SENTENCE COMPLETION METHOD

A projective technique in which the subject completes a fragmentary sentence.The Sentence Completion Method is a further development of the Word Association Test, in which a subject is presented with a stimulus word and responds with the first word that comes to mind. The use of incomplete sentences such as “I wish . . or “My most unpleasant experience was . . .” is believed to elicit significant material because it encourages freedom of response and makes it difficult for the subject to know what constitutes a “good” or “bad” response. Usually the subject is not asked to give the first response that comes to his mind, as in the Word Association Test, since it is important for him to exert some control over his responses. In this sense the sentence completion technique is more like the Thematic Apperception Test (Rotter, 1951).The standard procedure is to give the subject a printed list of incomplete sentences selected to fit the situation. The number of items ranges anywhere from fifteen or twenty to as many as 240. When the technique is used for clinical purposes, most psychologists do not use any formal scoring procedure. Instead, they treat the responses as projective material and employ their own knowledge of behavior dynamics and personality in making interpretations. One specialist (Stein, 1947) suggests that the examiner should pay special attention to the following: rare responses, long answers, overprecise answers, items that elicit tension reactions such as tics or restlessness, intense or colorful language, omissions, and erasures. He suggests that the subject be questioned about these items directly after the test.Others (Rotter and Willerman, 1947) find it useful to rate responses in specific ways—for example, according to the amount of conflict (C) or positive reaction (P) they show. To illustrate this system, the following endings suppliedfor the incomplete sentence “Other people . . are arranged in order from neutral (N) to maximal conflict (C3): “are some good, some bad” (N), “have their worries too” (Cl), “should mind their own business” (C2), “laugh at me” (C3). The following responses to the same incomplete sentence are arranged in terms of positive reaction: “are different” (N), “usually like me” (PI), “are interesting” (P2), “are swell” (P3).The Sentence Completion Method is readily adapted to a variety of situations. It has been used not only in appraising general emotional adjustment, but in eliciting attitudes on sex, integration, the army, and employer-em- ployee relations. One of its first applications was in the investigation of the thought processes of deteriorated senile patients and disorganized schizophrenics. In the latter case such items as “I am in the hospital because . . .”, “My body makes a shadow because . . .”, and “I am alive because . . .” were presented orally. It was found that the deteriorated senile patients gave more rational answers than the schizophrenic patients even though they were hopelessly disoriented (Cameron, 1938). The technique has also proved useful in OSS assessment procedures, for instance in identifying college men who had superior intelligence but low achievement due to emotional conflicts (Hadley and Kennedy, 1949). Among the other applications have been the study of family relationships (Lehner, 1947), the investigation of racial problems among Negroes (Campbell, 1950), and the exploration of social attitudes of Germans following World War II. In the latter case, the test included such items as “The National Socialists came into power in 1933 because . . .” and “The anti-Semitism of the Nazis was . . .” (Schaffner, 1948).There is no universal agreement on exactly what aspects of the personality the Sentence Completion Method taps. Some psychologists contend that it penetrates to unconscious trends (Symonds,1947),but most investigators believe it discloses thought content that is close to the surface rather than deep unconscious dynamics (Hanfmann and Getzels, 1953). Most likely the level is determined by the accessibility of the subject’s unconscious and the effectiveness of the items in arousing his inner needs and feelings.Some of the sentence completion tests in wide use today are the Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank (high school, college, adult forms), which can be scored objectively according to the technique described above; the Rohde Sentence Completion Test; the Forer Structured Sentence Completion Test (forms for men, women, adolescent boys, adolescent girls); the Forer Vocational Survey, which explores interests and work adjustments of men and women; and the Marriage Adjustment Sentence Completion Survey, used in identifying marital attitudes and problems.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "SENTENCE COMPLETION METHOD," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/sentence-completion-method/ (accessed October 17, 2019).
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