Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Dredging and Projecting the Depths of Personality: The Thematic Apperception Test and the Narratives of the Unconscious

  • Jason Miller (a1)
Abstract
Argument

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was a projective psychological test created by Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray and his lover Christina Morgan in the 1930s. The test entered the nascent intelligence service of the United States (the OSS) during the Second World War due to its celebrated reputation for revealing the deepest aspects of an individual's unconscious. It subsequently spread as a scientifically objective research tool capable not only of dredging the unconscious depths, but also of determining the best candidate for a management position, the psychological complexes of human nature, and the unique characteristics of a culture. Two suppositions underlie the utility of the test. One is the power of narrative. The test entails a calculated abuse of the subjects tested, based on their inability to interpret their own narrative. The form of the test requires that a subject fail to decipher the coded, unconscious meaning their narrative reveals. Murray believed the interpretation of a subject's narrative and the projection contained therein depended exclusively on the psychologist. This view of interpretation stems from the seemingly more reasonable belief of nineteenth-century Romantic thinkers that a literary text serves as a proxy for an author's deepest self. The TAT also supposes that there is something beyond consciousness closely resembling a psychoanalytic unconscious, which also has clear precedents in nineteenth-century German thought. Murray's views on literary interpretation, his view of psychology as well as the continuing prevalence of the TAT, signals a nineteenth-century concept of self that insists “on relations of depth and surface, inner and outer life” (Galison 2007, 277). It is clear the hermeneutic practice of Freud's psychoanalysis, amplified in Jung, drew on literary conceptions of the unconscious wider than those of nineteenth-century psychology.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Joel Black . 2000a. “Scientific Models.” In The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 5, Romanticism, edited by Marshall Brown , 115138. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

James Capshew . 1999. Psychologists on the March: Science, Practice, and Professional Identity in America, 1929–1969. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Francis Galton . 1879. “Psychometric Experiments.” Brain 2:149162.

Sebastian Gardner . 2003. “The Unconscious Mind.” In The Cambridge History of Philosophy 1870–1945, edited by Thomas Baldwin , 107119. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gunter Gödde . 2010. “Freud and Nineteenth-Century Philosophical Sources on the Unconscious.” In Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought, edited by Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher , 261287. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Charles Larmore . 2000. “Hölderlin and Novalis.” In The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, edited by Karl Amerikas , 141161. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rebecca Lemov . 2009. “Towards a Data Base of Dreams: Assembling an Archive of Elusive Materials, c. 1947– 1961.” History Workshop Journal 67:4468.

Joseph Margolis . 1987. “Goethe and Psychoanalysis.” In Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal, edited by Fredrick Amrine , Francis Zucker , and Harvey Wheeler , 83100. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Robert Richards . 2002. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Louis Schwartz . 1932. “Social Situation Pictures in the Psychiatric Interview.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 2:124132.

Rodney Triplet . 1992. “The Making of a Psychologist.” American Psychologist 47:299307.

David Winter . 1998. “Toward a Science of Personality Psychology: David McClelland's Development of Empirically Derived TAT Measures.” History of Psychology 1:130152.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 18 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 372 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 31st March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.