Using Projective Tests: Psychology And Measuring Personality

By Gabrielle Seunagal |Updated February 1, 2022

Projective tests employ displays of words, pictures, and scenes to uncover information about an individual's personality. As one might imagine, this type of test is very response-based, seeing as the reactions to the displays above are used to determine information about the individual at hand. Individual attitudes, characteristics, and behavior patterns are additional attributes that projective tests are designed to unearth.

Everything You Should Know About Projective Tests

One of the most important things to understand about projective tests is the origins of this examination and how it came to be. This is where the subconscious mind enters into the equation.

The Role Of The Subconscious Mind

As most people are aware, the subconscious mind impacts the conscious mind, behaviors, and decisions individuals make. It's not uncommon for people to lack complete awareness of certain things which have become ingrained into their subconscious. In many cases, conditioning and programming can directly impact how someone behaves, thinks, and views the world around them.

You'd be amazed to learn just how many issues people experience are impacted by feelings and thoughts that lay dormant within the subconscious mind. The subconscious mindsets the groundwork for conscious thoughts and behaviors. This is one of many reasons why projective tests matter so much, particularly in psychology.

Understanding The Links Between Past And Present

Projective tests are very telling because the information gathered from using them can be employed for various purposes. For instance, someone who struggles in their interpersonal relationships may take a projective test and learn that an underlying event from their childhood is the real issue. Again, it's important to note that what is learned from having individuals undergo projective tests may not be as easily found out in other ways.

Similar to the relationship between the human subconscious and conscious, the past impacts the present. Every person's current state or position in life is built on choices made in the past. As human beings, we are the sum of every choice we've made, whether for better or for worse. If someone has issues from their past which are still bothering them to this day, then those issues need to be resolved; this is another way in which projective tests can be so beneficial, especially in psychology.

Reviewing The Step-by-Step Testing Process

Projective tests take place when the individual is given an image to look at. In many cases, this image can be interpreted in multiple ways and fashions. How the individual perceives and reacts to the image can discover information regarding their personality, outlooks on life, and even subconscious views and biases. The ambiguity of the image is paramount to the success of projective tests; by giving multiple individual choices to select from, the test allows that person's true nature to be revealed.

Honesty from the subject of projective tests is critical. This is largely why the images or stimuli presented to the individual are not very specific and leave plenty of room for different answers or interpretations. Were the images to be too precise or exact, the person being tested by feeling the need to give a certain answer, even if that answer is not truly indicative of what they think or feel. As you can imagine, this would defeat the entire purpose of the projective test, seeing as the examination is designed to measure personality and more.

Additional Purposes

In therapy, there are various scenarios in which projective tests are used. Sometimes, these tests occur to get through to patients. It's not particularly uncommon for therapists to employ projective tests to build rapport with their patients and encourage them to discuss issues that may be challenging or difficult. In therapy and psychology, projective tests can serve many purposes. Being cognizant of these purposes and the most appropriate situations to use projective tests is best for both the therapist and the patient.

Potential Drawbacks

The benefits of projective tests are very established and well-documented. However, there are certain drawbacks associated with these examinations, and being aware of them is important. One of the most notable cons of all is that projective tests can be influenced by the given environment or even by the therapist's demeanor who is conducting this examination. This may not even be intentional, but there is always the possibility that projective tests will be impacted by something other than the inner workings of the patient.

Another drawback associated with projective tests pertains to the subjectivity of the examinations. Due to how ambiguous the images and subsequent responses from patients are, the therapist can interpret an answer in one way when it was meant to mean something else entirely. This does not always happen, but the massive openness associated with projective tests leaves room for errors in interpretations. This can be problematic later down the line, as the data collected from this examination is skewed and not what the tester interprets it to be.

Projective Tests And Psychology In The Workforce

The use of projective tests is not mutually exclusive to the realm of therapy. Believe it or not, these psychological examinations are becoming more and more common in the workforce, particularly during job screenings and determining which career paths an individual may be most suitable for. This can be seen with career counselors who employ the results from projective tests as a guide to help their patients go into the right field.

In the workforce, career seekers who undergo projective tests are typically required to provide stories from various forms of stimuli. From here, career counselors can interpret the provided stories and use them to learn about the individual's personality, traits, and how well they will do in certain environments. While projective tests were not regularly used in the workforce decades ago, they're becoming more common as useful psychological tools.

The Importance Of Measuring Personality

Understanding the personality of various individuals is important for a series of reasons. Personality can be very telling when it comes to issues someone is dealing with, the best treatment options, and even lifestyle changes. An individual's personality can shed light on underlying problems that lurk beneath the surface and future occurrences that might occur in that person's life.

In therapy, specialists must understand the patients with who they are working. Sometimes, it can be challenging for patients to open up during the initial phases of therapy. It can take time to build rapport with a therapist and feel comfortable enough to divulge details or challenging stories. This is another area in which projective tests can prove to be helpful. Projective tests are not infallible, but they can truly serve as a great way for therapists to learn about their patients, understand their personality traits, and determine some potential ways of helping them.

What If You're Taking A Projective Test?

If you find yourself taking a projective test, you may feel nervous or even a little bit anxious. It's understandable to wonder what your examiner may think about your answers or how your statements will be interpreted. However, it's important to remember that this test is designed to help you, regardless of whether it's being administered by a therapist, a career counselor, or some other specialist. Clearing your mind, observing the stimuli, and providing the answers and reactions which naturally come to you are the best courses of action.

If you feel confused or uncertain about something at any point during a projective test, it's OK to verbalize this and ask questions if need be. Remember, the images which are presented to you are purposefully designed to be open-ended and ambiguous. In many cases, this can create uncertainty, which is perfectly normal. The person administering the test is not there to judge you but merely to learn more about who you are.

In Closing

The world of psychology is always changing and evolving. Personality tests are great tools because they allow people to learn more about themselves, even things they were unaware of before the examination. In therapy cases, personality tests are great for building rapport with patients, learning about how a patient thinks and feels, and understanding which treatment options they are most likely to respond to.

If you find yourself going through a tough time in life, therapy may be a great option. Not only can a therapist serve as a great support system, but they can also help you get to the bottom of underlying problems which may not have been addressed or dealt with. Therapy has changed so many lives and helped people better themselves in ways they didn't even know were possible.

Here at BetterHelp, we have a great team of therapists who would be more than happy to work with you. No matter who you are or what your situation is, you deserve access to the best care. You can get started with BetterHelp at any time simply by clicking here.


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