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The Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), authored by Leslie Morey, PhD, is a multi-scale test of psychological functioning that assesses constructs relevant to personality and psychopathology evaluation (e.g., depression, anxiety, aggression) in various contexts including psychotherapy, crisis/evaluation, forensic, personnel selection, pain/medical, and child custody assessment. The PAI has 22 non-overlapping scales, providing a comprehensive overview of psychopathology in adults. The PAI contains four kinds of scales: 1) validity scales, which measure the respondent's approach to the test, including faking good or bad, exaggeration, or defensiveness; 2) clinical scales, which correspond to psychiatric diagnostic categories; 3) treatment consideration scales, which assess factors that may relate to treatment of clinical disorders or other risk factors but which are not captured in psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., suicidal ideation); and 4) interpersonal scales, which provide indicators of interpersonal dimensions of personality functioning.
The PAI has a number of strengths for applied psychological assessment. First, respondents are asked to rate their responses on a 4-point (false, somewhat true, mainly true, very true) scale, rather than a true/false scale. This contributes to greater scale reliability and validity and the opportunity for respondents to provide nuanced ratings of themselves. Second, it is relatively economical, assessing most of the constructs that are widely considered important in clinical personality assessment with 344 items. Third, nearly all of the PAI items are readable at the 4th grade level. Brevity and straightforward item wording reduce the administrative burden on respondents. Fourth, the responses from each individual's profile are compared to two large samples. The first sample consists of 1,000 people with similar demographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) to the U.S. Census data. Comparison with this group is useful to detect and estimate the severity of clinical problems relative to the average person. The second sample consists of 1,246 psychiatric patients. Comparison with this group helps assess the severity of psychopathology among other patients.
All of the constructs measured by the PAI are commonly used by psychologists and are named in such a way that they can be readily understood. Unlimited-use interpretive software that was written by the test author is available from the publisher, as well as an adolescent version of the test, the Personality Assessment Inventory-Adolescent (PAI-A), developed for use with adolescents 12 to 18 years of age. The Personality Assessment Screener  is a 22-item instrument that provides an index of how likely an important clinical elevation would occur on the PAI, and it can be used as a screener for the PAI in appropriate circumstances. Straightforward scale names combined with the interpretive and diagnostic hypotheses provided in the computer report limit the burden on the examiner.
Finally, there are also a number of psychometric (statistical) strengths of the PAI, importantly including content validity and discriminant validity (for a detailed review of the PAI and its validity, see ).
The PAI is a self-report instrument. Self-report is one of many methods for psychological assessment, and thus relies on the individual taking the assessment to answer honestly. The PAI does not measure some constructs that might be of concern in clinical assessment (e.g., eating disorders), it is often useful to supplement the PAI with other measures for this reason as well. Caution should be exercised in interpreting PAI data from non-English speakers or when administration breaks from the standardized (self-administration) process.
- 16PF Personality Questionnaire
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
- Morey Personality Assessment Inventory
- Personality inventories
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