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A comparison of the effects of projective and questionnaire instructions upon responses to pictures of the Rosenzweig PF study type Scott, James Stuart

Abstract

The purpose of this experiment was to investigate the effect of instructions upon responses to pictures of the PF Study type. It was hypothesized that when subjects are directed to respond for, and presumably to identify with, pictured characters, they would give more unfavorable responses than when questioned directly as to their own presumed behavior in the depicted situations. It was hypothesized, further, that one type of response likely to be withheld when the questioning procedure is employed is a response indicating hostility toward fellow men. In order to test the hypotheses, 58 university students were given a set of pictures under PF Study instructions, and an alternate set administered in questionnaire fashion. For half the subjects the order of presentation of pictures, but not of instructions, was reversed. All responses were scored according to the same criteria, and subjected to statistical analysis in order that the effects of differences in instructions, pictures, and groups of subjects might be estimated. The results of the experiment lend support to both hypotheses, the main findings being as follows: 1. When the pictures were administered under questionnaire rather than PF Study instructions, the subjects gave fewer responses indicating that blame for frustration is aggressively attributed to another person, and a greater number of responses indicating that, when frustrated, the subject takes it upon himself to try to overcome the obstacle. 2. The observed differences in frequency of these two types of response, elicited under different instructions, were sufficiently great to produce significant differences in mean scores for three of Rosenzweig's major scoring categories: Extrapunitiveness, Ego-defensiveness and Need-persistence. These results were interpreted as reflecting differences in the effects of projective and questionnaire instructions. Questionnaire instructions, by directing the subject to indicate his own presumed behavior in hypothetical situations, tend to put the subject on the defensive. Since the subject must consciously acknowledge each response as his own, the production of two types of response is prevented: (a) a response which the subject is unwilling to acknowledge as his own, and (b) a response which makes manifest a feeling or wish which does not normally enter the subject's awareness, that is, a response which the subject is unable to acknowledge as his own. The main conclusions and implications of this experiment were: 1. The type of instructions used with pictures of the PF Study type may decisively affect test results. 2. One type of response which subjects sometimes withhold, when questioned directly as to their behavior in frustrating situations, is a response indicating that the subject aggressively blames another person for having frustrated his needs. 3. The type of response which is elicited more frequently by direct questioning than by the use of PF Study instructions is a response indicating that, in frustrating situations, the subject takes it upon himself to seek a solution to the problem. 4. If responses elicited under PF Study instructions be considered more valid indicators of behavior in frustrating situations, then the findings of this experiment suggest that, for some subjects, direct questioning elicits responses indicating that the subject is less frequently hostile toward fellow men, and more frequently willing to accept responsibility for overcoming obstacles, than is actually the case. 5. Since PF Study instructions do less to structure the test situation than questionnaire instructions, the results of this experiment support the hypothesis, which is basic to most theoretical discussions of projective techniques, that the revelatory power of a diagnostic technique varies inversely with the degree of structuring of the test situation.

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