Differences between Self and Projective Tests

Although both self-report and projective tests are viable methods of personality assessment, there are significant distinctions between the two approaches.

Self-report inventories involve asking respondents a series of questions and having them score each statement based on how much it pertains to them. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, also known as the MMPI, is one of the most commonly used self-report tests (Reynolds et al., 2010).

Projective exams, on the other hand, do not ask respondents to fill out questionnaires but rather to decipher a hazy item, scene, or scenario. The test-objective taker’s personal interpretation is the goal. One of the most popular projective tests is the Rorschach Inkblot Test.


The primary objective of self-reports is to acquire personal information about the respondents’ values, thoughts, and behavior. In other words, these tests require participants to give an accurate account of their preferences and attitudes. Regrettably, respondents may provide socially desirable responses instead of true ones. On the flip side, projective methods do not focus on the conscious but rather the unconscious. Instead of describing personal behavior that is prone to bias and interference from society, projective methods try to understand internal drives. Unfortunately, projective methods have low levels of validity and reliability.


Notably, self-reports and projective tests have different magnitudes in that the former uses structured formats while the latter adopts an unstructured approach. Therefore, it is quicker to identify a person’s personality through the self-tests than while using the projective tests. However, some respondents, especially children, may consider the former method more threatening than the latter. Reynolds et al. (2010) show that the self-report methods predict a person’s next choices while the projective technique focuses on long-term behavioral trends.


Reynolds, C. R., Livingston, R. B., Willson, V. L., & Willson, V. (2010). Measurement and assessment in education. Pearson Education International.

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