FIGURE DRAWING TEST

A projective personality test based on the interpretation of drawings of the human figureThe test is based on the assumption that these figures and the way they are executed will be a revealing reflection of the subject’s personality, including his self-image, his attitudes toward other people, and his conscious or unconscious reaction patterns. Studies show that the effectiveness of the test is not limited by age, artistic skill or intelligence, and that it can be applied to illiterates and foreigners who do not know the language. Administration is easy, and the task is ambiguous enough to make it hard for the subject to sham.The general procedure is to provide a soft pencil and a pile of typewriter paper so that the subject can selecta leaf and place it in any orientation he chooses. Adequate room, a comfortable environment and a relaxed mosphere are important. The subject is asked to draw a person. If he objects that he cannot draw or asks what kind of person it should be, he is told that artistic ability is unimportant and that he should draw whatever he likes and in any way he likes, except that it should be a complete figure and not just a head (see Fig. 16, p. 364). Abstract, stereotyped cartoons or stick figures are not acceptable.After the first figure is drawn, the examiner identifies its sex and asks for a drawing of the opposite sex. The subject’s verbalizations, sequence of drawing, bodily gestures and other behavior are noted, as well as his manner (confident, cautious, impulsive etc.), his need for more directions and anything else that indicates how he copes with the task.There is no single way of interpreting the drawings. Some psychologists use graphological analysis, others apply psychoanalytic concepts such as self-image and ego ideal. Most examiners, however, employ a comprehensive, nondogmatic approach based on individual clinical experience. Levy (1950) believes it is helpful to examine the drawings as a whole in order to note the attitudes and feeling tone they convey, and then look for subtle cues in specific aspects of each figure. As an example of this approach, he interpreted one set of drawings in this way: “Female: this is a very small dowdy woman with a prominent nose and receding chin; she seems to be self-conscious,” and “Male: this is a grim, tight-mouthed man wearing a high hat, formal attire and carrying a cane.” An interview with the subject indicated that these figures represented herself and her father, who always dressed meticulously and sadistically criticized other people. Moreover, her self-drawing (the female) was not the way she actually looked, but the way the taunting father made her feel she looked (Abt and Beliak, 1950).The following are some of the more significant features of the drawings, but the interpretations given here are presented merely as illustrations of the method and should not be taken as a set of rules:Figure sequence. In a study of five thousand subjects, 87 per cent drew their own sex first; 13 out of 16 overt homosexuals drew the opposite sex first. There are, however, other reasons for drawing the opposite sex first, such as strong attachment to or dependence on a member of the opposite sex, or confusion of sex identity.Comparison of figures. In most cases the male and female figures are drawn differently, and are helpful in revealing psychosexual attitudes. For example, the man may be small, have his hands in his pockets and look passive and introverted, while the woman may be larger, moving and vibrant. The overall impression in such a case may be that the male subject who drew the picture is a sensitive, non-participating individual who wants support from a maternal figure.Location of drawing. Drawings in the center of the page suggest a self-centered, self-directed personality. Drawings in the upper half suggest that the individual is unsure of himself and “up in the air”; but if the figures are drawn at the bottom, they usually suggest a calm, stable person who has his “feet on the ground.” Children who draw on the upper half of the page are usually found to have a higher than average aspiration level.Movement. The drawings of restless, nervous, hypomanic individuals suggest extreme movement. Subjects with deep- seated conflicts who feel they must control themselves completely tend to draw rigid figures. If there is no feeling of motion whatever, psychosis is suggested. Seated or reclining figures are believed to be indicative of low energy level, lack of drive, or emotional exhaustion.Distortions and omissions of any part of the figure suggest conflicts—for instance, leg amputees frequently omit the lower parts of the body, and individuals with sexual conflicts omit or distort the genital area. Shadings, erasures, reinforcement and remarks about these areas are also indicative.Head area. This is usually drawn first and is believed to show the subject’s self-concept. A big head might indicate aggressive tendencies or intellectual aspirations or migraine attacks, depending on the individual. Specific features are also important: very large ears may imply an impairment of hearing, an open mouth which shows the teeth may indicate hostility or sadistic tendencies, a beard or moustache may suggest virility-striving, a long neck may mean a schizophrenic tendency to disorganization since it separates the brain from the body and its physical drives. The treatment of the hair is often revealing. A girl in puberty may give extra attention to the hair on the head because she is concerned with hair on less exposed parts of the body, and people who are upset or angry often show the hair standing on end. Infantile and regressed adults also show special concern for the hair. Voyeurs often omit or close the eyes, either as an unconscious denial of this tendency or as symbolic protection of these organs due to feelings of guilt or fear of possible harm. Many schizophrenics draw bizarre figures or show the internal anatomy.Articles of clothing. Most figures are drawn with clothing. Ties are particularly important in male drawings since they are believed to be phallic symbols. Small ties indicate organ inferiority; fancy, carefully drawn ties may suggest homosexuality. Pipes and canes are taken as symbols of a striving for virility.Lines and Shadings. The rhythm,pressure, and angularity of lines are frequently used in interpretation. Firm, heavy lines may show drive and ambition; fluctuating pressures may be indicative of unstable, impulsive or cyclothymic (mood-swing) tendencies. A preference for vertical strokes suggests determination and self-assertion, while a preference for the horizontal suggests weakness and lack of ambition. Shading indicates anxiety and is perhaps an unconscious attempt to hide a part of the body.There are a number of variations on basic figure-drawing technique. Karen Machover (1951), a leader in the field, uses a procedure much like the one outlined above in her Draw- A-Person test (D-A-P), although she puts special emphasis on the body image, a reflection of the way the subject actually feels about himself or what he wishes he could be. She originally took the Goodenough Draw-A-Man test as her point of departure. In administering this test, which is designed for estimating the I.Q., she found that the child’s spontaneous comments and associations were highly revealing. This suggested the use of figure drawing as a projective methodAs an optional technique, she found it helpful to ask the subject to create a story based on drawings, making believe the person depicted is a participant in a novel or play. Levy (1950) developed a similar approach, the Draw-and-Tell-a-Story technique, in which the subject draws two figures of his own sex and one of the opposite sex, and tells a story about them. This triangle situation often touches on Oedipal and sibling rivalry reactions. In the Rosenberg Draw-a-Person technique, the subject draws a figure and then is asked what that person is like; after this, he is asked to redraw the figure and, if there are any changes, a further inquiry is made. The examiner then interprets the psychodynamics that appear to lie behind the alteration. See DYSAUTONOMIA, BODY IMAGE.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "FIGURE DRAWING TEST," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/figure-drawing-test-2/ (accessed October 17, 2019).
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