Personality Chapter 4: A Psychodynamic Theory: Applications and Evaluation of Freuds
1) Clinical Applications
Psychoanalysis emphasizes unconscious processes and the interplay among motives.
A) Assessment: Projective Tests
Projective tests are the most closely linked to psychoanalytic theory. Projective tests use
ambiguous stimuli to elicit highly individualistic responses which can then be interpreted by the
clinician. The idea is that their interpretations will reveal aspects of the test takers personality.
The assumption is that the test takers responses will be indicative of emotional themes and
thinking styles that come into play in the persons day-to-day thoughts about events in their life.
The two most popular projective tests are the Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic
Apperception Test (TAT). Both are unstructuredmeaning that they allow subjects to respond in
their own unique ways. Both are also disguised tests in that generally, the subjects are unaware
of their purpose or of how particular responses will be interpreted. Projective tests allow subjects
to respond with complete freedom in terms of both content and organization. In projective tests,
the directions and stimuli provide few guidelines for responding and the purposes of the test and
interpretations of responses are hidden from the subject. Projective tests generally lead to
holistic interpretations based on the patterning and organization rather than on the
interpretation of a single response reflecting a particular characteristic.
a) The Rorschach Inkblot Test
Although inkblots had been used earlier, Hermann Rorschach first fully grasped the potential
use of these stimuli for personality assessment. Rorschach put ink on paper and folded the
paper so that symmetrical but ill-defined forms were produced. The test consists of 10
inkblots. He thought that the data from the inkblot test would increase understanding of the
unconscious and have relevance for psychoanalytic theory. Subjects are asked to look at each
card and tell the examiner what they seeanything that might be represented on the card.
In interpreting the test, one is interested in how the response is formed, the reasons for the
response and its content. The interpreter assumes that the subjects personality is projected
onto unstructured stimuli such as inkblots. The basic assumption is that the way individuals
form their perceptions is related to the way they generally organize and structure stimuli in
their environments. Perceptions that match the structure of the inkblot suggest a good level
of psychological functioning. Poorly formed responses that do not fit the structure of the
inkblot suggest unrealistic fantasies or bizarre behaviour. It is important to realize that the
test is not interpreted on the basis of one response alone but in relation to the total sum of
responses. In relation to the subjects behaviour, the examiner notes all unusual behaviour
and uses this as a source of data for further interpretation.
b) The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was developed by Henry Murray and Christina Morgan.
The TAT consists of cards with ambiguous scenes on them. The subject is to make up a story
based on the scene on the card, including whats going on, the thoughts and feelings of the
participants, what led up to the scene and the outcome. The test is based on the well-
recognized fact that when a person interprets an ambiguous social situation, he is apt to
expose his own personality as much as the phenomenon to which he is attending. The TAT is
used to discover unconscious and inhibited tendencies. The assumption is that subjects are
not aware they are talking about themselves and thus, their defences can be bypassed.
B) Illustrative Research Use
a) Projective TestsDo They Work?
Do they work? Are they valid? These questions are actually more complicated than they
sound. There are at least 2 complications:
1) There is a possibility that projective tests predict some types of outcomes but not others 2) There are different ways of scoring projective tests. It is possible then, that some scoring
systems might work well, whereas others might not.
Meta-analyses revealed that some scoring methods are valid for some purposes. There is
evidence that the TAT responses are correlated with measures of motivated behaviour.
However, such a result proved to be an exception: the review indicated that projective tests
commonly do not work. And although there may be some validity to methods for scoring
achievement themes in TAT responses, most TAT scoring systems, like the Rorschach
systems, also lack validity.
Why dont projective tests work very well? There are a few possible reasons:
1) Inter-judge reliability: the thoughts, feelings and interpretive biases of the psychologist
may influence the scoring of the test
2) The content of the projective test items commonly has nothing to do with the content of
the test takers day-to-day life. There is no guarantee that the persons thinking style will
manifest itself when he or she is confronted with abstract blotches of ink. The few
projective tests that are successful tend to be useful stimuli that are especially relevant to
the construct being assessed.
A) Personality Types
Freud thought that the first 5 years of life were critical in the individual's development. During
these years, it is possible for a number of failures to occur in the development of the instincts.
Such failures in the development are called fixations. If individuals receive so little gratification
during a stage of development that they are afraid to go to the next stage, or if they receive so
much gratification that there is no motivation to move on, a fixation will occur. If a fixation
occurs, the individual will try to obtain the same type of satisfaction that was appropriate for an
earlier stage of development during later stages. A developmental phenomenon related to that
of fixation is regression. In regression, the individual seeks to return to an earlier mode of
satisfaction, an earlier point of fixation. Regression often occurs under conditions of stress so
that many people overeat, smoke or drink too much only during periods of frustration and
PERSONALITY TYPE PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS
Oral Demanding, impatient, envious, covetous,
jealous, rageful, depressed, mistrustful,
Anal Rigid, striving for power and control,
concerned with should and oughts, pleasure
and possessions, anxiety over waste and loss
of control, concern with whether to submit or
Phallic Male: exhibitionistic, competitive, striving for
success, emphasis on being
Female: naive, seductive, exhibitionistic,
a) The Oral Personality
Oral personalities are narcissistic in that they are only interested in themselves and do not
have a clear recognition of others as separate entities.
b) The Anal Personality
The anal person sees excretion as symbolic of enormous power. The anal character is known
by a triad of traits, called the anal triad: orderliness and cleanliness, parsimony and
stinginess, and obstinacy.
c) The Phallic PersonalityFixation has different implications for men and women. The phallic male must at all times
assert his masculinity and potency. The female counterpart is known as the hysterical
personality. She may attract men with flirtatious behaviour but she denies sexual intent and
appears to be somewhat naive. Hysterical women idealize life, their partners and romantic
B) Conflict and Defense
In psychopathology, there is a conflict between a drive or wish (instinct) and the egos sense
(anxiety) that danger will ensue if the wish is expressed. To guard against this and to ward off
anxiety, defense mechanisms are used. In structural terms, a neurosis is a result of conflict
between the id and the ego. However, if the conflict becomes too great, the use of defense
mechanisms can lead to neurotic symptoms or psychotic withdrawal from reality. Symptoms
express the unconscious conflict between the wish or drive and anxiety.
Current Applications: Emotional Suppression and Health
Over 50 years ago, psychoanalysts suggested a relation between specific conflicts and specific
somatic difficulties. In developing the area of psychosomatic medicine, each disorder was thought to
result from a specific emotional constellation. This line of psychology fell into disfavour because the
relation between psychological factors and bodily illness seemed more complex than was originally