Table of Contents
Essentials of Psychological Assessment Series
Title Page
Copyright Page
Series Preface
Annotated Bibliography
About the Author


Essentials of Psychological Assessment Series
Series Editors, Alan S. Kaufman and Nadeen L. Kaufman
Essentials of 16 PF ® Assessment
by Heather E.-P. Cattell and James M. Schuerger
Essentials of Assessment Report Writing
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger, Nancy Mather, Nadeen L.
Kaufman, and Alan S. Kaufman
Essentials of Assessment with Brief Intelligence Tests
by Susan R. Homack and Cecil R. Reynolds
Essentials of Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II Assessment
by Maureen M. Black and Kathleen Matula
Essentials of Behavioral Assessment
by Michael C. Ramsay, Cecil R. Reynolds, and R. W.
Essentials of Career Interest Assessment
by Jeffrey P. Prince and Lisa J. Heiser
Essentials of CAS Assessment
by Jack A. Naglieri
Essentials of Cognitive Assessment with KAIT and Other
Kaufman Measures
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger, Debra Broadbooks, and
Alan S. Kaufman
Essentials of Conners Behaviors Assessments
by Elizabeth P. Sparrow
Essentials of Creativity Assessment
by James C. Kaufman, Jonathan A. Plucker, and John Baer
Essentials of Cross-Battery Assessment, Second Edition
by Dawn P. Flanagan, Samuel O. Ortiz, and Vincent C.
Essentials of DAS-II ® Assessment
by Ron Dumont, John O. Willis, and Colin D. Elliot
Essentials of Evidence-Based Academic Interventions
by Barbara J. Wendling and Nancy Mather
Essentials of Forensic Psychological Assessment, Second Edition
by Marc J. Ackerman
Essentials of Individual Achievement Assessment
by Douglas K. Smith
Essentials of KABC-II Assessment
by Alan S. Kaufman, Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger, Elaine
Fletcher-Janzen, and Nadeen L. Kaufman
Essentials of Millon Inventories Assessment, Third Edition
by Stephen Strack
Essentials of MMPI-A Assessment
by Robert P. Archer and Radhika Krishnamurthy
Essentials of MMPI-2 Assessment
by David S. Nichols
Essentials of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® Assessment,
Second Edition
by Naomi Quenk
Essentials of NEPSY-II ® Assessment
by Sally L. Kemp and Marit Korkman
Essentials of Neuropsychological Assessment, Second Edition
by Nancy Hebben and William Milberg
Essentials of Nonverbal Assessment
by Steve McCallum, Bruce Bracken, and John Wasserman
Essentials of PAI ® Assessment
by Leslie C. Morey
Essentials of Processing Assessment
by Milton J. Dehn
Essentials of Response to Intervention
by Amanda M. VanDerHeyden and Matthew K. Burns
Essentials of Rorschach® Assessment
by Tara Rose, Nancy Kaser-Boyd, and Michael P. Maloney
Essentials of School Neuropsychological Assessment
by Daniel C. Miller
Essentials of Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (SB5) Assessment
by Gale H. Roid and R. Andrew Barram
Essentials of TAT and Other Storytelling Assessments,
Second Edition
by Hedwig Teglasi
Essentials of Temperament Assessment
by Diana Joyce
Essentials of WAIS ®-IV Assessment
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger and Alan S. Kaufman
Essentials of WIAT ®-III and KTEA-II Assessment
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger and Kristina Breaux
Essentials of WISC-III ® and WPPSI-R® Assessment
by Alan S. Kaufman and Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger
Essentials of WISC ®-IV Assessment, Second Edition
by Dawn P. Flanagan and Alan S. Kaufman
Essentials of WJ III Cognitive Abilities Assessment
by Fredrick A. Schrank, Dawn P. Flanagan, Richard W.
Woodcock, and Jennifer T. Mascolo
Essentials of WJ III Tests of Achievement Assessment
by Nancy Mather, Barbara J. Wendling, and Richard W.
Essentials of WMS ® -III Assessment
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger, Alan S. Kaufman, and
Zona C. Lai
Essentials of WNV Assessment
by Kimberly A. Brunnert, Jack A. Naglieri, and Steven T.
Essentials of WPPSI -III Assessment
by Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger and Alan S. Kaufman
Essentials of WRAML2 and TOMAL-2 Assessment
by Wayne Adams and Cecil R. Reynolds


For Saul, Jordan, and Jeremy

Series Preface
In the Essentials of Psychological Assessment series, we have attempted to provide the reader with books that will deliver key practical information in the most efficient and accessible style. The series features instruments in a variety of domains, such as cognition, personality, education, and neuropsychology. For the experienced clinician, books in the series will offer a concise yet thorough way to master utilization of the continuously evolving supply of new and revised instruments, as well as a convenient method for keeping up to date on the tried-and-true measures. The novice will find here a prioritized assembly of all the information and techniques that must be at one’s fingertips to begin the complicated process of individual psychological diagnosis.
Wherever feasible, visual shortcuts to highlight key points are utilized alongside systematic, step-by-step guidelines. Chapters are focused and succinct. Topics are targeted for an easy understanding of the essentials of administration, scoring, interpretation, and clinical application. Theory and research are continually woven into the fabric of each book, but always to enhance clinical inference, never to sidetrack or overwhelm. We have long been advocates of “intelligent” testing-the notion that a profile of test scores is meaningless unless it is brought to life by the clinical observations and astute detective work of knowledgeable examiners. Test profiles must be used to make a difference in the child’s or adult’s life, or why bother to test? We want this series to help our readers become the best intelligent testers they can be.
In Essentials of TAT and Other Storytelling Assessments, Second Edition, Dr. Hedwig Teglasi links the projective hypothesis, which is the theoretical foundation of all thematic apperceptive techniques, with current constructs in the study of personality. She also contextualizes the clinical use of storytelling techniques within the study of narrative as the language of experience, reflecting individualistic schemas and social information processing. Emphasizing the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), the book also covers the Children’s Apperception Test, the Tell-Me-A-Story Test, and the Roberts 2. Specific guidelines, including worksheets and illustrative examples, are provided in each of four areas: Cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, and motivational/self-regulatory processes.
Alan S. Kaufman, PhD, and Nadeen L. Kaufman, EdD, Series Editors
Yale University School of Medicine

Astory, as the language of experience, may be examined and re-examined, regardless of whether it is told about a picture or recounts a personal memory. The scientific literature across various psychology subfields provides various lenses through which to analyze open-ended narratives, both in terms of content and structure. I continue to be indebted to the scholars whose ideas inform my approach to coding and interpreting stories. This second edition has also benefited from listening to my students who posed insightful questions, thus spurring clarifications. Finally, I am appreciative of the support of my editor at Wiley, Isabel Pratt.

Methods for eliciting and interpreting stories told about pictured scenes are known generically as thematic apperceptive techniques, traditionally classified as projective instruments but also viewed as performance-based measures of personality. What all projective techniques have in common is that each presents a task that maximizes the imprint of individuality because there is no single correct approach to meeting the performance demands. The broader conceptualization of projective tests as performance-based measures of personality recognizes the essential distinction within the field of personality, between measures calling for the individual to navigate a task or to report information sought by a questionnaire or interview (see Meyer & Kurtz, 2006; Teglasi, 1998). Personality performance measures are distinct from the more structured cognitive performance measures. Personality tasks are used to evaluate problem-solving and reasoning under conditions of uncertainty without an obvious correct answer, whereas cognitive tests (intelligence or academic achievement) present clear-cut problems, the answers to which are easily classified as being correct or not. In the absence of a single right or wrong solution, evaluation of the responses to storytelling tasks occurs by qualified professionals in accord with their theoretical framework and training as well as preference for a particular interpretive scheme.
Although subjected to criticism, the set of pictures introduced by Morgan and Murray (1935) as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) remains the most popular (Archer, Marnish, Imhof, & Piotrowski, 1991; Watkins, Campbell, & McGregor, 1988; Watkins, Campbell, Nieberding, & Hallmark, 1995). The use of these pictures, however, did not remain wedded to Murray’s interpretive system, and a plethora of interpretive approaches was subsequently developed. Additionally, a variety of different picture stimuli and accompanying interpretive procedures were introduced as variations of the TAT.


The introduction of the TAT stimuli (Morgan & Murray, 1935; Murray, 1938, 1943) popularized the idea that telling a story to pictured scenes depicting complex social situations would reveal important aspects of personality. The use of pictures to elicit stories had been reported prior to the introduction of the TAT but only in four obscure studies (cited in Tomkins, 1947).
At the time that the TAT was being developed, the Rorschach technique, emphasizing perception, was gaining popularity. For Murray (1938), the TAT offered the advantage of assessing apperception. He defined perception as recognition of an object based on sensory impression and apperception as the addition of meaning to what is perceived. Accordingly, telling stories about pictured scenes was an apperceptive task requiring the interpretation of the pictured cues to discern characters’ motives, intentions, and expectations. Although Murray introduced a specific, theoretically based system for interpreting the stories told to TAT pictures, the appeal and the flexibility of the storytelling technique led to the introduction of many different sets of picture stimuli and many interpretive approaches for the TAT pictures (see Chapter 8).
Interpretive procedures for the TAT and its derivatives have been designed either for the study of personality (for a summary, see Smith, 1992) or for clinical use (for a summary, see Jenkins, 2008). Personality researchers favored well-defined criteria to assess specific personality constructs (see Smith, 1992), whereas clinicians preferred broader constructs to assess the functioning of the “whole” person. Many insisted that the TAT be interpreted and not scored (see edited volume by Gieser & Stein, 1999). Generally, clinicians preferred to use the technique as a flexible tool for eliciting information that they would then interpret in light of their professional training and expertise. Such an approach is exemplified by Bellak’s (1975, 1993) application of psychoanalytic theory to the interpretation of TAT stories. Despite the popularity of the TAT among clinicians, there is no consensus on a particular scoring system and there is no comprehensive set of norms for clinical use. Nevertheless, specific coding procedures have been developed for clinical purposes that are reliably scored and correlate with adjustment (see Jenkins, 2008; McGrew & Teglasi, 1990). Although the psychoanalytic perspective dominated the clinical use of the TAT for over a half-century, other interpretive frameworks were introduced, based primarily in social cognitive theory (Cramer, 1996; Teglasi, 1993, 1998; Westen, Klepser, Ruffins, Silverman, Lifton, & Boekamp, 1991). Rather than undermining its original theoretical foundations, current perspectives expand the basic tenets on which the TAT was grounded.
According to social cognitive theory, real-time information processing is informed by previously organized mental sets or schemas that structure knowledge about the self, others, and the world (Cervone, 2004; Teglasi, 1998). Individuals draw from a storehouse of schemas to interpret current situations, and it is the interpretation that drives decisions and actions. What is essential to understand about personality performance measures in clinical use is that they present tasks that are ill-defined as to the desired solution, calling for individuals to impose their mental sets to interpret and respond to ambiguous or novel stimuli.
Subsequent to the formulation of the projective hypothesis (Frank, 1939), the TAT and other measures permitting open-ended responses were designated as projective techniques. A fundamental assumption of all projective methods, including thematic apperceptive techniques, is the “projective hypothesis,” which posits that stimuli from the environment are perceived and organized by the individual’s specific needs, motives, feelings, perceptual sets, and cognitive structures, and that in large part this process occurs automatically and outside of awareness (Frank, 1948). The pervasive influence of the unconscious on perception, thought, behavior, and motivation is well documented (Bargh & Morsella, 2008; Duckworth, Bargh, Garcia, & Chaiken, 2002). The projective hypothesis bears a striking resemblance to current definitions of the “unconscious” as comprising qualities of the mind that influence conscious thought and behavior through processes that are outside of immediate awareness (James, 1998; Uleman, 2005). Such automatic processes shape responses to projective tests and to similarly unstructured life encounters.
Historically, much of the criticism directed at the TAT was rooted in the incorrect view that the TAT and self-report provide equivalent information. Since self-report methods were viewed as being the more straightforward and less labor intensive way to find out what a person believes (just ask directly), projective tests were challenged to show that they add value beyond self-report. In this context, the low correlations between narrative motive measures and corresponding self-reported traits were misjudged as indicative of lack of validity of one or the other. Trait theorists tended to question the reliability and validity of projective measures (e.g., Lilienfield, Wood, & Garb, 2000), whereas motive theorists took the low correlations to be evidence of the distinctiveness of the constructs assessed with self-report and performance instruments (e.g., Brunstein & Maier, 2005).
Research has established dualities in psychological constructs that inform the use of measurement with self-report and personality performance measures such as the TAT. Explicit versions of constructs are attributed to the self and available to introspection, hence to self-report, whereas implicit versions are not accessible by introspection (see Bornstein, 2002; James, 1998; McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989; Westen, 1990, 1991; Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998). Changes in the theoretical landscape due to advances in understanding the profound role of the unconscious in human functioning has led to the realization that the human mind is too complex to be characterized by a single assessment method.
Attributes of Projective Techniques (including TAT)
• Stimuli are sufficiently ambiguous to preclude a ready response, thereby requiring individual interpretation.
• There are many “correct” ways to approach the task.
• The response is open-ended and maximizes the imprint of organization.


The projective hypothesis and schema theory are similar in their central tenets. Both point to the role of previously organized mental “sets” in the interpretation of current stimuli, and both emphasize the influence of these mental structures as occurring outside of conscious awareness (Fiske, Haslam, & Fiske, 1991; Wyer & Srull, 1994). In essence, schema theory and research may be viewed as elaborating the workings of the projective hypothesis and as supporting performance measures of personality such as the TAT. The story form itself is a schema that captures the organization of prior experience and provides the structure for ordering current experience (Teglasi, 1998). To understand the operation of schemas in guiding responses to personality performance tests, it is necessary to consider basic dualities in psychological constructs and in modes of processing information.

Dualities in Psychological Constructs and Modes of Information Processing

The well-documented distinction between implicit and explicit versions of psychological constructs appears to correspond to a basic dichotomy between the “experiencing self,” driven by emotion that imparts a sense of genuineness, and the “verbally defined self,” guided by more dispassionate processing of verbal information (James, 1890). Explicitly attributed constructs express what is important to one’s self-definition or identity or what is viewed as socially desirable (being a good student) that may or may not be supported by actual experiences (enjoying the process of learning). In a series of classic articles, McClelland and his colleagues (Koestner & McClelland, 1990; Koestner, Weinberger, & McClelland, 1991; McClelland et al., 1989) argued that implicit achievement motivation (measured with the TAT) and explicit achievement motivation (measured with self-report) develop by different routes and have different patterns of relationships with other variables (see meta-analytic review in Spangler, 1992). Implicit motives are dispositional preferences for particular qualities of affective experiences, grounded in personally significant encounters and spurring spontaneous reactions. In contrast, self-attributed motives are conceptualizations about the self that may be more rooted in logical, cultural, and social bases for a desired self-description than personal inclination. Self-attributed motives forecast responses to situations that provide incentives for expressing socially promoted values or for presenting the self in a particular light but are not necessarily linked to the individual’s affective preferences. Implicit motives develop through intrinsic enjoyment generated when doing tasks or experiencing activities or situations and, therefore, predict self-selected, goal-related activities (Biernat, 1989; Koestner, Weinberger, & McClelland, 1991; McClelland et al., 1989). The TAT-assessed implicit motives predicted long-term behavioral trends, whereas questionnaire measures of self-attributed motives predicted short-term choice behaviors. Dual versions of numerous constructs measured with self-report and performance tasks have since been proposed (see Rapid Reference 1.1).
Rapid Reference 1.1
Dual Versions of Constructs: Implicit and Explicit Personality
Achievement motivation (McClelland et al., 1989)
Self-esteem (Bosson, Swann, & Pennebaker, 2000; Spalding & Hardin, 1999)
Dependency (Bornstein, 1998)
Anxiety (Egloff, Wilhelm, Neubauer, Mauss, & Gross, 2002)
Attitudes (Greenwald, Banaji, Rudman, Farnham, Nosek, & Mellott, 2002)
Aggression (Frost, Ko, & James, 2007)
Rapid Reference 1.2
Dual Process Information Processing Systems (see Evans, 2008)
System One System Two
Not reflectively consciousConscious
Automatic, effortlessDeliberative, effortful
Rapid, intuitive, simultaneous processingRelatively slow, controlled, analytic processing
High capacity to process a great deal of informationCapacity limited by attention and working memory
Two distinct ways of knowing and of information processing (see Rapid Reference 1.2) are relevant to implicit and explicit versions of psychological constructs. The essential contrast is between processing that is unconscious (implicit), rapid, automatic, and capable of simultaneously handling a great deal of information and processing that is conscious (explicit), slow, and deliberative (for a review, see Evans, 2008). This dichotomy characterizes information processing that is rational and experiential, and conflict between these modes of thought has been described as a discrepancy between the “heart” and the “head” (see Epstein, 1994; Epstein & Pacini, 1999). The “heart” tends to harbor convictions that do not require new evidence, deriving credibility by virtue of their connection to emotions. The “head” responds to logic and rational ideas that may change more easily with new evidence. Of course, there are points in between the extremes reflecting compromises between the two thought systems.
Individuals bring to any encounter implicit and explicit (self-attributed) motives or convictions as well as automatic and controlled modes of information processing that support both implicit and self-attributed convictions. Although implicit and explicit schemas are salient in different contexts, as noted earlier, they join together in their influences on behavior and adjustment. Under some circumstances, external incentives may override an individual’s implicit motives (Rudman, 2004) and conflict between explicit and implicit psychological constructs may lead to various compromises that have implications for well-being. Discrepancy between implicit and self-attributed motives to achieve is associated with decreased subjective well-being and increased symptom formation (Baumann, Kaschel, & Kuhl, 2005).
Discrepancies between implicit and self-attributed inclinations may be resolved differently depending on their social desirability in a culture (achievement or aggression). According to the channeling hypothesis (Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998), when facing a conflict between their desires to maintain a particular self-image or public reputation and their implicit inclinations, individuals will allow explicit motives to influence the channels for expressing the implicit motives. For instance, a person who does not endorse an aggressive self-image, but implicitly experiences hostile tendencies, would express these tendencies in ways that are indirect (Frost, Ko, & James, 2007). Assessing both versions of psychological constructs enables researchers and practitioners to weigh the relative influence of explicit and implicit versions of the same personality variable as a function of the situational context.

Public and Personal Knowledge Structures

A fuller appreciation of the relationship between schema theory and the projective hypothesis necessitates a distinction between two types of knowledge structures that organize experience. One is independent of the knower, and the other is unique to the knower (Mandler, 1982; Wozniak, 1985). Knowledge that exists independently of the knower is public, whereas knowledge that is dependent on the individual’s experiences is personal (see Fig. 1.1). All schemas, public or personal, are outgrowths of the capacity of human beings to detect, process, and use information about covariations of stimuli and events in their surroundings (such as a change in contingencies), often without deliberate effort or conscious awareness (Dowd & Courchaine, 2002; Lewicki, Czyzewska, & Hill, 1997; Lewicki, Hill, & Czyzewska, 1992). Schemas that capture the regularities of the external world that are amenable to proof by logic, evidence, or social consensus may be called public. However, schemas that coordinate perceived regularities in the inner and outer worlds are more aptly characterized as personal because they are unique to the individual and subject to confirmation only by like-minded others.
The public schemas may be further categorized as logical and social. Logical schemas such as mathematical formulas or scientific principles describing observed relationships among facts or ideas (such as the formula for calculating the circumference of a circle) develop and change through critical analysis, logical proof, or direct evidence. Social schemas organizing regularities in routine events (how to order a meal in a restaurant, what happens when visiting the dentist), rules or beliefs that are widely held in a culture (raising one’s hand in class, tipping the server), or the layout of public spaces (such as an airport) are maintained by consensus, not necessarily logic. Such social schemas provide clear expectations about what will happen and how to behave in commonly occurring situations (Abelson, 1981; Schank & Abelson, 1977).
A twofold classification of personal schemas parallels the distinctions between two versions of psychological constructs, implicit and explicit, described above (also see Payne, Burkley, & Stokes, 2008). Explicit personal schemas are models about the self (in relation to others and the world), including motives that a person endorses (self-attributes) on the basis of social values or importance to identity but not necessarily supported by patterns of regularities in actual experience. Explicit personal schemas are active in situations that are relatively structured, providing cues or incentives (reminders, supervision) salient for a particular self-image. Implicit personal schemas reflect experiential regularities as an ongoing synthesis of bidirectional and reciprocal encounters of individuals with their surroundings (see Teglasi & Epstein, 1998). As individuals notice patterns in the external world such as links between actions and outcomes and regularities in their emotional states in relation to the stream of external events, they form expectations about what actions can or cannot bring about certain effects. Therefore, implicit personal schemas include ideas about sources of distress and about one’s efficacy to regulate uncomfortable states or to bring about desired outcomes, capturing the reciprocal relations among affect, cognitions, and behavior. Personal schemas, particularly if implicit, change more readily through experiential learning (detecting new regularities, reframing experiences) than through didactic methods (Dowd, 2006).
Figure 1.1 Public and Personal Schemas
Each individual develops unique patterns of assumptions about the self, the world, and relationships, arriving at a particular stance toward life through the complex interplay of maturation, temperament, cognitive development, and socialization (Stark, Rouse, & Livingston, 1991). Personal schemas are representations that are idiosyncratic to the knower because their development is influenced by individual differences shaping the transactions with the environment as well as the interpretation of those transactions (see Teglasi, 2006). Individuals’ strategies for synthesizing cues provided in the scenes portrayed in TAT pictures and for organizing the response are analogous to the manner in which they apply previously acquired knowledge for adaptive use in novel, stressful, or ambiguous situations. Likewise, schema theory assumes that successful adaptation to unfamiliar situations requires the coordination of what one “perceives” in the present with what one “knows” from previous experience.
The construct of the personal schema brings together models of perception, cognition, memory, affect, action, and feedback, in social and cultural contexts, thereby incorporating the various perspectives for understanding personality. The schema construct also bridges the study of normal personality processes with the study of psychopathology because schema-driven information processing allows previously organized knowledge to influence perception of ongoing experiences in adaptive or maladaptive ways. Knowledge structures that accurately represent reality increase efficiency in identifying perceptions, organizing them into meaningful units, filling in missing information, and devising a strategy for seeking new information as needed. However, maladaptive schemas bias attention and information processing to conform to an initial misconception and resist change despite contradictory evidence (e.g., Beck, 2002; Beck & Clark, 1997; Horowitz, 1991; Riso, du Toit, Stein, & Young, 2007).
Dual theories of information processing account for the development of public and personal knowledge structures and have implications for the use of tools to assess the schemas that represent these two modes of thought.
Projective techniques are concerned primarily with the application of knowledge structures that are unique to the knower to organize responses to ambiguous stimuli.


The story form and personal schemas are similar in that both are products of prior synthesis of experience and inform subsequent information processing. The story implicitly carries the schemas by which individuals order their experiences, structuring the stream of life events as episodes with a beginning, middle, and end (Oatley, 1992). Far more than delineating events that occur at a particular time and place, the story conveys personal meanings by weaving together events, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that reflect causal, conditional, and temporal understandings (that even preschool children possess; see review, Flavell & Miller, 1998; Fivush & Haden, 1997; Wellman & Gelman, 1998). In essence, the story functions as a tool for thinking (Bruner, 1990; Hermans, 2003), incorporating the narrator’s understanding of the mental world, termed “theory of mind,” based on the recognition that outward actions are organized by the inner world of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, wishes, and intentions (Fonagy & Target, 2003).
Personal schemas are resistant to change because the processes that led to their development may still be operating and because schemas tend to organize and modify new experiences to fi t the preexisting structures.
Children’s understanding of mental states develops in tandem with their capacity to incorporate psychological causality in recounting autobiographical memories. Narrative accounts of experience reflect understandings of mental states as causally related to behaviors (see review, Reese, 2002). Akin to the schema, theory of mind is not a collection of isolated beliefs but captures the reciprocal relations among mental states, perceptions of environments, decisions, plans, and actions (Wellman, 1990). As do schemas, theory of mind operates outside of consciousness and provides a foundation for processing social information, including classifications and relations among mental elements (thoughts, feelings, intentions) and their connections to external events and actions.

Narrative as Cognition

The contrast between narrative and propositional thought parallels the distinction between public and personal schemas. Propositional thought is public, logical, formal, theoretical, general, and abstract, whereas narrative thought is story-like, concrete, specific, personally convincing, imagistic, interpersonal, and includes characters, settings, intentions, emotions, actions, and outcomes (see Bruner 1986, 1990). Narrative and propositional modes of thought provide distinct ways of ordering experience. Propositional or paradigmatic thought employs operations by which one establishes categorization or conceptualizations (Bruner, 1986; Hermans, Kempen, & Van Loon, 1992; Vitz, 1990) and encompasses logical or scientific universals that transcend personal experience and specific context. Narrative thought also establishes categories, but they are contextualized in relation to specific persons, times, and places and invested with emotion. Logical thought aims to establish truth, whereas the narrative mode convinces by its meaningfulness (Parry & Doan, 1994). (See Rapid Reference 1.3.)
Rapid Reference 1.3
Empirical and Conceptual Support for the Assessment of Schemas with Storytelling
1. A growing body of literature urges researchers to focus on stories as the natural mode through which individuals make sense of their experiences (e.g., Bruner, 1990 ; McAdams, Diamond, de St. Aubin, & Mansfield, 1997). The ability to construct stories with a sensible sequence of events, reasonable causal relationships, and cohesive emotional experiences is an important developmental task of childhood, with implications for mental health (Mancuso & Sarbin, 1998). Storytelling is closely linked to listening and to reading comprehension (Blankman, Teglasi, & Lawser, 2002).
2. The principles that organize experience are evident through various narrative procedures including early memories, autobiographical recollections, and stories told to picture stimuli (Demorest & Alexander, 1992; McAdams, Hoffman, Mansfi eld, & Day, 1996). Thematic coherence (agency and communion) was evident across narratives written by adults and college students about personally important scenes in their lives and their TAT stories (McAdams, Hoffman, Mansfield, & Day, 1996). Scripts extracted from autobiographical memories and from stories told to TAT cards a month later supported the conclusion that scripted knowledge structures are superimposed on new affective stimuli (Demorest and Alexander, 1992).
3. Socially competent behavior involves complex skills starting with accurate encoding and interpretation of relevant cues from external and internal sources, formulating intentions, maintaining goals, generating appropriate responses, and using strategies to enact and evaluate the chosen response (Dodge & Price, 1994; Elias & Tobias, 1996). Although these components of social problem solving may be conceptually separated, they are linked together in the story form as a framework for thinking about social situations (e.g., Teglasi & Rothman, 2001; Teglasi, Rahill, & Rothman, 2007).
4. Schemas that represent relationships maladaptively are functionally related to psychopathology (e.g., Downey, Lebolt, Rincon, & Freitas, 1998; Oppenheim, Emde, & Warren, 1997). Schematic processing problems that reduce fl exibility in processing information promote vicious cycles where ineffective schemas are preserved, thereby maintaining dysfunctional emotions, attitudes, and behaviors (Greenberg, Rice, & Elliott, 1993). Cognitive therapeutic approaches are increasingly grounded in schema theory (e.g., Riso, du Toit et al., 2007).
5. Stories are important structures that organize experiences. Mental and physical benefits derive from expressing feelings associated with adverse events in an organized way, such as telling a story (Hemenover, 2003; Pennebaker, 1997). However, the experience need not be one’s own. Writing about someone else’s trauma as if it were one’s own produced effects that were similar to writing about one’s own traumatic experience (Greenberg, Wortman, & Stone, 1996).
The ability to organize experience into narrative form is a central developmental task, related to children’s adjustment (Mancuso & Sarbin, 1998). At about 5 years of age, children’s narratives move beyond temporal sequences of events to identify the problem or psychological issue in a situation, and by ages 9 to 11, approximate adult levels (Applebee, 1978; Botvin & Sutton-Smith, 1977; Peterson & McCabe, 1983). Children who do not provide cohesive narrative accounts of events or experiences are perceived as less competent academically and socially (Bloome, Katz, & Champion, 2003). Exchanging stories is a fundamental mode by which people share their subjective reality, and telling the right story at the right time in a social conversation has been viewed as a hallmark of social intelligence (Schank, 1990). As the language of experience, it has been argued that virtually all meaningful social knowledge is learned in the form of stories (Schank & Abelson, 1995).

TAT and Autobiographical Narrative

The story is the primary means by which episodes in daily life are represented in memory (Schank, 1990), providing a structure for ordering the sequences of events, situating them in a particular place and point in time, and connecting them to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. According to script theory, the scene or recollection of a specific episode in one’s life contains at least one basic affect (e.g., joy, excitement, fear, anger) and one object of that affect (Tomkins, 1987; Carlson, 1981). Scenes become organized into families or groupings, comprising scripts that govern the interpretation, creation, and organization of new scenes and recollections of prior scenes. Tomkins’ notion of script corresponds to the personal schema. The ability to recall scenes (episodic memory) and to organize them into scripts (general event memory) serves adaptive functions (see review, Nelson & Fivush, 2004). Giving a coherent account of a specific experience is necessary for communication, whereas the synthesis of events into general narrative structures (scripts or schemas) aids the recall of prior episodes (filling in the gaps) and informs interpretations of subsequent ones.
Recalled episodes are not expected to correspond with what actually happened. Rather, the greatest value in autobiographical studies lies in their illumination of current life meanings (Tomkins, 1987). Likewise, experiences described by clients to their therapists do not correspond to historical facts but constitute “story lines” that have been transformed by psychological processes (Schafer, 1992). Similarly, according to the life-story model of adult identity (McAdams, 1985, 1993; McAdams & Pals, 2006), individuals selectively value past experiences that are continuous with the present, thereby lending coherence to their lives. Memories that are relevant for individuals’ implicit and explicit goals or motives are more accessible (Woike, Mcleod, & Goggin, 2003). Implicit motives operate in the recall of emotionally charged experiences (Woike, Gershkovich, Piorkowski, & Polo, 1999), whereas explicit motives operate in the recall of experiences and information relevant to maintaining the self-concept (DeSteno & Salovey, 1997; Singer & Salovey, 1993; Woike et al., 2003).
The details of stories told to TAT stimuli are not assumed to represent actual experiences. However, like other sources of narrative (the interview, autobiographic stories, specific recollections, diaries), TAT stories are amenable to analysis in terms of the categories and principles that organize experience such as causal understandings, means-ends sets, abstract themes, affective scripts, and complexity in the representation of persons (e.g., Alexander, 1988; Arnold, 1962; Demorest & Alexander, 1992; Leigh, Westen, Barends, Mendel, & Byers, 1992; McAdams, Hoffman, Mansfield, & Day, 1996; Schank, 1990). Early memory narratives of patients at the start of therapy and TAT stories were coded with the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale (SCORS; Westen, 1995) and both predicted the therapeutic alliance, a variable crucial to outcomes (see Pinsker-Aspen, Stein, & Hilsenroth, 2007). Broad motivational themes (agency and communion) coded from TAT stories are congruent with thematic content of diaries of daily memories (Woike & Polo, 2001). Through unconscious processes, individuals apply the categories for thinking about significant others to new encounters (Andersen, Reznik, & Glassman, 2005), and these categories may be gleaned from analysis of stories about early experiences and about TAT cards.
The categories built into schemas depend on individuality in detecting patterns of regularities across experiences. The raw materials for detecting patterns are the observed distinctions. As individuals interact with their social and physical worlds, they construe reality (expectations, causal understandings) by registering patterns in what they notice as relevant in their surroundings. When co-occurring thoughts, emotions, and action tendencies are noticed in a given environmental context, the brain clusters them together (see Mischel & Ayduk, 2004) such that, when one element of the cluster is brought to mind, it activates the others (a visit to one’s childhood home calling forth certain feelings and thoughts).
An examination of neural networks involved in autobiographical memory (using event-related functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) demonstrated that TAT stimuli activated brain areas known to be involved in autobiographical memory retrieval (Schnell, Dietrich, Schnitker, Daumann, & Herpertz, 2007). The TAT cards produced similar activation in those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and control participants but, unlike the control participants, those with BPD showed hyperactivation of these areas for both the affectively loaded TAT and for neutral stimuli. This finding that those with BPD did not differentiate between emotional and neutral stimuli means that such distinctions are not available in daily life to enrich the implicit process of schema development. What is not noticed, even implicitly, cannot be classified into categories that are built into the schemas.
When the individual is actively contemplating an interpersonal situation or task, such as telling stories about pictorial stimuli, he or she constructs a working model that combines internal and external sources of information (see Rapid Reference 1.4). Stories evoked by pictures permit the evaluation of the categories applied to information processing that contribute to well-being as well as to distress or counterproductive behavior. Structural features of children’s TAT stories reveal distortions and deficits in processing information that are associated with emotional disability identified in the school system (Lohr, Teglasi, & French, 2004; McGrew & Teglasi, 1990). Qualities of children’s schemas such as their accuracy, organization, and complexity have been related to temperament (Bassan-Diamond, Teglasi, & Schmidt, 1995; Lohr et al., 2004), empathy (Locraft & Teglasi, 1997; Teglasi, Locraft, & Felgenhauer, 2008a), as well as to listening and reading comprehension (Blankman, Teglasi, & Lawser, 2002).
Rapid Reference 1.4
The Relationship of TAT Stories to Life Experiences
1. Individuals learn “lessons” from the regularities of day-to-day experiences. When a lesson repeatedly occurs, it may become a type of structure (like grammar) that exists apart from the specifi c incidents from which the lesson arose (Schank, 1990; Tomkins, 1987). Because abstracted schemas are based on numerous experiences (real or vicarious), they are readily activated (Murray, 1938), particularly in ambiguous situations or by tasks such as the TAT.
2. Individual differences in the synthesis of experiences applied to daily life are paralleled by variations in the construction of TAT stories as (a) piecemeal associations, (b) a direct replay of actual experiences selected from memory, (c) imposition of narrative patterns borrowed from books, other media, or stereotypes, or (d) application of convictions or lessons “abstracted” from experience (Teglasi, 1993) to meet task demands.
3. The inner logic and cohesiveness of the stories together with their content represent how individuals learn from day-to-day experiences and how they apply their knowledge to meet the task demand (e.g., accurately interpreting the stimuli and following instructions).
4. Content that is repeated provides clues about the narrator’s concerns or preoccupations (Henry, 1956). However, addressing both the structure and content overcomes the pitfall of attributing too much weight to content (that may be pulled by the stimuli or recent experiences) but not meaningfully incorporated into structures that guide the synthesis of experience (Teglasi, 1998).

Use of the TAT to Measure Narrative Cognition

Once established, personal schemas are vehicles to compare incoming information with existing knowledge. The pre-existing schemas automatically provide the categories and structures for organizing stories told to TAT pictures in line with the instructions and the pictured scenes. Just as one would expect a person to give a coherent account of a prior experience, the stories about TAT pictures are expected to be organized productions rather than fantasies or random associations (Holt, 1961). The narrator’s schemas used to interpret the pictured scene and organize ideas when telling TAT stories are applicable to the interpretation of similarly unstructured life situations (Bellak, 1975, 1993). The pictures provide the “givens” to be explained and the instructions call for producing a complete story. The construction of the story entails the superimposition of narrative patterns that apply to the internal representations of prior experience serving as the schemas for ordering the individual’s ongoing encounters with the world (see Rapid Reference 1.5). Although permitting a wide range of responses, TAT stimuli are sufficiently structured to detect problems with interpreting the scenes. Overlaps between structural and thematic features of TAT stories with accounts of significant autobiographical episodes are expected because both are constructed according to the principles by which the narrator organizes experiences. However, there is no expectation of resemblance of the surface content of TAT stories to actual happenings.
Rapid Reference 1.5
Social Problem Solving and Standard Questions for Eliciting TAT Stories
What is happening in the picture? Before a concern or problem is resolved, it must first be identifi ed. The individual’s storehouse of memories and schemas for understanding social situations is the source for generating ideas about the tensions depicted in the scene and for organizing these ideas. Describing isolated stimulus features does not satisfy the demands of the instructions.
What happened before? The sequence of unfolding events including those prior to the scene depicted reveals the narrator’s schemas about social causality (e.g., cause-effect reasoning) and time perspective. The narrator’s style of processing social information is seen not only in the interpretation of the immediate circumstances presented in the stimuli but in placing events in a historical context by postulating sequences of events leading up to the scene.
What is the person (or people) thinking and how is that person (or people) feeling? These questions evoke the narrator’s understanding of the inner world and capacity to coordinate the inner life and external circumstances of the
(Continued) various characters portrayed in the scene or introduced into the story. Reasoning about intentions, values, and goals is a key component of social information processing. A cohesive story requires the narrator to incorporate each character’s thoughts, feelings, or intentions in ways that fit the circumstances, actions, and outcomes.