The MMPI critical items: How well do they work?

Mary P. Koss, James N. Butcher, Norman G. Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Examined the theoretical foundation and empirical performance of 2 sets of "critical items" that are a common feature of most automated MMPI interpretations. These items purportedly alert the clinician to serious pathology and operate as a scale of general maladjustment. Critical items resulted in numerous misclassifications when used as a scale of adjustment with 43% of 1,023 male psychiatric patients and 95% of 1,045 normal male job applicants responding in the deviant direction on 5 or fewer items. The critical items consist mainly of F -scale items and duplicate the information communicated by this scale. The extremely deviant nature of the critical items makes them capable of only reflecting crises of psychotic proportions. When face-valid critical items were compared to clinical data, 70-76% resulted in empirically valid behavior samples. Invalid critical items are listed. It is concluded that MMPI critical items are inadequate for screening purposes. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-928
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1976


  • MMPI "critical items", miscalculations when used as scale of adjustment, male psychiatric patients &
  • job applicants, implications for psychodiagnostic screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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