In This Article Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

  • Introduction
  • Maturation of the MMPI (1960s through 1980s)
  • The MMPI—Adolescent (1992)
  • The Restructured Clinical Scales (2003)

Psychology Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
David M. McCord
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0118


The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is the most widely used and widely researched objective measure of psychopathology in history, a status it has held throughout its more than seventy-year existence. Hathaway had begun active work on test development in the mid- to late 1930s, and the test was always used clinically even as it evolved. The first formal publication was in 1940. The MMPI was a revolutionary assessment device in a number of key ways. First, extant personality tests of that time were rationally rather than empirically derived. The MMPI was the first to be developed using empirical keying and was far more effective as a result, a fact that was evident very early. Second, the MMPI was designed from the outset to be a broad-band measure covering all major psychopathological syndromes recognized in that time period, in contrast to existing instruments that tended to focus narrowly on certain issues (e.g., neurosis). Finally, the MMPI was noted for its inclusion of explicit measures of test-taking attitude, inherent in the test itself (e.g., the “Lie scale”). By the 1970s, comprehensive bibliographies included between 5,000 and 6,000 published articles, and today, including all versions, the number approaches 15,000. Concerns about outdated and unrepresentative norms and about obsolete item content prompted a major revision of the test, a ten-year project culminating in 1989 with the MMPI-2. Restandardization and item-level improvements were achieved, but the ten Clinical Scales were left almost entirely unaltered. While this decision by the Restandardization Committee did assure continuity of the primary scales and thus widespread acceptance by the professional community in a short time, it also perpetuated significant psychometric problems in the Clinical Scales that were of increasing concern to both scholars and practitioners. Very briefly, the original Clinical Scales suffered from excessively high cross-scale correlations, which lowered discriminant validity. This is related to problems with excessive item overlap among the Clinical Scales, and the failure to recognize and deal effectively with a broad “common factor” of psychopathology that was measured to varying degrees by all ten scales. These and other issues (e.g., excessive scale heterogeneity, noncontributing items) were the focus of a new set of scales, the Restructured Clinical Scales (RC Scales), published in monograph form in 2003. The RC Scales formed the basis of the third major revision of the test, the MMPI-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF), published in the latter half of 2008.

Early History (1940s through 1950s)

Hathaway and McKinley sought to develop an omnibus test instrument that would identify the presence of any of the major clinical syndromes utilized during the 1935–1940 period. Psychiatric diagnosis at that time was based on Kraepelinian categories that had evolved to reflect psychodynamic theoretical constructs to varying degrees. The initial diagnostic categories were Hypochondriasis, Depression, Hysteria, Psychopathic Deviate, Paranoia, Psychasthenia, Schizophrenia, and Hypomania. Subsequently, the Masculinity-Femininity and Social Introversion scales were added, resulting in the ten Clinical Scales that formed the core measures of the test until the RF was published in 2008. Briefly, Hathaway and McKinley collected a large set of over 1,000 items that was intended to be inclusive of all major symptoms of these syndromes. They reduced this to just over 500 items through rational judgment, and then administered the items to the group of 724 “Minnesota Normals” as well as sets of patients exhibiting the specific pathology at hand (the criterion groups). Items that exhibited a True-False proportion in the criterion group that differed significantly from the True-False proportion in the normative group were identified as members of the Clinical Scale for that syndrome. The references listed here are those that provide the most detail on this stage of the development of the test. Welsh and Dahlstrom 1956, commonly referred to as Basic Readings, is a remarkable, detailed portrayal of the beginnings of the MMPI. A number of key articles were published only in this volume. The only other book in this section is the Hathaway and Meehl 1951 “atlas,” a collection of case histories intended to assist early practitioners. The other sources in this section are journal articles, some also included in Basic Readings, provided in order to document the original development of each of the ten Clinical Scales. Hathaway and McKinley 1940 describes the development of Clinical Scale 1 and is also notable as the first formal publication on the MMPI. Other articles here document the development of Clinical Scale 2 (Hathaway and McKinley 1942), Clinical Scales 3 and 4 (McKinley and Hathaway 1944), Clinical Scales 5 and 6 (Hathaway 1956), Clinical Scale 7 (McKinley and Hathaway 1942), Clinical Scale 8 (Hathaway 1956), Clinical Scale 9 (McKinley and Hathaway 1944), and Clinical Scale 0 (Drake 1946).

  • Drake, L. E. 1946. A social I. E. scale for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Journal of Applied Psychology 30.1: 51–54.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0059898E-mail Citation »

    Clinical Scale 0 (Social Introversion) is unique among the ten basic scales as having been developed by someone other than Starke Hathaway. This article describes a straightforward application of using the empirical keying approach to distinguish two groups, setting the stage for literally hundreds of examples to follow.

  • Hathaway, S. R. 1956. Scales 5 (masculinity-femininity), 6 (paranoia), and 8 (schizophrenia). In Basic readings on the MMPI in psychology and medicine. Edited by G. S. Welsh and W. G. Dahlstrom, 104–111. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Available only in Basic Readings (Welsh and Dahlstrom 1956), this article describes the fascinating history of Clinical Scale 5 (Masculinity-Femininity) and is worth reading in that regard. It also describes the development of Clinical Scales 6 (Paranoia) and 8 (Schizophrenia).

  • Hathaway, S. R., and J. C. McKinley. 1940. A multiphasic personality schedule (Minnesota): I. Construction of the schedule. Journal of Psychology 10:249–254.

    DOI: 10.1080/00223980.1940.9917000E-mail Citation »

    This short article (included in Basic Readings) is notable as the first formal publication on the MMPI. It focuses on the details of the development of Clinical Scale 1 (Hypochondriasis), but in doing so provides valuable insight into the methods used throughout test development.

  • Hathaway, S. R., and J. C. McKinley. 1942. A multiphasic personality schedule (Minnesota): III. The measurement of symptomatic depression. Journal of Psychology 14.1: 73–84.

    DOI: 10.1080/00223980.1942.9917111E-mail Citation »

    This paper describes the development of Clinical Scale 2 (Depression) and includes clear description of the criterion group as well as item-level decisions by the test developers that are typically omitted in modern, retrospective accounts of this stage of the test history.

  • Hathaway, S. R., and P. E. Meehl. 1951. An atlas for the clinical use of the MMPI. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This reference book presents 968 short case histories with associated MMPI profiles, organized by codetypes. It is of historical and scholarly interest but does not provide practical information in the present context.

  • McKinley, J. C., and S. R. Hathaway. 1942. A Multiphasic Personality Schedule (Minnesota): IV. Psychasthenia. Journal of Applied Psychology 26.5: 614–624.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0063530E-mail Citation »

    This article describes the development of Clinical Scale 7 (Psychasthenia). The criterion group is easily seen from the description as individuals struggling with obsessive-compulsive symptomatology.

  • McKinley, J. C., and S. R. Hathaway. 1944. The Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory. V. Hysteria, hypomania and psychopathic deviate. Journal of Applied Psychology 28.2: 153–174.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0059245E-mail Citation »

    This paper describes in now-familiar format the development of Clinical Scales 3 (Hysteria), 4 (Psychopathic Deviate), and 9 (Hypomania). Again, detailed descriptions of the criterion groups are of historical and scholarly, if not practical, interest.

  • Welsh, G. S., and W. G. Dahlstrom, eds. 1956. Basic readings on the MMPI in psychology and medicine. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collection includes sixty-six of the earliest articles on the MMPI, authored by forty-five different contributors. Welsh and Dahlstrom contributed articles themselves, as did Hathaway, Paul Meehl, and others, and their goal was to provide in one source the major research during the first fifteen years of the test’s existence.

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