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Personality Inventory

A method of personality assessment based on a questionnaire asking a person to report feelings or reactions in certain situations.

Personality inventories, also called objective tests, are standardized and can be administered to a number of people at the same time. A psychologist need not be present when the test is given, and the answers can usually be scored by a computer. Scores are obtained by comparison with norms for each category on the test. A personality inventory may measure one factor, such as anxiety level, or it may measure a number of different personality traits at the same time, such as the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF).

The personality inventory used most often for diagnosing psychological disorders is the Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory, generally referred to as the MMPI. It consists of 550 statements that the test taker has to mark as "true," "false," or "cannot say." Answers are scored according to how they correspond with those given by persons with various psychological disorders, including depression, hysteria, paranoia, psychopathic deviancy, and schizophrenia. The MMPI was originally developed (and is still used) for the diagnosis of these and other serious psychological problems. However enough responses have been collected from people with less severe problems to allow for reliable scoring of responses from these persons as well. Many people with no severe disorder are now given the MMPI as an assessment tool when they begin psychotherapy, with scoring geared toward personality attributes rather than clinical disorders.

The California Psychological Inventory (CPI), based on less extreme measures of personality than the MMPI, assesses traits, including dominance, responsibility, self-acceptance, and socialization. In addition, some parts of the test specifically measure traits relevant to academic achievement. Another inventory designed to measure a spectrum of personality variables in normal populations is the Personality Research Form (PRF), whose measurement scales include affiliation, autonomy, change, endurance, and exhibition. The Neuroticism Extroversion Openness Personality Inventory, Revised (NEO-PIR) also measures common dimensions of personality such as sensitivity and extroversion, but it differs from other tests in its inclusion of both "private" and "public" versions. The questions in the private version are answered like those in other personality inventories, but the public version consists of having another person acquainted with the test taker answer questions about him or her. Significant discrepancies between the two versions can be an important source of information for those interpreting the test.

Further Reading

Cronbach, L.J. Essentials of Psychological Testing. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Sundberg, N. The Assessment of Persons. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1977.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Tests & Methods