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date: 25 June 2022

Projective Psychodiagnostics: Inkblots, Stories, and Drawings as Clinical Measureslocked

Projective Psychodiagnostics: Inkblots, Stories, and Drawings as Clinical Measureslocked

  • Marla EbyMarla EbyCambridge Health Alliance


Projective psychodiagnostics refers to the use of psychological instruments through which the subject is asked to respond to a set of ambiguous (though often suggestive) stimuli, thereby “projecting” aspects of their personality into these responses. The most prominent of these instruments includes the Rorschach Inkblot Technique, in which the subject is confronted with ten inkblots and is asked what these stimuli look like, and then what perceptual features make them look that way. Another common projective technique is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), a storytelling exercise in which the subject responds with a narrative to a series of ambiguous but sometimes highly charged black and white pictures depicting human interactions. Over time, new pictures have been developed for similar storytelling instruments targeted to children (the Children’s Apperception Test) or different ethnic populations. Both of these tests emerged under the influence of psychodynamic theories, and of the work of Carl Jung, whose Word Association Test served as a projective measure of psychological conflicts. Finally, there is a series of drawing tests which, while less commonly used, have had a projective history, including human figure drawings, the Bender–Gestalt Test, and the Wartegg Drawing Completion Test.

Projective instruments have been used in a variety of psychiatric settings and have been criticized for being insufficiently grounded in either quantitative measures or scientific validity. The Rorschach has emerged with increasingly statistically based scoring systems addressing perceptual features, language, and content in the assessment of risk and diagnosis. The TAT is essentially a structured interview (since most scoring systems are not used by clinicians), but it nonetheless appears to be useful in gleaning information about a subject’s relationships with other people. Drawing tasks and sentence completion tests (derived from word association tests) are less commonly used, though more prevalent with children whose verbal abilities may be more limited. In general, projective tests appear to have some limited ability to define diagnosis and risk (and can be especially helpful in defining thought disorder and prognosis), but they may be most useful in helping clinicians obtain a deeper picture of conflicts and resources within the person tested.


  • History and Systems of Psychology

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