There are still psychologists who use the TAT as part of their psycho-diagnostic test battery. Although nowadays there are many more modern, precise, valid and reliable options, with some clients and under certain circumstances, there is still merit to use projective tests as part of the diagnostic procedure. One of the main reasons is that the answers in projective tests are more varied and infinite (Lilienfeld et al., 2000). Personally I prefer to use the ORT as I believe it to be superior to the TAT.
Object Relations Technique (ORT) by Phillipson (1955) is constructed from 12 cards. The client is requested to make up stories that describe what he or she sees in the cards. The stories should include a description of what occurs between the characters, emotions, the situation in which the behavior occurs, thoughts and what the outcome of the situation would be. Some cards have one figure in them and the other two have more than one figure. Stories of ‘one person image’ cards often reflect the way one perceives oneself (Shaw, 2002). Cards with multiple images represent interpersonal themes such as relationships, rivalries and interactions in different social groups.
According to the projective hypothesis, in order for the client to give meaning and context to an ambiguous stimulus, the client projects aspects of the psyche and personality onto the stimulus (Dosajh, 1996). The client projects his own motives, goals, needs, wishes, anxieties, fantasies, experiences and feelings onto the main character of the story. Fantasy rich stories contain that, which is unreal, unattainable and unreachable. They contain dreams, impossible and even unconscious desires of the individual. The stories reflect thus the individual’s most significant dispositions and wishes. Projective tests give therefore indirectly more information about the respondent than direct questions could ever provide. More data is revealed as the client, in most cases, is not even aware that he has disclosed the information.
The ORT appears to be similar to the TAT as they both use cards and require the respondent to tell a story. The different and prominent feature of the ORT is that the images are constructed from blurred shades of grey. The TAT depicts vivid details such as the individual’s features, gender, age, clothes, social role and emotional expressions. These details can direct and shape the story given. The ORT image, on the other hand, is indistinguishable and blurred shadows in dark smoggy surroundings. In some images it is questionable whether the image is human. Unlike the TAT, the ORT does not have pictures of social situations that embody cues that may have meaning to the respondent and can direct the story told. The more ambiguous the stimulus is, the more the individual has the freedom to structure, mould and define the stimulus according to his or her own unconscious motives, fears and desires. The ORT pictures provide thus more freedom than the TAT. Lack of structure reduces hidden agendas and provides us with a more genuine portrait of the client’s psychological state.
The ORT test circumvents the problem of defensive clients who do not wish to disclose information and it divulges information that the respondents may not even be conscious of (Dosajh, 1996). Additionally, unlike many objective tests, there is no scientific evidence that suggest that intelligence, education level; social class and cross-cultural differences have effect on the ORT test performance (Elkan, 1988). These advantages increase the validity of the assessment. The ORT only aspire to excavate valuable information about the client’s emotional state, needs and interpersonal perceptions, which otherwise might not be discovered (Shaw, 2002). It is quite possible that client can be manipulative enough and realize what the meaning behind the test actually is. The client can also avoid the story telling by claiming to be blocked and consequently no information will be revealed. Be it as it may, projective techniques still have the possibility of actualizing and discovering underlying pathology sometimes even more than constructed and self-report tests.
Dosajh, N. L. (1996). Projective techniques with particular reference to inkblot test. Journal of Projective Psychology and Mental Health, 3, 59-68.
Elkan, G. (1988) Scoring systems for the O.R.T. British Journal of Projective Psychology, 33,1, 138–153.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Wood, J. M., Garb, H. N. (2000). The scientific status of projective tests. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 1, 2, 27-66.
Philipson, H. (1955). The object relations technique. London: Tavistock.
Shaw, M. A. (2002). The Object Relations Technique. New York: The ORT Institute.