The Influence of Language on Thematic Apperception Test Assessment of Defenses in International Spanish-speaking College Students
Date of Award
Doctoral Research Project
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Maria J. Lavooy
Heidi Hatfield Edwards
Robert A. Taylor
Cultural influences, including the use of language, have been shown to affect personality development and are also likely to impact personality assessment results. The influence of language is particularly relevant in story-telling measures such as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT; Morgan & Murray, 1935). The purpose of this study was to analyze TAT narratives delivered in English and Spanish to assess the application of defense mechanisms based on the Defense Mechanism Manual (DMM; Cramer, 1991) among Hispanic international students. No study to date has provided insight into Hispanic individuals’ use of language with the TAT, specifically on scores for the defenses of Denial, Projection, and Identification. The current study utilized a sample of international Hispanic students from a private university in the southeastern United States. The sample consisted of 21 bilingual participants who provided TAT stories in either Spanish or English (Spanish-narrative sample: N =10; M age = 22.50; SD = 2.92; Englishnarrative sample: N = 11; M age = 23.36; SD = 3.41). Narratives provided in Spanish were expected to yield significantly higher DMM scores than those delivered in English. Interrater reliability results using ICCs showed reliable scores
among six randomly selected narratives for denial (.91), projection (.72), and identification (.94). Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) results demonstrated that the use of defenses was significantly dependent on the language used (F(3,17) = 5.122, p < .05; Pillai’s Trace = .475). Contrary to the hypothesized direction, however, univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) demonstrated a significantly higher mean score for Denial (F(1,19) = 8.29, p = .01; English M = 8.82, SD = 4.64; Spanish M = 3.90, SD = 2.89) and Projection (F(1,19) = 4.63, p < .05; English M = 13.55, SD = 5.43; Spanish M = 8.00, SD = 6.38) for TAT stories narrated in English. A Chi-square analysis of homogeneity was conducted to contextualize the aforementioned results in terms of the frequencies of distressrelated words (stress, emotional distress, conflict, fear, and guilt) among English and Spanish narratives, which are the bases for defense mechanisms. Results indicated a significant overall association between the language used by participants and distress-related words (p < .001). Specifically, words classified in the emotional distress category in English narratives (60.2%) were significantly higher in frequency than those in Spanish narratives (46.0%). On the other hand, words in the conflict and fear categories in Spanish narratives (32.3% and 8.9%, respectively) were significantly higher in frequency than those in English narratives (21.3% and 4.6%, respectively). These findings will allow future psychological assessors to make informed decisions on selection of language for eliciting TAT narratives from Hispanic individuals.
Perez-Palen, Ilenia, "The Influence of Language on Thematic Apperception Test Assessment of Defenses in International Spanish-speaking College Students" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 399.