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Cheryl L. Karp, Ph.D.
Leonard Karp, J.D.
The MMPI is the most frequently used clinical test.
Therefore, it is employed quite often in court cases to provide personality
information on defendants or litigants in which psychological adjustment factors are
pertinent to resolution of the case. It is easy to administer and provides an
objective measure of personality. Since it is such a well-researched and highly
reliable instrument, it is often used in custody evaluations. It provides clear,
valid descriptions of people's problems, symptoms, and characteristics in broadly accepted
clinical language. The profiles are easy to explain in court and appear to be
relatively easy for people to understand. However, with any psychological
instrument, it is important to acquaint yourself with the background of the test and to
acquaint yourself with the assets and liabilities of any test used to assess your client.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI, was
developed in the late 1930s by a psychologist and a psychiatrist at the University of
Minnesota. It was originally intended for use with an adult population, but was then
extended to include teenagers, mostly for teens in the middle years, about 15 and 16.
It required at least a sixthgrade reading level, so it was definitely not
applicable for average children below the age of about 13 or for retarded persons.
The MMPI was sometimes given to bright children of 11 or 12 years, but then great
caution was exercised in the interpretation of the results. When the MMPI was
completely revised in 1989 (see MMPI-2, next section), adolescent norms were not
developed. The new instrument was not intended to be used for adolescents.
Therefore, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent (MMPI-A) was
developed. Although the MMPI has undergone a complete revision, resulting in the
MMPI-2, the MMPI is discussed here since many psychologists still report results from the
MMPI and it forms the basis for the MMPI-2.
The MMPI has ten clinical scales and three validity scales plus a
host of supplementary scales. The clinical scales were originally intended to
distinguish "pure" groups with psychiatric disorders. Therefore, the
actual names of the scales assert bold and, sometimes, exoticsounding psychiatric
labels. For example, Scale 1 is referred to as the hypochondriasis scale, Scale 8 is
labeled the schizophrenia scale, Scale 9 is labeled the hypomania scale, Scale 4 is the
psychopathic deviate scale, and Scale 7 is the psychasthenia scale. Other scales
reflect more understandable symptoms such as Scale 2, depression; Scale 3, hysteria; Scale
5, masculinity-femininity; Scale 6, paranoia; and Scale 0, social introversion.
Researchers quickly found out that the scales were not able to be
"pure" measures of the psychiatric diagnostic groups (in part this is due to the
overlap in symptoms in some of the disorders). Thus, an elevation on Scale 8 did not
mean that the client was definitely schizophrenic. As a result, the numbers of the
subscales quickly replace the psychiatric labels in common usage. Thus, instead of
talking about the hypochondriasis scale, the clinician will talk about Scale 1.
Researchers also found out that it was common for people to score
high on more than one scale at the same time and that interpretations using two or more
scales tended to be more sophisticated or refined, more useful, and more accurate.
Therefore, patterns of elevations were distinguished, and the numbers were used as a
shorthand to describe the elevations. Thus, a 24 meant that there were
elevations above the "normal" range on scales 2 and 4, and 2 was the higher
elevation. When the elevations are noted (either as done here or when presented as a
graph), the result is called a "profile." Researchers literally went out
and gathered data on the personality characteristics of those who scored high on the
24 or any other combination (sometimes relevant clustering involving three scales,
such as a 468). The amount of research is impressive.
As mentioned earlier, the MMPI is vulnerable to faking because of
the transparency of some of the items. The three validity scales are designed to
help the psychologist identify abnormal response sets that might suggest "faking
good" or "faking bad." In spite of these special scales, it is easier
for the client to slant answers to give a favorable or unfavorable impression with the
MMPI than with the Rorschach, for example. On the other hand, it is much more
difficult to consistently bias the MMPI than an instrument of less complexity and more
transparency, such as the Thematic Apperception Test (the TAT).
The nature of the instrument, with true and false answers and
patterns readily identifiable, has prompted the development of books to supply
interpretations of the results. The information is given in the form of descriptive
statements that tend to be true of clients whose scores yield certain profiles. These
books tend to be called "cookbooks" by psychologists. Thus, if the result
shows a 24 profile, one can look in any number of "cookbooks" to find the
personality descriptors attached to elevations on 2 and 4 alone and then as a combined
In the hands of a skilled and experienced psychologist, the MMPI
is a powerful instrument and allows for powerful presentation in court. However, the
MMPI must be interpreted in light of the biographical and other information about
the client. "Blind interpretations," where nothing is known of the client except
perhaps gender, may be useful for testing a psychologist's memory about the descriptive
statements attached to certain individual scale elevations or certain profiles. They
are not useful, and may be dangerous, in interpreting MMPI results for forensic work or
any other professional psychology work. For example, an elevation on Scale 8 (schizophrenia)
may have a different interpretation if the client is in a psychiatric hospital than if the
person is a respected professor at a university, with no history of psychiatric disorder,
who is interested in yoga or some other occult or esoteric study.
The psychologist administering and interpreting the MMPI must pay
attention to all relevant factors, including age, sex, education, social class, religious
background, place of residence, and other historical data. This information must be
integrated correctly with research data, such as is found in the "cookbooks," in
order for the interpretation to be valid.
Computer use has brought other problems to the area of MMPI
interpretation. Computer programs have been developed to allow computers to score
the raw data (anywhere from 399 true and false answers for the "abbreviated"
MMPI form to almost 600 answers for the full MMPI form), produce the files in printed
graph form, and do the work of fetching interpretative information from
"cookbooks." Undeniably, the computers save valuable time for
psychologists. Yet, their use with the MMPI has opened the way for some serious
This advanced technology lends an image of "truth" or
"accuracy" to the printout results that may mislead even psychologists.
Also, this technology is more readily available to nonpsychologists than is wise.
Persons with no or minimal training in psychology and psychological testing may use
a computer report to make statements about a person's personality functioning that sound
definitive or are presented as such. Even generally competent and respectable
practitioners in fields normally thought to be "allied to" psychology, such as
psychiatry or clinical social work, can make the grievous error of believing that they
have acted responsibly or done a good job when they make conclusions about a client based solely
or predominantly on the MMPI, using a computer to produce scores and interpretations.
The MMPI needs to be interpreted in light of many factors often not considered by
the computer programs. Computer programs frequently require only information about
the client's sex, age, and achieved education level, not other factors such as current
life stressors or other life experiences or environmental factors.
Furthermore, when used as part of a testing battery, the MMPI
results must be integrated with all the testing and historical data and finally
interpreted in light of all of the psychologist's psychological knowledge. Doing
this may alter the psychologist's original interpretation of the MMPI, as will be
discussed below in the section on the interpretation of the Rorschach.
Nonpsychologists should not and usually cannot administer a whole test battery and
interpret it appropriately.
Secondly, many computer reports focus mainly on giving statements
about the elevation of each individual scale, with perhaps cursory statements about the
highest two scales considered together. Unfortunately, there is not a statement at
the beginning of the computer printout explaining whether the statements are from research
with a normal or abnormal population. For example, an elevation on Scale 4 (the psychopathic
deviate scale) may yield statements about interesting personality qualities such as
"independence" or "anger." (one psychologist working with a
codependency program was heard repeatedly calling Scale 4 the "anger" scale, an
interesting oversimplification.) Such singlescale interpretative statements may
be of help describing a normal person who is an independent thinker, who follows society's
mores and laws, but reserves the right to make his or her own moral judgments and may
lawfully and appropriately challenge authority. It does not begin to do justice to
the "independence" from society's norms seen in a person with a history of
seriously breaking society's mores and rules, such as the person expelled a number of
times from school for various offenses or the person with a long history of violence or
trouble with the law.
Thus, one can have the undesirable result that a psychologist may
erroneously (and incompetently) use single statements from a computer to present someone
accused of molestation in a rather favorable light, ignoring the fact that the overall
pattern of the 49, combined with a history of violence against others and minor legal
charges and convictions, demands a more serious and less favorable view of the client.
On the other hand, you can have a parent with an elevation on Scale 4 labeled a
probable antisocial personality (formerly known as psychopath or sociopath), while the
elevation really suggests less sinister characteristics.
Antisocial persons and persons recently traumatized in some manner
in interpersonal interactions (e.g., a rape victim or a man or woman recently divorced)
may superficially share some characteristics reflected in an elevation on Scale 4, which
can confuse interpretation of MMPI results. An elevated Scale 4 may suggest that the
client does not allow himself or herself to become significantly close to others
emotionally, has a lot of anger, and may be likely to misrepresent or lie about
circumstances. A closer look at this is warranted.
A person with an antisocial personality disorder typically shows
interpersonal distancing, that is, does not allow himself or herself to become
significantly close to others. The person recently traumatized may likewise keep
people from getting close. However, the similarity may end on the surface, because the
antisocial personality may be charming in person but unable to bond. The traumatized
person may be less charming in person and may be quite able to bond but fearful of doing
so because of the trauma. Likewise, persons with antisocial personality disorders
usually have a more or less disguised well of anger, typically feeling mistreated by
society and entitled to act out against individuals or institutions. It is easy to see
that a rape victim might have a well of anger, sometimes directed against the perpetrator
and sometimes directed inwardly.
Persons with antisocial personality disorders typically lack guilt
about their exploits; they simply hate being caught. Rape victims typically
experience inappropriate guilt and hate what has happened and what they have
"become." A convicted felon may have a 24 elevation, suggesting
significant depression (the 2 is the "depression" scale), while sitting in a
county jail on murder 1 charges or charges of domestic violence. Persons with
personality disorders often develop real and significant depressions when caught and
suffering the consequences of their misbehaving or criminal acts. Yet, a victim of
domestic violence might just as easily have a 24 elevation, but the interpretation of
the two profiles would or could be very different.
When it comes to the characteristic of lying and breaking
society's mores and laws, the superficial similarities are likely to end. Persons
with antisocial personalities may, indeed, lie about the legal charges confronting them
and, for that matter, about many things. Like the antisocial personality, the rape
victim may be putting emotional distance between herself and others and also may have a
lot of anger. However, it does not follow, therefore, that, like the antisocial
personality, the rape victim is also likely to lie and misrepresent circumstances and is
also likely to have broken society's laws in the past or likely to break them in the
The best and most significant computer programs are extremely
complicated and sophisticated. The good programs integrate the elevations from all
the scales to eliminate contradictions that one can find looking only at individual scales
(one scale may suggest that the person is depressed, while another scale may suggest that
the person is optimistic). The most commonly used computer services are probably the
ones from Minnesota (from the National Computer Service, with James Butcher, one of the
experts in MMPI work as developer and advisor) and the one from Los Angeles (developed by
Alexander Caldwell, another giant in the field of the MMPI).
The importance of having a skilled and competent psychologist to
interpret testing results, including the computerized MMPI, cannot be stressed enough.
Here are some things to watch for in evaluating whether a psychologist is adequately
handling the MMPI:
1. Most psychologists trained in clinical psychology refer to the
MMPI scale evaluations by numbers (24 or 468). If the psychologist
mainly uses the scales' official names or stresses these official names, look further; the
psychologist's primary training may not have been in the field of clinical psychology.
2. If the psychologist does not readily integrate the MMPI scale
information, but is content with mainly singlescale descriptors, take care in using
the psychologist. Not only may the psychologist be ineptly interpreting the MMPI,
but the psychologist's testimony would be very vulnerable to attack by a skillful cross
examination or on rebuttal by a competent psychologist.
3. If the psychologist does not integrate the MMPI data with
historical information and other testing data, and account for anomalies, then the work is
4. To be most helpful, your psychologist consultant should be
acquainted with the major developments in MMPI interpretation. The psychologist
should be acquainted with the work of the Minnesota group and the Caldwell group and those
associated with the work of those two groups. Caldwell has developed an alternative way of
looking at and interpreting the scales that helps one understand that the 24 of the
rape victim is different from the 24 of the convicted felon and helps one understand
why that is so.
Custody evaluations or domestic violence litigation would be
simpler and easier if there were MMPI patterns or profiles reliably correlated with the
"perfect parent" or conviction for domestic violence or, better yet, highly
correlated with admission of guilt in domestic violence cases. There are no such
"molester" or "domestic abuser" profiles identified yet, but there may
be in the future.
There has been research seeking to identify profiles of molesters.
The populations studied have mainly been men in custody who are nonfamily molesters
or are a mixed group of nonfamily molesters and incest molesters. This population
may be very different from the general population of domestic violence abusers, molesters,
or physical abusers of spouses or children. Furthermore, the number of people in the
group studied have been too small for much weight to be given to the conclusions in terms
of generalizing to other groups or the population at large. Some of the elevations
seen on the profiles of the convicted offenders are not surprising; for example, an
elevation on Scale 4 is common. One would never be surprised to see someone
convicted (often of multiple offenses) scoring high on Scale 4 of the MMPI, but that would
be common for anyone in penal custody.
THE ADVENT OF THE MMPI-2:
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), described
above, has been in use now for over 50 years. In that time, no revisions in item
content or wording were made. Over the last 10 years, there have been increasing
complaints that some of the items were out of date, sexist, awkward, or ambiguous.
In addition, two items which contained religious content specific to Christianity
were found to be offensive to other religious sectors.
According to James Butcher, one of the researchers responsible for
the revision of the MMPI, the MMPI-2 is a valid revision and expansion of the original
MMPI. He asserts that continuity with the previous empirical literature has been assured.
The original validity and clinical scales have been kept virtually intact in the MMPI-2.
According to Butcher, however, new norms based on nationally representative samples
provide a sounder comparative base. Therefore, the information on the MMPI covered
above is still accurate.
In addition to the original validity scales (LFK), there
have been three new validity scales included in the MMPI-2: FB, VRIN, and TRIN. FB
refers to the F scale, only for the back side or the second half of the test. VRIN
is the variable response inconsistency scale which attempts to indicate a random response
pattern or an inconsistent pattern of responses. The TRIN refers to the true
response inconsistencies scale and indicates invalid profiles due to a true set or a false
set. A true set is when a person answers true to two inconsistent items such as most of
the time I feel blue and I am happy most of the time. A false set would be
answering false to both items. The validity scales are extremely important in the
interpretation of the entire test since it indicates the degree to which a clinical
profile is a valid picture of the person being evaluated.
In the past, one of the complaints of the MMPI was the lack of
uniformity in the T-score distributions of the clinical scales, therefore, making it
difficult to compare relative T-scores. During the restandardization, this problem
was corrected so that the 8 clinical scales (omitting scales 5 and 0) and the 15 new
content scales have uniform T-scores making it much easier to compare clinical and content
scales. Scale 5 (masculinity/femininity scale) and Scale 0 (introversion scale) were
not included since they are not comparable measures of psychopathology and these scales
differ in their distribution.
With the uniform T-scores, a T-score of 65 is at the 92nd
percentile across the clinical scales and a T-score of 70 is equal to a percentile rank of
96. A T-score of 65 has proven to be the best cutoff for critical items. In
general, it is hoped that the MMPI-2 will answer the problems raised with the original
MMPI. Many researchers are dubious of these new findings and still prefer the
original version. However, the MMPI-2 is the preferred test at the present time,
although many computer test interpretations will include both profiles.
OVERVIEW OF THE MMPI-2 SCALES:
The MMPI-2 contains seven validity scales and ten clinical
scales that are nearly identical to the original MMPI. Following is a
description of the validity scales as well as the clinical scales for the MMPI-2.
The "Cannot Say" Scale ("? scale") -
The "?" scale is simply the number of omitted items (including items answered
both true and false). The MMPI-2 manual suggests that protocols with 30 or more
omitted items should be considered invalid and not interpreted. Other experts
suggest interpreting with great caution protocols with more than 10 omitted items and not
to interpret at all those with more than 30 omitted items.
L Scale - The L scale originally was constructed to detect
a deliberate and rather unsophisticated attempt on the part of the respondent to present
him/herself in a favorable light. People who present high L scale scores are not
willing to admit even minor shortcomings, and are deliberately trying to present
themselves in a very favorable way. Better educated, brighter, more sophisticated
people from higher social classes tend to score lower on the L scale.
F Scale - The F Scale originally was developed to detect
deviant or atypical ways of responding to test items. Several of the F Scale items
were deleted from the MMPI-2 because of objectionable content, leaving the F Scale with 60
of the original 64 items in the revised instrument. The F Scale serves three
1. It is an index
of test-taking attitude and is useful in detecting deviant response sets (i.e. faking good
or faking bad).
2. If one can rule
out profile invalidity, the F Scale is a good indicator of degree of psychopathology, with
higher scores suggesting greater psychopathology.
3. Scores on the F
Scale can be used to generate inferences about other extratest characteristics and
K Scale - Compared to the L Scale, the K Scale was
developed as a more subtle and more effective index of attempts by examiners to deny
psychopathology and to present themselves in a favorable light or, conversely, to
exaggerate psychopathology and to try to appear in a very unfavorable light. Some
people refer to this scale as the "defensiveness" indicator, as high scores on
the K Scale are thought to be associated with a defensive approach to the test, while low
scores are thought to be indicative of an unusually frank and self-critical approach.
Subsequent research on the K Scale has indicated that the K Scale
is not only related to defensiveness, but is also related to educational level and
socioeconomic status, with better-educated and higher socioeconomic-level subjects scoring
higher on the scale. It is not unusual for college-educated persons who are not
being defensive to obtain T-scores on the K Scale in a range of 55 to 60, and persons with
even more formal education to obtain T-scores in a range of 60 to 70. Moderate
elevations on the K Scale sometimes reflect ego strength and psychological resources.
Back F (Fb) Scale - The Fb scale consists of 40 items on
the MMPI-2 that no more than 10 percent of the MMPI-2 normative sample answered in the
deviant direction. It is analogous to the standard F scale except that the items are
placed in the last half of the test. An elevated Fb scale score could indicate that
the respondent stopped paying attention to the test items that occurred later in the
booklet and shifted to an essentially random pattern of responding.
VRIN Scale (Variable Response Inconsistency) - The VRIN
scale was developed for the MMPI-2 as an additional validity indicator. It provides
an indication of the respondents' tendencies to respond inconsistently to MMPI-2 items,
and whose resulting protocols therefore should not be interpreted. It consists of 67
pairs of items with either similar or opposite content. Each time a person answers
items in a pair inconsistently, one raw score point is added to the score ont he VRIN
scale. It is suggested that a raw score equal to or greater than 13 indicates
inconsistent responding that probably invalidates the resulting protocol, although this
scale is still experimental.
TRIN Scale (True Response Inconsistency) - The TRIN scale
was developed to identify persons who respond inconsistently to items by giving true
responses to items indiscriminately or by giving false responses to items
indiscriminately. The TRIN scale consists of 23 pairs of items that are opposite in
content. Two true responses to some item pairs or two false responses to other item
pairs would indicate inconsistent responding. The MMPI-2 manual suggests that as
rough guidelines TRIN raw scores of 13 or more or of 5 or less may be suggestive of
indiscriminate responding that might invalidate the protocol, however, this scale is still
Scale 1: Hypochondriasis (Hs) - This scale was originally
developed to identify patients who manifested a pattern of symptoms associated with the
label of hypochondriasis. A wide variety of vague and nonspecific complaints about
bodily functioning are tapped by the 32 items. All the items on this scale deal with
somatic concerns or with general physical competence. Scale 1 is designed to assess
a neurotic concern over bodily functioning. A person who is actually physically ill
will obtain only a moderate elevation on Scale 1. These people will endorse their
legitimate physical complaints, but will not endorse the entire gamut of vague physical
complaints tapped by this scale. All but one of the original items were retained on
Scale 2: Depression (D) - This scale was originally
developed to assess symptomatic depression. The primary characteristics of
symptomatic depression are poor morale, lack of hope in the future, and a general
dissatisfaction with one's own life situation. Very elevated scores on this scale
may suggest clinical depression, while more moderate scores tend to indicate a general
attitude or life-style characterized by poor morale and lack of involvement. Of the
original 60 items, 57 have been retained in MMPI-2.
Scale 3: Hysteria (Hy) - This scale was developed to
identify patients who demonstrated hysterical reactions to stress situations. All 60
original items have been retained in the MMPI-2. Items in Scale 3 consist of two
general types: items reflecting specific somatic complaints and items that show that the
client considers himself or herself well socialized and adjusted. Such people
generally maintain a facade of superior adjustment and only when they are under stress
does their proneness to develop conversion-type symptoms as a means of resolving conflict
and avoiding responsibility appear. Scale 3 scores are related to intellectual
ability, educational background, and social class. Brighter, better-educated persons
of a higher social class tend to score higher on the scale. In addition, high scores
are much more common among women than among men in both normal and psychiatric
Scale 4: Psychopathic Deviate (Pd) - This scale was
originally developed to identify patients diagnosed as psychopathic personality, asocial
or amoral type. General social maladjustment and the absence of strongly pleasant
experiences are assessed by the 50 items included in Scale 4. Scores on Scale 4 tend
to be related to age, with adolescents and college students often scoring in a T-score
range of 55 to 60. Black respondents have also been reported to score higher than
white persons on Scale 4. Scale 4 can be thought of as a measure of rebelliousness,
with higher scores indicating rebellion and lower scores indicating an acceptance of
authority and the status quo. High scorers are very likely to be diagnosed as having
some form of personality disorder, but are unlikely to receive a psychotic diagnosis.
Low scorers are generally described as conventional, conforming, and submissive.
All 50 items in the original scale have been retained in the MMPI-2.
Scale 5: Masculinity-Femininity (Mf) - Scale 5 was
originally developed by Hathaway and McKinley to identify homosexual invert males.
The test authors identified only a very small number of items that differentiated
homosexual from heterosexual males. Scores on this scale are related to
intelligence, education, and socioeconomic status. It is not uncommon for male
college students and other college-educated males to obtain T-scores in the 60 to 65
range. Scores that are markedly higher than expected for males, based on the
persons' intelligence, education, and social class should suggest the possibility of
sexual concerns and problems. High scores are very uncommon among females.
When they are encountered, they generally indicate rejection of the traditional
female role. Of the 60 items in the original scale 5, 56 have been maintained in the
Scale 6: Paranoia (Pa) - This scale was originally
developed to identify patients who were judged to have paranoid symptoms such as ideas of
reference, feelings of persecution, grandiose self-concepts, suspiciousness, excessive
sensitivity, and rigid opinions and attitudes. Persons who score high on this scale
usually have paranoid symptoms. All 40 items in the original scale have been
maintained in the MMPI-2.
Scale 7: Psychasthenia (Pt) - This scale was originally
developed to measure the general symptomatic pattern labeled psychasthenia. This
diagnostic label is not commonly used today. Among currently popular diagnostic
categories, the obsessive-compulsive disorder probably is closest to the original
psychasthenia label. Psychasthenia was originally characterized by excessive doubts,
compulsions, obsessions, and unreasonable fears. The person suffering from
psychasthenia had an inability to resist specific actions or thoughts regardless of their
maladaptive nature. In addition to obsessive-compulsive features, this scale taps
abnormal fears, self-criticism, difficulties in concentration, and guilt feelings.
The anxiety assessed by this scale is of a long-term nature or trait anxiety,
although the scale is somewhat responsive to situational stress as well. All 48
items from the original scale have been maintained in the MMPI-2.
Scale 8: Schizophrenia (Sc) - This scale was originally
developed to identify patients diagnosed as schizophrenic. All 78 items in the
original scale have been maintained in the MMPI-2. The items in this scale assess a
wide variety of content areas, including bizarre thought processes and peculiar
perceptions, social alienation, poor familial relationships, difficulties in concentration
and impulse control, lack of deep interests, disturbing questions of self-worth and
self-identity, and sexual difficulties. Misinterpretations of reality, delusions,
and hallucinations may be present. Ambivalent or constricted emotional
responsiveness is common. Behavior may be withdrawn, aggressive, or bizarre.
Scale 8 is probably the single most difficult scale to interpret in isolation
because of the variety of factors that can result in an elevated score. Scores on
this scale are related to age and to race. Adolescents and college students often
obtain T-scores in a range of 50 to 60, perhaps reflecting the turmoil associated with
that period in life. Black subjects, particularly males, tend to score higher than
white subjects, perhaps suggesting the alienation and social estrangement felt by many
Scale 9: Hypomania (Ma) - This scale was originally
developed to identify psychiatric patients manifesting hypomanic symptoms. Hypomania
is characterized by elevated mood, accelerated speech and motor activity, irritability,
flight of ideas, and brief periods of depression. Some of the 46 items deal
specifically with features of hypomanic disturbance, while others cover topics such as
family relationships, moral values and attitudes, and physical or bodily concerns.
Scores on this scale are clearly related to age and to race, with adolescents and
college students typically obtaining scores in a T-score range of 55 to 60, while elderly
persons often achieve scores below a T-score of 50. Black persons typically score
higher than white persons on the scale, often scoring in a T-score range of 55 to 65.
All 46 items in the original scale have been maintained in the MMPI-2.
Scale 0: Social Introversion (Si) - Scale ) was developed
later than the other clinical scales, but it has come to be treated as a standard clinical
scale. This scale was originally designed to assess a person's tendency to withdraw
from social contacts and responsibilities. All but one of the 70 items in the
original scale have been maintained in the MMPI-2. The items on this scale are of
two general types. One group of items deals with social participation, while the
other group deals with general neurotic maladjustment and self-depreciation. High scorers
are generally seen as socially introverted, while low scorers tend to be sociable and
extroverted. High scorers are very insecure and uncomfortable in social situations.
They tend to be shy, reserved, timid, and retiring, while low scorers tend to be
outgoing, gregarious, friendly, and talkative.
THE MMPI/MMPI-2 IN DOMESTIC RELATIONS CASES:
In a State Bar of Texas advanced Family Law course, David McClure
made an interesting comment that psychological testing in custody disputes date back to
the Old Testament, when King Solomon attempted to resolve a custody dispute of an infant.
We are all familiar with his declaration that he would satisfy each woman by
splitting the child in half, giving one-half to each of the women. He granted
custody of the child to the woman who put the child's safety and welfare before her own
needs. In today's world, King Solomon would have appointed a psychologist to conduct
a full psychological evaluation to determine which mother had better parenting skills and
perhaps which mother was determined to be the "psychological parent."
The MMPI/MMPI-2 has been cited extensively in appellate cases
involving custody evaluations as well as in cases where one party is attempting to limit
parental rights for the sake of the children's welfare. Since the general goal in
custody evaluations is to establish custody and visitation arrangements that are in the
best interests of the children involved, courts often turn to psychological assessment to
help determine which parent is best suited to be the primary custodial parent.
MMPI-based assessment of parents can provide valuable information in identifying not
only psychological and behavioral problems that might argue against a grant of custody but
also characteristics that may suggest mature parenting abilities.
In providing expertise in forensic evaluations, psychologists are
often asked to provide expert opinions about the emotional health of the parents as well
as assessing any possible developmental or adjustment problems related to the child. The
MMPI/MMPI-2 is the most frequently administered psychological test in assessing parents.
Personality assessments of parents entangled in custody disputes are among the most
difficult that psychologists face. In fact, most licensing boards and professional
insurance companies will tell you that those psychologists that embark on this specialty,
have the most complaints and lawsuits filed against them.
One of the problems that face the psychologist completing a
custody evaluation is that men and women in custody disputes tend to be very
self-protective and assert their lack of problems, while at the same time tending to
provide extremely negative and acrimonious information about their spouse. It is
important not to just accept these self-protective responses and claims about others
without carefully exploring and evaluating the charges.
As stated earlier, it would be nice to have a clean assessment
that allows the attorneys to clearly see which client is better fit to be the
"perfect" parent and which client may be guilty of abusive behavior. It
isn't so simple, although some research does suggest that some MMPI/MMPI-2 scale scores
are statistically associated with higher risk for child abuse. Other research
studies have focused on how abuse (e.g., incest) affects the personality and development
of the victim/survivor. The MMPI can also be used to help assess the credibility of
a parent's self-report, possible psychopathology, problems with alcohol or drugs, and
characteristics that seem to be associated with safe, appropriate, and effective
REPORTED CASES INVOLVING THE MMPI IN DOMESTIC RELATIONS CASES:
The MMPI has been cited in a large number of cases involving the
issues of custody evaluation, limitations and termination of parental rights and adoption.
Generally, the goal in custody evaluations is to establish the arrangements that are
in the children's best interests. Litigation often involves acrimonious dissolution
proceedings where allegations of neglect, abuse and molestation are alleged against one or
both parents. MMPI-based assessment of parents is invaluable in identifying
psychological and behavioral problems which often provide the basis of an order which
provides or denies custody to one parent or the other.
The MMPI is the most widely used standardized test of personality
and is likely the most widely cited personality assessment instrument in litigation.
Federal courts have affirmed the MMPI as a scientifically valid and accepted
procedure for personality assessment. Regents of the University of Minnesota v.
Applied Innovations, Inc., 685 F Supp 698 (DC Minn 1987) and Applied Innovations,
Inc. v. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 876 F2d 626 (8th Cir 1989).
Examples of reported cases where the MMPI was admitted to support
a custody evaluation include D.J. v. State Department of Human Resources, 578 So2d
1351 (Ala Civ App 1991) (the MMPI was accepted as evidence of a mother's mental state); In
Re Rodrigo S., San Francisco Department of Social Services v. Joan R., 225 Cal App3d
1179, 276 Cal Rptr 183 (Cal App 1 dist 1990) (the MMPI was accepted in a father's
evaluation); Gootee v. Lightner, 224 Cal App3d 587, 274 Cal Rptr 697 (Cal App 4
Dist 1990) (MMPI-based testing was appropriately used to evaluate the family in the
custody dispute); and Utz v. Keinzle, 574 So2d 1288 (La App 3 Cir 1991) (the MMPI
was used in a custody dispute to evaluate two sets of parents).
MMPI testing was also used to determine whether parental rights
should be terminated in State ex rel. LEAS in Interest of O'Neal. 303 NW2d 414
(Iowa 1981) and to decide when parental rights should be given to potential adoptive
parents in Commonwealth v. Jarboe, 464 SW2d 287 (Ky 1971).
PREPARATION BY THE ATTORNEY:
The fundamental principal for attorneys in preparing and
confronting expert testimony using MMPI results is adequate preparation. It requires
a commitment to the integrity of the case at issue. They attorney must prepare in
such a way that he understands the evidence and arguments to be asserted on behalf of the
client but also anticipates the opposition's assumptions, approach and documentation.
Preparation starts with extensive background research and
discovery. After carefully obtaining the client's version of events and supporting
documentation, the attorney needs to make sure that he is adequately familiar with the
MMPI as a standardized psychological test, with its legal history and context and with
fundamental technical knowledge about evaluating, administering, scoring and interpreting
The attorney must be familiar with the MMPI items as well as the
rationale behind the test, and its nature, reliability an limitations. Most
competent psychologists believe that taken alone and out of context of the test (e.g., the
MMPI scales), a response to a single MMPI item may be of questionable validity. The
response to the item remains to the attorney, however, a statement by the individual who
took the MMPI. That statement may support or contradict other testimony given at
deposition or trial.
The lawyer, or his expert, should conduct a review of the
literature to locate MMPI articles relevant to the case at hand. Retaining the right
expert early in the case should make the task of background research much easier.
Expert testimony often significantly influences the outcome of closely contested
custody and domestic violence cases.
Once the expert is retained to evaluate MMPI results, the attorney
should not automatically assume that the expert should be called to testify.
Fundamental queries need to be made, including the following:
1. Will the MMPI
results help the trier of fact understand facts or theories at issue in the case?
2. Are the MMPI
results consistent with the attorney's theory of the case?
3. If the MMPI
results are inconsistent, is there a reason for the inconsistency?
4. Will the MMPI
results confuse the trier of fact?
Once the attorney has a fundamental understanding of the client's
version of events, all supportive documentation that the client is able to supply, the
nature and function of the MMPI as it is relevant to the case, the relevant diagnostic
frameworks and categories and the expert's opinions and role, all remaining
available information concerning the case that is the subject of the litigation should be
The attorney must then obtain all documents in any way related to
the adverse expert's evaluation in which the MMPI was used. The subpoena duces tecum
should include all, but not be limited to, the following specifically enumerated
A. The expert's entire original file
pertaining to the psychological exam or evaluation and any psychological testing,
including but not limited to, testing materials and results of the MMPI or any version of
2. All notes of conversations with any
person, including the client or any person consulted in connection with this case or the
exam or evaluation of the client and any psychological testing, including but not limited
to, the MMPI or any version of the MMPI.
3. All scorings, computerized scorings, and
hand scorings of any and all psychological tests or assessment instruments, including but
not limited to, the MMPI or any version of the MMPI.
4. All psychological testing documents,
including the original completed examinations (the actual answer form), score sheets, and
notes written by the client or anyone else in connection with the testing.
5. All MMPI testing documents for the
client including the original completed examination, score sheets and notes.
6. All documents that were reviewed in
connection with the expert's exam or evaluation of the client or any aspect of the case
entitled Doe v. Doe.
7. All reports and drafts of reports
prepared in connection with the expert's exam or evaluation of the client or your
evaluation of the case entitled Doe v. Doe.
8. All documents, including computer-scored
or computer-generated information, that you reviewed or wrote or that you discussed with
any person in connection with you exam or evaluation of the client or the evaluation of
her MMPI testing, regardless of whether these documents are still in the expert's
9. The original file folders in which any
information regarding the client is or has been stored.
10. All calendars that refer to
appointments with the client or any person with whom the expert discussed the evaluation
of the case Doe v. Doe.
11. All billing statements and payment
12. All correspondence with any person in
any way relating to the case Doe v. Doe.
13. All video and audio tape recordings of
or pertaining to the client.
14. The expert's curriculum vitae,
including a list of all articles, papers, chapters, books or other documents he has
written or published, a list of all articles, papers, chapters, books or other documents,
materials, or sources of information that he relied on in forming expert opinions
regarding the matters at issue; transcripts from all institutions of higher learning
attended by the expert; a list of all legal cases in which the expert has been endorsed in
the last 5 years; a list of all attorneys and their addresses for each case in which the
expert has been endorsed; and in some cases, a copy of the expert's dissertation or
15. The originals of all correspondence,
notes of conversations and documents between and among the expert witness, attorneys (who
retained the expert), representatives and consultants of the attorneys in any way related
to the case.
The original file and folder is requested because short scribbled
notes or notes on the reverse sides of documents can provide a wealth of information that
might be missed when copies are requested.
Needless to say, it is essential that the adverse witness who will
be testifying concerning the MMPI be deposed. The objective is threefold: (1)
to learn from the expert so that the attorney can better understand his own client
and case; (2) to assess whether the opposing expert's testimony might be beneficial
to one's own case; and (3) to determine how, if possible, the attorney can damage or
destroy the credibility of the opponent's expert witness. It is a very rare occasion
that the expert witness should be questioned for the first time in the courtroom during
trial. Pretrial depositions of opposing experts should be the standard operating
Witnesses should be called and testimony elicited in such a way
that adds support, clarity, detail, significance and immediacy to the basic story that the
lawyer is attempting to communicate to the trier of fact. Providing testimony in
narrative style by the experienced mental health witness is one way of making the story
more vivid. In fact, research has indicated that there is generally a great
difference in the way testimony in narrative style is received as opposed to fragmented
style. If those hearing testimony believe that its style is determined by the
lawyer, they may believe that use of a narrative style indicates the lawyer's faith in the
witness' competence. Similarly, when witness uses a fragmented style, presumable
under the direction of the lawyer, the lawyer may be thought to consider the witness
The attorney may want to address the following points for
presenting the MMPI-2 in court in direct examination:
1. Describe the MMPI in terms of being an
objective, paper and pencil personality scale that has been widely researched and
2. Describe how widely used the MMPI is in
clinical assessment, and cite references to support its broad use.
3. Provide a rationale for the original
development of the MMPI as an objective means of classifying psychological problems.
4. Explain the empirical scale construction
5. Describe and illustrate how the MMPI was
validated, and explain the correlate base for the clinical scales.
6. Illustrate how the MMPI is used in
personality description and clinical assessment.
7. If pertinent to the case, describe the
MMPI revision (and MMPI-2/MMPI-A).
8. Describe and illustrate how the clinical
scales of the revised versions (MMPI-2/MMPI-A) are composed of the same items and possess
the same psychometric properties as the original version of the scales. Traditional
scale reliabilities and validities have been assured in the revised version.
9. Describe how the credibility and
validity of a particular MMPI profile can be determined?
10. Describe what the MMPI/MMPI-2/MMPI-A
measures for the particular client?
11. Establish that the results of the MMPI
were only one factor that the clinician used in coming to a conclusion about the client.
The MMPI is only a tool and the results should rarely, if ever, be used as
the sole reason for arriving at an opinion or conclusion.
12. Establish that the MMPI does not focus
on cultural differentiations, and simply seeks an assessment of a test taker's
13. Establish how the MMPI-2 illustrates
how the test taker meshes with the demographics of the national norm.
14. Describe how the test was scored (by
computer, by hand, by some third party, etc.).
15. Establish the expert's observation and
opinion about the test taker's behavior and actions derived from the test taker's T
Few aspects of legal proceedings require more extensive, detailed
preparation for the attorney than discovery through deposition and subsequent cross
examination. Although on occasion it is strategically useful to jump from one topic
to another (in order to determine how different aspects of the testimony fit together) and
to return to a topic repeatedly (to assess the degree to which an expert's testimony on a
specific topic is consistent during the long course of deposition and cross examination),
it is crucial that the attorney have a well-organized outline to ensure that all relevant
questions are asked.
The major difference between questions asked during the trial of
your own witness on direct examination and that asked in cross examination of the opposing
expert is the manner in which the questions are asked. Direct examination questions
are usually phrased in an open-ended manner, whereas cross-examination questions during
the trial are generally closed-ended, requiring a short, specific answer, often a
"yes" or "no" to which the examiner knows the answer. The
examiner must be prepared to impeach or contradict the expert if the answer is anything
other than what is anticipated.
There is no special or best style of cross examination, but the
attorney must be organized and prepared to take the expert in the direction that careful
preparation lets the attorney know he can accomplish.
One of the most difficult tasks facing the attorney in a case
involving the MMPI is deposing and cross examining the expert witness. The attorney
himself must attempt to become as knowledgeable as the expert witness about the MMPI as an
instrument, about its use in the case at hand, and about the complex and detailed
framework or psychological theory, research and practice with which the MMPI results and
other evidence in the case will be understood. Questions put to the adverse
expert (at deposition and if pertinent at trial) testifying in a case involving the MMPI
fall into twelve basic categories. They are as follows:
1. Compliance with the subpoena.
whether any of the documents were altered, recopied, erased, written over, enhanced,
edited or added to since originally created.
whether any documents are missing--such as the computer printout which was copied over and
substituted by a hand-copied replica.
whether any of the documents been lost, stolen, misplaced, destroyed or thrown away?
whether the expert has any policies for keeping or eliminating documents, the rationale
for such policies and how monitored and implemented.
2. Education and Training.
a. Does the expert
meet the criteria or recognized formal training for the title they refer to themselves?
The "expert" may have a psychological degree but lack a doctorate in
psychology--possessing a doctoral degree in some unrelated field as Dr. Laura does on
b. Which of the
degrees or internships is relevant to the expertise and testimony which is being provided?
c. Which of the
training programs and internships were fully accredited the full time the expert was in
d. What is the
name, title and other vital information of the directors of each graduate training program
e. Did the expert
fail to successfully complete a doctoral degree, clinical practicum, field placement,
internship or similar program?
f. What specific
courses and training in psychological testing and assessment did the expert take and
g. How many hours
in each course, workshop or training program were devoted specifically to the MMPI?
3. Illegal, unethical or unprofessional
a. Has anyone ever
filed a complaint against the expert with a licensing board in any jurisdiction and the
details of such complaints?
b. What complaints
were filed against the expert with any ethics committee, professional standards review
committee, peer review board or other organization?
c. Has there ever
been a malpractice or criminal action filed against the expert?
4. Occupational history.
professional positions has the expert had since graduate school?
b. Are there
positions omitted from the curriculum vitae but mentioned in the deposition which might be
because the expert was fired for cause or otherwise found to have committed acts that
might cast doubt on credibility or expertise.
c. Are there gaps
when the expert moved from one level to a seemingly lower level (e.g., from full-time,
untenured professor at a major university to full-time, untenured position at an
unaccredited university within the same city)?
d. Which of the
positions involved the administering, scoring or interpreting the MMPI?
5. Research and publication history.
a. Has the expert
conducted any research or published any books, chapters, articles or other documents that
involved the MMPI?
b. Is the expert's
testimony in the current case consistent with what the expert has previously written?
c. Was the
publisher of an authored document reputable?
6. Forensic history.
a. Has the expert
previously testified as an expert witness regarding the MMPI in any proceeding or setting?
b. Is the prior
testimony consistent with the testimony offered by the adverse expert witness in this
c. Does the
expert's prior testimony suggest a bias or prejudice?
7. Knowledge of general issues of tests
a. Does the expert
have genuine expertise and understand the nature of testing as opposed to following a
"cookbook" method of test use or improvising opinions?
b. Was the
standardized MMPI tests conducted under generally standardized conditions, i.e., in all
essential respects that might significantly affect test performance?
c. Is the expert
aware of characteristics of the individual taking the test or the testing circumstances
which may significantly influence test results and interpretations?
d. Did the expert
follow the standard procedures for administering the test and were special individual
characteristics or testing circumstances adequately taken into account and discussed in
the forensic report?
e. Is the expert
able to distinguish retrospective accuracy from predictive accuracy? In other words,
is the expert confusing the directionality of the inference (e.g., the likelihood that
those who score positive on a hypothetical predictor variable will fall into a specific
group versus the likelihood that those in a specific group will score positive on
the predictor variable). Cross examination must carefully explore the degree to
which testimony may be based on such misunderstandings.
f. How consistent
or reliable are the test results? See if the test taker took the test on more than
one occasion and whether the results were identical. MMPI test results might be
different because of the time or conditions under which the test was administered.
g. What types of
scales were involved in the various tests and methods of assessment that the expert
considered in selecting the instruments and diagnostic frameworks that the expert used in
the case at hand?
h. What is a T
score, and what are its psychometric properties? Understanding the T score is
essential to understanding the MMPI.
8. Knowledge of the MMPI.
a. Ask the expert
to describe the normative group for the original MMPI and for the MMPI-2.
b. Inquiry whether
the normative group for the MMPI-2 scored about half of one standard deviation above the
mean on the clinical scales of the original MMPI and whether that doesn't illustrate that
the group was not therefore not really normal? Knowledgable experts should be able
to explain that the difference seems largely the result of differences in instructional
sets and unanswered questions.
c. A series of
questions can be asked if the expert's previous responses do not show a basic familiarity
with the MMPI. The quetions include the level a clinical score must be to be
considered significant, what scales indicate the degree to which a specific test protocol
is valid and what reading level is required for the MMPI-2.
9. Administration and scoring.
a. Who was
responsible for administering the test?
b. Was the test
administered in a setting close to that employed in normative studies?
instructions were given to the test taker? The purpose of this question is to
determine whether the conditions adequately met the criteria for a standardized test.
Did for example, the person who administered the test include instructions regarding
attempting to answer all items which can affect the validity of the test.
d. How was the test
taker's reading level assessed?
e. Was the test
administration directly monitored? What degree did the test taker relied on other
sources or written material for filling out the test? To administer the MMPI without
adequate monitoring violates the published opinion of the APA's Committee on Professional
f. Was any phase of
the assessment audiotaped, videotaped or otherwise recorded?
g. What conditions
of test administration did the expert consider as potentially affecting the validity of
h. Has anyone but
the expert had access to the original completed response form?
i. Has the original
completed response form been altered in any way by anyone? Did anyone except the
test taker make marks on, erase or change the original form in any way?
j. Were any test
data discarded, destroyed, recopied or lost? Are all of the documents involved in
the administration and taking of the test present in their original form?
k. Who scored the
test? Was it hand scored or done by machine or computer?
l. Did the scoring
differ in any way whatsoever from the scoring method set forth in the MMPI manual?
To the degree that the standardized methods for scoring are altered the test is no
longer standardized. The reliability, validity and interpretations that are
associated with the standardized test do not automatically transfer to methods of scoring
that deviate from those specified in the manual and the research literature.
m. What steps has
the expert taken to ensure that the scoring of this test is accurate and free from error?
n. Were there any
changes made in the test format, mode of administration, instructions, language or
a. By what method
were these interpretative statements derived from the MMPI scores and profiles?
b. Did the expert
have any reservations or qualifications regarding the validity of the interpretations that
he is presenting?
c. What other
documents or sources of information does the expert consider important or relevant to
interpreting this MMPI profile?
11. The unexpected: Testimony
regarding specific claims and issues.
a. No matter how
thoroughly an attorney has prepared his side of the case and no matter how favorable the
opinions formed by the expert witness whom he has designated, the attorney is likely, at
least occasionally, to encounter one or more surprises from opposing experts.
b. There is no easy
or magical way for an attorney to simply be sure whether such claims are exceptionally
well founded, entirely bogus or somewhere in between. Theories that have the ring of
authority, common sense and inevitability may be ludicrously fallaciious. Concepts
that seem bazarre, counterintuitive and just downright silly may, in fact, be valid.
c. To help
attorneys untangle and examine overwhelmingly complex and intertwined issues
comprehensively, Pope, Butcher and Seelen, recommend using a systematic set of 16
fundamental questions about each relevant issue. The list of areas of inquiry that
follow can be used both as a "road map" to the extensive discussion and analysis
that follows in the book and also as an outline for deposition or cross-examination
adequacy with which the expert portrays the studies, information or publications;
and consistent application of evaluative criteria;
questionable research practices;
in peer-reviewed academic, scientific or professional journals; and
for the base rate.
12. Options and alternatives.
a. In arriving at
his diagnosis or other conclusions, what alternatives did the expert consider? In
some cases, the attorney may want to list possible alternatives and ask the expert to
explain why he did not arrive at each alternative diagnosis.
b. Is there any
other source of information that the expert did not take into consideration (e.g., because
it was not available or because the expert chose not to administer a particular test) that
might be relevant or that might change his opinion? If the expert acknowledges such
an alternative conclusion, the attorney might want to ask the questions that follow.
c. How such a
source of information might alter the expert's opinion?
d. Whether the
expert is less certain of his opinion in the absence of this information?
e. Why the
information was not obtained? In some instances, the attorney may discover that the
opposing attorney who retained the expert had possession of (or access to) such records or
information but did not make them available to the expert; if so, this situation and its
implications should be carefully explored.
The list of questions set forth above is in no way intended to be
exhaustive. It is merely an outline of categories and types of questions that might
lead to helpful testimony and evidence that will aid in the attorney's attempt to
discredit, damage or destroy the adverse expert's testimony and the weight of his opinions
and conclusions. The professional work that has been most useful to these authors in
preparing this paper is the book written by Pope, Butcher and Seelen entitled The MMPI,
MMPI-2, & MMPI-A in Court: A Practical Guide for Expert Witnesses and Attorneys.
This book is geared not only for seasoned attorneys and expert witnesses but also
for psychologists who have never set foot in a courtroom and attorneys who have never
heard of the MMPI.