Classic Psychological Tests - Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein

Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein (2016)

Chapter 1. Classic Psychological Tests


Nonlinguistic intelligence tests developed in the 1920s, involving exercises in sequencing, matching, patterning, and logical connection


Intelligence testing at Ellis Island, USA, ca. 1910. Pioneered by Howard Andrew Knox, these tests, which used graphic puzzles similar to those shown opposite, were intended to determine the mental capacity of potential immigrants.

Lowenfeld Mosaic Tests

The box contains 465 wooden pieces in six colors and eight geometric shapes (squares, diamonds, and three types of triangle—right angle, isosceles, and scalene). It was intended for use with children, but some psychologists have extended its use to adult patients. Test subjects were invited to make any pattern or image they liked. The analysis of outcomes was related to the subject’s behavior during the tests (e.g., whether anxious or carefree, determined or haphazard, thoughtful or careless, etc.) and/or the patterns produced (whether ordered or random, figurative or abstract, etc.). The tests, introduced by the respected British child psychologist Margaret Lowenfeld in 1929, are still in use today.



Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The University of Minnesota Press first published the MMPI in 1943. The statements that follow are similar to those used in the MMPI and other psychometric tests developed as aids to personality analysis and to the diagnosis of psychological and psychopathological conditions. These tests, or developments of them, continue to be widely used by clinical psychologists. They are designed to reveal traits and predispositions that may be regarded as “normal” or “deviant” (depression, paranoia, etc.), according to the definitions of those terms at any time in vogue with the profession. The subject is required to respond simply and without elaboration: “yes,” “no,” “true,” “false,” or “cannot say.” Such limited responses are regarded as enabling a high degree of standardization, producing “objective tests” as opposed to so-called projective tests, which require more interpretation.


Box and numbered inventory cards for the MMPI

I am not afraid of toads

My father could be described as dominating

People who do not know me hesitate before shaking my hand

I am sometimes fearful without any particular reason

People who are jealous of me have hindered my career

I am not afraid of going to my doctor

My parents’ marriage was very happy

I do not like to see men in their pyjamas

I do not want to be better looking

Sometimes I feel very happy for no good reason

My mother was a good woman

I am not afraid of contracting infectious diseases

I do not like to hear strangers singing

Someone has been trying to get into my car

My hands have not become clumsy or awkward

I am afraid I am going out of my mind

I have a good appetite

I wake up fresh and rested most mornings

I think I would like the work of a librarian

I am easily awakened by noise

My hands and feet are usually warm enough

There seems to be a lump in my throat much of the time

I work under a great deal of tension

Once in a while I think of things too bad to talk about

My father is a good man

My mother is a good woman

My sex life is satisfactory

At times I have very much wanted to leave home

I see things or animals or people around me that others do not see

I hardly ever feel pain in the back of the neck

I am an important person

I have had periods of days, weeks, or months when I couldn’t take care of things because I couldn’t “get going”

I do not always tell the truth

My judgment is better than it ever was

Once a week or oftener I feel suddenly hot all over without apparent cause

It would be better if almost all laws were thrown away

My soul sometimes leaves my body

I am in just as good physical health as most of my friends

I prefer to pass by school friends, or people I know but have not seen for a long time, unless they speak to me first

I am liked by most people who know me

I have not lived the right kind of life

Parts of my body often have feelings like burning, tingling, or crawling

I am sometimes paralyzed by fear

Sometimes I know in advance I am going to act like a fool

I often feel guilty at the same time as feeling blameless

The Szondi Test

Invented by the Hungarian psychiatrist Léopold Szondi in 1935, this highly dubious test is based on the reactions of patients to six sets of photographic portraits of mental patients or “psychopaths,” each set containing pictures of eight psychotic personality types: homosexual, sadist, epileptic, hysteric, catatonic, paranoid, depressive, and maniac! Given the absurdity of these classifications, no more need be said about the test, itself based on an elaborate and utterly ridiculous theory of elective fate.



The sinister-looking Szondi Test kit, with cards and analytic table. If your psychotherapist turns up with one of these, make an excuse and leave.

The Odor Imagination Test

In this test a blindfolded subject is given the following instructions:

I am going to let you smell various odors. As I present each of them to you I want you to invent a short anecdote or episode suggested by the odor. Please try to develop your story from the first association that comes to mind.

The following odors might be presented:



soap and water



art gum eraser

violet perfume



Worcestershire sauce



denatured alcohol



sweet starch



carbon tetrachloride

hydrogen sulphide gas

aftershave lotion


salad oil

sour milk

oil of cloves


From Bernard I. Murstein, The Handbook of Projective Techniques (New York: Basic Books, 1965). No results of the use of this test have been published.


The subject is asked to describe the character of the person depicted. The vagueness of the image is intended to induce perceptual concentration while providing minimal visual information. Imaginative projection is thereby intensified.

The McAdory Art Test

The McAdory Art Test, devised by Margaret McAdory in 1933, is one of a number of tests that purport to aid assessment of aesthetic sensitivity or artistic taste as measurable psychological predispositions, or to reveal “artistic aptitudes.” Which is the best design? Any such judgment is both necessarily subjective and culturally determined. Taste is convention; aptitude is given but conditioned. Change is possible in both categories. It’s fun, though. Which do you think is the best design?





Bold play blocks designed in the early twentieth century to test a child’s ability to match, sequence, or make logical patterns

Psychological and Intelligence Test Kit for Children

In the early twentieth century, peripatetic pediatricians carried this handy little suitcase of test equipment from school to school. It contains play blocks, building bricks of various sizes and shapes, and concentric box tests, among other items. It is a touching reminder of the radically changing ideas at that period—ideas about how children learn, and how they might express themselves in test situations. Intelligence was becoming recognized as the exercise of the mind, rather than as the mechanical ability to repeat what is taught by rote.


Make a Picture Story Test (MAPS)

Invented by American psychologist E. S. Shneidman in 1942, the test requires its subjects to place one or more of the given figures within a familiar setting (a bedroom, a street, a bridge, etc.) and then, with certain leads, to elaborate a story from the created scene. This is a projective test, not unlike the Thematic Apperception Test (see page 71). The story provides the psychologist with imagined projections for analysis of personality and pathological disorders. The sixty-seven figures certainly furnish plenty of suggestive material; merely looking at them, the inventive mind boggles.




These beautiful handmade cards were used in visualization tests with the smaller cubes pictured on page 22.

Pictorial Completion Test

Seeming to combine both of his specialisms, this test was devised in the 1920s by the Chicago child psychiatrist and criminologist William Healy: its purpose was to detect incipient juvenile delinquency and “defective or aberrational” tendencies in children. Margaret Lowenfeld (see page 24) used it for a more benign purpose: to diagnose the problems of traumatized children. Each scene has items missing; the child was asked to replace them from a number of given options. Not so much “spot the ball” as “supply the ball.”




A symbol association test for assessment of recognition and connection skills

Intelligence and Perceptual Speed Tests

In this well-known nonverbal intelligence test, Raven’s Matrices (originally developed by John C. Raven in 1936), the initial problem is quite easy, being based on simple visual matching—“find the missing section.” But tests become progressively more difficult, requiring the subject to draw inferences about what must be the logical (or geometric) completion of a series of diagrams. Because they do not use words or culture-specific images (as in many projective and questionnaire tests), tests of this diagrammatic type are considered to be “culture fair,” i.e., they avoid cultural bias. Whether they do or not is a moot point.


Traveling case for Raven’s Matrices test cards







Perceptual speed tests, on this page and the next. In each line, find the matching symbols.