Personality Assessment: Meaning and Methods

In order to assess personality, several tests have been constructed that can broadly be divided into two basic types: self-report inventories and projective tests. Self-report inventories involve having the test-taker read several items and rate how well this item or statement applies to them. Self-report inventories are widely used as they can be standardized and used to establish norms. They are also relatively easier to administer and have higher reliability and validity than projective techniques. So, in this article, we will discuss some of the significant techniques.

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Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

Developed by Stuart Hathaway and Charley McKinley, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a popular self-reporting personality test. It was originally developed as an instrument that could objectively assess the different psychiatric conditions and their severity. The original test consisted of 567 true or false items, and it has undergone multiple revisions to remove the biasness based on race and gender and improve its accuracy. The clinical scales of MMPI include hypochondriasis, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviate, masculinity/femininity, paranoia, psychasthenia, schizophrenia, hypomania, and social introversion, which have been summarized in the table given below.

Scale Scale Name Abbreviation Standard Interpretation of an Elevated Score
1. Hs Hypochondriasis Excessive preoccupation with the body and physical symptoms
2. D Depression Sadness, discomfort, and dissatisfaction with life
3. Hy Hysteria Feeling overwhelmed by stress
4. Pd Psychopathic Deviance Rebellion, difficulty adhering to standards of society
5. Mf Masculinity-femininity Lack of stereotypic masculine interests (in men-high scores are rate among women)
6. Pa Paranoia Excessive sensitivity, hostility, suspiciousness (very high scores indicate psychotic behavior)
7. Pt Psychasthenia Anxiety, tension, worry. Obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to score high
8. Sc Schizophrenia Confusion, disorganization unusual thought processes
9. Ma Hypomania High energy and agitation, over activity, unrealistic sefl-appraisal. Mania
10. Si Social Introversion Shy, insecure, timid, introverted

Source − A. (2017, September 27). Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) in Popular Psychology - IResearchNet. Psychology.

Evolution of MMPI

  • In 1992, a 478-question version of the MMPI-A specifically for teenagers was released.
  • Teenagers can take the MMPI-A-RF, a condensed version of the test. The MMPI-A-RF, released in 2016. It consists of 241 questions and takes 25 to 45 minutes to complete.
  • In 1989, the MMPI-2, which represented the second revision, was released. In the fields of medicine, employment, and mental health, the MMPI-2 is used.
  • The MMPI-2 Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF), a specific test released in 2008, keeps some elements of the standard MMPI assessment procedure while using a different theoretical framework for personality test development.
  • For most of the people, this condensed version takes between 35 and 50 minutes to finish. Even though shorter tests take less time, longer assessments are preferred by many clinicians since they have been the subject of extensive research.

Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R)

The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) is the briefest and most popular inventory among all the personality inventories. It was devised by two psychologists Hans Jürgen Eysenck and Sybil B. G. Eysenck. The EPQ-R can be used in various fields, including human resources, career counseling, clinical settings, and research.

Evolution of EPQ-R

  • The Maudsley Personality Inventory (MPI) was released in the year 1959 and measured two personality dimensions, namely Extraversion (E) and Neuroticism (N), consisting of 48 items.
  • With the addition of a lie scale in 1964, it was converted into the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), with 57 items.
  • Further revisions included a third dimension- Psychoticism (P), and the EPI became the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) in 1975, consisting of 90 items.
  • In 1985, the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R) was published, with the contribution of Paul Barrett.
  • The EPQ-R gives scores on three personality dimensions. They are 1. Extroversion-introversion, 2. Neuroticism-stability, and 3. Psychoticism.
  • The EPQ-R has a total of 100 items that are divided among the dimensions and the lie scale. There are 24 items under Neuroticism (N), 23 items under Extraversion (E), and 32 items under Psychoticism (P), with a total of 21 items under the Lie scale (L).

The typical extrovert is sociable, impulsive, carefree, easy-going, optimistic, and craves excitement, unlike a typical introvert who is quiet and retiring. A typical stable person is even-tempered, calm, lively, responsive, and has leadership qualities. An unstable person is anxious, moody, touchy, restless, and aggressive.


The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) is a comprehensive assessment based on these 16 personality factors to measure normal range personality. It follows a forced-choice question where the respondent must choose one of three alternatives most suitable to them.

Applicability of 16PF

The 16PF questionnaire, unlike more personality tests, does not explicitly ask the respondent about their personality traits but rather asks about the respondent's reactions to certain situations. The administration requires minimal supervision as the questionnaire is flexible in timing and has simple and straightforward instructions. It can be administered either to an individual or even in a group setting and is available to be used either in a paper-pencil format, a web-based assessment, or can be computer-administered with an uncertain time of 35–50 minutes for the paper-and-pencil test format, and about 25–40 minutes for computer administration. This questionnaire is available in more than 35 languages worldwide and many different languages. The 16PF scales are divided into two sections— the primary scale and the global scale, and a brief overview of the scales is summarized below.

16 PF Scale Names and Descriptors
Descriptors of Law Range Primary Scales Descriptors of High Range
Reserved, Impersonal, Distant Warmth (A) Warm-hearted, Caring, Attentive To Others
Concrete, Lower, Mental Capacity Reasoning (B) Abstract, Bright, Fast-Learner
Reactive, Affected By Feelings Emotional Stability (C) Emotionally Stable, Adaptive, Mature
Deferential, Cooperative, Avoids Conflict Dominance (E) Dominant, Forceful, Assertive
Serious, Restrained, Careful Liveliness (F) Enthusiastic, Animated, Spontaneous
Expedient, Nonconforming Rule-Consciousness (G) Rule-Conscious, Dutiful
Shy, Timid, Threat-Sensitive Social Boldness (H) Socially Bold, Venturesome, Thick-Skinned
Tough, Objective, Unsentimental Sensitivity (I) Sensitive, Aesthetic, Tender-Minded
Trusting, Unsuspecting, Accepting Vigilance (L) Vigilant, Suspicious, Skeptical, Wary
Practical, Grounded, Down-to-Earth Abstractedness (M) Abstracted, Imaginative, Idea-Oriented
Forthright, Genuine, Artless Privateness (N) Private, Discreet, Non-Disclosing
Self-Assured, Unworried, Complacent Apprehension (O) Apprehensive, Self-Doubting, Worried
Traditional, Attached to Familiar Openness to Change (Q1) Open To Change, Experimenting
Group-Orientated Affiliative Self-Reliance (Q2) Self-Reliant, Solitary, Individualistic
Tolerates Disorder, Unexacting, Flexible Perfectionism (Q3) Perfectionistic, Organized, Self-Disciplined
Relaxed, Placid, Patient Tension (Q4) Tense, High Energy, Dirven
Global Scales
Introverted, Socially Inhibited Extraversion Extraverted, Socially Participating
Low Anxiety, Unperturbable Anxiety Neuroticism High Anxiety, Perturbable
Receptive, Open-Minded, Intuitive Tough-Mindedness Tough-Minded, Rsolute, Unempathic
Accommodating, Agreeable, Selfless Independence Independent, Persuasive, Willful
Unrestrained, Follows Urges Self-Control Self-Controlled, Inhibits Urges
Adapted with permission from S.R. Conn and M.L. Rieke (1994). 16 PF fifth Edition Technical Manual. Champaign, IL: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Source − Cattell, H., & Mead, A. (2008). The sixteen personality factor questionnaire (16pf). In G. J. BoyleG. Matthews, & D. H. Saklofske. The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment: Volume 2 — Personality measurement and testing (pp. 135-159). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Personality Dimensions of 16PF

  • The primary factors include; Warmth (A), Reasoning (B), Emotional Stability (c), Dominance (E), Liveliness (F), Rule-Consciousness (G), Social Boldness (H), Sensitivity (I), Vigilance (L), Abstractedness (M), Privateness (N), Apprehension (O), Openness to Change (Q1), Self-Reliance (Q2), Perfectionism (Q3), Tension (Q4).
  • The global factors are Extraversion, Anxiety, Toughness, Independent, and Self-control.
  • The instrument provides scores on the 16 primary scales, five global scales, and additionally, three response bias validity scales, namely, the bi-polar Impression Management (IM) scale, Acquiescence (ACQ) scale, and Infrequency (INF) scale.


The scoring of the 16PF is presented on a 10-point scale (standard-ten scale). The sten scale has a mean of 5.5 and a standard deviation of 2, with scores below four considered low and seven considered high for each factor.


Self-report inventories are widely used as they can be standardized and used to establish norms. They are also relatively easier to administer and have higher reliability and validity as opposed to projective techniques. Apart from MMPI, EPQ-R and 16PF, tests like Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is based on the Jungian theory are also used to assess personality. The wide applicability of these self-report inventories in clinical, educational or occupational settings lies in its convenience and ease of access, making it a lot easier to understand individuals and their psychological traits of personality.


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