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What are the advantages and disadvantages of using objective personality tests versus projective personality tests?

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Simply put, an objective personality test is a test given to any subject that is free of any sort of influence on the part of the examiner. One advantage of this is that the test tends to be highly standardized. The obvious advantage that this represents is that any personal feelings or preconceived notions on the part of the examining party will not be present. Furthermore, since the test is the same for everyone, a new test will take no effort or cost to create: previous usage has already established its validity.

The disadvantages spring from the same factors of standardization that give it certain advantages. Because the test is standardized, it takes a broad and sweeping look at human personality and will not account for specific eccentricities and personality types, perhaps even those that need to be explored for a certain job or position. Furthermore, a standardized text is more rigid and generic, and it is therefore easy to cheat. A test-taker is more likely to simply give the answers they believe that the examiner will want to hear. A personality test is rendered useless if a test-taker simply feels comfortably lying in order to achieve a more desirable result.

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Objective personality tests are highly standardized. One of the best known of these tests is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the subsequent MMPI-2. These standard tests categorize adult personality and psychopathology and can be used for a number of purposes, from screening potential job applicants to determining treatment approaches for mental health disorders.

The benefits of objective personality tests are that they are consistent and quick and cheap to execute. A participant takes the test and a computer or a human proctor can quickly and easily compile and read out the results.

The disadvantage lies in its rigidity. It’s easy for a participant to lie without detection, which will output potentially incorrect results.

On the other hand, projective personality tests present the participant with ambiguous stimuli. The responses to these stimuli are interpreted to reveal hidden emotions and internal conflicts.

The advantages here lie in the subjectivity of the tests, because there are no “correct” answers, which often allows for more honest and insightful responses which in turn work to develop a larger body of work for professionals to gain more insight into human emotion and behavior.

The subjectivity is also a disadvantage, because the proctor plays a role in the ultimate analysis of the responses. A lazy or careless proctor can easily miss insights. These tests are also significantly more expensive and time-consuming to administer and gather results from.

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Objective personality tests are cost efficient. This is because they offer fixed answer questions that can be administered to groups or even carried home by the client, completed and then returned. Also, a therapist can use a computer to score the test as opposed to doing it themselves, a process that is considerably time consuming. In addition to that, since objective tests comprise fixed answers, it enables objectivity during scoring as data interpretation is easier.

Objective tests also have notable disadvantages such as client faking responses. Even though newer versions attempt to counter this weakness by introducing validity scales, client faking is still a significant concern when it comes to objective personality tests. Another disadvantage of objective tests is that some types of objective tests have a limitation in terms of scoring in that they offer one score for a range of different questions including questions of behavior and cognition. As such, interpretation of the responses is limited.

Projective personality tests on the other hand also have advantages and disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages of projective tests include their lack of objectivity. The respondents’ responses may be influenced by the therapist’s attitude or even the setting of the test. Also, the scoring of projective tests is highly subjective. Due to the complexity of data collected, projective tests require highly skilled and trained personnel for interpretation. Consequently, projective tests are expensive because of the caliber of staff that needs to be employed.

The major advantage of projective personality tests is their ability to collect a lot of data and since there are no fixed answers, the respondents are free to respond exactly as they feel giving a clearer insight to their cognition and behavior.

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One disadvantage is that these tests are typically used to evaluate and classify job applicants, and people who really want or need a job will be tempted to answer questions not based on the truth but on how it will make them look. The people who make up these objective tests usually expect the test-takers to lie, so they often ask the same question several times in slightly different terms. The job applicant recognizes this trickery, and the test becomes a game of wits. Employers are usually looking for "team players" and "self-starters" who are loyal, dependable, and all sorts of other good things. It is unfortunate that many young people lie their way into jobs they are really not suited for or happy with, just because they need money. Although the need to secure an income is certainly real and urgent, it would be so much better if people evaluated themselves beforehand and then went out looking for a job that would fit them, rather than hoping to fit the job.

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Projective personality tests are very open ended - an example of a projective personality test is the classic inkblot test. The benefits of using projective personality tests is that they can help us to see what the person is strugling with internally.  However, projective personality tests require special training to administer and are not standardized, which means they may not be reliable or valid.

An objective personality test is a standardized test, such as the MMPI-2.  The benefit of this test is that it is standardized, so it is valid and reliable.  The disadvantage of using an objective personality test is that an individual can easily lie on the test.

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