C4. Personality and interest inventories- CAT


According to Allport; “The dynamic organization within the individual of these systems that determine his unique adjustment to his environment is Personality.”
According to Cattell; “Personality is that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.”
According to Guilford; “Personality is a person’s unique pattern of traits.”


  • Self-report measure:
  • Behavioral Assessment: It is a direct measure of an individual’s behavior which is used to describe characteristics indicative of personality. It is based on the principles of learning theory. Behavioral Assessment is particularly appropriate for naturalistic observation under controlled conditions with the help of rating scales.
  • Projective Tests: Projection can be defined as a defense mechanism involving placing or projecting one’s own acceptable thoughts onto others as if the thoughts actually belong to those others and not to oneself. To assess conscious motives and feelings. Based on the assumption that structured or unstructured stimulus or situation will allow the individual to project his/her feelings, desires and needs onto that situation.
  • Meaning of projective technique- Projective tests are personality assessments that present ambiguous visual stimuli to the subject and ask the subject to respond with whatever comes to mind. In projective techniques, respondents are asked to interpret the behaviour of others. In interpreting the behaviour of others, respondents indirectly project their own motivations, beliefs, attitudes or feelings into the situation.


Projective tests are classified on the basis of the degree of ambiguity in the test items and nature of the subject’s response;


Unstructured : it means that the elements or attributes of the situation do not form a uniform and clearly defined pattern for all who encounter it. An ambiguous stimulus situation can elicit a variety of responses among persons tested as well as a number of different responses from an individual. Thus, in a projective test the individual has ample opportunity to project his own personality attributes that are mostly latent and unconscious in the interpretation of an unstructured situation.

Semi-structured : Tests included in this category have a defined subject matter but little specification as to how that subject matter should be handled. They are quite specific and restrict the subjects replies to a narrow range of answers.


1) Constitutive : All those test situation in which the examinee constitutes of frames structures upon materials which are yet unstructured. Finger painting and drawing completion are its best examples.

2) Constructive : Though apparently similar to the constitutive. All those test situations where the examinee is required to construct a specified task. He is required to impose a degree of the structure upon the situation in the direction specified by the examiner. Thus, the constitutive category test situation allows free expression of the examiner’s inclination whereas in the constructive category test situations do not give such permission.

3) Interpretative : All those test situations where the examinee is required to add a comprehensive meaning to the situation. The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and the Word Association Test are included under this category.

4) Cathartic : This category includes those situations whereby the examinee is given an opportunity through some manipulative tasks for the release of his conflict, wish, etc. Play techniques are cited as is its best example.


THEMATIC APPERCEPTION TEST (TAT) : The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was first published by Henry Murray in 1935 based on his theory of needs. The TAT is for adult personality investigations and relatively unsuited for young children. Hence, there was the need to develop a test for young children.



By Leopold Bellak and Sonya Bellak. The CAT is a projective method or apperceptive method which helps in investigating personality by studying the dynamic meaningfulness of the individual differences in perception of standard stimuli. Apperception means definite recognition. The original idea of CAT was produced by Dr. Ernst Kris. Kris pointed out how we could expect children to identify themselves much more readily with animals than with persons. Thus, children can easily project to animals. The pictures on the CAT often address the manner in which individuals interact with their environment in terms of need fulfillment.

An individually administered, appropriate for children aged 3 to 10 years.


The CAT is intended to measure the personality traits, attitudes, and psychodynamic processes evident in pre-pubertal children. By presenting a series of pictures and asking a child to describe the situations and make up stories about the people or animals in the pictures, an examiner can elicit this information about the child. The CAT was originally developed to assess psychosexual conflicts related to certain stages of a child’s development. Examples of these conflicts include relationship issues, sibling rivalry and aggression. Today, the CAT is more often used as an assessment technique in clinical evaluation. Clinical diagnoses can be based in part on the Children’s Apperception Test and other projective techniques.


The original CAT featured 10 pictures of animals in such human social contexts as playing games or sleeping in a bed. Today, this version is known as the CAT or the CAT-A (for animal). Animals were chosen for the pictures because it was believed that young children relate better to animals than humans. Each picture is presented by a test administrator in the form of a card. The test is always administered to an individual child; it should never be given in group form. The test is not timed but normally takes 20–40 minutes. It should be given in a quiet room in which the administrator and the child will not be disturbed by other people or activities.

The 2nd  version of the CAT, the CAT-H, was developed in 1965 by Bellak and Bellak. The CAT-H includes 10 pictures of human beings in the same situations as the animals in the original CAT. The CAT-H was designed for the same age group as the CAT-A but appeals especially to children aged 7 to 10, who may prefer pictures of humans to pictures of animals.

The pictures on the CAT were chosen to draw out children’s fantasies and encourage storytelling. Descriptions of the ten pictures are as follows: baby chicks seated around a table with an adult chicken appearing in the background; a large bear and a baby bear playing tug-of-war; a lion sitting on a throne being watched by a mouse through a peephole; a mother kangaroo with a joey (baby kangaroo) in her pouch and an older joey beside her; two baby bears sleeping on a small bed in front of a larger bed containing two bulges; a cave in which two large bears are lying down next to a baby bear; a ferocious tiger leaping toward a monkey who is trying to climb a tree; two adult monkeys sitting on a sofa while another adult monkey talks to a baby monkey; a rabbit sitting on a child’s bed viewed through a doorway; and a puppy being spanked by an adult dog in front of a bathroom. The cards in the human version substitute human adults and children for the animals but the situations are the same. Gender identity, however, is more ambiguous in the animal pictures than in the human ones. The ambiguity of gender can allow for children to relate to all the child animals in the pictures rather than just the human beings of their own sex.

The pictures are meant to encourage the children to tell stories related to competition, illness, injuries, body image, family life, and school situations. The CAT test manual suggests that the administrator should consider the following variables when analyzing a child’s story about a particular card: the protagonist (main character) of the story; the primary needs of the protagonist; and the relationship of the main character to his or her personal environment. The pictures also draw out a child’s anxieties, fears, and psychological defenses.



psychologist or other professional person who is administering the CAT must be trained in its usage and interpretation, and be familiar with the psychological theories underlying the pictures. Because of the subjective nature of interpreting and analyzing CAT results, caution should be used in drawing conclusions from the test results. Most clinical psychologists recommend using the CAT in conjunction with other psychological tests designed for children.



The CAT, which takes 20–40 minutes to administer, is conducted by a trained professional—psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, teacher or specially trained pediatrician—in a clinical, research, or educational setting. The test may be used directly in therapy or as a play technique in other settings.

After carefully establishing rapport with the child, the examiner shows the child one card after another in a particular sequence (although fewer than ten cards may be used at the examiner’s discretion) and encourages the child to tell a story—with a beginning, middle, and end—about the characters. The examiner may ask the child to describe, for example, what led up to the scene depicted, the emotions of the characters, and what might happen in the future.


In a projective test such as the CAT, there is no right or wrong answer. Thus there is no numerical score or scale for the test. The test administrator records the essence of each of the stories told and indicates the presence or absence of certain thematic elements on the form provided. The CAT’s creators suggest a series of ten variables to consider when interpreting the results. These variables include the story’s major theme, the major character’s needs, drives, anxieties, conflicts, fears, and the child’s conception of the external world.

Although responses in projective tests are believed to reflect personality characteristics, many experts have called into question the reliability, validity, and hence, usefulness of these tests as diagnostic techniques.


 Information of reliability and validity is not available in the manual. It is difficult to obtain reliability and validity measures of projective techniques because there is no uniform and standard way of scoring and interpreting the responses. The CAT requires computation of construct validity which has not been obtained.


To discover the child’s structure of personality, his dynamic mode of reacting to his problems and the manner he would handle his problem of development.

  1. The pictures also draw out a child’s anxieties, fears and psychological defenses.
  2. The child’s structure and his dynamic method of reacting to and handling his problems of growth.
  3. The CAT maybe clinically useful what dynamic and structural factors might be related to a child’s behaviour and problems in a group, in school or kindergarten or at home.
  4. The CAT maybe used directly in therapy as a play technique.
  5. CAT can be applied in making informed decisions pertaining to differential diagnosis treatment recommendations.



For children ages 3 to 10, there is a growing tendency to use the Children’s Apperception Test, CAT, to gather a full picture as to the child’s personality traits and attitudes about themselves and the world around them.

As a subjective assessment tool that should be administered by an individual who is well trained in the interpretation of the results, the CAT provides a mental health professional with a bigger picture in the way in which a pre-pubescent child might respond to specific events. To gather this information, the child is presented with visual cues about family, world events, animals, places and things. With these visual cues, the child is then asked to detail a story associated with the picture.

As the Children’s Apperception Test is subjective, the creation of stories, as well as the interpretation of the mental health professional, can lead to an improper diagnosis. As a parent, if your child is about to undergo a Children’s Apperception Test, it may be appropriate to obtain a second opinion or gather supporting tests to ensure your child’s diagnosis is accurate.

In addition to scoring and subjective findings, it is also important to know which Children’s Apperception Test your child will be taking. In the original CAT assessment tool, today commonly referred to as the CAT-A, the child was presented with a set of 10 pictures, each containing an animal and some type of human interaction. The child is then asked to create 10 short stories about each photograph; overall assessment generally takes no more than 30 minutes.

Then, in 1965, after much criticism of the original CAT assessment tool, a revised version was published known as the CAT-H. In this later version, the 10 pictures outline only human beings which seem to appeal far greater to the older population used in this testing, ages 7 to 10.

Because the test is designed to elicit responses related to family, school, peers and personal self-confidence and self-esteem, the CAT may provide a more clear understanding into the thought processes of your child. However, in most cases, parents report the test does not reveal any new information over what they were already familiar with prior to coming into the mental health provider for assessment. As with any child psychology issue, the key securing the best possible care for your child lies in the early detection and intervention.

The CAT is frequently criticized for its lack of objective scoring, its reliance on the scorer’s own scoring method and bias, and the lack of accepted evidence for its reliability (consistency of results) and validity (effectiveness in measuring what it was designed to measure). For example, no clear evidence exists that the test measures needs, conflicts, or other processes related to human motivations in a valid and reliable way.

Older children between the ages of 7 and 10 years may feel that the animal pictures in the original version of the CAT are too childish for them. They may respond better to the pictures of human beings available in the Children’s Apperception Test-Human Figures (CAT-H), a version of the CAT in which human beings replace animals in the pictures.

The CAT, as well as other projective measures, has been criticized for its lack of a standardized method of administration as well as the lack of standard norms for interpretation. Studies of the interactions between examiners and test subjects have found, for example, that the race, gender, and social class of both participants influence the stories that are told as well as the way the stories are interpreted by the examiner.


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