A test created by McClelland which has a clever strategy behind it
The TAT consists of a standardized sequence of cards, all of which depict pictures/a scene.
Ex: You might see a man and a woman sitting on a bench beside a river, or a man in a lab
coat behind what appears to be a lab desk.
The participant is instructed to look at the picture, and then to write a story about what's going
on in the picture
Participants then answer Where did the characters come from? What's going on in the
scene? What will happen beyond the image depicted in the card?
So, Participants are required to write a story in response to a series of pictures, and the series of
pictures is standardized (all participants see the exact same sequence of pictures in the same
The pictures obviously hold no specific story behind them, so you make the story up on your
own. The strategy is that whatever you see in the cards, whatever story you create out of the
cards is intrinsic to you. You create what's happening in the card
Aim of the test: The story you come up with (what you think is going on in the cards) is a
projection which reveals your own underlying needs, conflicts, and complexes
The story you write, the characters you create will reflect motivational concerns that are
your motivational concerns because the cards themselves have no motivational content
TAT = “projective test”
McClelland believed that the need for achievement was an implicit motivation (we're only partly
conscious of it) and as a result we would need to rely on measures of implicit constructs, like the TAT,
in order to access them.
How do you use the TAT to measure achievement motivation (people's motives)?
You need a scoring system
Developing a TAT Scoring System
A rigorous set of instructions where an experimentalist can take the stories that people write, and code
the stories for their thematic imagery related to achievement (a coding system like what I had to do for
my media essay)
The more themes related to achievement that a person writes about, it's assumed that they have
more achievement motivation.
How do you create one of these scoring systems?
First, begin with a rough theory (or hypothesis) about the kinds of (experimental) conditions
under which a particular motive might be temporarily elevated
We can bring some subjects in and experimentally subject them to a set of conditions that
will temporarily raise their level of achievement motivation (that will temporarily put
achievement on their minds).
One strategy that McClelland had - he brought groups of participants and gave all of them a
bunch of cognitive tests.
He then took a small group of participants among the bunch and told them that the test is
going to tell us a lot about your general intelligence, and your leadership potential. They
then wrote a story in response to several cards
Because they were told what the test is going to reveal (leadership/intelligence), the