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Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 2010.6:1-20. Downloaded from arjournals.annualreviews.org by Universidad Adolfo Ibanez on 04/15/10. For personal use only.

Personality Assessment from the Nineteenth to the Early Twenty-First Century: Past Achievements and Contemporary ChallengesJames N. ButcherDepartment of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455; email: butch001@umn.edu

Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 2010. 6:120 First published online as a Review in Advance on January 19, 2010 The Annual Review of Clinical Psychology is online at clinpsy.annualreviews.org This articles doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131420 Copyright c 2010 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved 1548-5943/10/0427-0001$20.00

Key Wordsassessment history, phrenology, Rorschach, Exner Comprehensive System, TAT, MMPI, MMPI-2, MMPI-2-RF, RC Scales, Restructured Clinical Scales

AbstractThe historical basis of personality assessment that led to the development of todays approaches and applications is described. The modern era of personality assessment began in late nineteenth-century Europe. Early twentieth-century highlights included the development of projective techniques like the Rorschach and several early self-report inventories, culminating in the development of the most widely used measure, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The most recent 30-year period showed expansions into personnel screening; clinical assessment, including wide use in forensic settings; and therapeutic assessment. However, contemporary controversies are apparent with two of the most widely used measures, the Rorschach and the MMPI instruments. These controversies are described, including concerns about the Exner Comprehensive System for the Rorschach and the last ve years of changes to the MMPI-2, including the introduction of the Restructured Clinical (RC) Scales, the adoption of the Fake Bad Scale (FBS) into the instrument, and the release of the MMPI-2 Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF). Current challenges facing psychologists in personality assessment are highlighted.


ContentsINTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NINETEENTH-CENTURY PRECURSORS TO PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT . . EARLY-TWENTIETH CENTURY DEVELOPMENTS IN PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . USE OF PERSONALITY INVENTORIES IN PERSONNEL SETTINGS . . . . . . . USE OF PERSONALITY MEASURES IN MENTAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL SETTINGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LATTER HALF OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY . . . . . . . CONTEMPORARY CONCERNS ABOUT TWO ASSESSMENT STANDARDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Criticisms of the Rorschach . . . . . . . . Recent Public Exposure of the Rorschach Blots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Controversial Changes to the MMPI-2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONCLUDING COMMENTS . . . . . . 2




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INTRODUCTIONPeople have been interested in appraising the personality of others for as long as our available records show. The earliest documented attempts at understanding personality characteristics can be found in ancient civilizations. Both Hathaway (1965) and Sundberg (1977) pointed out that one of the initial descriptions of behavioral observation techniques in assessing personality can be found in the Old Testament when Gideon used observations of his men trembling with fear as well as observations of how they chose to drink water from a stream as a means of selecting soldiers for battle. In ancient Greece and Rome, Tacitus provided a number of examples in which the appraisal of a persons personality entered into judgments2 Butcher

about him, often life-or-death decisions (Grant 1956). Tacitus pointed out that in one situation, Tiberius had pretended to be hesitant for another reason too, in order to detect what leading men were thinking (Grant 1956, p. 36). Physicians such as Galen and Soranus used medical techniques of the day, particularly observation, to understand the thinking and behavior of people with mental health problems (Gerdz 1994). Galen (AD 130200) believed that a persons temperament was related to the predominance of various body uids. Soranus (AD 96138) provided descriptions of different personality factors involved in several mental disorders, based on observations and medical examinations of the day, that are recognizable even today in clinical diagnoses. During the middle ages, in the fteenth and into the seventeenth centuries, the assessment of mental health problems took a morbid direction that led to the accumulation of information that contributed to the execution of thousands of people. Beliefs at the time of the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions maintained that some people were witches who worked on behalf of the devil and needed to be identied in order that they could be stopped. Spanos (1978) pointed out that many of the best-educated and most intelligent men in Western Europe during this period believed in the existence of witches, mostly women, who belonged to an international satanic conspiracy dedicated to the defamation of God. Thousands of people confessed to being witches and to carrying out various incredible activities against God during this period. The evidence that was most commonly used by the ofcials of the day to expose a person as a witch and mentally unbalanced was the persons own acknowledgment, usually under intense external pressure and torture (Kieckhefer 1976). In determining whether a person was a witch, a representative of the church evaluated individuals to establish whether they had qualities of demonic possession. Church ofcials, who were referred to as witch prickers, would stick sharp objects deep in the suspects body, as far as the bone, to determine whether the

Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 2010.6:1-20. Downloaded from arjournals.annualreviews.org by Universidad Adolfo Ibanez on 04/15/10. For personal use only.

suspect had locations that had been marked by the Devil (known as Devils marks) (Ostermann 1629); such areas on the body were considered to be insensitive to the pain of torture (Guazzo 1608/1929). In many cases, the evaluations were carried out publicly, in situations that resulted in extreme fear and embarrassment for the suspects. A person who became terried and confused was considered mentally disordered and a likely witch. According to writings of authorities of the time (Boguet 1603/1929), most suspects readily confessed to their sins. However, some suspects failed to confess when tortured, and it was thought that the Devil had provided them with protection, such as drugs or spells that made them insensitive to pain. This review addresses the historical roots of contemporary personality assessment, highlighting prominent developments from its origins in the nineteenth century to current times. Any view of the history of a eld is necessarily selective given the constancy of change and broad development of thinking and instruments. The present review and perspective highlights major contributions, describes the more lasting trends, and highlights some current challenges facing personality assessment. The scope of this article does not allow for a comprehensive review of all techniques that have been published to measure various aspects of personality. One needs to examine critically and recognize the limitations of a particular historical perspective. Those interested in further exploration of the historical overviews of personality assessment can nd more information in several resources (e.g., Benjamin 2005, Boring 1950, Goldberg 1971, Gibby & Zickar 2008, Paterson et al. 1938, Sundberg 1977). Personality research methods are reviewed by Craik (1986).

NINETEENTH-CENTURY PRECURSORS TO PERSONALITY ASSESSMENTHistorical trends or precursors may not directly contribute to development in a eld, but they can reect social motivation for change or

methodological ideas that can indirectly inuence the transformation. In the nineteenth century, there were several notable attempts, based on scientic thinking of the day, to develop formal methods for studying personality and character. Two separate and quite different historic trends emerged in this period. One such intellectual movement was phrenology, the view that there was a means of deriving information about the character of individuals by examining their head size and shape. The second approach during the nineteenth century, begun by Francis Galton, involved careful scientic observation and mental testing. Galtons ideas were highly inuential to later personality assessment developments. The science of phrenology was explored and widely taught by several prominent physicians in Europe. Phrenology appealed to intellectuals who accepted the view that biological determinism enabled individuals to be able to read and understand the character of other people by examining their physical appearance. This movement was initiated by the Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758 1828) and his student Johan Spurzheim (1776 1832). Gall, was a prominent lecturer who explored and taught, for example, that having a powerful memory was a characteristic resulting from having very prominent eyes; he thought that other bodily characteristics such as head size and shape were related to character or special talents for painting or music. Gall and Spurzheim became very popular speakers among upper-class intellectuals and scientists in Europe in the 1820s. They wrote and lectured widely on phrenology throughout Europe. Gall and Spurzheim had a disagreement that prompted Spurzheim to start his own career in phrenology. Spurzheim l


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