From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Psychological testing is a field characterized by the use of samples of behavior in order to infer generalizations about a given individual. The technical term for the science behind psychological testing is psychometrics. By samples of behavior, one means observations over time of an individual performing tasks that have usually been prescribed beforehand, which often means scores on a test. These responses are often compiled into statistical tables that allow the evaluator to compare the behavior of the individual being tested to the responses of a norm group.
Psychological testing is not the same as psychological assessment. Psychological assessment is a process that involves the integration of information from multiple sources, such as psychological tests, and other information such as personal and medical history, description of current symptoms and problems by either self or others, and collateral information (interviews with other persons about the person being assessed). A psychological test is one of the sources of data used within the process of assessment; usually more than one test is used. All psychologists do some level of assessment when providing services to clients or patients, and may use for example, simple checklists to assess some traits or symptoms, but psychological assessment is a more complex, detailed, in-depth process. Typical types of focus for psychological assessment are to provided a diagnosis, assess level of function or disability, help direct treatment, and assess treatment outcome.
Projective tests (Free response measures)
Projective tests allow for a freer type of response. An example of this would be the Rorschach test, in which a person states what each of ten ink blots might be. The terms "objective test" and "projective test" have recently come under criticism in the Journal of Personality Assessment. The more descriptive "rating scale or self-report measures" and "free response measures" are suggested, rather than the terms "objective tests" and "projective tests," respectively.
As improved sampling and statistical methods developed, much controversy regarding the utility and validity of projective testing has occurred. The use of clinical judgement rather than norms and statistics to evaluate people's characteristics has convinced many that projectives are deficient and unreliable (results are too dissimilar each time a test is given to the same person). However, many practitioners continue to rely on projective testing, and some testing experts (e.g., Cohen, Anastasi) suggest that these measures can be useful in developing therapeutic rapport. They may also be useful in creating inferences to follow-up with other methods. Possibly they have lingered in usage because they have a mystical and fascinating reputation, and are more attractive to uninformed people than answering objective tests, e.g., true/false questionnaires. The most widely used scoring system for the Rorschach is the Exner system of scoring (Exner & Erdberg, 2005). Another common projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT; Murray, 1943), which is often scored with Drew Westen's (1991) Social Cognition and Object Relations Scales and Phebe Cramer's Defense Mechanisms Manual (1991, 2002). Both "rating scale" and "free response" measures are used in contemporary clinical practice, with a trend toward the former.
Other projective tests include the House-Tree-Person Test, Robert's Apperception Test, and the Attachment Projective.