The Szondi Test
ALBERT RABIN, Ph.D.
Over a period of more than
a decade,, the Hungarian psychiatrist, Leopold Szondi, evolved
a number of genetic and psychological theories that became the
forerunners of the Szondi test.
Szondi arrived at a sort of
genetic determinism, which is a variety of a general philosophical
theory of predestination. He himself claims, however, that his
work is not philosophical but biological and bio-psychological.
His first book, the "Schicksalanalyse" (Fate
analysis), presents the chief tenets of his biological theory,
which may be stated, briefly, as follows:
The latent hereditary factors
in human beings, the recessive genes, do not remain dormant or
inactive within the human organism, but exert a very important
and even decisive influence upon its behavior. This latent or
recessive gene theory claims that these non-dominant hereditary
factors determine the Object selection, voluntary and involuntary,
of the individual. The drives resulting from these latent genes,
therefore, direct the individual's selection of love objects,
friendships, occupations, diseases, and forms of death. Hence,
from the very beginning of the human's existence there is a hidden
plan of life guided by the before mentioned drives. As a corollary,
the process of genotropism is developed. Genotropism becomes
manifest when two people, because of similar, identical, or related
latent genetic elements-the recessive genes-become attracted to
each other. Hence, this genotropic attraction determines the
choice of love partners, ideals, and friendships.
A detailed psychological and
psychotechnological extension of the genetic formulations appears
in Szondi's second major work
He feels that "drives,"
which come forth as a result, of the latent hereditary elements,
constitute an intermediate layer of the unconscious. Whereas
Freud dealt chiefly with the "Personal Unconscious",
and C.G Jung emphasized the importance of the "Collective
Unconscious", Szondi has proposed another level of
the unconscious the "Familial Unconscious". According
to Szondi, this area has been hitherto unexplored. The familial
unconscious, which lies between the Personal and Collective Unconscious,
is the source from which the "repressed ancestors" direct
the selective behavor of the individual.
To quote Szondi: "Freudian
psychoanalysis" is the ontogeny, "Schicksalanalyse"
the genealogy, and Jung's "Analytical Psychology", the
archaeology of the deep mental processes."
Despite the voluminous genealogical
material presented by Szondi, it is doubtful whether modern genetics
would be willing to lend any support to his theory.
(See:" The Szondi's legacy:
Innate Dispositions Influence Our Choices" A sociobiological
reinterpretation of the Szondi-theory, by Bereczkei,, on this
Forum: New Developments))
At best, it may be
said that the effects of the latent recessive genes upon the behavior
of organisms in general and of the human species in particular
is open to question. Moreover, the determination of dominance
and recessiveness of psychological characteristics is a very difficult
and laborious process that will require many more years of research
Historically, the Szondi test
is an outgrowth of Szondi's genetic and psychological theories;
but it need not be bound or determined by them. It may be considered
separately as an instrument of personality analysis -without adoption
of its avowed theoretical antecedents.
The Szondi test materials
consist of 48 cards bearing the portraits of individuals representing
the following eight psychiatric diagnoses:
The total number of 48 cards
is divided into six sets of 8 pictures each; in each set, all
of the above-mentioned diagnoses are represented The majority
of pictures were obtained from German textbooks on psychopathology
Some of them are of Hungarian patients, and a few others are
of Swedish criminals Thus the portraits are presumably of a
representative group o western European patients. On the back
of each card is the initial (se above of the diagnosis of the
patients depicted in the portrait, together -,with a number of
from I to 8, indicating the order of presentation of the card
in that particular set, and a Roman numeral from I to VI, indicating
the number of the set.
The subject is seated facing
the examiner. The cards of the first set are laid flat on the
table in front of the subject, in two horizontal rows of four
each, and in the order indicated on the back of the cards as shown
in Figure 1. The subject is then instructed as follows:
"Pick out the two pictures
you like best (or most)." After the selection is ma(le he
is told: "Now, select the two you dislike most!" The
examiner then records the numbers of the cards (or the corresponding
initials of diagnosis of the cards) that are "liked,"
and that are "disliked." The same procedure is repeated
with the remaining five sets. The same instructions are usually
repeated with every set presented. The results of the selections
and rejections are recorded for each set, as described above.
Occasionally, further amplification
of the instructions is necessary. Some meticulous subjects wonder
what frame of reference they should use for liking or disliking
the pictures. They may be told, "Suppose you were to enter
a room and meet all these people, which two would you be likely
to talk to?"
For some psychiatric patients,
the task is quite difficult. Some may say, "1 don't like
any of them while others (paranoid or depressed) might state,
"But I don't dislike any of them. They are all nice people."
In those instances, a modification of the instructions is in order.
In the first situation, the subject may be asked to select the
two he "disliked least," rather than the two he likes
most. In the second situation, the patient may be requested to
choose the two he "likes less" than the rest of them,
assuming he likes them all.
The time required for a single
administration of the Szonditest varies with the subject. Some
subjects may require as little as 10 minutes, while others may
t-take one -half hour or longer.
At the end of each testing
period, a profile based on the choices and rejections of the subject
is constructed. The profile is a graphic representation of the
results and gives the picture at a glance. It also facilitates
comparisons with other profiles obtained on the same or other
|DRIVE - PROFILE
|S - VECTOR
|| 6 +
The profile record form, illustrated
above, is made up of 96 equal squares. It is divided in the middle
by a heavy horizontal line. The space above that line is divided
into eight vertical columns, corresponding to the eight diagnoses.
There are 6 squares in each column. This upper area is the one
where all the "liked" responses are recorded. An identical
area below the heavy horizontal line is reserved for the "disliked"
The procedure for constructing
the profile is as follows: The pictures liked and disliked in
the first (diagnostic category (homosexual) are counted.
Then, the number of squares in the appropriate column corresponding
to the number of likes are darkened, above the middle horizontal
line, which is used as a base line. Similarly, the number of
squares corresponding to the number of dislikes are darkened below
the horizontal base line. The full profile can be obtained by
following this procedure through each of the eight columns.
Traditionally, and for the
sake of distinguishing the areas easily, the upper part of the
profile (likes) is darkened with a red pencil, and the lower (dislikes),
In general, the area of positive
choices (likes) is given a plus sign (+), while the area of negative
choices or rejections (dislikes) is given a minus sign
These generic designations
of positive and negative are not altogether sufficient for the
recording of the final results in any one column. It is necessary
to designate the extent to which pictures of a certain category
were selected; to what extent and in which category the genotropism;
negative or positive manifest itself. The simple designation
of the number of pluses and the number of minuses in any one column
is too cumbersome and does not give a clear indication of the
"balance of forces" or their direction. Consequently,
four categories of choices have been evolved. These categorics
are as follows:
The first two categories are
self-explanatory. Not all of the choices in a column designated
as positive need be above the midline of the profile blank. However,
the balance of choices needs to be overwhelmingly in the positive
direction in order to achieve this designation. Similar reasoning
is behind the negative category. The ambivalent category consists
of a minimum of four selected pictures, evenly or almost evenly
divided between likes and dislikes. It is a designation of a
situation in which the positive and negative choices balance or
nearly balance each other. The open category indicates a paucity
of "loading" in that particular column, that is, when
a maximum of two choices is made, one on either side of the midline;
one choice; or none at all.
SZONDI SCORING. CATEGORIES.
A list of the numbers of positive
and negative choices (likes and dislikes) that fall in each of
the categories described is given in the table above. The first
figure in each column of the table gives the number of likes (positive)
and the second figure, the number of dislikes (negative).
The MEANING of the Scoring
Each column in the test
profile represents one of the eight test factors or drives. The
nature of those drives will be discussed in the latter part of
the present chapter. The maximum number of pictures that can
be selected or rejected in any one diagnostic category is six.
Only three pictures would be the number selected and rejected
in any one category by chance. When the total number of pictures
selected and rejected in a diagnostic category is four or greater,
the factor corresponding to that diagnosis is said to be loaded.
From the viewpoint of Szondi interpretation, it is indicative
of a tension within the personality -a need for satisfaction in
this particular area. By definition, those factors receiving
an ambivalent score are loaded. According to Szondi, the ambivalent
() score is indicative of a subjectively felt tension
in the corresponding area. It is the experience of opposing drives
counteracting each other. Conversely, the open (0) score indicates
the absence of tension in that particular area. It is a sign
that the drives corresponding to that factor are able to find
some avenues for their discharge. The positive (+) score
representing a predominance of likes of pictures of some particular
factor, shows an identification with the drives represented by
the pictures of that factor. The negative (-)
score, on the other hand, is indicative of a rejection or
alienation of those drives.
The SERIES of Szondi Profiles.
Szondi and his co-worker believe
that a valid personality diagnosis may be obtained only when the
test is administered several times - from six to ten times. They
recommend the administration of the test every other day until
the desired number of profiles is obtained. The basis for these
recommendations is mainly empirical. Since the Szondi profile
represents a complex balance and the dynamic relationships of
various drives, it is sensitive to delicate, day-to-day changes
in the personality. Single profiles obtained may be inaccurate,
for they may represent or overemphasize a temporary interplay
between the drive factors. Therefore, a larger number of profiles
is needed for the achievement of a more valid descrip- tion of
the personality and for the detection of the various
areas of stability and comparative fluidity.
If the interval between test
administrations is less than a day, it is found that such factors
as memory and the need to be consistent with previous choices
may distort emergence of the true drive-relationships at the time
of administration. The experience of Szondi workers justifies
a minimum interval of one day, after which the presumably vitiating
influences are no longer in operation. To be sure, before the
successive administrations of the test, the subject is to be instructed
to select and reject the pictures that he likes or dislikes at
that particular instant, without regard for his own previously
The first section in this
chapter dealt with Szondi's more general genetic and psychological
theories. These theoretical assumptions, as we have already,
stated, are not essential to the use of his test. His psychological
typology, however, is essential, since the test is based
on it. Accordingly, a brief exposition of the Vector-factor
theory is in order.
The following four drive-vectors,
each subdivided-into two constituting factors,
are identified by Szondi and allegedly represent the entire scope
of driving forces imbedded in the human personality, "normal"
||the sexual drive
||the paroxysmal-surprise drive
||the contact drive
Each vector represents a certain
personality area that appears in an extremely exaggerated form
in pathological conditions corresponding to the two factors that
constitute it. While the vector is a designation of a more general
drive, the factors that make it up are somewhat more specific
drives or need-systems. For the purposes of the test the purposes
of the test:
THE NEED-SYSTEMS MAY BE ASSUMED
WITHOUT REGARD FOR THEIR GENESIS.
This assumption is the main
hypothesis underlying the Szondi method. Thus, the vectors and
their corresponding factors are:
I. the S-Vector, made
up of the homosexual (h) and sadistic (s) factors;
II the P-Vector, made
up of the epileptic (e) and hysterical (hy) factors;
III the Sch-Vector, made
up of the catatonic (k) and paranoid (p) factors; and IV the
C-Vector, made up of the depressiva (d) and manic (m) factors.
The selection of pictures
of the eight diagnostic groups mentioned in the description of
the materials is, therefore, governed by this choice of factors.
They represent the whole gamut of the extreme manifestations
of the factors and the general drives or vectors these factors
The relationship between the
vectors and, particularly, between the factors within each vector,
is a close one. In interpretation and personality description
based on the Szondi, the interdependence of the various factors
must be stressed. However, at this point, an exposition of Szondi's
description of each discrete factor is warranted.
1. The (h) factor.
Generally speaking, this factor is an expression of the need
for tenderness, femininity, motherliness, and passivity. The
object is usually a definite person, family, religion, or other
institutions. On a higher level, it expresses itself in "collective
tenderness," the object being all of humanity. Ordinary
occupational interests are in personal services-barber, cosmetician,
valet, hotel keeper, dancer, and so on. On a higher level-gynecologist,
sex pathologist, and so on. The extremely pathological disorders
manifested in this factor may be placed under the general heading
of Hermaphroditism. Spying, prostitution, and fraudulent dealings
are among the criminal forms of expression this drive may take.
2. The (s) factor.
This factor expresses the need for masculinity, aggression,
sadism, activity, and virility. It is the masculine drive, the
need to be a man, a father, and the dominant (leading) partner.
On a higher level of extreme sublimation, the need expresses
itself in chivalry, ability of self sacrifice for the common good,
and "drive for civilization." Usual occupational interests
of individuals with such a drive are farming, animal taming, butchering,
prize fighting, and so on. On a higher, more sublimated level,
occupations such as surgeon, dentist, anatomist, and operating
room nurse, may be expected. Pathologically, this drive may appear
in the various forms of sadism, sodomy, pederasty, and the like.
Murder (often with a sexual conation. lb) is the common form of
3. The (e) factor.
Here, the damming up of "raw" affect is indicated.
There is a need to suppress such emotions as rage, hate, revenge,
and anger. A "surprise" reaction via explosive discharge,
intolerance of others, may be expected. On a higher level, "collective"
righteousness, charity, piousness, and tolerance, may be the expression.
Occupational interests are in jobs as foreman, baker, sailor,
flyer, and stoker. On a higher level are priest, Monk, missionary,
nurse, and others.
Various forms of epilepsy,
migraine, stuttering, asthma, and enuresis are among the pathological
expressions. Also found are forms of criminality: klepto-pyromania
and impulsive murder.
4. The (hy) factor.
The major drive of this factor is the need for exhibitionism-to
be "on the stage." Szondi calls this factor "the
class of latent exhibitionism." The socially positive form
of expression of this factor is seen in modesty. However, basically,
the need is for showing off and for suddenness (surprise) in behavior.
Higher-level expressions of this need are found in acting and
in politics. As may be inferred from the abbreviation of the
name of this factor- the pathological manifestations are revealed
in hysteria, tics and phobias.
(k) factor. "Ego systole" is the descriptive
phrase used by Szondi in the exposition of the k-factor (catatonia
being spelled with a k in German). lt is the need for "self-compression"
or self-limitation. The native, basic form of the need is "to
seal oneself off hermetically from the world and to spend the
selfish life in the enclosure of the ego." However, since
submission to the extreme form of this drive is not feasible,
emergency outlets such as narcissism and depersonalization are
utilized. Pathologically, the need becomes manifest through catatonic
and a variety of other schizoid reactions. At a high level of
social adjustment, there is a suppression of these extreme egoistic
and narcissistic trends and adaptation to collectivity takes place.
Occupations such as logician, philosopher, and mathematical physicist
are manifestations of such an adjustment.
(p) factor. In contradistinction to the (k) factor,
there is the (p)factor, which represents the need for "self-extension,"
or what is termed "ego diastole". It is a need aroused
from the unsatisfied self-expansion desire for power: megalomania.
There is a constant need for self-realization, for recognition
of one's unknown capacities and, generally speaking, for furthering
The socially positive and
sublimated form of this need is through the furthering of humane
needs, creativity, renunciation of the self, and the like. Obviously,
the extreme pathological manifestations of this need are in the
several forms of paranoia and related conditions.
(d) factor. Here, the basic need is that of seeking
and retaining objects. It is most closely related to what the
psychoanalysts term anal characteristics. A pressure
for rivalry is also related to this general drive. There is a
seeking of objects that may, in reality, have been lost, or that
it is feared might be lost. Related self-depreciation and feelings
of guilt are present. Depression and melancholia are the more
extreme pathological manifestations of this drive. lts socialization
at the higher positive level may occur in art or literary criticism,
supervision of a museum, and so forth.
(m) factor. In this factor of the "Contact-Vector,"
the need is for clinging to objects. It is an unquenchable need.
Even when the object is possessed there is uncertainty about
its possession. Thus the trait is that of the oral character,
or as Szondi terms it, "the eternal suckling." Oral
needs, therefore, are characteristic of this drive. Manic and
hypomanic reactions, alcoholism, nymphomania, and satyriasis are
some of the extreme pathological expressions of this need. A
trend toward speech disorders is in the same category.
The socially positive expression
of the drive appears through separation from objects in favor
of the "collectivity." Politics and the art of speech
are among the occupational areas into which this drive may be
It may readily be noted that
each of the pair of factors in every vector is related to the
other; in a sense, one factor of a pair is the reciprocal of the
other in that pair. Thus, the S-vector contains tenderness vs.
aggression, the P-vector, emotional control vs. emotional expressiveness,
the Sch-vector, ego systole vs. ego diastole, and the C-vector,
anal trends vs. oral characteristics.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SZONDI
The foregoing discussion of
Szondi's vectors, factors, and scoring categories readily indicates
the complexity involved in the interpretation of the test. Its
administration is relatively simple, but the interpretation, in
which the interdependence or dynamic relationship between the
several factors must be taken into account, is a highly
complicated and difficult task.
In the single test profile,
the amount of loading in each factor is determined, the positive
and negative, as well as the ambivalent aspects of the loadings
are noted, and the estimation of the effects of the factors upon
each other yields the qualitative personality characterization.
It is in the nature of a description of the intra- and inter-factor
"balance of power," each factor representing a need-system,
as noted above.
The several administrations
of the test project it, so to speak, into a temporal continuum.
As a result, we obtain not only a cross-section of a constellation
of need-systems within the individual, but also a longitudinal
view of the changes in the constellation. Extreme changes from
loaded to open vectors, from highly positive to negative vectors,
are some of the important indicators of psychopathology that could
not have been obtained from a single test administration. Moreover,
the areas (factors) of change from one profile to the other, even
in the "normal" individual, are important cues to the
more significant need-systems in the dynamics of a personality.
It is far beyond the scope
of the present exposition to give a detailed description of the
methods of interpretation by means of the Szondi test. Information
of this kind, accompanied by illustrative case material, has been
presented by Deri.
THE SZONDI TEST AS A PROJECTIVE
In general, the Szondi fulfills
two of the major requirements for a projective technique. In
the first place, it purports to reveal the private world of the
individual selecting the pictures. It attempts to lay bare the
dynamics of his basic needs and drives. Secondly, the subject
is not conscious of the fact that he is doing just that. He is
not aware of the interpretations that may be placed on his
Szondi's particular typology
and theoretical orientation result in personality descriptions
that do not clearly overlap interpretations obtained by other
projective methods. To be sure, some overlapping is inevitable,
since they all deal with personality. However, whereas the Rorschach
is primarily concerned with a cross-section of personality structure
and. the TAT with specific need-press relationships, (=transactional
processes lb), the Szondi deals with more general drives as related
to personality tensions, subjectively felt or objectively "acted
The ease of administration
and the lack of need for verbal response on the part of the subject
recommend the application of this technique to a wide variety
of normal and pathological conditions. Whereas other projective
methods yield very little in the case of the constricted, rigid,
and linguistically handicapped person, Szondi data may be obtained
with comparative ease.
The first question concerning
any new method or technique of personality diagnosis that may
be raised by the critical student is that of validity. Are the
personality descriptions and dynamics that result from the test's
application truly distinguishing and consistent with the behavior
manifestations of the person tested? Unfortunately, the available
published material on the Szondi test does not permit an answer
to this question. There are, to be sure, published testimonies
of the efficacy of the test in personality diagnosis, but
they are, for the most part, descriptive and illustrative, rather
than validating studies that would meet the rigorous criteria
of scientific method.
Another question that may
be raised by the critical reader is: Are the four vectors and
their eight. factors well chosen and sufficient to account for
the major aspects of personality dynamics?
A third question is related
to the theoretical assumptions underlying the test material itself.
The assumption is that the subject's reaction to the physiognomies
of patients reproduced in photographs taps the deeper layers of
personality dynamics. How well is this substantiated?
These and many other questions
that are closely, interrelated will have to be answered by future
investigators before the test can become fully acceptable to the
critical and scientific clinician.
The clinical use of such a
popular projective technique as the Rorschach preceded critical
studies and investigations of 'its assumptions and theoretical
foundations. The Szondi test is beginning its career in both
directions simultaneously. There are many enthusiastic "Szondi
clinicians," but at the same time, there is evidence of an
experimental approach to the test as well.
A report by Rabin indicated
that the pictures are not meaningless stimuli. He found that
students and psychologists identified more pictures correctly
as to diagnosis than can be attributed to chance. Moreover, he
has shown that the factor of training in the ability to identify
the pictures is important ]. The related conclusion is that
the pictures have differentiated meaning, and that their being
liked or disliked is not a haphazard event. However, it has also
been shown that the potency of the picture stimuli in
any one diagnostic category varies considerably. Thus, the diagnosis
per se is not the only factor responsible for selection or rejection
of the pictures. There are apparently additional factors, not
accounted for by Szondi theory, related to the popularity continuum.
Experimentation with the test on electric-shock-treated depressed
and schizophrenic patients appears to be another promising avenue
In conclusion, it may be stated
that the Szondi test is an empirical procedure at best. Thus
far there are no crucial experiments that would validate the test,
its personality analyses, or its predictive capacity. The present
"evidence" is of the nature of private empirical proof
. The validation is clinical validation by those who employ the
method. Future research will indicate the capacity of the test
to stand up under the careful scrutiny of experimentation by the
research-minded clinical psychologist.