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The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

The human brain has forever eluded understanding. But the quest to know what little we can know is ongoing. One such stream of study is the Projective Psychological Tests. These tests are designed to understand the human personality by making a person respond to ambiguous stimuli. This is intended to disclose the internal conflicts and hidden emotions of the person. One of the best known tests is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). It is also known as the Picture Interpretation Technique.

The Thematic Apperception Test was first developed by Henry Murray and Christiana Morgan in 1935 at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. The original idea of such a test was given by one of the undergraduate students of Murray.

In the Thematic Apperception Test, the person is given a set of 31 cards that depict human beings in different situations and settings. The person is then asked to weave a story on each of the cards.

The elements that must be present in the story are:
• The event that is portrayed in the card.
• The causes that precede the event.
• Thoughts and feelings of the characters as they appear in the story.
• The consequences of the event.

These cards are then subdivided into two series such that there are ten cards in each series. The cards in the second series are more bizarre and unusual than the ones in the first series. In this manner one hour is devoted to each series, and normally one series is done per day. There are eleven other cards which contain a blank card. In either set there are cards that are used for specific genders, men are shown cards with male portraits and women are shown cards with pictures of women. The last set contains a mix of all cards. These are needed to elicit gender-specific responses. The responses are usually taken down by the psychologist. Sometimes they are either recorded or the patients are asked to write their answers down.

There are two fundamental ways to interpret TAT. They are:
• The Nomothetic approach
• The Idiographic approach

In the Nomothetic interpretation pattern, standard answers are established based on gender, race, age and level of education, and the responses are measured up to these standards. In the Idiographic approach, the patient’s psyche is analyzed based on the world that is described and the relationships that are identified. Many psychologists believe that the idiographic approach is a better model of interpretation than the nomothetic approach.

The Thematic Apperception Test is put to two main uses. One is to assess individuals as part of psychological treatment process and in job roles that require intense association with people of different psychic natures like law, crime branches, religion, education, etc… The other place it is used is research. The voice, body language, hesitations while speaking, etc… are taken into account during the interpretation processes. The stories people tell reveal a lot about their expectations from parents, friends, peers, society, and themselves. The aim is to help them find which expectations are realistic and which are not. In the field of research, this method has been most helpful in the study of what was earlier known as the Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder).

The most conspicuous debate about TAT has been the use of computerized scoring systems. The allegations against such systems are that the computers cannot monitor the body language, facial expressions, etc… They are also not suited to analyze unusual subjects. Yet another issue is with the gender and racial bias that may stem from such a test. While it is true that people of certain races tend to answer in a similar manner and men and women differ more in their responses than within their own gender, this cannot be used as a reason for discrimination of any one class of people.

TAT has proven to be one of the most efficient modes of psychotherapy and research has greatly benefited from it.

Comments Listing
Posted: 11/06/2014 12:20:56

fine. it is very useful for the freshers or for the day to day updaters.

Posted: 20/07/2011 10:22:36


Posted: 12/01/2011 05:25:23

it is a useful tool

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