Use of the TAT

A final major contribution of Murray's personology theory comes from the device he used to determine individual needs and more generally measure personality. Along with Christiana Morgan, Murray developed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which continues to be a widely used instrument for assessing human personality. The TAT consists of thirty ambiguous black-and-white pictures for which an individual is instructed to make up a story. The test subject is asked to tell what led up to the event in the picture, what is happening in the picture, including how the characters are thinking and feeling, and what will happen to the characters in the future. Murray's idea was that test subjects will project their needs into the picture, much as individuals who are on a diet will notice food in most situations that they encounter. It is similar to the children's game of identifying the shapes of clouds. Children may identify clouds with children's themes of dragons, monsters, or dinosaurs. Adolescents may view these same clouds as other boys and girls, cars, or sports figures. Murray hypothesized that certain themes would emerge from individuals' responses to the figures and that themes and expectations for the future would become evident. Mental health professionals continue to use the TAT for this purpose.

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