Thematic Apperception Test

The meaning of your responses

This project is designed to give you information about both language use and personality assessment. The picture you were asked to describe came from the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT. The purpose is to see how individuals reveal parts of their own personalities while looking at an ambiguous picture. The words that you used were analyzed using the LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) program developed at the University of Texas and University of Auckland in New Zealand. If you would like to get more information on LIWC, go to www.liwc.net.

The TAT was originally designed to determine the degree to which people wrote about themes relating to achievement, affiliation, and power. Although there are a series of different TAT pictures, this one is somewhat related to each of these themes — although most people make up a story with achievement themes. For example, some people emphasize the nature of the experiment or scientific discovery (reflecting the writer’s interests in achievement and success); others may focus on the nature of the friendship between the two women (interests in affiliation); yet others may focus on the status differences of the two women (reflecting the writer’s concerns with status and power); By analyzing the words that you use, we can get a rough sense of your interest in each of these themes.

Here is a short analysis of your word use. Keep in mind that the more words you wrote, the more trustworthy these analyses. If you feel that your writing didn’t reflect who you really are, go back and start over. At the same time, don’t take these results too seriously.

LIWC dimension Your data Male average Female average
Need for Achievement 3.72 5.8 5.6
Need for Affiliation 0.00 1.1 1.3
Need for power 0.88 1.7 1.8
Self-references (I, me, my) 0.00 0.5 0.8
Social words 8.75 11.4 12.0
Positive emotions 3.06 1.8 2.1
Negative emotions 0.22 1.5 1.6
Big words (> 6 letters) 20.13 18.7 17.7

Overall, you wrote 457 words in the 10 minutes.

Need for Achievement. The typical person generally scores between 4.5 and 8.5, with an average of 5.7. The higher your number, the more you wrote about achievement-related themes.

Need for Affiliation. Because this picture typically elicits themes associated with achievement, most people don’t pay too much attention to human relationships in their story. In fact, the typical person scores around 1.2 on this dimension. Indeed, 30% of participants score 0.00.

Need for Power. Most people score between 0.8 and 2.7, with the average being 1.7. High scores on the need for power dimension hint that the writer is concerned with who is or is not in control andwho has the most status.

One thing that is interesting about this kind of exercise is that language analyses can tell us many things about the writer that go far beyond power, achievement, and affiliation. Look at the table below. In it, you can determine some features of your own writing and can get a sense of your writing style compared with others:

Self-references: People who use a high rate of self-references tend to be more insecure, nervous, and possibly depressed. They also tend to be more honest.

Social words: Social words are words that make reference to other people (e.g., they, she, us, talk, friends). Generally, people who use a high level of social words are more outgoing and more socially connected with others.

Positive emotion words: The more that people use positive emotion words (e.g. happy, love, good), the more optimistic they tend to be. If you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to see the world in a positive way.

Negative emotion words: Use of negative emotion words (e.g., sad, kill, afraid) is weakly linked to people’s ratings of anxiety or even neurotic. People who have had a bad day are more likely to see the world through negatively-tinted glasses.

Big words (words with more than 6 letters): Use of big words is weakly related to higher grades and standardized test scores. People who use a high rate of big words also tend to be less emotional and oftentimes psychologically distant or detached.

The Big Picture: The above interpretations should be considered with a grain of salt for your own writing. Your approach to the assignment may have been influenced by people bothering you, concerns about other things in your life, lack of sleep, etc. In addition, it is important to remember that the TAT is generally administered in a highly controlled situation and is always graded by a real-live human being. You will recall from the book that the TAT was devised to tap people’s needs for achievement, power, and affiliation. Look at your own writings and see if you can pick up if you were in high in these motives. For example, if you said that one person was thinking about her future career, a TAT expert would probably say that you were higher in a need for achievement than if you said that the person was thinking about her lover (which would hint that you were higher in need for affiliation).


Date/Time: 9 April 2013, 8:34 pm

Your TAT description: It was a typical day in one of Mrs. Finkle’s Advance Biochemistry Class. During that day, they were conducting experiments to separate the different components making up the DNA. They already had their lecture about the process the previous day and Mrs. Finkle would like to see her students in action. This would be not only for assessment if they have fully understood the discussion but also to provide the students with hands-on experience and let them add another layer of understanding on the methodology, its process and importance. One of the students she was particularly keen on observing was Dolores. Dolores cannot be labeled as a favorite as she always made sure not to have any favorites. All her students were equal and she made sure her treatment with each one was fair and just. Mrs. Finkle remained objective when it comes to dealing with every student that happens to be in her class but that does not mean that she is or was ever cold to them. In essence, Mrs. Finkle has achieved a balance of tender encouragement and stern discipline after countless years of being a mentor and a good one, at that. She was keen on observing Dolores because she sees Dolores as a very rough unpolished gem. With the years of experience backing her up, she knows what Dolores is capable of doing and achieving. Dolores seemed to be unaware of the hawk-eye gaze that Mrs. Finkle has been giving her since the beginning of the term and most especially today. Because of the delicacy of the process, Mrs. Finkle has been going around the class giving answers when asked and asking questions whenever she wanted. The time came when Mrs. Finkle reached Dolores’ spot. She saw that not only was Dolores doing the procedure with ease but she also saw that there were notes around the area where she has made ineligible scribbles. “Or, they could be symbols,” Mrs. Finkle thought. She made it a point that during the period when there was nothing to be done but wait, she went back to Dolores and asked what the notes were about. The answer amazed her even more. Dolores took notes of ideas wherein she may be able to change the method to achieve a different result. She also took note of what may possibly fine-tune the process. Dolores even asked that Mrs. Finkle review them. And right then, Mrs. Finkle knew that she was not wrong in endorsing Dolores to the Future Chemists Foundation for the scholarship. She knew that with the right tools and guidance, not only from her but from other astute mentors as well, the future will be bright, not only Dolores’ but also humanity’s.

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