Thematic Apperception Test

The Thematic Apperception Test, also known as the TAT, is a projective personality test. The TAT uses ambiguous images to get the subject to project some underlying reaction onto the images. The test is presently used to assess the subject's view about others, his or her self, and the world, which is thought to reveal information about relationships, thought processes, emotional responses, and other influential aspects of the test taker's personality.

The Thematic Apperception Test was originally developed in 1935 to examine the test taker's personality. This personality test later evolved for clinical assessment of psychopathology. The test was developed primarily for adults, but there are adapted tests for children or individuals with cognitive impairments.

During the testing procedure, the examiner shows some or all of the set of 31 TAT cards to the test taker, who is asked to tell a story for each image. Examiners tend to use an average of about 10 cards for a single testing session. The individual cards each contain an ambiguous image, and the test taker is not given any context besides the picture card. Each story is meant to include what lead up to the scene, the internal processes of the character or characters, and the eventual outcome of the story.

Even though there is no right or wrong answer for each card, there are scoring systems used to standardize scoring. However, many clinicians tend to interpret the results based on a theoretical background rather than an established scoring system. In either case, the examiner must be trained in the administration and scoring/interpretation of this particular personality test.

The test is typically administered by a licensed clinical psychologist as one of multiple tests used for assessment of psychopathology. In some cases, a school psychologist or child clinical psychologist will administer the test.