Psychological assessment is the evaluation of personality variables.
Psychological assessment is used for a variety of purposes, from screening job applicants to providing data for research projects. Most assessment methods fall into one of three categories: observational methods, personality inventories, or projective techniques.
Observational assessment is performed by a trained professional either in the subject's natural setting (such as a classroom), an experimental setting, or during an interview. Interviews may either be structured with standard questions, or unstructured. The unstructured format allows subjects to determine much of what is discussed and in what order. The answers gained from interviews are recorded by the psychologist using rating scales that list different personality traits. Expectations of the observer, conveyed by the tester directly or through subtle cues, can influence how the interviewee performs and how the observer interprets observations. Purely objective personality tests are difficult to create.
Personality inventories consist of questionnaires, or self-report measures. People read a test and report their feelings or reactions about various situations in it. Each questionnaire may assess a particular trait, such as anxiety, or a group of traits. One of the oldest and bestknown personality inventories is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The MMPI is composed of a series of 550 questions used to assess both personality traits and psychological disturbances for people over age 16. The MMPI is scored by comparing the subject's answers to those of people with the traits or disturbances being measured. Although it was originally designed to help diagnose serious personality disorders, the MMPI came to be used for people with less severe problems. Sufficient data has been collected from a wide population to allow for reliable interpretation of most test results. One problem with personality inventories, however, is that people may try to skew their answers in the direction they think will help them, whether their goal is to be hired for a job or to be admitted to a therapy program. Validity scales and other methods are frequently applied to the answers to help determine whether an individual has answered the test items carefully and honestly. Someone may try to fake good or fake bad, that is, seem honest or seem psychotic.
See also Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory ; Personality inventory ; Projective techniques; Rorschach technique ; Thematic Apperception Test .
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