Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI, is a personality test that was developed by Dr. Starke Hathaway and Dr. J.C. McKinley in the late 1930's. The test is designed to determine the structure of a person's personality and to identify psychopathology. It was developed at the University of Minnesota.

The MMPI may be the most frequently given test in the field of psychology. It is also used in criminal defense cases and to screen candidates for certain high-risk jobs. These latter uses have proven to be highly controversial.

Currently the test consists of 567 questions. A psychiatrist or clinical psychologist must administer and interpret the test. Nor are all of these practitioners qualified; they must have undergone specific training before being certified to administer the MMPI.

The test has 10 different scales, which are numbered 0 through 9. The scales measure such traits as hypochondria, hysteria, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, psychopathic deviations and introversion. Each scale contains a subset of the total number of questions, and the size of the subset varies by scale from 32 for Hypochondriasis to 78 for Schizophrenia. This is a complex personality test but is taken in a standardized form. Most answer sheets are now computer scored. It takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half to administer the test.

This test has been quite controversial through the years. The sample group that was originally used to standardize the results has now been deemed to be inadequate. Critics have considered the test biased against certain groups, particularly Native Americans. It has also been criticized for containing many sexist and racist elements. Most of these criticisms have been dealt with as the test has been refined.

The test has been revised several times. The MMPI-2 is the version currently in use. It is considered valid only on adults and was released in 1989. In 1992 the MMPI-A was released. This new version is designed to be used on adolescents and consists of only 478 questions. The MMPI-2-RF version was released in 2003 but is still not as widely used as the MMPI-2.

The copyright for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is still held by the University of the Minnesota. Any practitioner who wishes to use the test must pay the university royalties. The university also makes certain that a practitioner is qualified to administer the test before selling it to them.  

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