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In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the person into the test. This is sometimes contrasted with a so-called "objective test" or "self-report test" in which responses are analyzed according to a presumed universal standard (for example, a multiple choice exam), and are limited to the content of the test. The responses to projective tests are content analyzed for meaning rather than being based on presuppositions about meaning, as is the case with objective tests. Projective tests have their origins in psychoanalytic psychology, which argues that humans have conscious and unconscious attitudes and motivations that are beyond or hidden from conscious awareness.
- 1 Theory
- 2 Projective hypothesis
- 3 Common variants
- 4 Statistical debate
- 5 Concerns with projective tests
- 6 Terminology
- 7 Uses in marketing
- 8 Uses in business
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Footnotes
The general theoretical position behind projective tests is that whenever a specific question is asked, the response will be consciously-formulated and socially determined. These responses do not reflect the respondent's unconscious or implicit attitudes or motivations. The respondent's deep-seated motivations may not be consciously recognized by the respondent or the respondent may not be able to verbally express them in the form demanded by the questioner. Advocates of projective tests stress that the ambiguity of the stimuli presented within the tests allow subjects to express thoughts that originate on a deeper level than tapped by explicit questions, and provide content that may not be captured by responsive tools that may lack appropriate items. After some decrease in interest in the 1980s and 1990s, newer research suggesting that implicit motivation is best captured in this way has increased the research and use of these tools.
This holds that an individual puts structure on an ambiguous situation in a way that is consistent with their own conscious and unconscious needs. It is an indirect method- testee is talking about something that comes spontaneously from the self without conscious awareness or editing.
- Reduces temptation to fake
- Does not depend as much on verbal abilities
- Taps both conscious and unconscious traits
- Focus is clinical perspective - not normative - but has developed norms over the years 
The best known and most frequently used projective test is the Rorschach inkblot test, in which a subject is shown a series of ten irregular but symmetrical inkblots, and asked to explain what they see. The subject's responses are then analyzed in various ways, noting not only what was said, but the time taken to respond, which aspect of the drawing was focused on, and how single responses compared to other responses for the same drawing. For example, if someone consistently sees the images as threatening and frightening, the tester might infer that the subject may suffer from paranoia.
Holtzman Inkblot Test
This is a variation of the Rorschach test, but uses a much larger pool of different images. Its main differences lie in its objective scoring criteria as well as limiting subjects to one response per inkblot (to avoid variable response productivity). Different variables such as reaction time are scored for an individual's response upon seeing an inkblot.
Thematic apperception test
Another popular projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in which an individual views ambiguous scenes of people, and is asked to describe various aspects of the scene; for example, the subject may be asked to describe what led up to this scene, the emotions of the characters, and what might happen afterwards. A clinician will evaluate these descriptions, attempting to discover the conflicts, motivations and attitudes of the respondent. A researcher may use a specific scoring system that establishes consistent criteria of expressed thoughts and described behaviors associated with a specific trait, e.g., the need for Achievement, which has a validated and reliable scoring system. In the answers, the respondent "projects" their unconscious attitudes and motivations into the picture, which is why these are referred to as "projective tests."
The Draw-A-Person test requires the subject to draw a person. The results are based on a psychodynamic interpretation of the details of the drawing, such as the size, shape and complexity of the facial features, clothing and background of the figure. As with other projective tests, the approach has very little demonstrated validity and there is evidence that therapists may attribute pathology to individuals who are merely poor artists. A similar class of techniques is kinetic family drawing.
Animal Metaphor Test
The Animal Metaphor test consists of a series of creative and analytical prompts in which the person filling out the test is asked to create a story and then interpret its personal significance. Unlike conventional projective tests, the Animal Metaphor Test works as both a diagnostic and therapeutic battery. Unlike the Rorschach test and TAT, the Animal Metaphor is premised on self-analysis via self-report questions. The test combines facets of art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and insight therapy, while also providing a theoretical platform of behavioral analysis. The test has been used widely as a clinical tool, as an educational assessment, and in human resource selection. The test is accompanied by an inventory, The Relational Modality Evaluation Scale, a self-report measure that targets individuals' particular ways of resolving conflict and ways of dealing with relational stress. These tests were developed by Dr. Albert J Levis at the Center for the Study of Normative Behavior in Hamden, CT, a clinical training and research center.
Sentence completion test
Sentence completion tests require the subject complete sentence "stems" with their own words. The subject's response is considered to be a projection of their conscious and/or unconscious attitudes, personality characteristics, motivations, and beliefs.
Picture Arrangement Test
Created by Silvan Tomkins, this psychological test consists of 25 sets of 3 pictures which the subject must arrange into a sequence that they "feel makes the best sense". The reliability of this test has been disputed, however. For example, patients suffering from schizophrenia have been found to score as more "normal" than patients with no such mental disorders. Other picture tests:
- Thompson version,
- CAT (animals) and CAT-H, (humans)
- Senior AT,
- Blacky pictures test - dogs
- Picture Story Test - adolescents
- Education Apperception Test -attitudes towards learning
- Michigan Picture Test - children 8-14
- TEMAS - Hispanic children
- Make-A-Picture Story- make own pictures from figures 6yrs & up 
Word Association Test
Word association testing is a technique developed by Carl Jung to explore complexes in the personal unconscious. Jung came to recognize the existence of groups of thoughts, feelings, memories, and perceptions, organized around a central theme, that he termed psychological complexes. This discovery was related to his research into word association, a technique whereby words presented to patients elicit other word responses that reflect related concepts in the patients’ psyche, thus providing clues to their unique psychological make-up 
A lesser-known projective test is graphology or handwriting analysis. Clinicians who assess handwriting to derive tentative information about the writer's personality attend to and analyze the writing's organization on the page, movement style and use of distinct letterforms.
From the perspective of statistical validity, psychometrics and positivism, criticisms of projective tests, and depth psychology tests, usually include the well-known discrepancy between statistical validity and clinical validity.
In the case of clinical use, they rely heavily on clinical judgment, lack statistical reliability and statistical validity and many have no standardized criteria to which results may be compared, however this is not always the case. These tests are used frequently, though the scientific evidence is sometimes debated. There have been many empirical studies based on projective tests (including the use of standardized norms and samples), particularly more established tests. The criticism of lack of scientific evidence to support them and their continued popularity has been referred to as the "projective paradox".
Responding to the statistical criticism of his projective test, Leopold Szondi said that his test actually discovers "fate and existential possibilities hidden in the inherited familial unconscious and the personal unconscious, even those hidden because never lived through or because have been rejected. Is any statistical method able to span, understand and integrate mathematically all these possibilities? I deny this categorically."
Other research, however, has established that projective tests measure things that responsive tests do not, though it is theoretically possible to combine the two, e.g., Spangler, 1992  Decades of works by advocates, e.g., David C. McClelland, David Winter, Abigail Stewart, and, more recently, Oliver Schultheiss, have shown clear validity for these tools for certain personality traits, most especially implicit motivation (as contrasted with self-attributed or "explicit" motivation, which are conscious states) (McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger 1989), and that criticisms of projective tools based on techniques used for responsive tools is simply an inappropriate method of measurement.
Concerns with projective tests
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- The more unstructured the stimuli, the more examinees reveal about their personality.
- Projection is greater to stimulus material that is similar to the examinee
- Every response provides meaning for personality analysis.
- There is an "unconscious."
- Subjects are unaware of what they disclose
- Age of examiner
- Specific instructions
- Subtle reinforcement cues
- Setting-privacy 
The terms "objective test" and "projective test" have recently come under criticism in the Journal of Personality Assessment. The more descriptive "rating scale or self-report measures" and "free response measures" are suggested, rather than the terms "objective tests" and "projective tests," respectively.
Uses in marketing
Projective techniques, including TATs, are used in qualitative marketing research, for example to help identify potential associations between brand images and the emotions they may provoke. In advertising, projective tests are used to evaluate responses to advertisements. The tests have also been used in management to assess achievement motivation and other drives, in sociology to assess the adoption of innovations, and in anthropology to study cultural meaning. The application of responses is different in these disciplines than in psychology, because the responses of multiple respondents are grouped together for analysis by the organisation commissioning the research, rather than interpreting the meaning of the responses given by a single subject.
Uses in business
Projective techniques are used extensively in people assessment; besides variants of the TAT, which are used to identify implicit motive patterns, the Behavioral Event Interview pioneered by David McClelland and many of its related approaches (Critical Incident Interview, Behavioral Interview, etc.) is fundamentally a projective tool in that it invites someone to tell a specific story about recent actions they took, but does not ask leading questions or questions with yes or no answers. (Camp, Vielhaber, Simonetti, 2001)
- Ernest Dichter
- Bruno Klopfer
- Albert J Levis
- The Duess Test
- Kinetic family drawing
- Holtzman Inkblot Test
- Blacky Pictures Test
- Projective Methods for Personality Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2012, from http://www.neiu.edu/~mecondon/proj-lec.htm.
- Cordón, Luis A. (2005). Popular psychology: an encyclopedia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. pp. 201–204. ISBN 0-313-32457-3.
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- Piotrowski, Z. (1958-01-01). The Tomkins-Horn Picture Arrangement Test. The journal of nervous and mental disease, 126(1), 106. doi:10.1097/00005053-195801000-00016
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/word-association%20test
- Spiteri, S. P. (n.d.). "Word association testing and thesaurus construction." Retrieved November 21, 2012, from Dalhousie University, School of Library and Information Studies website: http://libres.curtin.edu.au/libres14n2/Spiteri_final.htm
- Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2000). "The history of modern psychology." Seventh edition. Harcourt College Publishers.
- Poizner, Annette (2012). Clinical Graphology: An Interpretive Manual for Mental Health Practitioners. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publishers.
- Leopold Szondi (1960) Das zweite Buch: Lehrbuch der Experimentellen Triebdiagnostik. Huber, Bern und Stuttgart, 2nd edition. Ch.27, From the Spanish translation, B)II Las condiciones estadisticas, p.396. Quotation:
En esta crítica aparece siempre la conocida discrepancia entre la validez estadistica y clinica de todos los «tests» de psicologia profunda
- Szondi (1960) Das zweite Buch: Lehrbuch der Experimentellen Triebdiagnostik. Huber, Bern und Stuttgart, 2nd edition. Ch.27, From the Spanish translation, B)II Las condiciones estadisticas, p.396
- Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 172, No.1, 140-154.
- Shatz, Phillip. (n.d.) "Projective personality testing: Psychological testing." Retrieved November 21, 2012, from Staint Joseph's University: Department of Psychology Web site: http://schatz.sju.edu/intro/1001lowfi/personality/projectiveppt/sld001.htm
- Meyer, Gregory J. and Kurtz, John E.(2006) 'Advancing Personality Assessment Terminology: Time to Retire "Objective" and "Projective" As Personality Test Descriptors', Journal of Personality Assessment, 87: 3, 223 — 225
- Theodor W. Adorno, et al. (1964). The Authoritarian Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Lawrence Soley & Aaron Lee Smith (2008). Projective Techniques for Social Science and Business Research. Milwaukee: The Southshore Press.