitating some changing and rearranging in the test. Even so, according to the University of Minnesota Press, there is still some danger of adolescents experiencing difficulty answering the questions on the test, which could make them score higher or lower than is actually accurate. For this reason, the test is best used as a general guide, while implementing additional forms of evaluation.
What You'll Learn
Different aspects of human mental health and behavior are tested with the MMPI-2 test. Ten clinical scales will assess ten categories of abnormal behavior and use four validity scales that help determine if answers are truthful and how the individual feels about the test-taking process in the first place. All of this adds up to a more accurate understanding of the individual's personality and whether or not the test can be taken accurately as written or if it needs to be adjusted because of the validity scales’ scoring.
The first thing tested is hypochondriasis, which evaluates vague or nonspecific complaints that pertain to the functioning of the body. These are focused on the abdomen and back and tend to persist despite having negative medical tests. In this test, which consists of 32 items, the monitoring focuses on poor physical health as well as gastrointestinal problems. This is an important part of the test items, as many mental health maladies involve physical symptoms.
Scale 2 (depression) measures an individual’s current mental health. Also called the depression scale, this section of the test consists of 57 items and measures the level of clinical depression within the tested individual. This is done by looking at the individual's morale, a lack of hope in the future, and general dissatisfaction that an individual may have with the situation of their life.
This scale consists of 60 items. With this scale, there are five aspects monitored: shyness, cynicism, neuroticism, poor physical health, and headaches. Because the scale was developed to test mental health as a whole, it is important to identify an individual’s predilection toward high scores in the hysteria section, as this could indicate the presence of a host of issues, including anxiety and paranoia, which will be evaluated later in the test.
Here, the test items look at the type of social maladjustment the individual might have, as well as whether they have strong pleasant experiences. It will also take a look at complaints or problems the individual has with family and other authority figures, as well as their level of boredom, social alienation, and self-alienation. There are 50 total questions in this section. This test can cause some debate; after all, some people associate their willingness to or interest in carrying on relationships with others with factors outside of mental health, ranging from extreme introversion, to Myers-Briggs typing, to simple preference. Nevertheless, this scale measures an individual’s ability to get along with others, and continually engage in communication and socialization with others.
With 56 items on this section of the test, this scale looks at things like activity versus passivity, personal sensitivity, interests, hobbies, and aesthetic preferences. In general, it looks at the rigidity of the individual's conformity to stereotypes for masculine or feminine activities and roles. This scale was originally developed as part of the original University of Minnesota MMPI, and came under some fire for its adherence to stereotypes. It has since been re-evaluated and altered, to more accurately reflect current understandings of gender, mental health, and behavior, as evidenced by the acknowledgement of non-gendered norms via the University Of Minnesota Press.
At 40 items, this is one of the shortest sections. It gauges interpersonal sensitivity, as well as suspiciousness, and even the morality of self-righteousness that an individual has. This section of the questionnaire is a little different, because it seeks to trip up those who may have paranoid tendencies by offering items that acknowledge paranoid thoughts or delusional thoughts. Basically, this scale was designed to detect people with the symptoms of paranoia including suspiciousness, feelings of persecution, grandiose self-concepts, excessive sensitivity, and rigid attitudes.
With this scale, you have 48 items that will test the inability of an individual to resist a specific type of action or thought even if they may be maladaptive. It looks at abnormal fears, difficulty in concentration, guilty feelings and thoughts or self-criticisms in its view of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. This means this scale is designed to assess inordinate doubts, compulsions, obsessions, and unreasonablefears. Consequently, high scores in this area of the test items could indicate the presence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or another compulsive disorder.
At 78 items, this is the longest section of the test and evaluates strange thought processes and peculiar perceptions, poor relationships with one’s family, problems with concentration and impulse control, social alienation, disturbing questions of self-worth & self-identity, and sexual difficulties including lack of deep interests. This portion of the test also controls for response inconsistency, in order to deliver the most accurate evaluation of an individual’s mental health.
Next is a 46-item section that looks at more mild degrees of elated but unstable moods, psychomotor excitement, flighty thoughts, ideas and brief periods of depression, and over activity in general, including irritability, accelerated speech, and motor activity, and egocentricity. It does this by looking at behavior and cognitive functions.
Finally, there's a 69-item section that looks at how introverted or extroverted the individual is. It looks at limited social skills (withdrawal from social contacts and responsibilities), preference for being alone versus with others, and whether the individual does well with a group of friends or not.
What Validity Scores Look For
Of course, no test that's taken entirely on your own could be considered an objective scale of your capabilities and thoughts. People will often attempt to lie, fib, or otherwise tweak the test to fit their interests or desires for the outcome. That's why there are validity sections for the test as well. There are four different parts to this section of the test, and each one is important in making sure that the individual is truthful or to what degree they may not be truthful.
- Lie. This 15-question section looks at outright lies that the individual does tell or is willing to tell. That way, it's possible to determine whether or not the individual has lied throughout the rest of the test and create a more accurate picture of the individual.
- F. The F scale is made up of 60 items. It looks at unusual or atypical test answers, like if an individual were to answer in a pattern or if too many answers seem to contradict each other. The F scale is utilized to discover and look into over-reporting. For someone to have scored high during the assessment, it may be that such a person was answering questions randomly or experiencing severe psychological distress (these two conditions may make someone appear (based on the result) worse than they actually are).
- Back F. This section looks at the same things as the F scale and makes sure that the second half of the test is answered properly. It looks at whether answers may contradict each other or if there is any pattern to the answers that make the test invalid.
- K. Finally, the K scale consists of 30 items and looks at things like self-control, interpersonal relationships, and family relationships. When all of these are scored, this section of the test can recognize potential psychopathology for those who may fall into normal ranges in other areas of the test.
Taking the First Steps Towards Recovery
If you believe you are dealing with a mental disorder, it is important that you reach out for help as soon as possible to prevent personal injury or the possibility of mental illness increasing and growing overwhelming. However, there are some things you can do beforehand to improve your chances of success and to help carry you through the process. Here are a couple of important things to do prior to reaching out.
Learn More about Your Mental Illness
Conquering a mental illness begins with fully understanding it. Even if you are not sure what you may be dealing with yet, you can learn more about common mental health symptoms and what you should do to start combating their detrimental effects on your health. Learn as much as you can about mental health and what it entails. This could involve learning more about your personality type, using the Myers-Briggs test, or other forms of personality typing, as well as identifying any physical symptoms of mental illness you may be exhibiting, such as chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, or regular headaches.
Start Taking Care of Yourself
Any mental illness requires you to step up your self-care routine and make sure you are meeting all of your physical and mental needs. From getting enough sleep, to eating the right diet, to journaling, there are plenty of exercises out there that will allow you to maintain your health so you can better battle your illness. This is another way personality typing systems such as Myers-Briggs can help: learning your unique way of thinking, communicating, and feeling can help you more thoroughly understand what you might need from yourself, your surroundings, and your relationships.
Finding a Psychologist on BetterHelp
Psychologists will take a look at the test when it is completed and form a more comprehensive understanding or diagnosis of the patient in question. Although the MMPI was originally developed to act as a diagnostic tool, it's important to note that this test alone can't form a complete picture of the individual. Another review and evaluation will be used, as well, to identify variable response inconsistency issues, and more finely tune the evaluation process. With respect to diagnosis and treatment, the psychologist you work with will be able to help with a professional diagnosis and will be able to start a path toward treatment.
Of course, you'll need to find a therapist first.
BetterHelp is a great place to find the help you're looking for, because it's an online system for you to connect with a therapist or counselor. You'll be able to talk to someone right from the comfort of your own home without ever having to go to a therapist's office. That means you'll be able to stay where you may feel the most open and comfortable, and will be able to find a therapist who is suited to your needs, preferences, and comfort level. BetterHelp therapists may able to work with you on any problems you're having or anything you need to talk about so you can start on a path toward healing. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing different issues.
"Kristen helps me to see my life and myself from a different perspective. I tell her about my experiences and she is able to hone into another side of the story that I couldn't get working things out on my own. And I had tried, for a very long time. As someone particularly skeptical of counseling in general, it has been refreshing to speak and work with someone who genuinely recognizes that I am seeking help but reluctant to take it. Her patience and consistent inquiry have been the greatest asset for me and I appreciate my time with her."
"Absolutely brilliant! He helped me out of a pretty dark place and was nothing but helpful! For men who are looking for a counselor who understands what it is like to be a man in today's world with a family, with kids and responsibilities, job, etc, I was extremely impressed with his ability to get down to it and understand what I was talking about. He's great at getting to the root of the issue too. No need to slog through 8,000 words to find out what point he's trying to make. He has a knack for asking exactly the right question in about 2-3 sentences. If you're looking for a counselor who isn't the typical counselor, he's your guy!"
Psychological personality tests help you gain further insight into your own mind and help identify potential problems that could affect your overall wellbeing. They help to look at your personality traits and psychopathology to verify if you are suffering from challenges relating to your mental health. Although the MMPI was originally developed over 80 years ago, it continues to offer a great deal of insight into an individual’s mental health, and can be wonderful start on your mental health journey; with plenty of information continually being published by the University of Minnesota Press, and continual revisions of the MMPI, you can rest assured that the MMPI offers a decent picture of your mental state, and whether that includes superb mental health, mental illness in need of treatment, or mental health concerns in need of being addressed. Regardless of exactly what the MMPI may reveal, though, your healthy life starts today by reaching out for help and taking the necessary steps to set yourself up for mental health success. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What questions are on the MMPI test?
The MMPI test is a psychological assessment test that measures personality traits against psychopathology traits. The original MMPI was designed to detect mental health issues. Original MMPI content questions focused on identifying personality traits by asking questions related to depression, paranoia, social introversion, and others. Researchers, clinicians, and therapists utilized test data to make clear assessments and mental health diagnoses.
What is the purpose of the MMPI test?
The MMPI test is well used and researched. Researchers developed the original MMPI projective tests using theory test development to identify whether psychopathology or mental illness is present in the test-taker. The MMPI research project resulted in the redevelopment of the original MMPI. The original MMPI is a personality test that identifies psychopathology traits. Since the development of the original MMPI, there have been various revisions and translations of the MMPI - 2 There are two versions of the traditional MMPI for adults. A third version designed specifically for adolescents and teens was developed when the MMPI underwent a revision. Translations of the MMPI - 2 are available from test distributors.
Is the MMPI test reliable?
As with most tests, the original MMPI had flaws that were corrected in later versions of the test. The MMPI-2 restructured many of the questions on the tests to implement "fail-safes" into the testing process. The MMPI-2 restructured version changed the approach to original MMPI testing based on previous performance and criticism. Test development methods were adjusted to account for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in each form of the test in the MMPI-2 restructured version.
How much does a MMPI test cost?
There isn't normally a cost for test-takers. Licensed medical doctors including primary care physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, and therapists are responsible for test purchases. Medical professionals administer the tests for test-takers and mental health clients.
Clinicians purchase the original MMPI battery of tests, updated versions of the tests, and similar tests like the Thematic Approach Appreciation tests from certified test publishers. As a result of ongoing MMPI development, publishers ask test purchasers for their clinical interpretation of MMPI-2 effectiveness (compared to the original version of the MMPI) to help develop more accurate tests.
Can you fail the MMPI?
Because publishers designed the MMPI to measure psychopathology traits -- a clinician using the MMPI-2 restructured version is trained to spot inaccuracies in the test. There are also fail-safes built into the MMPI-2 restructured tests as the original MMPI also faced problems due to inaccuracies. The MMPI-2 restructured addresses and corrects these and other problems identified in the MMPI-A version.
The new approach to MMPI means there isn't a way to fail the test with either version. The MMPI-2 restructured scales are designed to control for inconsistencies in test answers. Clinicians count on the test to reliably provide an accurate assessment as lie indicators and other features are built-in to provide a more accurate assessment.
Can you take the MMPI online?
You may find several options for taking the MMPI-2 restructured personality scales test online. If you're looking for an accurate personality scales assessment, it's best to stick with the version of the MMPI-2 restructured test that is administered by professional clinicians. While taking personality tests online is okay for fun, real-life interpretation of test scores for the MMPI-2 restructured tests should be done by licensed professionals.
Does MMPI diagnose personality disorders?
Each version of the MMPI-2 restructured test designed for uncovering psychopathology also tests for a variety of mental disorders and mental health conditions. The MMPI-2 restructured was developed and tested to measure elements of personality that indicate potential mental health issues. Similar to the Rorschach test, the person tested using the MMPI-2 restructured personality inventory is assigned a personality score based on their responses to test items.
How long does the MMPI take?
According to researchers, all versions of the test including the original MMPI and MMPI-2 take between 60 to 90 minutes to complete. MMPI research suggests this timed approach to MMPI provides enough time for statistical tests to capture honesty of test responses while relying on the ability of the test to control for inaccuracies and inconsistencies.
What is the MMPI designed to reveal about a person?
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is designed to assess an individual’s state of mental health. The test items evaluate a number of different issues, and can identify, with a great degree of accuracy, struggles in the areas of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Although the scale was developed primarily as a diagnostic tool, MMPI test items have also been used to evaluate the mental health of individuals in high risk jobs, assess incoming clients in clinical and therapeutic settings, and in legal cases, to either validate or invalidate a person’s case. Although the MMPI was developed in the 1930s, it continues to be viewed as an effective diagnostic tool, and is used to evaluate an individual’s likelihood of having a series of mental health concerns or disorders.
Because MMPI clinical scales were developed over 80 years ago, they have continued to undergo revisions and updates. In its restructured form, the MMPI 2 test has over 500 true or false questions. It relies heavily on response consistency and accuracy. In order for the MMPI to accurately and adequately assess an individual’s mental health state, they have to give a true response; inconsistency can inaccurately diagnose or identify the presence or lack of mental illness. Although The Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is an extremely useful way of diagnosing or identifying any mental health issues you might have, it cannot do so effectively if you do not answer all of the questions honestly.
What does MMPI test for?
The acronym “MMPI” stands for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a mental health evaluation and diagnostic tool originally developed at the University of Minnesota. The original version of the test was developed in the mid 1930s, but was criticized over time for having racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive and inaccurate questions. It has since been changed, building upon the original version of the test; the first revision was completed in 1989, but additional revisions have been completed since, including the MMPI 2, the MMPI-2-RF. In both versions of the MMPI 2 clinical scales, the validity scale was assessed and modified, further increasing the test’s ability to accurately and carefully identify the presence of mental health issues.
The MMPI is designed to assess an individual’s mental state. Much like a therapy or clinic might offer a quick questionnaire to determine how someone is feeling before their appointment, the MMPI scale measures how well someone’s mental health is doing and can offer a clinician the best point at which to begin therapy or counseling.
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