Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

Just for a change of pace, I want to leave Doug Quirk’s spider-web mind for a while, and take an excursion into personality assessment, through the serialization of a paper that Steve Bernstein and I wrote in some thrity-five years ago.

The Use of the MMPI in Teaching Personality Assessment

Reg M. Reynolds and Stephen M. Bernstein

Before beginning to talk about the use of the MMPI in teaching personality assessment, I want to say a few words about the context in which this paper was written. I am a clinical psychologist, and I work [i.e., used to work in a prison many years ago now] in a prison. Furthermore, in the eyes of many of my colleagues, I am an MMPI fanatic. That is, I use the test, regularly, and have done so for many years; and over the years I have come to believe that this antiquated personality test is the best instrument available for introducing students to the art, and science, of personality appraisal.

The MMPI is a curious test. It is an old test, having been put together more than 35 years ago. For a personality inventory, it is perhaps unique in having so little to say about personality traits per se. In fact, it was originally called the “Medical and Psychiatric Inventory, and it was designed to assist in the classification of medical and psychiatric patients to the Kraepelinian psychiatric nosological system in vogue at that time. Its validity rests, however, not on that diagnostic system, or on theoretical constructs, or on personality theory, but on the accumulation of empirical correlates of scales score elevations. That is, because this test has been in wide-spread use for a long time, a certain amount of actuarial data has been accumulated regarding the probability of occurrence of particular kinds of behavior among groups with particular kinds of profiles, prognosis for response to different types of treatment, relative frequency of suicidal attempts, and so on – problems which are of some interest to psychologists working with particularly disturbed populations.

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