FAA will skip latest version of MMPI

FAA will skip latest version of MMPI

By Chuck Nelson, Associate Editor
April 13, 2021 - Last updated: April 12, 2021

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will continue to use the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) test to evaluate pilots and other aerospace personnel, forgoing the latest variants of the test, including the newest one released late last year.

That decision has renewed a debate in psychology circles documented in earlier editions of The National Psychologist (“The more things change … Friedman and Nichols react to a new version of the MMPI,” March/ April 2018 and “MMPI-3: Revision of MMPI-3 or marketing hype?” Nov./ Dec. 2017). Much of the controversy surrounds which versions of the tests build on prior versions and which should be viewed as alternatives rather than replacements as well as the accuracy of earlier vs. later versions.

That debate was rekindled in November with the release of the MMPI-3 by the University of Minnesota Press. The publisher bills the MMPI-3 as “the first full revision of the test since the late 1980s” and says the new version was designed to more closely match 2020 U.S. Census projections for race and ethnicity, education and age.

But the FAA and others argue that the MMPI-3 builds off of the MMPI-2-RF (reformatted), which they say “was a completely new test and not a revision of the MMPI/MMPI-2.”

“Rather than being the latest in a potential line of MMPI revisions, such as the MMPI-2, the MMPI-3 is, instead, simply a revision of the MMPI-2-RF,” the FAA said in a statement released in November.

“Research conducted by the FAA found the MMPI-2-RF to be less sensitive than the MMPI-2 in identifying confirmed aeromedically disqualifying psychopathology among ATCS (air traffic control specialists) applicants,” the FAA said. “Further research with over 21,000 ATCS applicants confirmed the stability of the MMPI-2 ATC norms and the utility of the MMPI-2 in the evaluations of ATCS applicants.”

The authors of the new test call the FAA an outlier for its stance and note that other federal agencies – as well as several large police forces – have used the MMPI-2-RF “and some are transitioning to the MMPI-3.”

The original MMPI dates back to 1937 when Starke Hathaway, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and J. Charnley McKinley, M.D., Ph.D., a neuropsychiatrist, developed the test at the University of Minnesota Hospital. A manual for the test was published in 1942 by the University of Minnesota Press. That version became widely used in general medical settings as well as for military personnel and people employed in positions of high stress and responsibility for public safety.

Auke Tellegen, Ph.D., was involved in MMPI-2 – a substantial updating of the original test – in 1989. His further development with Yossef Ben-Porath, Ph.D., resulted in the MMPI-2-RF in 2008 as well the new MMPI-3.

“The primary goals for the MMPI-3 were to enhance the item pool, update the test norms, optimize existing scales, and introduce new scales where warranted,” the publishers said in a statement. “Additionally, for the first time, Spanish-language norms are available for use with the U.S. Spanish translation of the MMPI-3. New scales assess disordered eating, compulsivity, impulsivity and self-importance and several existing scales have been enhanced.”

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