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The Thematic Apperception Test

Categories: Perception







Creativity is the ability to produce new form by novel methods. Creativity is combination of ideas in a new and innovative ways. Generally the creative person founds a new association. The creativity tests are been developed to know the general and specific creativity.


The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person’s patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials.

In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event.

Because the TAT is an example of a projective instrument that is, it asks the subject to project his or her habitual patterns of thought and emotional responses onto the pictures on the cards many psychologists prefer not to call it a “test,” because it implies that there are “right” and “wrong” answers to the questions. They consider the term “technique” to be a more accurate description of the TAT and other projective assessments.

The TAT is often administered to individuals as part of a battery, or group, of tests intended to evaluate personality.

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It is considered to be effective in eliciting information about a person’s view of the world and his or her attitudes toward the self and others. As people taking the TAT proceed through the various story cards and tell stories about the pictures, they reveal their expectations of relationships with peers, parents or other authority figures, subordinates, and possible romantic partners. In addition to assessing the content of the stories that the subject is telling, the examiner evaluates the subject’s manner, vocal tone, posture, hesitations, and other signs of an emotional response to a particular story picture. For example, a person who is made anxious by a certain picture may make comments about the artistic style of the picture, or remark that he or she does not like the picture; this is a way of avoiding telling a story about it.

The TAT is often used in individual assessments of candidates for employment in fields requiring a high degree of skill in dealing with other people and/or ability to cope with high levels of psychological stress such as law enforcement, military leadership positions, religious ministry, education, diplomatic service, etc. Although the TAT should not be used in the differential diagnosis of mental disorders, it is often administered to individuals who have already received a diagnosis in order to match them with the type of psychotherapy best suited to their personalities. Lastly, the TAT is sometimes used for forensic purposes in evaluating the motivations and general attitudes of persons accused of violent crimes. For example, the TAT was recently administered to a 24-year-old man in prison for a series of sexual murders. The results indicated that his attitudes toward other people are not only outside normal limits but are similar to those of other persons found guilty of the same type of crime.

The TAT can be given repeatedly to an individual as a way of measuring progress in psychotherapy or, in some cases, to help the therapist understand why the treatment seems to be stalled or blocked.

Reliability: Internal consistency, a reliability estimate focusing on how highly test items correlate to each other, is often quite low for TAT scoring systems. Some authors have argued that internal consistency measures do not apply to the TAT. In contrast to traditional test items, which should all measure the same construct and be correlated to each other, each TAT card represents a different situation and should yield highly different response themes.Lilienfeld and colleagues countered this point by questioning the practice of compiling TAT responses to form scores. Both inter-rater reliability (the degree to which different raters score TAT responses the same) and test-retest reliability (to the degree to which individuals receive the same scores over time) are highly variable across scoring techniques.[13] However, Murray asserted that TAT answers are highly related to internal states such that high test-retest reliability should not be expected. Gruber and Kreuzpointner (2013) developed a new method for calculating internal consistency using categories instead of pictures. As they demonstrated in a mathematical proof, their method provides a better fit for the underlying construction principles of TAT, and also achieved adequate Cronbach’s alpha scores up to .84.

Validity:The validity of the TAT, or the degree to which it measures what it is supposed to measure,is low Jenkins has stated that “the phrase ‘validity of the TAT’ is meaningless, because validity is specific not to the pictures, but to the set of scores derived from the population, purpose, and circumstances involved in any given data collection.” That is, the validity of the test would be ascertained by seeing how clinician’s decisions were assisted based on the TAT. Evidence on this front suggests it is a weak guide at best. For example, one study indicated that clinicians classified individuals as clinical or non-clinical at close to chance levels (57% where 50% would be guessing) based on TAT data alone. The same study found that classifications were 88% correct based on MMPI data. Using TAT in addition to the MMPI reduced accuracy to 80%.

Criticism: Like other projective techniques, the TAT has been criticized on the basis of poor psychometric properties (see above).Criticisms include that the TAT is unscientific because it cannot be proved to be valid (that it actually measures what it claims to measure), or reliable (that it gives consistent results over time). As stories about the cards are a reflection of both the conscious and unconscious motives of the storyteller, it is difficult to disprove the conclusions of the examiner and to find appropriate behavioral measures that would represent the personality traits under examination. Characteristics of the TAT that make conclusions based on the stories yielded from TAT cards hard to be disproved have been termed “immunizing tactics.” These characteristics include the Walter Mitty effect (i.e., the assertion that individuals will exhibit high levels of a given trait in TAT stories that do not match their overt behavior because TAT responses may represent how a person wishes they were, not how they truly are) and the inhibition effect (i.e., the assertion that individuals will not exhibit high levels of a trait in TAT responses because they are repressing that trait). In addition, as the present needs of the storyteller change over time, it is not expected that later stories will produce the same results.

The lack of standardization of the cards given and scoring systems applied is problematic because it makes comparing research on the TAT very difficult. With a dearth of sound evidence and normative samples, it is tough to determine how much useful information can be gathered in this manner.

Some critics of the TAT cards have observed that the characters and environments are dated, even ‘old-fashioned’, creating a ‘cultural or psycho-social distance’ between the patients and the stimuli that makes identifying with them less likely In specific situations it is even hard to identify with people of opposite gender. Also, in researching the responses of subjects given photographs versus the TAT, researchers found that the TAT cards evoked more ‘deviant’ stories (i.e., more negative) than photographs, leading researchers to conclude that the difference was due to the differences in the characteristics of the images used as stimuli.

In a 2005 dissertation, Matthew Narron, Psy.D. attempted to address these issues by reproducing a Leopold Bellak[28] 10 card set photographically and performing an outcome study. The results concluded that the old TAT elicited answers that included many more specific time references than the new TAT.

Despite criticisms, the TAT continues to be used as a tool for research into areas of psychology such as dreams, fantasies, mate selection and what motivates people to choose their occupation. Sometimes it is used in a psychiatric or psychological context to assess personality disorders, thought disorders, in forensic examinations to evaluate crime suspects, or to screen candidates for high-stress occupations. It is also commonly used in routine psychological evaluations, typically without a formal scoring system, as a way to explore emotional conflicts and object relations.

TAT is widely used in France and Argentina using a psychodynamic approach. David McClelland and Ruth Jacobs conducted a 12-year longitudinal study of leadership using TAT and found no gender differences in motivational predictors of attained management level. The content analysis, however, “revealed 2 distinct styles of power-related themes that distinguished the successful men from the successful women. The successful male managers were more likely to use reactive power i.e , aggressive themes while the successful female managers were more likely to use resourceful i.e , nurturing power themes. Differences between the sexes in the power themes were less pronounced among the managers who had remained in lower levels of management.”

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The Thematic Apperception Test. (2019, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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