Projective Test: interpretation guide for graphic productions

Projective Test: interpretation guide for graphic productions

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This is one projective test guide which can be useful to students, professionals or researchers who evaluate psychological variables through this type of test, where the subject must make a graphic production, such as the Test of the two people, the Test of the person in the rain, the HTP, the Test of the human figure, the kinetic family, the educational couple, etc..

The indicators have been classified into formal guidelines, also called structural aspects (they indicate how they draw), and content patterns (they indicate what they draw).

The meanings for each indicator are only indicative, so they must be interpreted according to each particular subject. Where says "This indicator means such a thing."must be read"This indicator could mean such a thing.".

Therefore, it is not possible to perform "a direct and unique translation of the signs or indicators that appear in the drawings. We should not expect to find an automatic indicator-meaning relationship but the principle of 'multiple determination' should guide the psychologist in the interpretation of the indicators".

No indicator alone "it is conclusive evidence of its psychological correlate; The configuration of the indicators should be considered more important than any particular sign"Particularly important are the recurrences and convergences between indicators (within the same drawing or in different drawings).

Many of the meanings indicated here are not applicable to graphic productions of very young children. For example, at a certain age the transparencies are normal, not pathological indicators.

Also many of the meanings offered refer to impulses, anxieties and defenses (impulses breed anxieties, and these in turn defenses). Regarding the latter, there are normal or adaptive, and pathological or non-adaptive. A criterion that identifies the pathological defense is when the normal defense is very exacerbated (for example a repression very intense), or when it is failed, that is, it fails (repression is not enough to control impulses or anxieties). A defense against another defense is also pathological.


  • 1 Drawing of the person
  • 2 Tree drawing
  • 3 Drawing of the house
  • 4 Content guidelines (Link between people)
  • 5 Pathologies: graphic characteristics

Drawing of the person

The drawing of the human figure provides information about the image of oneself, body scheme and sexual identification.

Indicators and their categoriesDefinitionMeanings
1. HEADCenter of intellectual and imaginative function.
1st. BigGreat in relation to the body.Intellectualization
1 B. OthersDefective expression. Without body. Framed as a portrait. Emphasized (Piccolo).Isolation (Piccolo).
2nd. In capType 'cap' or 'robot' (Piccolo).Defense: isolation (Piccolo).
2b BristlyPointed strokes.Aggressiveness.
2 C. CorniformShape of hornsPsychosis.
2d. AbsenceLack of hairPsychosis.
3rd. LineVerbal aggression
4th. ClosedDefense against voyeurism. Denial as defense (Piccolo).
4b OmissionDefense against voyeurism.
4c. Wide openVoyeurism.
4d Paranoid lookParanoid look accentIsolation.
5th. AccentuatedDetermination, aggressiveness.
6. FACEEmotional states, social contact, emotions used in contact with the other.
6a. Stereotyped smileClown type (Piccolo).Manic Defense (Piccolo).
7. NECKMediatization between the intellectual and the affective.
7a. PresenceNormal neck.Intellectual control of impulses or action.
7b LongDisproportionately long.Exacerbation of impulse control. Dissociation.
Problems related to breathing.
7c. AbsenceThere is no neck.Intellectual impulse control failure. Tendency to action.
8a. Featured SuperiorAffective and stressed emotions.
8b Featured BottomAccentuated sexuality.
8c. Genital exclusionDeleted, crossed out genital area.Secondary repression
9. SUPERIOR EXTREMITIESYoic resources to operate in reality or to meet needs in the environment.
9a. AbsenceGenital Guilt Castration fantasies.
10. LOWER EXTREMITIESSupport, base, displacement capacity and mobility.
11. DRESSAdaptation to social norms.
11a. Chest height pocketOral or affective deprivation.
11b BeltsSecondary repression
11c. GlassesDark glasses.Secondary repression
11d Long skirtsSecondary repression
12e FormalClosed clothes, suit, tie, etc. (Piccolo).Reactive Training
12th ClownClown figure.Manic Defense
12b Inductive figureChallenging, bulky, muscular, exhibitionist (even naked), cartoonish, big.Inductive projective identification as defense (Piccolo). Perversion. In psychotic graphics it can be a defense against psychotizing situations (Piccolo).
12c NakednessExhibitionism. Secondary repression failed.
12d ChildishChildish appearance of the figure, infantilization.Secondary repression
12d ChildishChildish, friendly and cheerful aspect (in adult drawings) (Piccolo).Manic defense: denial (of loss) (Piccolo).
12e SexualizationLack of secondary sexual traits, marked cuts in the
waist, cut of the figure at genital level or trunk
alone. Emphasis on the head, hair and eyes (Piccolo). Harmonious but not sexual figures, very dressed and 'covered' (little concern for the details of the dress) (Piccolo).
Fight against repression against exhibitionist tendencies and body eroticism (Piccolo).
12f. HarmonyComplete and harmonious human figures, preserved gestalt. Pleasant figures with low sexualization (Piccolo).Normal repression Given the advanced evolutionary level of this defense, it implies a good organization of the personality and therefore of the body scheme (Piccolo).
12g MovementRigid figures and alibis in their movements (Piccolo).Intense repression (Piccolo). Isolation (Piccolo). Reactive training (Piccolo).
12h ContentsPoor figures in terms of content (Piccolo).Intense repression (Piccolo).
12i. DepersonalizationFew human attributes.Isolation (Piccolo).
12j. Magical or omnipotentLarge figures with magical powers, basically defensive (against possible attacks), such as God, saints, Batman, Superman, kings, police, boxers, athletes, robots (Piccolo).Idealization as a schizoid defense (Piccolo). Omnipotent control fantasies (Piccolo). Dissociation as a schizoid defense (ideally good figure as God, or ideally bad as the Devil, or both) (Piccolo).
12k OppositionsOpposite objects that represent for example the good and the bad, the spiritual and the corporal, the affection and the sex, etc. In general, an idealized object and another pejorativized (Piccolo).Dissociation as a manic defense (Piccolo).
12l. CartoonInductive projective identification. Deposit of experiences of ridicule, mockery and strangeness in front of one's own body or that of the opposite sex (Piccolo).
13a. Not usualStart with facial features and then make the oval of the face, etc. (Verthelyi). Starting from the feet (in children it may be normal, as they express their concern for growth and stability) (Verthelyi).Difficulties with the body scheme (Verthelyi).
14 to. Conflict zonesLocation of conflict situations in non-conflictive body areas (eg concern about the sexual power displaced in the tie or nose) or in details of clothing (Piccolo).Displacement as a defense (Piccolo).

Tree drawing

The drawing of the tree provides information about the most unconscious images of itself. Together with the drawing of the house, they show the most latent aspects of personality (Piccolo).

Indicators and their categoriesDefinitionMeanings
1. CUPIdeational and fantasy area.
1st. BigIntellectualization
1 B. PoorNo content, little foliage (Piccolo).Isolation (Piccolo).
2. BRANCHESYoic resources to operate in reality or to
meet needs in the middle.
2nd. OpenDouble line open at the top.Poor impulse control.
2b On pointAggression (Piccolo).
2 C. AbsenceIsolation (Piccolo).
2d. OthersLarge size, many knots and extended outwards (Piccolo).Inductive projective identification (outstretched branches express the need to project in the external world and omnipotence) (Piccolo).
3. TRUNKI, yoica fortress, limits I don't-me
3rd. DamagedFootprints of cut branches, etc.Experience of yoic damage.
4. TRUNCO-BRANCHESJoint between trunk and branchesMediatization between the intellectual and the affective.
4th. DisconnectionDisconnection of the trunk with the branches (Piccolo).Isolation (Piccolo). Inductive projective identification (Piccolo).
5th. PresenceContact with reality.
5b Absence
6. BASEBaseline (ground).
6a. PresenceContact with reality.
6b AbsenceDifficulties of contact with reality.
7a. PresenceProcreation, productivity, performance. Female Attributes
8a. PresenceSeduction.
8b ExcessManic Defense (Piccolo).
9a. Lock typeCup and trunk are configured as a lock.Oppositionism, negativism. Possible psychosis
9b OthersConcern for formal connections, predominance of rounded elements (cup, branch termination), marked limit at ground level (Piccolo).Reactive training (Piccolo).
9b OthersTrees with very impulsive characteristics discordant with previous graphic production, or, on the contrary, excessive detail: meticulous shading of the trunk, drawing of the leaves, general characteristics "heavy" or hardened (Piccolo).Failure of reactive training (Piccolo)

House drawing

The drawing of the house provides information about the image of himself, the mother-filial bond and family relationships.

Indicators and their categoriesDefinitionMeanings
1st. Top viewAerial view of the house.Depreciation of family values.
1 B. Back viewOppositionism
1 C. OtherHouse on a hill, in perspective, especially if they are idealized (castle type) (Piccolo).Manic Defense (Piccolo).
2. CEILINGIdeational, intellectual sphere, fantasies.
2nd. Big.Intellectualization
2b Very big"House-roof" (Piccolo).Isolation as a dominant defense (Piccolo).
2 C. Roof tiles.Isolation as an obsessive defense.
3. WALLSLimits me no-me. Yoic strength Judgment of reality.
4. OPENINGSRelations with the external world.
4th. Big doorVery dependent.
4b Small doorAvoidance of social contact.
4c. Door with lockParanoid defense. Fear of the failure of the isolation mechanism (Piccolo).
4d Window with curtainAvoidance of social contact.
4e. NakedWithout any detail, a simple quadrilateral.Rudeness in social contact.
4f. AccentuatedSpecially highlighted.Oral dependence.
4g AbsenceDoors and windows that do not exist, are closed or
located very high (Piccolo).
Isolation (Piccolo).
5th. With a lot of smokeGreat internal tension
5b Deviated smokeDeviated to one side or another (not vertical).Permeability to environmental pressures.
6a. PovertyClosed house, poor, isolated, without environment, missing access roads (Piccolo).Isolation (Piccolo).
6b ClishéClishés houses (chalet with paths, symmetrical trees, flowers on both sides of the road, etc.) (Piccolo).Reactive training (Piccolo).
6c. ProlixityConcern for order, proportions, details, etc. (Piccolo).Reactive training (Piccolo).
6d Excessive prolijityExcessive detail (tiles, pebbles on the roads, fences, etc.) (Piccolo).Failure of reactive training (Piccolo).
6e. Lack of neatnessDirty-looking housesFailure of reactive training (Piccolo).
6f. ClosedClosed and hermetic houses (Piccolo).Reactive training (Piccolo).
7. CONTEXTObjects added to the house.
7a. FencesFenced house, strong type, etc. (Piccolo).Isolation as a dominant defense (Piccolo).

Content guidelines (Link between people)

The drawings where links appear between people provide information about the link fantasies and dissociated aspects of the self.

Indicators and their categoriesDefinitionMeanings
1. DISTANCEBetween the figures. The common thing is that they are next to each other (Verthelyi).
1st. Far apartHuman figures far apart, or separated by lines.Isolation as an obsessive defense. Defense against identity confusion (Verthelyi).
1st. Far apartFor example, at opposite ends of the diagonal sheet (Verthelyi).Link difficulties (Verthelyi). Dissociated and contradictory aspects of personality (Verthelyi).
1st. Far apartDistant human figures representing opposite pairs (eg, demure woman and seductive woman) (Piccolo).Intense repression Dissociation. The latter can also manifest between the graphic and the verbal. For example, very seductive and exhibitionist figures and scotomization of these characteristics in verbalization (Piccolo).
1 B. Very closeFigures fused with a unique outer boundary, figures that appear to be glued to each other, figures included within each other (Verthelyi).Difficulties in recognizing one's identity (Verthelyi).
1 C. IncommunicatedTotal omission of communication channels between the two people.It could be related to a disconnection of the ego from reality (Verthelyi).
2. DIFFERENCESBetween the figures.
2nd. OppositesAntithetical human figures regarding exhibitionism (ex: seductive woman and woman dressed and covered) (Piccolo).Intense repression Dissociation (Piccolo).
2nd. OppositesAntithetical characters of the police-thief, aggressive-impotent type, etc. Opposites can be within the same person (Piccolo).Isolation, schizoid dissociation as a need to keep hostile and affectionate links apart (Piccolo).
2nd. OppositesA very rigid figure and the other not.Rigidity denotes the underlying fear aspects in the bond (Verthelyi).
2nd. OppositesOpposite characters: one enriched, with contents, whole, the other broken, impoverished, destroyed (Piccolo).Dissociation as a manic defense (Piccolo).
2b Similar to the subjectOne of the figures resembles the subject who draws (by physical appearance, age assigned, etc.)Identification with the similar figure.
2 C. SizeFigures of different sizes (Verthelyi).Need to express an asymmetric link (Verthelyi).
3rd. Same sexFigures of the same sex, opposite to the subject who draws.Conflicts of sexual identification (Verthelyi).
3b IdenticalOne is the specular figure of the other (Verthelyi).Narcissistic fantasies (Verthelyi).
4th. First figureFirst human figure drawn (Verthelyi).Preponderant identification (Verthelyi).
4b Second figureSecond human figure drawn (Verthelyi).Dissociated aspects not included in the first figure, or complementary features, etc. (Verthelyi).
5. ADDITIONSAdding objects to the two people or one of them.They can strengthen the bond (for example, drinking tea); be defensive modalities (for example a dog as an accompanying object), etc. (Verthelyi).
6. OMISSIONSThe other person is not drawn.Severe difficulty in fantasizing a dyadic bond, derived from a problem with identity (Verthelyi).

Pathologies: graphic characteristics

A) Neurosis

  • Gestalt preserved, harmony, proportion, integration of the parts, realism (psychic integration).
  • Complete lines (good differentiation I - not me).
  • Sexual and psychological differentiation (good sexual identification. Psychic integration).
  • Perspective maintained, front-profile and forward-back differentiation, absence of transparency (adequate logical-formal integration of graphic figures. Achieved development of the functions of contact with reality).
  • With preserved gestalt there may be shading, exaggeration of size, omission of parts, confusing areas (conflicts, pathology to be related to areas where they appear).

B) Psychosis

  • Disintegration of the gestalt, fragmented drawing (no psychic integration).
  • Emptiness (draw only the outline), open, diffuse lines (lack of differentiation, not me, failure of reality judgment.
  • Compulsive need to fill out (restitution).
  • Grotesque appearance (loss of humanization).
  • Partialized objects, strangers (lack of sexual and psychological differentiation).
  • Rigid, devitalized movement, puppets, stick figures, defeated bodies, broken or missing relationship organs (attack on the motor apparatus)
  • Bad insertion of the parts (integration failures).
  • Lack of perspective and transparency (failure of primary repression).
  • Front-profile confusion, zoomorphism, lack of trunk-genital area delimitation.
  • In the house, misplaced openings.
  • In the tree: lock tree, dissociated tree, fallen trees, dead, or with animals inside.

C) Perversion

  • Gestalt preserved (preservation of the reality test and the logical coherence of the secondary process).
  • Generally large size (tendency to expand). Emphasis on musculature. Challenging aspect, exhibitionist (judgment of altered values), caricature (denial).
  • Impulsive stroke, striking drawing, often naked, threatening or challenging movements.

D) Bordeline (border or border case)

Graphic production is similar to psychotic, while verbal production is neurotic and psychopathic (Piccolo).

E) Psychopathy

  • The graphics are similar to neurosis, but the subject gives the material evacuative meanings: it seeks to impact, paralyze, affectively mobilize the other. The stories (verbal production) are bulky and of little content (Piccolo).


  • Several, "Notes of theoretical classes and practical works of the Chair of Projective Techniques" (Prof. Celener), University of Buenos Aires, School of Psychology, 1996.
  • Hammer E., "Graphic projective tests", Paidós, 1997.
  • Casullo M and Cayssials A., "Project of life and vocational decision", Paidós, Buenos Aires, 1994.
  • Piccolo E., "Defenses in graphic tests", Editorial Paidós.
  • Verthelyi et al., "Identity and link in the test of the two persons", Paidós, 1984, chapter II.