Limitations of the Personality Assessment Inventory

by Amanda L. Webster; Updated September 26, 2017
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The Personality Assessment Inventory is a psychological test used to identify abnormal personality characteristics in adults age 18 and older; it's frequently used to collect information regarding clinical diagnoses, screening and treatment of psychological conditions. While the Personality Assessment Inventory is a relatively reliable tool for diagnosing and treating psychological conditions in adults, it is not without limitations.

Facts

According to Nova Southeastern University, the Personality Assessment Inventory is a 344-item questionnaire, typically administered in a clinical setting. The assessment analyzes and scores patient personality traits on the following scales: Dominance, Warmth, Negative Impression, Positive Impression, Stress, Anxiety, Anxiety- Related Disorders, Depression, Aggression, Suicidal Ideation, Inconsistency, Infrequency, Somatic Complaints, Mania, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Borderline Features, Antisocial Features, Alcohol and Drug Problems, Nonsupport and Treatment Rejection. Upon completion of the assessment, clinicians may determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan based on the outcome of the examination.

Self-Report

The Personality Assessment Inventory takes the form of what is commonly referred to as a self-report test, meaning patients answer the questions themselves, based on their own perceptions. The test relies on the patient to provide honest answers for best results. Patients must also have a complete understanding of the questions asked in order to provide adequate answers. All of these factors may have an impact on the results of the test.

Missing Components

The PAI does not identify and measure all traits and behaviors, such as eating disorders, which may be relevant to the patient’s diagnosis. While the PAI may provide valuable information regarding a patient’s individual personality traits and tendencies, it is not meant to act as the only measurement of the patient’s health. Additionally, research on the effect of personality traits on various clinical issues, including pain management, are in the early stages and reflect a variety of unresolved issues not addressed by the Personality Assessment Inventory.

Solution

Personality assessments such as the PAI are most useful when paired with a variety of additional tests and analytical methods, including simply interviewing and observing the patient. One solution is to administer the PAI as part of a battery of tests, including such assessment tools as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Rorschach test, or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The PAI and similar tests should be administered using the accepted, standardized self-report method, following specific guidelines for best results. It is essential for clinicians to take care when interpreting results of non-native English speakers. Additionally, results should be interpreted, and a treatment plan developed, only by a trained professional.

About the Author

Amanda L. Webster has a Master of Science in business management and a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in professional writing. She teaches a variety of business and communication courses within the Wisconsin Technical College System and works as a writer specializing in online business communications and social media marketing.

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