The Thematic Apperception Test and the Robert’s Apperception Test are projective tests in which an individual is asked to look at a series of ambiguous scenes and tell a story describing the scene, including what is happening, how the characters are thinking, and feeling, and how the story will end. The examiner then interprets the test based on the needs, motivations, and anxieties of the main character as well as how the story eventually turns out. The TAT cards were developed first, and the Robert’s developed more recently. The Robert’s pictures were made to be more applicable to children. An examiner may also use the Children’s Apperception Test, which offers pictures more applicable to even younger children.
Projective tests are often used in therapeutic settings. For example, therapists may use these tests to learn more information about a client as an icebreaker or to encourage the client to discuss issues or think more about certain thoughts and emotions.
While projective tests have some benefits, they also have weaknesses and limitations. For example, scoring and interpreting projective tests is also highly subjective, so interpretations of answers can vary from one examiner to the next. In addition, many psychologists do not actually score the TAT or the Robert’s, but interpret them more broadly for themes.
Additionally, projective tests are low in both validity and reliability. Validity refers to whether or not a test is measuring what it says it measures, while reliability refers to the consistency of the test results. This does not mean that these tests cannot be a useful tool in learning more about people. It does mean that these tests should be used carefully by trained psychologists and those using them should not assume they can explain more than they are intended to explain.