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Projective tests: the 5 most used types

Projective tests: the 5 most used types

May 22, 2024

Although they are reviled by many psychologists, projective tests such as Rorschach and thematic apperception can be very useful in assessing the personality of adults and minors.

In this article we will describe the 5 most used types of projective tests , including associative techniques and expressive or graphic techniques.

  • Related article: "Types of psychological tests: their functions and characteristics"

What are projective tests?

The projective tests are methods of personality assessment and other mental characteristics that are based on ambiguous and unstructured stimuli. The logic underlying this type of evidence corresponds to the hypothesis that the people evaluated are more likely to project their mental processes into a test if the material is ambiguous and stimulates the imagination.


These techniques have traditionally been framed in psychoanalytic theory , according to which the personality has a stable character and is largely determined by irrational impulses that escape the consciousness of individuals. However, from the psychoanalysis it is defended that it is possible to identify the contents of the unconscious through diverse procedures.

Given that it is assumed that the respondent does not know the purpose of the items that make up the test, the projective tests are considered less susceptible to falsification than other methods of psychological evaluation, mainly those based on self-report. It is said that projective tests are masked evaluation techniques.


Although this type of test has been criticized by psychologists of other theoretical orientations at methodological level, the truth is that the long tradition of the use of projective tests has allowed for a high degree of systematization in many of these. A particularly clear case in this regard is the famous Rorschach test. However, despite this systematization, its effectiveness is seriously questioned if we are guided by the meta-analyzes that have been carried out in this regard.

Types of projective techniques

There are different types of projective tests: the structural ones, which are based on the organization of the visual material ; the thematic ones, consisting in narrating a story from different images; Expressives or graphics, centered on the drawing; constructive ones, such as the imaginary village test or the diagnostic game, and associative ones (eg, incomplete sentences).


Next, we will describe the most popular tests and projection types, including examples of all the classes mentioned in the previous paragraph. We will leave aside the refractory tests such as graphology , which aims to determine the personality from the aspect of writing and has not received any empirical support.

1. Rorschach test

In 1921 the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach published a psychological test consisting of 10 sheets with symmetrical ink spots of ambiguous appearance . Over the years the subjectivity in the interpretation of this test decreased markedly; In particular, in the 1980s the Exner evaluation system, based on scientific research, became popular.

In the Rorschach test the person who evaluates presents the sheets in a determined order to the one being evaluated; in each case this d I must answer the question "What could this be?" without receiving any further indication. Subsequently, the evaluator returns to show each image to discover what aspects of these caused the answers.

Among the indicators analyzed in the Rorschach test we find the number of responses (the normal in adults is between 17 and 27 in total), the frequency of answers given in the general population or the predominance of certain contents. This analysis may suggest psychopathology ; for example, monotony is associated with depression.

Subsequently, other structural tests based on ink stains have been developed, such as Holtzman's, which aims to have greater reliability and consists of 45 images, and the Zulliger Z-Test, which consists of only 3 plates and is intended as a test of screening.

  • Related article: "The Rorschach inkblot test"

2. Murray thematic apperception test

The thematic apperception test or T.A.T., developed by Henry Murray , is the thematic projective test most used, especially in the evaluation of people of legal age. It consists of 31 sheets of which only 20 are applied to each individual, depending on their biological sex and age.

The images are much more structured than those of the Rorschach test: they show scenes related to themes such as family, fear, sex or violence, from which the subject must elaborate a story that includes a past, a present and a future. The objective is to analyze the psychological needs and pressures of the person evaluated.

There are variations of the T.A.T. for different age groups. The C.A.T. ("Child apperception test") are applied to children of different ages, cultural levels and physical and psychological characteristics, while the apperception test for senescence (SAT) evaluates typical variables in the elderly, such as loneliness or disability.

Two other well-known thematic tests are Phillipson's object relations test and the Rosenzweig frustration test . The images of the first show a degree of intermediate structuring compared to the T.A.T. and the Rorschach, and the Rosenzweig test presents frustrating scenes in which the person must add a dialogue.

3. Children's thematic tests

The Blacky and Pata Negra sheets tests , created respectively by Gerald Blum and Louis Corman, are specific thematic tests for children. Both are based on images of animals (Blacky is a dog and Pata Negra a pig) that serve as stimuli for children to talk about their vision of themselves and their family.

The fairy tale test is one of the most recent thematic projective tests; It was developed by Carina Coulacoglou in the 1990s. In this case the stimuli are drawings of famous characters from fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf or Snow White and the dwarves, and the child must answer several previously established questions.

4. Expressive or graphic techniques

In this type of techniques the evaluated person has to draw certain elements under the slogan of the evaluator. In comparison with the Rorschach test and the T.A.T., we can say that these tests they have a low level of standardization and their interpretation is quite subjective , although this does not mean that they can not be useful tools.

Within this category we find the house-tree-person test (HTP) of Buck, the drawing test of the person in the rain of Abramson, the test of the drawing of the family of Corman, the test of the tree of Koch and the test of the drawing of the human figure of Machover.

5. Associative techniques

The associative techniques consist in emitting answers in relation to a certain stimulus. The classic example of these tests is the word association, used by classical authors such as Galton and Jung , in which a list of terms is presented to which the evaluated person has to answer with the first word that comes to mind.

The incomplete sentences test is similar, although in this case instead of associating one word with another the sentence started by the evaluator must be finished. The desiderative (or bestiary) test of Zazzo analyzes the fear of death and defense mechanisms based on the answer to the question "What would you want to convert yourself if you stopped having human form?".


PSY 150 Personality Projective Tests (May 2024).


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