Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is a projective test of personality.  Christiana Morgan and Henry Murray created the test in the 1930s at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. The general opinion of how the test originated involves one of Murray’s undergraduate students telling him about how her son, when home with an illness, spent all day looking at pictures in magazines and telling stories about them. The mother inquired whether this technique could somehow be used in a clinical setting (Douglas, 1993).

This test has had several different “series”, as well as varying pictures within each “series.”  For instance, “Series A” was an initial test; while participants took the test, the examiner asked them to look at a set of random pictures and discuss what was happening in the picture, as well as any other thoughts they might have about it.

The test and pictures have changed over time with certain pictures deleted, modified or added to the series.  Each picture has its own story of where it originated from and how it became part of the test.  For instance, in the first test used, a common picture was of a boy sitting down at a table and looking at his violin. The card has been used in “Series A, B, C and D.” In “Series A,” it was referred to as either Picture 5 or 12, however in “Series B, C and D,” it was referred to as Card 1 (Morgan, 1995). Click here to take an online version of a TAT.

Photo/Illustration of Yehudi Menuhin as a boy
A lot of the pictures were said to have been artistic drawings done by Christiana Morgan. These drawings were modified by editing out any complexities to make them more ambiguous (Morgan, 1995).

The TAT is known for it’s clinical, as well as nonclinical, contributions in personality research and has been varied and used in modified ways. For instance, the TAT was used to study sex, aggression, and attitudes toward labor problems and authority (Aronow, 2001).

As far a contributions for the field of projective testing, the TAT has inspired several other projective tests such as the CAT, the CAT-H, the School Apperception Test, the Make-A-Picture Story Test and several others (Aronow, 2001).

Here is a fun video from YouTube with some information about the TAT!

(Joshua Sproul)

Aronow, E., Altman-Weiss, K., Reznikoff, M. (2001). A Practical Guide to the Thematic Apperception Test: The TAT in clinical practice. Philadelphia, PA:  Taylor & Francis.

Douglas, C. (1993). Translate this darkness: The life of Christiana Morgan. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Morgan, W. G. (1995a). Origin and history of the Thematic Apperception Test images.

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