You have been asked (or required) to submit to a psychometric test called the MMPI-2. Perhaps you are applying for a job with the government or a private company and the test is part of pre-employment screening. Maybe child protective services (CPS) has taken your children and is requesting the test. Or you could even be a party in a civil or criminal case and are considering using the test to help prove your case, or the court has already ordered it (and it may be used against you). If you are considering taking the MMPI-2 for any reason, it is a good idea to learn about the possible risks.
First, I will give you a brief synopsis of what the MMPI-2 is. “MMPI-2” stands for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Revised for adults. The original MMPI was developed in the 1940’s by two psychologists who believed that patients would describe their problems honestly through self-reports if proper conditions could be arranged. In the 1980’s efforts began to revise the MMPI. Several changes were made during the revision that were designed to improve the validity of the test. The MMPI-2 has 10 standard areas (called Clinical Scales) in which the subject is being evaluated. There are also 8 Validity Scales to assess truthfulness, level of cooperation with testing (defensiveness), and also to assess if someone is “faking bad” by exaggerating symptoms. There are also a number of Content Scales that indicate problems in more narrowly defined areas, such as marital problems and alcohol abuse. The standard MMPI-2 has 567 test items, but many psychologists chose to give an abbreviated version of the test which consists of only the first 370 items. The instructions for the MMPI-2 state that in order to get the maximum amount of information from the test, the test taker needs to answer all 567 test items. However, it seems most psychologists only give the shortened version which doesn’t allow for a full, accurate assessment of the content scales.
The MMPI was originally designed for use in clinical settings, such as counseling, therapy, and hospital treatment of mental patients. The MMPI-2 has been used in many other, very different, applications since the revision. Some common uses (other than clinical) of the MMPI-2 are:
· Evaluation of parents in custody disputes
· Evaluation of parents during CPS investigations
· Classification of convicted felons who are incarcerated
· Assessment in personal injury cases to determine if the claimant has the problems he or she claims
· Personality assessment for public safety positions such as police, airline pilot
· Assessing criminal responsibility and competence to stand trial
Usually when one takes the MMPI-2, there is alot at stake. Sometimes the psychologist administering the test does not tell you everything you need to know about how the test results will be used. It is important for the test-taker to be aware of the possible consequences of taking the test. Regardless of the reason for taking the test, you should be aware that the results will not be confidential. If you are taking the test in a clinical setting, perhaps to help your treatment provider determine how best to help you, then you will be told that you have certain confidentiality. Most clinicians will tell you that everything that happens during treatment, including test results, will be confidential except in these three situations: If you are a danger to yourself (suicidal), a danger to someone else, or in case of a court subpoena. If you are not currently involved in a court action, especially not one in which your mental health is not an issue, then you may be tempted to dismiss the last as irrelevant. The truth is that your test results may be shared with colleagues of your clinician, released to the Social Security Administration in the case of pending disability claims (or re-evaluation of disability), released to a court and other parties in a future court case (which you may not have been expecting when taking the test), released to law enforcement officials during an investigation (which you may never be aware of, thanks to the Patriot Act), released to insurance companies, released to child welfare officials, and released to clinicians you may see in the future. That is alot of people who could possibly see your private information, and that doesn’t account for people who take the test for other reasons. Depending on why you take the test, it could be released to family members, ex-spouses, employers, potential employers, and any number of people involved in a court case. This lack of true confidentiality may be a serious concern to you.
Many times you are not told of the possible consequences of a poor test result. Employers refuse to hire job hopefuls, employees are fired, children are removed from their parents and placed in foster care, litigants in civil cases have a more difficult time proving their cases, and much expense and time are required to invalidate the poor results.
Studies have shown that there is NO accurate, valid way to predict future behavior- including using psychometric tests. Interpreting the results of the MMPI-2 is very subjective as well. A person could have their test interpreted by two different psychologists and each will give different interpretations or predictions based on their own motives, experiences, biases, and education. One may see psychopathology where the other sees normal reactions to a stressful environment or to a traumatic incident.
So, when you are asked or ordered to take the MMPI-2, be sure to consider all of the above information in determining if it is truly in your best interest to comply. Sometimes you have no choice in the matter, and in that case it would be advisable to learn what you can to avoid a poor result. If you do have a choice, you may still feel the test is necessary for your purpose. In that case, be sure you stay aware of future implications your test results may have, and make sure you learn what you need to in order to get the result you need.
Butcher, J. N. (1999). A beginner’s guide to the MMPI-2. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Pope, K. S., Butcher, J. N., Seelen J. (2000). The MMPI, MMPI-2, & MMPI-A in Court: A practical guide for expert witnesses and attorneys, second edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.