Does taking a personality test give you the jitters? Learn all about the MMPI and how it’s meant to help you.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is one of the most commonly used psychological tests in the United States.

It’s primarily used to help mental health professionals assess and diagnose mental health conditions, such as schizophreniadepression, and anxiety.

What is the MMPI?

The MMPI is a protected psychological test. This means the test and its materials are not freely available to the public. You won’t find the test items online, except for a few examples.

Only professionals who can provide the required credentials can buy the test from Pearson Assessments.

Types of MMPI tests

There are a variety of versions of the MMPI in general use today:

  • MMPI-2. This is the standard adult version of the assessment. It was first released in 1989. It contains 567 true/false questions and takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete. It’s been revised to reflect more culturally diverse values than the original 1942 version.
  • MMPI-2-Retracted Form. This version, published in 2008, is a shorter version of the MMPI-2. It’s intended for adults and contains 338 true/false items. The MMPI-2-R Ftakes about half the time as the MMPI-2 to complete, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  • MMPI-Adolescent. This is a version of the test released in 1992 for adolescents from 14 to 18 years old. The MMPI-A contains 478 items and takes about 60 minutes to complete.
  • MMPI-A-RF. This short form of the test for adolescents was released in 2016. It contains 241 items and takes 25 to 45 minutes to complete.
  • MMPI-3. This is the newest version of the MMPI. It was released in 2020. It has updated items, scales, and norms. It contains 335 items and takes 25 to 50 minutes to complete.

These versions of the test are based on different norms and clinical scales.

When do clinicians use the MMPI?

It’s important to know that the MMPI isn’t a standardized test in the usual sense. It doesn’t use percentile ranks that indicate how well you did on the test. It’s not a test you either pass or fail.

The test is part of a psychological evaluation your clinician will make. The results of the MMPI test will give your clinician a sense of what mental health conditions you might be experiencing.

The MMPI result will be just one factor in the diagnosis the clinician may make and the treatment they’ll recommend. Your mental health and medical history will be considered, along with your experiences.

What does the MMPI measure?

The MMPI has built-in clinical scales that describe a person’s psychological processes and how they respond to stress.

Each scale is made of a specific group of questions (unknown to the test taker), which the test developer’s field research says indicates a particular psychological condition.

The MMPI also has built-in validity scales designed to identify how a person approached the test, such as whether they attempted to present themselves differently from how they actually view themselves.

Here are the 10 clinical scales of the MMPI-2, which is still the most widely used version of the MMPI. These scales overlap, but generally, high scale scores point to a high risk of having a mental health disorder.

1. Hypochondriasis (Hs)

The hypochondriasis scale is designed to detect exaggerated concern over one’s health that is unsupported by medical authority. The concerns are usually vague and persist despite not being validated.

2. Depression (D)

The depression scale points to aspects related to clinical depression. The related questions concern low morale, overall dissatisfaction in life, and an absence of hope for the future.

3. Hysteria (Hy)

The hysteria scale tracks five aspects of a person:

  • poor physical health
  • shyness
  • cynicism
  • headaches
  • neuroticism

A high score on this scale could point to a variety of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, paranoia, or dissociative disorders.

4. Psychopathic deviate (Pd)

This scale points to difficulty with family and authority figures.

It also gauges feelings of alienation from self and society as well as boredom.

5. Masculinity/femininity (Mf)

This scale measures how much a person abides by stereotypical masculine and feminine values and roles.

The questions deal with:

  • activity interests
  • aesthetic preferences
  • personal sensitivities

6. Paranoia (Pa)

The paranoia scale identifies aspects of personality, such as grandiose thinking, suspicion toward other people, and rigid thinking.

It also includes items that might reflect delusions.

7. Psychasthenia (Pt)

This scale gauges a person’s ability to resist certain thoughts or behaviors.

This scale identifies abnormal fears, self-criticism, and concentration difficulty.

8. Schizophrenia (Sc)

This scale identifies tendencies toward bizarre thoughts and social alienation.

Its questions deal with:

  • family relationships
  • impulse control
  • questions of self-worth
  • sexual difficulties

9. Hypomania (Ma)

This scale identifies unhealthy overactivity expressed as excitement, elevated and unstable mood, and long strings of ideas.

Also included are feelings of grandiosity and egocentricity.

10. Social introversion (Si)

This scale gauges social introversion, which is the tendency to avoid social interactions or feel awkward and withdraw from them.

These items point to a lack of social skills and a preference to be among small groups or alone.


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