Personality and Preference Inventory

Personality and Preference Inventory

The Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI) was originally designed by Dr Max Kostick, Professor of Industrial Psychology at Boston State College, in Massachusetts, USA, in the early 1960s.

Kostick’s original goal was to design an instrument that:

  • Had a sound theoretical base
  • Was simple to administer, complete and score
  • Could be used by non-psychologists
  • Avoided clinical terminology and interpretation
  • Comprehensively covered aspects of personality relevant to the workplace
  • Was primarily a counselling and discussion tool.

PAPI is a personality measure which was specifically designed to elicit behaviours and preferences which are appropriate to the workplace. It is an applied, workplace instrument and this is reflected by the conceptual model of personality it seeks to measure.It is recognised as a valid and reliable measure of personality by a number of institutions internationally including The British Psychological Society and the Swedish Test Committee.


Setting The Scene: The Work Of Henry Murray

To many, Henry Murray (1893–1988) was the first person to be entitled to use the label ‘personality psychologist’. His seminal work in personality was carried out at the Harvard Psychological Clinic in collaboration with a group of dedicated colleagues whose ideas culminated in the classic, Explorations in Personality (Murray, 1938).

In developing PAPI, Kostick acknowledged the influence of numerous personality theorists, including Murray, Schutz and Edwards. However, it was probably Murray’s greatest contribution to personality research, his need-press theory of personality, which was most influential in helping Kostick devise the theoretical basis of PAPI.

The Relevance of Murray’s ‘Needs-Press’ Theory for PAPI

The rationale for the design and formulation of PAPI as an assessment measuring preferences (Needs) and perceptions (Roles) is based on Murray’s needs-press theory. The PAPI Role scales measure the individual’s perception of himself or herself in the work environment and look at areas such as integrative planning and attention to detail. The Need scales probe the deeper inherent tendencies of an individual’s behaviour such as the need to belong to groups and finish a task.

The key features of the PAPI Need and Role scales can be summarised as follows:

PAPI Needs

  • Ten Need scales
  • Expressed as preference statements, e.g. ‘I like to do new things’
  • Measure an individual’s preference for behaving in particular ways based on what has gone before, i.e. an estimate of ‘general tendency’
  • Internal determinants of behaviour
  • Aim is to achieve ‘need satisfaction’ and avoid ‘need frustration’
  • Needs which are not satisfied or channelled appropriately may result in dysfunctional behaviour
  • Similar to Murray’s needs on the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule
  • Widely held to be a measure of stable personality traits.

PAPI Roles

  • Ten Role scales
  • Expressed as perception statements, e.g. ‘I always focus on the steps ahead’
  • Measure our perception of our behaviour in the work situation
  • Determinants of behaviour which include external influences
  • Include ‘situational’ characteristics that put pressure on us to behave in certain ways, reflecting organisational culture, demands of job role, management style of one’s boss etc., as well as experiences outside work.
  • Do not measure transient psychological ‘state’ – roles are reliably measured on PAPI.

The scales are:

Role scales

  • Leadership role (L)
  • Organized type (C)
  • Attention to detail (D)
  • Conceptual thinker (R)
  • Social harmonizer (S)
  • Ease in decision making (I)
  • Work pace (T)
  • Emotional restraint (E)
  • Role of the hard worker (G)
  • Integrative planner (H)

Need scales

  • Need to control others (P)
  • Need for rules and supervision (W)
  • Need for change (Z)
  • Need to finish a task (N)
  • Need to be noticed (X)
  • Need to belong to groups (B)
  • Need to relate closely to individuals (O)
  • Need to be forceful (K)
  • Need to achieve (A)
  • Need to be supportive (F)

PAPI-I (Ipsative) and PAPI-N (Normative)

PAPI is available in two different formats: PAPI-I and PAPI-N.

PAPI-I is recognisable from the way that it presents questions in a forced-choice format. By their very design, ipsative instruments such as PAPI-I examine and compare the attributes of an individual. They do not allow comparisons to be made between individuals and should be used only when the essential aim is to understand a person, not when it is necessary to make judgements in order to compare them with others. PAPI-I is thus suitable for assessment situations which do not require comparative judgements and where individuals are more likely to appreciate the benefit of presenting themselves honestly, such as:

  • Career development
  • Personal development
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Counselling
  • Work problem diagnosis
  • Aiding better performance
  • Identifying training needs
  • Team building

PAPI-I comprises 90 items: 180 statements paired in a forced choice format from which one has to be chosen. 45 dual statement items are used to assess Roles and 45 dual statement items are used to assess Needs. Each of the 20 PAPI scales is thus measured by 180/20 = 9 statements.

PAPI-N is recognisable from the way it presents questions as single statements, each accompanied by a rating scale. Unlike ipsative instruments such as PAPI-I, normative questionnaires are suitable for assessment situations where there is a need to make judgements about a person in order to compare them with others. PAPI-N is thus suitable for assessment situations which require comparative judgements to be made about people and where, as a consequence, individuals might see the benefit of presenting themselves in the best possible light, such as:

  • Selection between candidates for a post
  • Matching a candidate against a PAPI ‘template’ for a specific job
  • Development of in-house PAPI ‘‘norms’’.

PAPI-N is a 126 item questionnaire, comprising 126 single statements, each accompanied by a Likert-style rating scale. Each of the 20 PAPI scales comprises 6 items, with the ‘’Social Desirability’’ scale contributing a further 6 items to the questionnaire.


As a first step, the individual under review is asked to spend approximately 15 minutes completing the PAPI personality questionnaire. Once the questionnaire has been completed, the results are then mapped on to a PAPI profile ‘’wheel’’ displaying the respondent’s profile in a visual format.

The findings provide a wealth of information for the employer to discuss with the respondent in an open, honest and frank feedback discussion. The feedback discussion is a key element of the PAPI process. The thinking behind the Inventory is that it is not possible to reduce people to mere scores on a test and to assume that one can make judgements or interpretations of the person based on such limited information. For the participant, the feedback discussion provides the opportunity to explain and explore their profile; for the user it provides the chance to verify or refute the hypotheses generated by the profile.

Delivery Methods

PAPI is delivered via an online assessment platform. The online platform provides users with a range of additional features such as role profiling facilities, interview guides and candidate feedback reports.

Language Availability

Since 1979, PAPI has been translated into a number of languages, including:

  • Brazilian
  • Catalan
  • Chinese
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Estonian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Greenlandic
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Slovenian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Turkish
  • Welsh


In 1966, PA Consulting Group acquired the rights for using PAPI in selected countries outside the USA, and in December 1979 acquired the world rights to the instrument. PAPI is now owned by Cubiks Group Limited. Cubiks was formerly the assessment and development practice of PA Consulting Group and became a PA Venture company in January 2000. In June 2007, the Cubiks Management team and employees completed a management buy-out which gave the company full independence.

External links

Further reading

  • Anderson, P, Lewis, C. and Avenell, J (1993) A Feasibility Study into the Cultural and Linguistic Bias of Psychometric Testing. Department of Employment and Tower Hamlets Careers and Guidance Agency: London.
  • Atkinson, JW (Ed) (1958). Motives in Fantasy, Action and Society. Van Nostrand: New York.
  • Barrett, P and Eysenck, S (1984). An assessment of personality factors across 25 countries. Personality and Individual Differences, 5, 615-632.
  • Barrett, P, Kline, P, Paltiel, L, and Eysenck, HJ (1996). An evaluation of the psychometric properties of the Concept 5.2 Occupational Personality Questionnaire. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69, (1) 1-19.
  • Barrick, MR and Mount, MK (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
  • Bartram, D, Ashley, N and Wright, SJ (1995). Test instructions: the importance of getting them right. Selection and Development Review, 11, 6, 1-3.
  • Blinkhorn, S and Johnson, C (1990). The insignificance of personality testing. Nature, 348, 671-672.
  • Block, J (1965). The Challenge of Response Sets: Unconfounding Measuring, Acquiescence and Social Desirability in the MMPI. Irvington: New York.
  • British Psychological Society (1993). Graphology in Personnel Assessment. BPS: Leicester.
  • Cattell, RB (1946). Description and Measurement of Personality. World Book: New York.
  • Cattell, RB (1973). Personality and Mood by Questionnaire. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.
  • Steiner, H (2009). Online Assessment. Springer: New York.

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