The Tat: the Thematic Apperception Test

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The TAT: The Thematic Apperception Test

Suzette Lamb

Argosy University

The TAT test was developed in the 1930s by psychologists Henry A. Murray, Christiana D. Morgan and other colleagues at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. The TAT Test or Thematic Apperception Test is a projective psychological test used to explore the unconscious of an individual in order to reveal the underlying parts of personality, internal conflicts, motives and interests. It has been one of the most widely used, taught and researched of tests of its kind (Combs, 1946). The test evolved over approximately a decade in the 1930’s and 1940’ after a rocky start and three distinct revisions. An earlier manuscript titled “A Method for the Investigation of Unconscious Phantasies”, that was submitted in 1934, was rejected for publication by the editor of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis by Ernest Jones. Two important influences in the creation of this test were thought to be an undergraduate student, Cecilia Roberts and the American author Thomas Wolfe. Cecilia was one of Murray’s students and was having difficulty in a study she was conducting comparing fantasies of blind people and sighted people. She tried to get her son to tell him her fantasies but he thought it was silly until she asked him to make up a story about a picture. When Cecilia talked to Murray about the vivid imagery in the story her son told her about the picture, Murray started working on the TAT (Morgan, 2002). Thomas Wolfe’s book ‘Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life’, was read by Murray as he was seen carrying the book to several lectures by a student, Nevitt Sanford. Sanford studied and worked at the Harvard Psychological Clinic and contributed to the TAT. When he read the book himself, he believed that there was an episode in the book that suggested the TAT method to Murray (Morgan, 2002). While there has not been as much standardization and objective analysis on the TAT as other...
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