Medical tests are usually straightforward. A bone is broken or it isn't. Lab results are either normal or abnormal. The psychological tests that attempt to measure personality, mood and mental ability are not nearly as clear. Some try to delve into the murky world of the subconscious while others stick with patterns of behavior that can be observed and documented. Some tests are easy to score; others require a great deal of subjective judgment on the part of the examiner. This article examines three psychological tests that are popular in the behavioral health community.
The Rorschach Inkblot Test is made up of 10 cards marked by seemingly random splashes of ink. Five are in black and white and five are in vivid color. The subject is supposed to describe what he or she "sees" in the ink markings. The test was developed in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach who used the cards to screen patients for schizophrenia. The Rorschach Inkblot Test was tremendously popular in the 1940s and 1950s when psychologists believed it to be a valuable tool for tapping into the unconscious. It began to fall out of favor when mental health professionals could not agree on how to interpret their patients' answers. Today, the Rorschach Inkblot Test is still used in some settings. Its proponents believe it can be utilized to assess perceptual accuracy, self-concept, flexibility and defense mechanisms.
The Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale, 3rd Edition, also known as the WAIS-III, was developed by David Weschler to measure a client's ability to adapt to and solve problems in the world around him or her. The WAIS first appeared in 1955. It was revised in 1981 and revised again in 2005. The newest revision attempted to correct for cultural bias by dropping the questions most often missed by minorities. The WAIS-III tests verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, working memory and processing speed. It is intended for those between the ages of 18 and 89. The WAIS-III is administered by a trained examiner and takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
A third example of a psychological test is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised, also known as the PCL-R. The PCL-R was developed in the early 1990s by Dr. Robert Hare. He originally used it with imprisoned adult males to assess their degree of psychopathy. Today, it is used on both sexes to assess the likelihood that someone who has engaged in criminal conduct will commit another offense. The examiner completes a semi-structured interview with the subject and also reviews his or her records and history. Based on the information obtained, the examiner then completes a 20-item rating scale that, among other traits, includes pathological lying, superficial charm, lack of empathy, a parasitic lifestyle and a need for stimulation and risk-taking.