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What Is a Self Report Inventory?


Question: What Is a Self Report Inventory?

A self-report inventory is a type of psychological test often used in personality assessment. This type of test is often presented in a paper-and-pencil format or may even be administered on a computer. A typical self report inventory presents a number of questions or statements that may or may not describe certain qualities or characteristics of the test subject.

Chances are good that you have taken a self-report inventory at some time the past. Such questionnaires are often seen in doctors’ offices, in on-line personality tests and in market research surveys. This type of survey can be used to look at your current behaviors, past behaviors and possible behaviors in hypothetical situations.

Examples of Self-Report Inventories

  • The MMPI-2
    Perhaps the most famous self-report inventory is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). This personality test was first published in the 1940s, later revised in the 1980s and is today known as the MMPI-2. The test contains more than 500 statements that assess a wide variety of topics including interpersonal relationships, abnormal behaviors and psychological health as well as political, social, religious and sexual attitudes.

  • The 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire
    Another well known example of a self-report inventory is the questionnaire developed by Raymond Cattell to assess individuals based on his trait theory of personality. This test is used to generate personality profile of the individual and is often used to evaluate employees and to help people select a career.

  • California Personality Inventory
    California personality inventory is based on the MMPI, from which nearly half questions are drawn. The test is designed to measure such characteristic as self control, empathy and independence.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Self-Report Inventories

Self-report inventories are often an good solution when researchers need to administer a large number of tests in relatively short space of time. Many self report inventories can be completed very quickly, often in as little as 15 minutes. This type of questionnaire is an affordable option for researchers faced with tight budgets.

Another strength is that the results of self report inventories are generally much more reliable and valid than projective tests. Scoring of the tests a standardized and based on norms that have been previously established.

However, self report inventories do have their weaknesses. For example, while many tests implement strategies to prevent "faking good" or "faking bad," research has shown that people are able to exercise deception while taking self report tests (Anastasi & Urbina, 1997).

Another weakness is that some tests are very long and tedious. For example, the MMPI takes approximately 3 hours to complete. In some cases, test respondents may simply lose interest and not answer questions accurately. Additionally, people are sometimes not the best judges of their own behavior. Some individuals may try to hide their own feelings, thoughts and attitudes.


Anastasi, A., & Urbina, S. (1997) Psychological testing. (6th ed.). New York: MacMillan.

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