Face validity in personality tests: Psychometric instruments and projective techniques in comparison

Riccardo Sartori


Face validity is a controversial kind of test validity. Personality tests are divided into two big categories: projective techniques and psychometric instruments. They differ also for face validity, which influences the perception that people have of tests themselves. The article reports the scientific debate on face validity, and the results of a study carried out on naive subjects in order to let them compare projective techniques and psychometric instruments on the mere basis of their surface. An ad hoc questionnaire was administered. It asked subjects to compare projective techniques and psychometric instruments by using 13 adjectives. The sample, accidental, is composed of 238 participants, 45 males and 193 females. The data were substantially analyzed through techniques of Correspondence Analysis. Personality tests are principally judged through two dimensions: the aesthetic and the efficacy. The first dimension characterizes in particular projective techniques; the second, psychometric instruments. Although participants acknowledge that psychometric instruments are credible and scientific, there is a clear preference for projective techniques, principally by females, people younger than 22 and participants with lower education. Personality tests have an appearance that is judged by those who look at them. The aesthetic seems to prevail on the efficacy perception, but it would be suitable to carry on the same research with a sample stratified in respect of the personal details measured by the questionnaire.