Proponents of the technique assert that subjects’ responses, in thematic apperception test manual pdf narratives they make up about ambiguous pictures of people, reveal their underlying motives, concerns, and the way they see the social world. Historically, the test has been among the most widely researched, taught, and used of such techniques. Anecdotally, the idea for the TAT emerged from a question asked by one of Murray’s undergraduate students, Cecilia Roberts.
Murray wanted to use a measure that would reveal information about the whole person but found the contemporary tests of his time lacking in this regard. Therefore, he created the TAT. The rationale behind the technique is that people tend to interpret ambiguous situations in accordance with their own past experiences and current motivations, which may be conscious or unconscious. Murray reasoned that by asking people to tell a story about a picture, their defenses to the examiner would be lowered as they would not realize the sensitive personal information they were divulging by creating the story.
Murray and Morgan spent the 1930s selecting pictures from illustrative magazines and developing the test. Morgan and Murray decided on the final set of pictures, Series D, which remains in use today. Although she was given first authorship on the first published paper about the TAT in 1935, Morgan did not receive authorship credit on the final published instrument. During the time Murray was developing the TAT he was also involved in Herman Melville studies. Ahab sees symbols of himself in the coin, while the religiously devout Starbuck sees the Christian Trinity. Other characters provide interpretations of the image that give more insight into the characters themselves based on their interpretations of the imagery. Crew members, including Ahab, project their self perceptions onto the coin which was nailed to the mast.