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The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is the most frequently used personality test in the mental health fields. This assessment, or test, was designed to help identify personal, social, and behavioral problems in psychiatric patients. The test helps provide relevant information to aid in problem identification, diagnosis, and treatment planning for the patient.

The test has also been used for job screening and other non-clinical assessments, which is considered controversial and is in some cases illegal.

History and use

The original MMPI was developed at the University of Minnesota Hospitals and first published in 1942. The original authors of the MMPI were Starke R. Hathaway, PhD, and J. C. McKinley, MD. The MMPI is copyrighted and is a trademark of the University of Minnesota [1]: Clinicians must pay a fee each time it is administered.

The current standardized version for adults 18 and over, the MMPI-2, was released in 1989, with a subsequent revision of certain test elements in early 2001. The MMPI-2 has 567 items, or questions, and takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete. There is a short form of the test that is comprised of the first 370 items on the long-form MMPI-2. There is also a version of the inventory for adolescents age 14 to 18, the MMPI-A. Norms are published based on a sample of 2600 people of diverse ages from a variety of backgrounds.

The tests sub scales measure:

  • Hypochondiasis
  • Depression
  • Hysteria
  • Psychopathic Deviance
  • Masculinity-Femininity
  • Paranoia
  • Psychasthenia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Hypomania
  • Social Intervention

The MMPI has been used for a range of assessments:

  • Criminal Justice and Corrections
  • Evaluation of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression and schizophrenia
  • Identification of suitable candidates for high-risk public safety positions such as nuclear power plant workers, police officers, airline pilots, medical and psychology students, firefighters and seminary students
  • Assessment of medical patients and design of effective treatment strategies, including chronic pain management
  • Evaluation of participants in substance abuse programs
  • Support for college and career counseling
  • Marriage and family counseling

Criticism and controversy

Personality tests like graphology, Rorschach inkblot test, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire more often than MMPI, but critics have raised issues about the ethics and validity of administering MMPI, especially for non-clinical uses.

By the 1960s, the MMPI was being given by companies to employees and applicants as often as to psychiatric patients. Sociologist William H. Whyte was among many who saw the tests as helping to create and perpetuate the oppressive groupthink of mid-century corporate capitalism.

A 1990 Office of Technology Assessment report noted:

In 1965 the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, and the House Special Subcommittee on Invasion of Privacy of the Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Representative Cornelius E. Gallagher, held hearings to determine whether the questions asked on psychological tests used by the Federal Government were an unjustified invasion of the respondent’s psyche and private life. The Subcommittees also investigated the validity of these tests and the due process issues involved in test administration. The reactions of the press and public were very critical of the types of questions asked on these psychological tests.

In 1966, Senator Ervin introduced a bill to sharply curtail the government's use of the MMPI and similar tests, comparing them to McCarthyism. Ervin's bill failed.

Annie Murphy Paul, a former senior editor of Psychology Today, charges that personality tests "are often invalid, unreliable, and unfair." Others have accused that MMPI can "overpathologize" certain demographic groups, notably teenagers and non-white test takers.

Numerous successful lawsuits have argued that giving the test to job applicants is an invasion of privacy, and that there is no evidence linking test results to job performance.

See also


  • Congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment. The Use of Integrity Tests for Pre-Employment Screening. (PDF) September 1990. OTA-SET-442 NTIS order #PB91-107011.
  • Bennett D. "Against types." Boston Globe, 12 September 2004.
  • Paul AM. The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves. Free Press 2004. ISBN: 0743243560.

External links

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