How does the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test differ from the Rorschach test?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The MMPI and the Rorschach test are quite contrasting assessment tools whose main commonality is that they both aim to uncover any deviation or dysfunction in the mental processes of clients in order to determine any kind of potential personality issues.

While both tests have been around for more than six decades and are still considered valid and useful, they are given to different populations and for different purposes of usage.

The Rorschach test, created by Hermann Rorschach in 1921, is a projective test which displays 10 different inkblot patterns in random order. These patterns are presented to the patient, who will use his or her own schema to decide what the inkblot represents. This way, a random stimulus will evoke patients to speak up and rationalize their thoughts. The Rorschach technique is mainly intended for patients that suffer from psychotic spells or behavior such as in the case of schizophrenic patients; in fact, this population was the intended target for Rorschach. Nowadays Rorschach is used for trauma victims, small children, emotionally-disturbed adolescents and to determine psychotic thoughts in criminals, suspects of crime, and people who deny having psychotic behaviors but do have them.

The MMPI was developed by Hathaway and McKinley in 1939. After many changes in terms of variability, validity, participants and methodology, the MMPI is now known as the MMPI-2, or the MMPI-A, which is used for adolescents (hence, the letter A), OR THE MMPI2-RF (Restructured Form, published by Pearson).

In the MMPI there are 10 of the originally designed scales of measurements. Each scale has a number of items that ask specific questions about the individual. The answers given will determine whether the patient has any level of neurosis or psychosis on specific areas of their lives. These scales include:

  • Hs- Hypochondriasis, or tendency to feel symptoms with no illness
  • D- Depression
  • Hy- Hysteria or the constant worry about being helpless
  • Pd- Psychopathic Deviate, or antisocial, aggressive and socially inept behavior
  • MF- Male/Female, or whether the patient typifies his or her gender.
  • Pa- Paranoid behavior
  • Pt- Psychastenia, or obsessive/OCD behaviors
  • Sc- Schizophrenia, or fantastic, odd thoughts and antisocial behavior.
  • Ma- Hypomania or high excitability, hyperactivity and
  • So- Social introversion or social anxiety as in agoraphobia.

Therefore, the most salient differences between the two tests are the fact that the MMPI has a significantly higher number of active items, that the patient is asked specific questions, that there are 10 different levels of psychotic behavior that aims to be uncovered.

Rorschach is a projective test, which shows the patient 10 different pictures to which the patient will respond from based on their own schema and level of ability to comprehend and understand.

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