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What Is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory?

A Look at the History and Use of the MMPI


Questions on the MMPI are in a True/False format.

The most widely used version of the MMPI (the MMPI-2) contains 567 true/false questions.

Image: Stuart Miles

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) is the most widely used and researched clinical assessment tool used by mental health professionals. Originally developed in the late 1930's by a psychologist and psychiatrist, the test was later revised and updated to improve accuracy and validity. The MMPI-2 consists of 567 questions and takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete.

You can learn in this overview of the MMPI-2:

History of the MMPI-2

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) was developed in the late 1930's by psychologist Starke R. Hathaway and psychiatrist J.C. McKinley at the University of Minnesota. Today, it is the frequently used clinical testing instrument and is one of the most researched psychological tests in existence. While the MMPI is not a perfect test, but it remains a valuable tool in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

Use of the MMPI-2

The MMPI is most commonly used by mental health professionals to assess and diagnose mental illness. The MMPI-2 has been utilized in other fields outside of clinical psychology. The test is often used in legal cases, including criminal defense and custody disputes. The test has also been used as screening instrument for certain professions, especially high risk jobs, although the use of the MMPI in this manner has been controversial. The test is also used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs, including substance abuse programs.

MMPI Revisions

In the years after the test was first published, clinicians and researchers began to question the accuracy of the MMPI. Critics pointed out that the original sample group was inadequate. Others argued that the results indicated possible test bias, while other felt the test itself contained sexist and racist questions. In response to these issues, the MMPI underwent a revision in the late 1980's. Many questions were removed or reworded while a number of new questions were added. Additionally, new validity scales were incorporated in the revised test.

The revised edition of the test was released in 1989 as the MMPI. While the test received revision again in 2001, the MMPI is still in use today and is the most frequently used clinical assessment test. Because the MMPI is copyrighted by the University of Minnesota, clinicians must pay to administer and utilize the test.

The test was revised again in 2003 and 2008. The most recent edition of the test is known as the MMPI-2-RF.

Administering the MMPI-2

The MMPI-2 contains 567 test items and takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete. The MMPI-2-RF contains 338 questions and takes around 30 to 50 minutes to complete.

The MMPI should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a professional, preferably a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, who has received specific training in MMPI use. The test should be used in collaboration with other assessment tools. Diagnosis should never be made solely on the results of the test.

The MMPI can be administered individually or in groups and computerized versions are available. The test is designed for individual’s age 18 and older. The test can be scored by hand or by computer, but results should always be interpreted by a qualified mental health professional that has had extensive training in MMPI interpretation.

Next: 10 Scales of the MMPI-2
Validity Scales of the MMPI-2

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