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Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Impact


Minnesota Multiphasic Personality inventory (MMPI) has been in use for quite some time mainly in the treatment of mental illnesses. Earlier criticisms led to the development of MMPI-2 which remains to be in use up-to-date and is usually administered through 10 different scales, with each scale providing information about a certain psychotic state. Its ability to assess a wide range of psychological disorders and subjection to validity testing enhances its significance in psychological testing in the 21st century, more so because it influences accuracy in diagnosis and treatment. The discussion in this paper will explore the origin of MMPI and how it has impacted the development of psychological testing in the 21st century.

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The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality inventory (MMPI), was developed by the end of the 1930s by psychologist Starke R. Hathaway and psychiatrist J. C. McKinley at the University of Minnesota has frequently been used to diagnose and treat mental illnesses, as well as being used in courts to solve legal issues such as self-defense. In addition, MMPI has been used in the monitoring of the high-risk professions and evaluation of the treatment programs and the substance abuse programs (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 80). This paper explores the roots of MMPI as well as its significance and effect on the development of psychological testing in the 21st century.

Origination of MMPI-2

After the publishing of the MMPI, researchers and clinicians began to question its accuracy, their criticism mainly being based on the number of individuals used in the experimentation which they claimed to be so small that it could not be a true representation of the population (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 106). Others also argued that the test was in a way biased against certain groups of individuals mainly in terms of gender and race (Archer, 1997, p 18). As a result of these criticisms, the MMPI was taken through a revision in the 1980s and a lot of adjustments were made to the original draft which encompassed the inclusion of validity tests among other things. The revised version was released in 1989 and was given a new name, the MMPI-2 (Archer, 1997, p 24), while further adjustments were done to the test in 2001. Moreover, the MMPI-2 remains useful currently though the clinicians have to pay in order to use it as it is owned by the University of Minnesota where its founders come from.

Administering of the MMPI

The MMPI-2 contains about 567 tests which are normally administered in about 60-90 minutes (Archer, 1997, p 34). The MMPI-2 is administered, tallied and then interpreted by either a psychologist or a psychiatrist who has been trained to use MMPI-2. MMPI-2 is always employed with other forms of assessments since the diagnosis can never be done based on the outcome of the MMPI-2 alone. The test can either be applied to a single person or to a group of people, for instance, students aged eighteen years and above (Archer, 1997, p 55)

The MMPI-2 has 10 scales and each of the scales is used to indicate a given psychotic state. These scales include Hypochondriasis which was designed to assess the effect of the neurotic system on the functions of the body – it was meant to assess persons showing signs of hypochondria (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p138). The second scale was the depression scale that was used to point out the existence of depression by looking at features such as loss of hope, dissatisfaction with one’s life, and lack of morale – a high score was regarded as depression. Scale three was used to measure people suffering from hysteria while the fourth was to measure psychopathic divergence as well as to assess the deficiency of acceptance of authority, morality and social deviation; a high score in the latter scale implies that the individual could be suffering from a personality disorder rather than a psychotic disorder. The fifth scale was the masculinity or femininity scale that was used to identify symptoms of homosexuality; though this scale has been found ineffective in testing what it was designed for (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p 142).

The sixth scale was developed to identify the paranoid symptoms mainly dealing with fear or phobia e.g. in self-esteem, harassment and attitude while the seventh scale mainly involved stressful and excessive fears such as compulsion, fascination or obsession and worries (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 179). A high score on this could be regarded as obsessive-compulsive disorder; this scale though is no longer in use. The eighth scale was used to identify the patients suffering from schizophrenia by looking at symptoms like difficulty in concentration and impulse control, poor relationship with family members, bizarre thought processes and strange perceptions among others (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 156). The ninth scale mainly dealt with the identification of the presence of depression or an increased speed in talking or motor activities, a high score of which denoted the presence of hypomania in the subject under the study. The tenth scale which was developed was the social introversion scale that was used to measure the likelihood of an individual avoiding social contacts and responsibility.

The MMPI-2 also had validity scales that were meant to assess the viability of the answers given by the patient (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p 5). They include the L-scale or the lie scale which was meant to detect the attempts of patients presenting themselves in a more positive weight than they actually are. The F-scale or the faking scale was to assess if the people taking the test were pretending to be bad or good, the K-scale was the defensiveness scale which detected a person’s attempt to present him/herself in a positive way, and the ?-scale was to assess the number of questions that have not been answered by the patient (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p 105). The “VRIN (Variable response inconsistency) and the TRIN (true response inconsistency) scales” were meant to detect the patients that give irregular responses and finally there was the Fb scale which was used to determine the level of concentration of the patient during the test (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p 105).

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Significance of MMPI

The development of MMPI as a psychological testing tool has been of great success. It has been beneficial in psychological testing because it is able to assess a wide range of psychological disorders and not just a single one as it is always common with a number of personality assessments (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 10). This makes it possible for an accurate diagnosis of a patient to be done mainly because the other personality measures only concentrate on a single or few aspects of the individual. In effect, the final diagnosis may not be very accurate since a number of aspects of the patient’s life have not been taken into consideration (Friedman, Nichols and Lewak, 2001, p 13).

The MMPI also contains a number of validity scales that are meant to assess the patient’s attempts to lie, fake or distort information. This is very important in psychological testing because a faked or distorted psychological assessment will lead to a wrong inference and as a result, a wrong diagnosis. This aspect of MMPI, therefore, makes the information it gives quite credible. The MMPI has greatly contributed to psychological testing because it has content validity which therefore makes it quite an effective tool in measuring various psychological problems faced by various members of the society i.e. adolescents and adults. This is because the content of the test can always be adjusted to suit the patient in question (Levitt and Gotts, 1995, p. 78)


In summary, the MMPI was developed in 1930 but was later revised as a result of a number of criticisms that were coming from the clinicians and the researchers about its accuracy. After its revision, its name was changed to MMPI-2 and since then, it has been used by medical personnel to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. The MMPI-2 has about 567 tests, 10 scales for testing varied psychological problems, and validity scales to assess the viability of the information that the patient has given. It has greatly contributed to psychological testing because it allows for the testing of a variety of psychological problems, most of which a number of individuals are experiencing in the 21st century.


Archer, R. (1997). MMPI-A: Assessing adolescent psychopathology. Philadelphia, Lawrence Erlbaum associates.

Friedman, A. Lewak, R. Nichols, D. (2001). Psychological assessment with MMPI-2. Philadelphia, Lawrence Erlbaum associates.

Levitt, E. Gotts, E. (1995). The Clinical application of MMPI special scales. New Jersey, Roultledge.

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