The following article will guide you with the different methods of Personality Assessment.
For a discussion of various measuring techniques we can follow the plan adopted by Dr. Saul Rosenzweig in Andrew’s book – “Methods of Psychology’.”
According to him methods of investigating and assessing personality can be divided into following categories:
I. Subjective methods.
II. Objective methods.
III. Projective methods.
IV. Psycho-analytical methods.
V. Physical Test methods or Physiological methods.
Each one of these categories refers to a number of measuring tools or techniques.
1. The Subjective Methods:
The Subjective Methods are those in which the individual is permitted to disclose what he knows about himself as an object of observation. They are based on what the subject himself has to say about his traits, attitudes, personal experiences, aims, needs and interests.
Some of the important subjective methods are:
(1) The autobiography,
(2) The case history,
(3) The interview, and
(4) The questionnaire or the inventory.
1. The Autobiography:
The autobiography is a narration by the individual, given either freely or according to certain subject headings provided by the examiner, of his experiences throughout life, of his present aims, purposes, interests and attitudes.
The subject has freedom in selecting experiences which are of significance to him and these reveal his personality. The disadvantage is that what the subjects out of his life is that part of his experience which he is willing to reveal.
2. The Case History:
The case history is dependent to a great or less extent upon the autobiography. In a case history, we integrate the information that we obtain from various sources about the individual. This requires many interviews with individual and other persons who know the individual.
The case-study technique gives information about the individual’s parents and grand-parents, his home background, his medical history, his educational career, his friendships, his marital life, his profession and others. This method is more useful in understanding the personality-patterns of an individual who is a problem or is maladjusted. An outline of case-history is given in Appendix 1.
3. The Interview:
The interview is the most common method of judging personality. The interviewer questions or lets the individual speak freely so as to get a clear picture of the individual. From what he says, the interviewer knows about his interests, problems, assets and limitations. The chief dimension in respect to which the interview may vary is the rigidity or flexibility with which the interviewer holds to a pre-decided outline or schedule of questions or topics.
At times, it is useful to have a definite list of points to be covered consecutively. Greater skill is needed in free interviews which are not restricted by a list of definite points or questions.
The interviewer evaluates personality traits not only from the content of answers to questions asked, but also from the dogmatism with which the news are expressed, by the interest shown, by vocabulary or incidental references which the subject employs unwittingly in his conversation, and by observing his hesitations, his fidgeting, his emotionality and the like.
The limitation of the method is that it is subjective and is less valid than one believes it to be.
Questionnaires are a series of printed or written questions which the individual is supposed to answer. Ordinarily, the subject is expected to answer each question by checking or encircling or underlining ‘yes’ or ‘no’ provided against the question. The investigator counts the number of yes’s, No’s and?’s and thus is in a position to state whether a certain individual possesses certain traits or not.
The questions or statements provided describe certain traits emotions, attitudes or behaviours in situations revealing personality. The yes’s or no’s are counted in certain groups or sections depending on the traits to be indicated by positive or negative answers.
The limitation of this device is that the subject may not be willing to reveal correct facts about himself or may not be in conscious possession of these facts. The method, at its best, reveals that part of personality which is explicit or available to the subject’s scrutiny.
Some of the well- known personality questionnaires are the Bernrenter Personality Questionnaire, The Bell Adjustment Inventory, The Washbume Social-Adjustment inventory. The Indian Statistical Institute has also released a short personality inventory. A copy of the same is given in Appendix 2. Recently, other research centres have also developed their own or adapted some of the well-known inventories.
2. The Objective Methods:
The Objective Methods do not depend on the subject’s own statements about himself but on his overt behaviour as revealed to others who serve as observers, examiners or judges.
The subject, as far as possible, is observed or studied in certain life situations where his particular traits, habits, needs and other characteristics are brought into play and can thus be observed directly by the examiner. Some of the objective methods are miniature life situations, unobserved observation, physiological measures and rating scales.
1. In miniature life situations:
In miniature life situations, artificial situations resembling real life situations, are created and the subject’s reactions and behaviour are observed and evaluated. Situations involving honesty, cooperation, persistence, and team-work can be created and the subject’s behaviour may be noted and judged accordingly.
For selection of leaders in the army, this method is often used with great advantage. Reactions to failure and success may also be evaluated by putting subjects in situations where they fail and get frustrated or gratified.
2. The method of unobserved observation:
The method of unobserved observation is quite popular in child development centres of guidance clinics. The individual is asked to perform some task or is left himself and his behaviour is observed through a one-way mirror, screen or other device and he is overheard by a concealed microphone setup.
One modification of this method is prolonged observation of an individual in the same situation for several days together. Or the subject is observed by more than one person and the observations are pooled together. Of course, before observation is started, certain decisions must be arrived as to what to observe. One great case that is to be taken in this method is the distinction between what is observed and what is interpreted.
3. In rating scales:
In rating scales we rate an individual of the possession or absence of certain traits on a certain scale. The individual is given a place on the scale or a score which indicates the degree to which a person possesses a given behaviour trait.
For example, if we want to rate students on their sociability, we might ask three or four supervisors or teachers to point out the place of each student on the scale which may be as follows:
This scale has five degrees of the trait to be rated i.e., this is a five-point scale. Some scales have three or seven degrees.
The chief limitation of the rating scale lies in the fact that our raters should be well-trained and should have a definite knowledge of the variables. Often, the raters commit a mistake in that they assign estimates that cluster around the average point, if at all, towards the favourable direction of the scale.
They are loath to commit themselves to the extremes on a rating scale and are likely especially to avoid very unfavourable ratings. The rating scales can be used only by those who know the persons rated and who have observed them in respect of the trait for which they are rating them.
3. The Projective Methods:
In these methods or techniques, the examiner does not observe the overt behaviour of the subject as in miniature life situations; nor does he ask the subject to state his opinion of his own behaviour or his feeling about certain experiences.
Instead, the subject is requested to behave in an imaginative way i.e., by making up a story, interpreting ink-blots or constructing some objects out of plastic material and drawing what he wants.
Thus the subject is encouraged to ‘project’ or throw his thoughts, emotions, wishes and other reactions freely in some situations which are provided. These methods are, thus, intend to reveal the underlying traits, moods, attitudes and fantasies that determine the behaviour of the individual in actual situations.
The assumption that underlies the use of projective method is that in what he perceives in his unstructured and indefinite environment and what he says about it, an individual is revealing his innermost characteristics or his personality.
The projective techniques have in common the following features:
(1) The stimulus material is generally neutral, ambiguous or more or less undefined so that the subject can easily leave an impression of his personality on it.
(2) The psychological reality, rather than the actual reality of the subjects world is important – his wishes, his attitudes, beliefs, ideals, conflicts and fantasies.
(3) Implicit or unconscious aspects of the personality are revealed in these techniques – and psycho-dynamic principles, therefore, play an important part in the interpretations.
(4) An untrained interpreter is likely to project his own biases and fantasies into his interpretations of the subject’s productions.
Some of the important projective techniques are the Roareschach Test, the TAT or the Thematic Apperception Test, the Sentence Completion Tests, the Tantophone, the play techniques, the word-association method or the picture association method.
1. The Rosschach Ink Blot Test:
Developed by a Swiss psychologist Herman Rosschach (1921), consists of 10 inkblots having symmetrical designs. Five of these cards are in black and white, two with splashes of red and thee in other colours. The test is usually administrated individually.
When the card is shown or placed before the client he is asked to tell what he sees in the inkblot or what it means to him or what this might be. In the second phase, called the enquiry the examiner ascertains more fully not only what the person sees, but also what and how he sees it.
In the third phase, called “testing the limits”, the examiner tries to ascertain whether the subject responds to the colour, shading and other meaningful aspects of the inkblots, or whether the whole or parts of the blots are used by the subject in his responses. All these responses are then subjected to a scoring system, designed either by Beek or by Klopfer and Kelley. Then the interpretation follows.
The scoring categories of the test such as movement and colour, are interpreted as signifying different functions of the personality intellectual creativity, outgoing emotionality, practical mindedness and the like.
From norms based on work with subjects in various well- characterised groups, normal individuals, neurotics, and psychotics – the pattern of the subject’s scores may be interpreted as belonging to one or another personality make-up. We need highly trained personnel to administer and interpret Rosschach; and it is a time consuming test there are its limitations.
2. The Thematic Apperception Test:
(TAT) developed by Murray and Morgan (1935) consists of a series of 20 pictures. The person is asked to tell the story that each one suggests to him. These pictures are arranged in appropriate groups for male and female adults and for children. On each picture, the subject tells the story by identifying the characters, explaining their relationships to each other, describing what preceded the situation shown in the picture, and stating an outcome.
The record of story is analysed according to major theories – the hero, sexual interests, vocational ambitions, family conflicts and social status etc. The recurrence of a given topic or the theme is to be noted carefully.
These theme projects implicit attitudes, habits of thought, ideals and drives of the subject, as well as the characteristics of the other characters- father, mother, brother, sister, husband and wife. The Rosschach Test throws light on the structures of personality whereas the TAT throws light on the functioning of personality.
This test is quite popular in India and attempts have been made to adapt it for Indian conditions. One well-known Indian adaptation has been done by the Manovigyanshala of Allahabad. A similar test, specially meant for children is called CAT or the Children’s Apperception Test by Bellack. This has been adapted in India as well.
3. Children’s Apperception Test (C.A.T.):
This test was constructed Bellack in 1948. It is used to assess the personality of children upto twelve years of age. Young children are very much interested in listening to stories about animals and in playing with animals. Before administering the test, Psychologist establishes rapport with the chief so as to win his cooperation. CAT brings to light the child’s repressed desires.
4. The tantoplione is introduced by B.F. Skinner:
Here the subject is advised to listen while a phonograph reproduces at low intensity various speech samples in a man’s voice. The subject is asked to say what comes to his mind as he listens to each speech sample in much the same way that he might interpret an ink-blot. Thus, it is the auditory Rosschach technique.
5. Play Techniques:
Play techniques are more applicable to children than to adults. The subject is allowed or encouraged to construct scenes by using dolls, toys, blocks and other building materials. This technique has both diagnostic and therapeutic value and is frequently used in Child guidance clinics.
6. Word Association Test:
Another commonly used technique is the word-association method in which the subject is presented with a list of words, one at a time, with the instruction to respond with the first word that enters his mind. The examiner notes the time required forgiving each response and the responses themselves. Departures from the average amount of time and the content of unusual responses help us to identify certain attitudes, anxieties or sentiments.
7. Picture Association Test:
A recent projective technique is the picture- association method in which pictures of social situations are substituted for words as the stimulus material. The picture-frustration study of Rosensweig is a well-known technique of this type. Recently, it has been adapted in India by Dr. Udya Parik.
It consists of 24 cartoons like drawings depicting everyday situations of frustration or stress involving his individuals, one of whom is usually shown as frustrating the other. The subject is asked to write or say in the blank caption box, above the head of the frustrated individual, the first association that comes into his mind as appropriate. Then associations reveal areas of conflict, anxieties and stress in the life of the individual.
8. The Incomplete Sentence Technique:
The incomplete sentence technique given by Rotter, Stein and many others is a type of paper-and-pencil personality inventory which has features of an association test as well as of a projective technique. The subject is represented with a number of incomplete sentences which he finishes in any way that he likes.
A specimen of this technique is given in Appendix III. It is said the portions supplied reveal wishes, anxieties conflicts, healthy or unhealthy attitudes. The examiner tries to see the total pattern of attitudes and feelings revealed in the series of responses and uses it as part of the total study of the individual.
4. The Psycho-Analytic Method:
This method was propounded by Sigmund Freud, the father of the School of Psycho-analysis.
Two types of tests, in the Psycho-analytic method of investigation of Personality are very popular viz.:
(1) Free Association Test.
(2) Dream Analysis Method.
Both these tests show the peculiarities of the Personality, in its unconscious aspect. In the dream analysis, the subject describes his dream and without using the mind, meaning thereby the unrestricted state of the mind associates freely the dream objects and activities.
Because of the absence of the mental element, the truth of the unconscious mind is expressed by which the psycho analyst discovers many peculiarities of a character. Its main difficulty lies in the need for a skilled and experienced psycho-analyst. Often the psycho-analyst analyses his own mind in order to remove the possibility of any prejudice.
5. Physical Test Methods or Physiological Methods:
In physiological methods of assessment of personality following instruments are commonly used:
It is used for measuring the rate of respiratory activity of the individual.
It is used for measuring the individual’s Blood pressure.
It is used for measuring the activity of heart.
It is used for measuring the activity-of-heart.
It is used for measuring the electrical activity in the human brain,
The individual’s personality is assessed through a study of his handwriting.
It is used for measuring muscular activity.