Self-report inventory

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A self-report inventory is a type of psychological test in which a person fills out a survey or questionnaire with or without the help of an investigator. Self-report inventories often ask direct questions about symptoms, behaviors, and personality traits associated with one or many mental disorders or personality types in order to easily gain insight into a patient's personality or illness. Most self-report inventories can be taken or administered within five to 15 minutes, although some, like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), can take up to three hours to fully complete. There are three major approaches to developing self-report inventories: theory-guided, factor analysis, and criterion-key. Theory-guided inventories are constructed around a theory of personality. Criterion-keyed inventories include questions that have been shown to statistically discriminate between a control group and a criterion group. Questionnaires typically use one of three formats: a Likert scale, true-false, or forced choice. True-false involves questions that the individual denotes as either being true or false about themselves. Forced-choice is a pair of statements that require the individual to choose one as being most representative of themselves.

Self-report inventories can have validity problems. Patients may exaggerate symptoms in order to make their situation seem worse, or they may under-report the severity or frequency of symptoms in order to minimize their problems. Another issue is the social desirability bias.

Personality inventories

Self-report personality inventories-

  • Personality assessment tests that include questions dealing with situations, symptoms, and feelings. Test-takers-are asked to indicate how well each item describes themselves or how much they agree with each item.

Honesty of response may be the major problem with the self-report personality tests. Test questions are often transparent, and people can usually figure out how to respond to make themselves appear to possess whatever qualities they think the organization wants.


The biggest problem with self-report inventories is that patients may exaggerate symptoms in order to make their situation seem worse, or they may under-report the severity or frequency of symptoms in order to minimize their problems. For this reason, self-report inventories should be used only for measuring for symptom change and severity and should never be solely used to diagnose a mental disorder. Clinical discretion is advised for all self-report inventories.

Many personality tests, such as the MMPI or the MBTI add questions that are designed to make it very difficult for a person to exaggerate traits and symptoms. However, these tests suffer from the inherent problems associated with personality theory and testing, in that personality is a fluid concept that can be difficult to define.

Popular self-report inventories

See also


  • Aiken, L. R. (2002) Psychological Testing and Assessment. New York: Allyn & Bacon
  • Gregory, R. J. (2007) Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education
  • Schultz, Sydney Ellen; Schultz, Duane P. (2005). Psychology and Work Today. New York: Prentice Hall. p. 116. ISBN 0-13-193212-8.