1. Thematic Apperception Test-Introduction

Thematic Apperception Test is a popular method of psychological assessment which uses projective hypothesis technique. It differs from the more traditional ink-blot tests in that the images used at TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) are not abstract ink-blots but representational figures that are vaguely identification by the viewer. These images carry a theme in them. Depending on the viewer identification and analysis of the sequence, a psychological map is drawn.

  • Audience

    This tutorial is designed primarily for those who want to understand the working of a Thematic Apperception Test, and how such tests influence decision-making in organization where there is a strong test of character involved in the selection process

  • Prerequisites

    Before proceeding with this tutorial, you are expected to have some knowledge on psychological and Rorschach ink-blot testing.
    The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is a visually instructional narrative method where the participant is shown a series of pictures that have a vague resemblance to real-world objects, and is then asked to narrate a story linking all the images and using them as input to the narrative. This method is used to calculate a person’s ability an interpretation and construction of reality.
    These narratives are then tested against standardized scoring systems and this objective quantitative data is then produced based on the persons interpretation and construction. This study is often used as a method of further understanding behavioral patterns.

– Behavioral Pattern
Scientists have found a co-relation between connection fantasy and aggressive behavior. Psychologist are interested in understanding the links between the motive of aggression and the repercussions of these actions. This is where projective tools like TAT help them to look beyond the obvious signs and pick up the subtle levels of aggression. Projective instruments such as the TAT are often used to look at obvious versus subtle levels of aggression.
In TAT, the focus is not so much on what the subject is saying, but looking beyond the areas he is talking on, reading between the lines and understanding what information he is walking to reveal subconsciously. This way, TAT helps in identifying, determining, and assessing aggression.

  • Defining TAT

    Thematic Apperception Test is also popularly known as the picture interpretation technique, the reason being that in this method, the participants are the narrators of their own malady. It is their words itself that gives a clue to their thought-process. The images used in these tests are usually thought-provoking because they aren’t exact replicas of people and things, but are vague representations of objects revolving around a specific theme.
    Generally, the participant is encouraged to tell as dramatic a narrative they can create using the pictorial representations as key inputs in the story, and using them to introduce elements of variety surprise.

  • Significance of TAT

    Thematic Apperception Test can give a detailed insight into a person’s subconscious behavior, and when applied timely and correctly, and detect tendencies latent psychological issues, that might go on and lead to unhealthy social and personal life.
    It is important at this moment to discuss the different between the standardization of the TAT’s responses. Unlike TAT scores, there are no standardization for the responses that the participant might give. There are no tables with multiple options in which participant responses will be fit in.
    It is here a specialized hand helps. People generally think that if the test scores are standardized and the responses are so too, ten even a layman can conduct a TAT and become an expert in it. However, nothing could be further from truth.
    As there are no standard responses in TAT, an examiner could see different emotional responses with each new participant. It is he who will then use his experience and training to understand how to evaluate the readings and notes he took, and then to use them to score the participant.
    Evaluate Reading and Notes
    Professionals can identify a range issues through this method, however the absence of any standardization in scores makes it difficult to be a reference. Having said that, experts and researchers like Murstein have especially mentioned that the usage of one set of cards to fit all the examinees is impractical, and introduction of different cards as per subjects is completely allowed, even encouraged Impractical.

2. How Experts Define Aggression

Ms. Gerda Siann, in her books, had described aggression as a dominating trait that tends to incite feelings of hurt or damage to people or objects. However, it doesn’t necessarily imply an inclination towards physical injury. In short, there’s a difference between an aggression person and an angry person.
In the same vein, she writes that aggression need not always be viewed through a negative lens, as in the norm at present. An aggression towards may channel his aggression towards serving his ambition and achieving his goals in professional’s life. Of course, violence is often found to be a result of aggression, hence
aggression is often wrongfully portrayed as a negative force.

  • Types of Aggression

    Many people channelize their aggression in two manners-

  1. Overt Manifestation- Overt Manifestation is when people openly express their aggression through violent actions or angry gestures that often threaten of physical injury. They are loud, brash and want to things done their way at every possible step. They are control-freaks and perceive opposing views as a threat to their control.

    People who are overly aggression have difficulties in interacting with the society. They only feel at home with those in front of whom they can speak their mind, and those whom they can dominate in any conversation.

  2. Covert Manifestation- In Covert Manifestation, people express their internal aggression in very aggression in very passive, subtle yet harm-causing manner. These people become defiant and international underperformers. They deliberately sabotage company assets, willfully waste time, and spread negative perception through gossip. They are more interested in being listened to, rather than controlling the process. People who are covertly aggression have difficulties in speaking their feelings out. They suffer from low esteem and lack the confidence to openly mention what bothering them. They don’t immediately report a miscommunication, or false statement made against them, or don’t retaliate even if false charges are levelled against them. In turn, they take out their aggression on their work, willfully damage company property, poison ears of their colleagues, and cause irreparable corruption to the minds of the human resources working in the office.

  • The positive Side of Aggression

    In many cases, aggression become a positive emotion as well. For example, a person needs to be aggressive in his thoughts to be able to hold his ground when others are opposing his thought, and still manage to put his point across in a positive way. A person also needs to be aggressive to stave off any attacks on his person during a fight or conformation. In cases like these, TAT comes as a helpful guide to understand the underlying emotions that are leading to such aggression in the minds of the people. Depending on the emotions traced, a person may either identified as an overt aggression or covert aggression person.

– Aggressive
For example, if the latent behaviors could be traced as controlling, impulsiveness, one would know that the individual is an overt. On the other hand, if the latent behaviors point towards self-esteem, and communication, then it’s the covert.
There have been documented cases where people have displayed the tendency to not be aggressive, but to entertain ideas of aggression. This is called “frequency aggression” where the subject imagines himself in a world where he is the boss and things happen the way he wants to, or a would where he can punish people the way he wants when he is wronged.

3. TAT-Precautions

Students studying psychology are given detailed instructions on how to analyze the interpretation of images given by the subjects. The reason behind this is there are numerous factors behind a person’s version of the story. Students are generally advised to try and assume a positive connection in the subject’s real life with his narration, instead of interpreting every single word spoken as an indicator of some hidden grief.
Examiners also need to be aware and sensitive to examinee’s cultural and social background. For example, cats are considered scared by an Egyptian, however an Indian will have different views. Owls will generate different emotions in children from different cultures.
Not only this, experts also refer to previous personal and medical history in order to get an accurate analysis of a person’s TAT. In that way, they will have a context and direction while trying to interpret the narration. A person who has recently lost someone dear with frequently refer to the themes of death and sadness in
his/her story-telling, so this vital piece of information makes the examiner understand the context of the person’s speech. He will understand that this is the narration of a person in a sad situation, as opposed to a perpetually sad person.
Depending on your gender, you might already have a positive or negative impression of this man already. Girls overwhelmingly give images like these a negative rating, whereas not many boys mind such images. This gives us an insight into a role gender plays in formulating a narrative in TAT.
Finally, the absence of any normalized or standardized scoring system is one of the biggest challenges in curbing multiplicity with TAT. Henry Murray, widely considered to be one of the most influential authors of TAT, had once actually attempted to count the exact number of variables for in Thematic Apperception Test.
Till now, there hasn’t been one uniform system that cuts across professional considerations and get universally accepted. This is the reason every new TAT score will be different. In recent years, some scientist have suggested the usage of computers in TAT scoring, however there has been critical backlash from the rest
of the scientific community on it, because they feel that machines won’t be able to calibrate the emotions, and won’t be able to read between lines.

4. TAT-Research Methods

Many TAT practitioners don’t use any specific methods for administering their subjects to the process, however some follow some methods so that their reports can have some empirical basis, which can make their data reusable and inter-exchangeable to other practitioners. Two of the most common methods are-

  • Defense Mechanisms Manual

  • Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale

  • Defense Mechanisms Manual

    This method analyze a person response based on the honesty of his answers. If he is deliberately trying to project an unbelievably positive image out of all cards, then he is in detail. In this evaluation system, someone in denial is considered to be least mature in his thought and actions.
    Someone who can manage to successfully project a relatable narration from the characters the image is carrying is considered to be somewhat mature and is given the tag of intermediate.
    If a subject manages to not only project but also identify with the characters on the card and manages to relate with them on a personal level, then he is leveled as the most mature (identification).

  • Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale

    This method involves four factors. It calculates the complexity to relationship the subjects creates with the fantasy characters, how these characters affect each other, what kind of moral and emotional attachments these characters have, and family- what will be the social outcome of the actions that the character practice. Thematic Apperception involves a wait and watch technique. Its more to do with reading between the lines
    as opposed to seeking explicit answers.
    The entire process has been paraphrased below in relation to a scenario-

The image shows a small log-cabin with three anthropomorphic ducklings having breakfast with a big crow peeking inside through the window.
The subjects is given time to formulate a story around the settings. Generally, the person starts by stating the

  • Examiner- What do you see here?

  • Subject- It’s a picture of a small log-cabin with three ducklings having breakfast with big crow peeking inside through the window.

  • Examiner- And then?

  • Subject- The crow look ominous (the crow’s expressions are normal)

  • Examiner- What are they talking about?

  • Subject- They are planning to go out and play after breakfast. They won’t when they see the crow.

  • Examiner- Is that the end?

  • Subject- Yes

Comment- The early hypothesis says that the subject has family members who may be shady in his opinion. Has definitely had experience with someone who has destroyed a delicate relationship he had with someone.

Once in the woods, there is pigs were arm-wrestling, and it was two twins against one. In the end, the one wrestling solo won, and laded the palms of the other two with such force that the twins tumbled one over the other.

  • Examiner- Who are the twins?

  • Subject- Must be low-breeds

  • Examiner- Are the alike in nature?

  • Subject- Yes.

  • Examiner- Are they fair in fighting?

  • Subject- They are losers.

  • Examiner- Are they boys?

  • Subject- Yes

  • Examiner- were they hurt in the end?

  • Subject- Yes. Likely.

Comment- The subject seems to have experienced opposition from two or more people in his pursuit of a goal. He seems to have come across unfair people who used shady techniques in defeating him.

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