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Butcher’s New Article: A Great Historical Review of Personality Assessment

Jim Butcher has a new article which includes a great historical review of personality assessment. He goes back to “…the Old Testament when Gideon used observations of his men trembling with fear as well as observations of how they chose to drink water from a stream as a means of selecting soldiers for battle…Other early efforts to evaluate personality can be found in the work of Carl Jung (1907), who studied associations to words in order to evaluate a person’s thought processes and personality…The U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a predecessor to the present Central Intelligence Agency, performed extensive psychological evaluations on persons who were to be assigned to secret overseas missions. The program, supervised by Henry Murray, evaluated more than 5000 candidates for special duty assignment. The assessment team used more than one hundred different psychological tests and specially designed procedures to perform the evaluations. The operations of this extensive assessment program were described after the war, when the project was declassified (Off. Strat. Serv. Assess. Staff 1948) [see also a review by Handler (2001) for a discussion of the OSS]. The military service implemented several programs in which tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) were used in personnel selection for positions…”

“Research on the MMPI-2 and MMPI-A continues to this day. More than 19,000 articles and books have been published on the MMPI, the MMPI-2, and MMPI-A.”

Dr. Butcher takes us up to new developments and missteps such as the MMPI-RF. He summarizes the data showing the MMPI-RF was ill conceived and is not an improvement over the MMPI-2:

“…critics of the RC Scales, including the current author, have been resolute in descriptions of their limitations and the underlying theory and methodology that led to their creation (see Butcher &Williams 2009)…Several problems have been reported with the RC Scales. The theoretical model to develop the scales has been questioned (Butcher &Williams 2009, Gordon 2006, Nichols 2006, Ranson et al. 2009). In addition, the majority of the RC scales do not address the personality constructs from the original MMPI clinical scales but are simply redundant measures of several other MMPI-2 Content and Supplemental Scales (Caldwell 2006, Greene et al. 2009, Nichols 2006, Rogers et al. 2006, Rouse et al. 2008). The RC Scales show a low sensitivity to mental health problems (Binford & Liljequist 2008, Butcher et al. 2006, Cumella et al. 2009, Gucker et al. 2009, Megargee 2006, Rogers &Sewell 2006, Wallace & Liljequist 2005)…”

Jim Butcher concludes with this important warning:

“Assessment psychologists need to be aware that many of the available personality assessment measures are owned and managed by commercial rather than scientific organizations and need to be alert that commercial interests can sometimes “prevail over scientific needs” (Adams 2000).”

Personality Assessment from the Nineteenth to the Early Twenty-First Century: Past Achievements and Contemporary Challenges

James N. Butcher

Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 2010. 6:1–20

The Annual Review of Clinical Psychology is online



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