The Validity and Reliability of Interpretation from Autobiography and Thematic Apperception Test
Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is a personality assessment tool, and projective psychological test; which has been most used personality assessment tool worldwide. This was developed by Henry A. Murray and Christiana D. Morgan at Harvard University in 1930s. The TAT enables to reveal person’s personality, motives, needs to attain his or her goals in life, power and intimacy, as well as problem-solving abilities. In this connection, the validity and Reliability of TAT have been a debate lately by various groups of individuals. Many people are questioning about whether the projective personality tests such as TAT can really produce replicable results; or does it measure person’s personality accurately. The role of cultural variables has significant role in measuring one’s personality in TAT. Specifically, critics of the TAT stressed out that the majority of the people in its cards appear to be of Caucasian ethnicity. In this view, it shows that the mainstream culture of American people whom TAT was initially based when it was created. Additionally, the appearance of the people on the TAT cards, the culture of the individual taking the test greatly influences its results. As culture plays an essential role in individual’s sense of perception. In addition to that, TAT is being administered by face to face process and the subject might be sensitive to the interpersonal interaction during the assessment process. So, the perceived culture of the assessor administering the test can also influence the results of the TAT. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thematic_Apperception_Test)
Furthermore, the TAT is popularly known as the picture interpretation technique due to its standard series of challenging yet unclear pictures about the specific situation or object that the individual is asked to tell a story about. The subject is being asked to tell a dramatic story for each picture; by asking what has led her up to the situation, what is happening at the present time, what must the characters feel and think in the situation or event. And, what will be the outcome of the story. These are all important elements in determining cognitive abilities of a person by using TAT. But, if these elements are lacking, the evaluator will ask the subject directly. Correspondingly, there are 31 picture cards in the standard form of the TAT. Some of the cards contain male figures, others have female pictures, and there are some that contain both male and female figures. And, there is still unclear gender; some adults, some children and some cards show objects too. Majority of the TAT practitioners prefer to set ten cards that they feel are in use for the subject. They believe that the cards will encourage the subject to express their emotional baggage and conflicts related to the particular situation or event. One card is served blank. However, cards are originally designed to be matched to the subject’s age and gender.
The TAT is a projective test, like the Rorschach test, its assessment of the subject is primarily based on what he or she interprets on the various images he or she sees. Therefore, in order to get the score of the TAT, every narrative stated by the subject must be carefully recorded and analyzed by the evaluator; to be able to reveal his or her underlying needs, attitudes and patterns of reaction towards the given story or situation. Most clinical practitioners do not use formal scoring systems. Because of these informal systems that TAT has, it has been criticized by many professionals as false or outdated personality assessment tool. It is said that TAT is unscientific, since it cannot prove a valid measurement of what it supposed to evaluate in the subject. It does not show standard interpretations that can convince other people that it is reliable and valid. Some critics also observed that TAT systems are already old-fashioned, that only creates a significant distance between the patients and the stimuli that makes the personality assessment less believable.
In spite of these many criticisms, the TAT still remains the most popular research tool in areas of psychology in interpreting a person’s dream, fantasy, and determining mate selection, as well as to motivate people to choose the right job or occupation for them. More often, it is used for psychiatric assessment on personality disorders, thought disorders, forensic examinations in evaluating crime suspects. In the same way, it is used to evaluate the people before hiring them for high-stress occupations in some industries. As a matter of fact, the TAT is being used in different countries such as France, Argentina, Israel and India.