Standard Article

You have free access to this content

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

  1. James N. Butcher

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0573

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Butcher, J. N. 2010. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. University of Minnesota

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

The original Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) was developed in the 1940s to assess mental health problems in psychiatric and medical settings, and it rapidly became a standard personality instrument (Hathaway & McKinley, 1940). The popularity of this true-false personality inventory was due in large part to its easy-to-use format and to the fact that the scales have well-established validity in assessing clinical symptoms and syndromes (Butcher, 2005). The MMPI underwent a major revision in the 1980s, resulting in two forms of the test: an adult version, the MMPI-2 (Butcher, Dahlstrom, Graham, Tellegen, & Kaemmer, 1989), and an adolescent form, MMPI-A (Butcher et al., 1992). The MMPI-2 is a 567-item inventory comprised of symptoms, beliefs, and attitudes in adults above age 18. The MMPI-A is a 478-item version that is used for assessing young people, age 14–18. This article addresses only the MMPI-2. Together, the MMPI-2 and MMPI-A have become the most widely researched and used clinical assessment instruments in the field of personality assessment.

1 Assessing Protocol Validity

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

In some settings such as forensic applications or personnel settings, people may be motivated to present themselves in ways that do not disclose accurate information about themselves. For example, when an individual is being tested to determine sanity in a pretrial criminal evaluation, the person might be exaggerating symptoms. The initial step in MMPI-2 profile interpretation is the important one of determining whether the client has cooperated with the testing to provide an accurate appraisal of his or her personality functioning. Several scales on the MMPI-2 aid clinicians in determining whether a client's item responses provide key personality information or are instead simply reflecting response sets or deceptive motivational patterns that disguise the client's true feelings and motivations (Baer, Wetter, Nichols, Greene, & Berry, 1995). Several validity scales have been developed to evaluate a client's approach to the test. Four of these assessment strategies are the following.

1.1 The L Scale

The L scale addresses the client's willingness to acknowledge faults or problems. Individuals who score high on L are presenting an overly favorable picture of themselves. High scorers are claiming virtue not found among people in general. The L scale is particularly valuable in situations like personnel screening or some types of court cases, because people in those settings try to put their best foot forward and present themselves as better adjusted than they really are.

1.2 The K Scale

The K scale was developed to appraise test defensiveness or the tendency that some people have to minimize problems. In addition, this measure also serves as a means of correcting for defensiveness. That is, if clients are defensive as assessed by this scale, their score on five of the clinical scales are adjusted to compensate for their evasiveness.

1.3 The F Scale

The Infrequency scale or F scale was developed to assess the tendency of some people to exaggerate their problems or to fake the test by overresponding to extreme items. The items on this scale are very rare or bizarre symptoms. Individuals who endorse a lot of these items tend to exaggerate symptoms on the MMPI-2, perhaps as a way of trying to convince professionals that they need psychological services. As noted earlier, this motivational pattern is also found among individuals with a need to claim problems in order to influence the court in forensic cases. The F scale can be elevated for several possible reasons. The profile could be invalid because the client became confused or disoriented or responded in a random manner. High F scores are also found among clients who are malingering or producing exaggerated responses in order to falsely claim mental illness (Graham, Watts, & Timbrook, 1991).

1.4 TRIN and VRIN Scales

Two measures were developed to assess response inconsistency. These scales are based on the analysis of the individual's responding to the items in a consistent or inconsistent manner. The scales are comprised of item pairs that involve responses that are semantically inconsistent, for example, a pair of items that contain contradictory content that cannot logically be answered in the same direction if the subject is responding consistently to the content.

2 Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

Several types of scales have been developed to evaluate clinical problems. There are three types of scales that address problems in somewhat different ways: the traditional clinical scales and profile codes, the MMPI-2 content scales, and the specific problems or supplemental scales. A scale is a group of items from the MMPI-2 item pool that have been shown to measure certain symptom patterns or personality traits. Each item cluster or scale is normed on a population of normal individuals. This normative group serves as the reference point to which all profiles are compared.

3 The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

Hathaway and McKinley developed the original MMPI clinical scales by determining empirically the items that separated clinical patients with clear diagnoses from a sample of nonpatients, or normals. For example, they developed scales to assess hypochondriasis (the Hs scale), depression (the D scale), hysteria (the Hy scale), psychopathic deviation (the Pd scale), paranoid thinking (the Pa scale), psychasthenia (the Pt scale), schizophrenia (the Sc scale), and mania (the Ma scale). In addition, two other scales were included on the clinical profile to address problems of sex role identification (the Mf scale) and social introversion and extraversion (the SI scale). Besides interpretation of single clinical scales, elevations on certain scale patterns or configurations of scores (referred to as profile or code types) are interpreted. These profile types result from clients endorsing two or more of the clinical scales.

4 Content-Based Scales

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

In the development of MMPI-2, a number of scales that assess the content themes an individual endorses were developed. The content scales are homogeneous item clusters that assess unitary themes and represent clear communication about problems to the practitioner. There are 15 content scales measuring different symptom areas and problems; examples include Antisocial Practices (ASP), Bizarre Mentation (BIZ), and Family Problems (FAM).

5 Special Scales

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

Several additional scales have been developed to address specific problems, such as the potential to develop substance abuse problems (the MacAndrew Addiction scale, or MAC-R, and the Addiction Potential scale, or APS) and whether the individual acknowledges having problems with drugs or alcohol (the (Addiction Acknowledgment scale, or AAS). The Marital Distress scale assesses clients' attitudes toward their marital relationship. These special scales allow the practitioner to assess specific problems that are not addressed in the clinical or content scales.

6 Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

Since its original publication, psychologists have been developing new scales for the test. In fact, there have actually been more MMPI scales published than there are items on the test. A scale is simply a combination of items that have been thought to measure a personality construct or symptom pattern. Researchers interested in developing MMPI-2-based measures typically provide substantial information about the novel measure's psychometric functioning, validity, and reliability (Butcher, Graham, Kamphuis, & Rouse, 2006). In some instances, new scales have been developed without sufficient empirical research or clear rationale. For example the Restructured Clinical scales (Tellegen et al., 2003) were released for public use, even though the release elicited controversy with respect to these scales having been shown to be highly redundant with existing measures (Rouse, Greene, Butcher, Nichols, & Williams, in press), or having drifted too far from the scales of origin (Butcher, Hamilton, Rouse, & Cumella, 2006), or having been shown to lack sensitivity to assessment of clinical problems (Rogers & Sewell, 2006; Wallace & Liljequist, 2005). Caution in interpreting these measures in assessing clients is needed until sufficient research has delineated their meanings and uses.

7 How the MMPI-2 Is Used

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading

There are currently many diverse applications for the MMPI-2 for evaluating individuals across a wide variety of settings. Contemporary uses include evaluating clients who are being admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility, understanding problems and possible treatment resistance of clients entering psychotherapy, providing personality information for therapists to employ in giving the client feedback in psychotherapy, assessing possible personality problems of students applying for a graduate clinical psychology program, measuring behavior problems and symptoms in neuropsychological evaluation of a client with severe head injury, appraising personality factors and psychological adjustment in applicants for an airline pilot position, examining persons who are being tried for murder and are claiming to be not guilty by reason of insanity, and using the test as a research instrument to evaluate the psychological changes in a drug trial. There have been more than 32 translations and adaptations of the MMPI-2 for use in other countries. The items and scales have shown remarkable robustness when used in other languages and cultures (Butcher, 1996).

In summary, the MMPI-2 is a self-report personality inventory that provides the test user with scores on a number of scales. These scales assess response attitudes, mental health symptoms, personality traits, and special problems that the client might be experiencing. The MMPI-2 has been widely validated and is used in numerous settings around the world.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Assessing Protocol Validity
  3. Assessing Clinical Symptom Patterns
  4. The MMPI-2 Clinical Scales
  5. Content-Based Scales
  6. Special Scales
  7. Development of New Scales for the MMPI-2
  8. How the MMPI-2 Is Used
  9. References
  10. Suggested Reading
  • Baer, R. A., Wetter, M. W., Nichols, D., Greene, R., & Berry, D. T. (1995). Sensitivity of MMPI-2 validity scales to underreporting of symptoms. Psychological Assessment, 7, 419423.
  • Butcher, J. N. (1996). International adaptations of the MMPI-2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Butcher, J. N. (2005). The MMPI-2: A beginner's guide (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Butcher, J. N., Dahlstrom, W. G., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A. M., & Kaemmer, B. (1989). Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2): Manual for administration and scoring. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Butcher, J. N., Graham, J. R., Kamphuis, J., & Rouse, S. (2006). Evaluating MMPI-2 research: Considerations for practitioners. In J. N. Butcher (Ed.), MMPI-2: The practitioner's handbook (pp. 1538). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Butcher, J. N., Hamilton, C. K., Rouse, S. V., & Cumella, E. J. (2006). The deconstruction of the Hy scale of MMPI-2: Failure of RC3 in measuring somatic symptom expression. Journal of Personality Assessment, 87, 186192.
  • Butcher, J. N., Williams, C. L., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, Y. S., Archer, R. P., et al. (1992). Manual for administration, scoring, and interpretation of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory for Adolescents: MMPI-A. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Graham, J. R., Watts, D., & Timbrook, R. (1991). Detecting fake-good and fake-bad MMPI-2 profiles. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57, 264277.
  • Hathaway, S. R., & McKinley, J. C. (1940). A multiphasic personality schedule (Minnesota): 1. Construction of the schedule. Journal of Psychology, 10, 249254.
  • Rogers, R., & Sewell, K. W. (2006). MMPI-2 at the crossroads: Aging technology or radical retrofitting? Journal of Personality Assessment, 87, 175178.
  • Rouse, S. V., Greene, R. L., Butcher, J. N., Nichols, D. S., & Williams, C. L. (in press). What do the MMPI-2 restructured clinical scales reliably measure? Answers from multiple research settings. Journal of Personality Assessment.
  • Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, Y. S., McNulty, J., Arbisi, P., Graham, J. R., & Kaemmer, B. (2003). MMPI-2: Restructured clinical (RC) scales. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Wallace, A., & Liljequist, L. (2005). A comparison of the correlational structures and elevation patterns of the MMPI-2 restructured clinical (RC) and clinical scales. Assessment, 12, 290294.