Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)


Thematic Apperception Test is an interesting way employed by Psychologists to understand the truth from a person who may consciously or subconsciously trying to hide the truth. Let’s be mindful, this is not a treatment method but an investigation method. In the method of investigation, 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. These narratives, then are evaluated by the proponent/s to read the participant’s subtle or subconscious mind. Something that the participant was trying to hide.

Scientists have found a co-relation between connection between fantasy and aggressive behavior. Psychologists 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.

Thematic Apperception Test can give a detailed insight into a person’s subconscious behavior, and when applied timely and correctly, can detect tendencies latent psychological issues, that might go on and lead to unhealthy social and personal life.

This method is, sometimes also called, Picture Interpretation Technique. The reason it’s called so is because it involves a session for the participants to go through a series of images. 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, and conclusion.

During the act of narrating these events, the subject may be assisted to carry on the conversation by asking him questions like −

  • What happened next?
  • What happened to him?
  • Where was the other guys?
  • What did they do when they found out?
  • What did the other people say when they knew?
  • What happened in the end, and how did others react?
  • How did they come to know about this, and who was responsible?
  • Where were the characters (the ones the subject uses in his story) then?

Normally, the evaluator is not supposed to answer, imply or lead the participant into getting any idea on the images displayed in front of him/her. The task of the examiner is only to provide linking questions that help the narrator in moving his story forward, or when he appears to have ignored or forgotten about some of the characters he had created in his story.

The complete test involves 32 picture cards of shapes that vaguely resemble male and female figures, some of the figures are androgynous, some are of children, and some cards may not even have any human shapes. One blank card is also shown as a trigger to elicit a story from the story-teller.

Although the cards were designed to be used with any age category, there is a unanimous acceptance that with more similarity between the figures on the cards with the participant, particularly age-wise, there is better connectivity and response from the participant.

As there are no standard responses in TAT, an examiner could see different emotional responses with each new participant. It is s/he who will then use his/her experience and training to understand how to evaluate the readings and notes s/he took, and then to use them to score the participant.

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