Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

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The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory ( MMPI ) is one of the most widely used personality tests in clinical psychology and psychiatry worldwide . It serves as an aid in the investigation of the personality structure, especially in the case of mental disorders .


The MMPI was developed in the USA in the late 1930s and first published in 1943. The authors were the psychologist Starke R. Hathaway and the neurologist J. Charnley McKinley. In a German adaptation, the test was first published in 1963 as MMPI-Saarbrücken. Today's standard version for adults aged 18 and over, the MMPI-2, was published in the original English version in 1989 and a German version in 2000. Translations are available for at least 30 other languages, and the test is officially published by a publisher in 18 countries.


The test booklet of the MMPI-2 consists of 567 short statements (called " items ", similar to: "I like collecting art catalogs", "I can predict the future", "I am always afraid and afraid") with the words "Applies "Or" Does not apply. " During the evaluation, the answers for individual areas or "scales" are added up and the answer sums are compared with the values ​​of a reference population. Healthy test subjects need almost an hour, patients up to 90 minutes to answer all items. A seldom used short form consists of the first 370 items of the test. This means that the classic scales of the original MMPI can be evaluated, but not those that were added to the MMPI-2. A version for teenagers aged 14 to 18, called MMPI-A, is also in use in the United States. In adolescents, the congruence between self-assessed and actual behavior is less close, so questionnaire procedures in adolescents must be interpreted carefully.

The MMPI is the prime example of a purely empirically constructed test procedure in which the items were only combined into appropriate scales based on the measured response probabilities of selected patient groups. Thus (as an example) the paranoia scale consists of the items of the entire test which, at the time the scale was constructed, were answered more frequently in key directions by patients with a paranoid syndrome than by patients with other or no diagnoses. This method of test construction is in contrast to other (“rational”) construction principles that were used then as well as today, which are based on a theoretical concept and ultimately assign items to specific scales based on the text content. Due to its atheoretical construction, the MMPI records empirically definable and meaningful psychopathological syndromes, regardless of the change in theoretical reference systems.

Application area

The whole structure of the MMPI is more of an inventory for mental disorders than a general personality test (such as the NEO-PI-R ). The aim of the test authors was to construct an objective tool for diagnosing mental disorders that was independent of the examiner and his or her theoretical orientation and previous training. Accordingly, the application focus is on clinical-psychological and psychiatric issues. The MMPI-2 is also often used in psychological and psychiatric court opinions when the diagnosis of a mental disorder or the assessment of aspects of behavior under emotional stress are required. There are certain overlaps with the Freiburg personality inventory , which was actually constructed with a view to the normal personality , but is often used in the border area to psychological abnormalities.

In Austria, the short form of the MMPI is mandatory when a (private) application for weapons law documents is submitted ( Section 3 ( 2) 1st Weapons Act Implementation Ordinance). Applicants for the police service must also take the test ( Section 14, Paragraph 2 of the Proficiency Test Ordinance - Interior).

Application and evaluation

For routine use of the MMPI-2, in addition to the test manual, which contains all the information and tables required for use, a test booklet with the 567 items and an answer sheet are required. For the hand evaluation you also need a set of templates for the manual counting of the answers of the individual scales and a set of profile sheets for the graphic representation of the test results. Instead of manual evaluation, evaluation by computer is becoming more and more common. Occasionally, it is also used directly on the screen. For the German version there is an evaluation by fax: The answer sheet is sent by fax to an evaluation service, which faxes back a complete, graphically prepared evaluation, with a verbal interpretation of the test results if desired.

Composition of the scales

There is an overview of all MMPI-2 scales on the American publisher's website. In contrast to most other clinical questionnaires, the MMPI has its own category of "validity scales", which are used to assess the validity of a test profile. Only the Personality Assessment Inventory, which is not yet available in German, has an almost equally good validity check of the answers. On the one hand, the validity scales systematically recognize content-independent answers (for example, almost only use one answer category, alternately tick right and wrong, or simply answer randomly), but also general tendencies in the presentation of answers to the questionnaire, be it in the direction of glossing over or exaggerating complaints . The repertoire of these validity scales, which initially only consisted of the three scales L, F and K, has been systematically expanded in the MMPI-2 and now includes around a dozen scales, not all of which are evaluated in the German version.

The original "clinical base scales" (in the German version Hd, D, Hy, Pp, Mf, Pa, Pt, Sc, Ma and Si or even just with the numbers 1 to 9 and 0) were all constructed in the 1940s been. In terms of psychiatric nomenclature, they are out of date. In spite of this, they are still in use because most of the hints for interpretation are available for them, not only for each scale individually, but above all for various combinations of scales. For most of these scales, which are relatively broad in terms of content, sub-scales are also in use that cover partial aspects. Hundreds of special scales were constructed for the old MMPI between 1950 and 1990, but only a few are clinically used.

With the redesign of the MMPI-2, in which some of the items of the old MMPI were exchanged, two new sets of scales came into use: in 1990 the "content scales" and in 1993 the associated "content component scales" (rationally constructed scales, which are located in the routine clinical practice) and in 2003 the “Restructured Clinical Scales” or RC scales for short. With the RC scales, an attempt was made to reduce the strong content-related (and formal: many items are calculated for several clinical base scales) overlap of the clinical base scales. The source of variance common to all scales of discouragement in the face of noticeable symptoms of a mental disorder was isolated as a separate scale under the name “Demoralization”. Associated with this is the hope that the “restructured” clinical scales, which each contain the central aspects of the basic clinical scales, would overlap less. In the USA, a test form of the MMPI-2 that is based on the RC scales has been available since summer 2008 under the name "MMPI-2 RF". There is currently no German version of it.


A search for scientific publications on the keyword MMPI in the database of the National Library of Medicine leads to over 7000 publications. For decades there has been extremely extensive empirical data for the MMPI on which an interpretation of the test profile can be based. Starting with Paul Meehl's essay from 1956 with the programmatic title Wanted - A Good Cookbook , in which he called for an explicit interpretation for the MMPI on the basis of formal (and thus computerizable) rules, various, differently differentiated interpretation systems were constructed, primarily in the USA. The Minnesota Report by James N. Butcher and the Caldwell Report by Alex Caldwell are best known and probably also most frequently used in the English-speaking world . In German-speaking countries, an adaptation of Lachar's interpretation system is in use, but it does not yet include the new MMPI-2 scales in the interpretation. Such interpretation systems generally store more interpretive knowledge than those skilled in the art can recall from their memory-stored clinical knowledge. However, interpretations generated in this way can also be incorrect in individual cases, which is why a review by a specialist who is experienced with the test is essential.

Copyrights and application control

The owner of the original rights to the MMPI is the University of Minnesota , the rights of the German version are held by Verlag Hans Huber in Bern. As with most professional psychological testing procedures, use is strictly monitored for ethical and economic reasons. The test material is only given to qualified psychologists and doctors. In performing and especially in interpreting the MMPI-2, profound technical knowledge is required, which requires training with the test and clinical experience. The computer and fax evaluations are chargeable.


The psychometric inadequacies of both the MMPI and the MMPI-2 have often been complained about internationally and in German specialist publications. More recent examples are given in the reviews below .

In North America in particular, there were violent disputes in the 1960s about the use of the MMPI and other test procedures in non-psychiatric areas, especially in occupational aptitude tests. Often this criticism was directed not only specifically against the MMPI, but also generally against the use of clinical test procedures in personnel selection. This criticism was and is essentially directed against the equation of the tester-testant relationship, which in therapeutic practice is based on the relationship of trust between patient and psychologist or doctor, but conversely in the selection or promotion of personnel on the inevitable confrontation between the proficiency testers and the job applicant or job applicant. In contrast, a very wide field for concerns opens up when the biographical, social or employment-typical relationship of the items is discussed.

A completely different criticism perspective deals with the legal admissibility of clinical diagnostic procedures in operational interests. The set of rules of the German Works Constitution Act places very narrow limits on the application of the MMPI. In Austria, too, a works agreement would be required for employees ( § 96 , § 96a ArbVG), and in companies without a works council the consent of the test person would be necessary. Applicants are not protected by the Labor Constitution Act. In the US-American case law it was decided in individual cases that the use of the MMPI is permissible if the applicants' emotional resilience is of essential importance for the advertised position and no other possibility is available to make corresponding determinations. In German-speaking countries there is obviously little (documented) experience in using the MMPI for this purpose.

Reviews in trade journals

  • Angleitner, A. (1997) Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Test Review. Zeitschrift für Differielle und Diagnostische Psychologie , 18, 4–10 (reply to this in the same issue, pages 10–15).
  • Hank, P. & Schwenkmezger, P. (2003) Test review: The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - 2 (MMPI-2) in the German revision by Rolf R. Engel (2000). Report Psychologie , 28, 294–303 (statement by the editor of the German edition on this in the same issue, 304–306). Full text of review and statement (PDF; 13 pages, 148 kB, (archive) )


  • Greene, RL (2000) The MMPI-2. An Interpretive Manual. Second edition . Boston: Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 0205284167 (new edition in preparation)
  • Graham, JR (2005) MMPI-2: Assessing Personality and Psychopathology . New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195168062
  • Nichols, DF (2001) Essentials of MMPI-2 Assessment. New York: Wiley. ISBN 0471345334

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hathaway, SR & McKinley, JC (1943) The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
  2. ^ Spreen, O. (1963) MMPI-Saarbrücken. Handbook for the German edition of the MMPI by SR Hathaway and JC McKinley. Bern: Huber
  3. ^ Hathaway, SR & McKinley, JC (2000) MMPI-2. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2 . German adaptation by Rolf R. Engel. Bern: Huber
  4. ^ Butcher, JN (Ed.) (1996) International Adaptations of the MMPI-2 . Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816626324
  5. MMPI-2 & MMPI-A Translations. University of Minnesota , archived from the original on February 21, 2009 ; accessed on September 29, 2012 (English).
  6. ^ Information for joining the executive service. (PDF) Provincial Police Command for Vienna, p. 4 , archived from the original on April 18, 2009 ; Retrieved September 29, 2012 .
  7. MMPI-2 scales. University of Minnesota , accessed September 29, 2012 .
  8. ^ Butcher, JN & Graham, JR (1990) Development and Use of the MMPI-2 Content Scales. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
  9. Ben-Porath, YS & Sherwood, NE (1993) The MMPI-2 Content Component Scales: Development, Psychometric Characteristics, and Clinical Application. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
  10. Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, YS, McNulty, JL, Arbisi, PA, Graham, JR, & Kaemmer, B. (2003) The MMPI-2 Restructured Clinical Scales: Development, Validation, and Interpretation . Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=DetailsSearch&Term=(%22mmpi%22%5BMeSH+Terms%5D+OR+%22mmpi%22%5BAll+Fields%5D)+ NOT +% 22metalloproteases% 22% 5BMeSH + Terms% 5D
  12. ^ Paul E. Meehl (1956) Wanted - A good cookbook. American Psychologist , 11, 263-272
  13. Engel, RR (1980) Validation of a clinical routine system for the computerized creation of MMPI findings in psychiatric patients, Archive for Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases , 229, 165–177
  14. Brayfield, AH (Ed) (1965) Special issue: testing and public policy. American Psychologist , 20, 857-1002
  15. Gerrick von Hoyningen-Huene , The psychological test in the company , IHSauer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1997.
  16. Super, JT (1997) Select legal and ethical aspects of pre-employment psychological evaluations. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology , 12, 1-6

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