Tools for training professionals in rating personality disorders are few. We present one such tool: rating of fictional persons. However, before ratings of fictional persons can be useful, we need to know whether raters get the same results, when rating fictional characters.
Psychology students at the University of Copenhagen (N = 8 ) rated four different movie characters from four movies based on three systems: Global rating scales representing each of the 10 personality disorders in the DSM-IV, a criterion list of all criteria for all DSM-IV personality disorders in random order, and the Ten Item Personality Inventory for rating the five-factor model. Agreement was estimated based on intraclass-correlation.
Agreement for rating scales for personality disorders ranged from 0.04 to 0.54. For personality disorder features based on DSM-IV criteria, agreement ranged from 0.24 to 0.89, and agreement for the five-factor model ranged from 0.05 to 0.88. The largest multivariate effect was observed for criteria count followed by the TIPI, followed by rating scales. Raters experienced personality disorder criteria as the easiest, and global personality disorder scales as the most difficult, but with significant variation between movies.
Psychology students with limited or no clinical experience can agree well on the personality traits of movie characters based on watching the movie. Rating movie characters may be a way to practice assessment of personality.”
Bonus excerpt from the full text:
“Sarah Morton [SM]: In the movie, “Swimming Pool”, Sarah Morton is a writer of detective novels who is temporarily in a crisis. She agrees to borrow her publishers house in France for the summer to work there. While she lives there, his French-speaking daughter arrives and her promiscuous life-style both shocks and fascinates Sarah. Sarah does not appear to have many close relationships.
She was described in the ratings as the highest scorer on paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, avoidant and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder of all the characters (see figure 2). She is not prototypical for any of these personality disorders, and only her score on schizoid would approach (but not reach) a diagnosis of personality disorder. In terms of the five-factor model, her profile is much more clear-cut: she is the most conscientious of all the characters, by far the least extroverted, quite disagreeable and a medium-high scorer on neuroticism.
Had this very introverted person been evaluated for personality disorder diagnosis and the shown symptom counts had been the result, she could either get a diagnosis of personality disorder not otherwise specified, or of not being personality disordered, depending on her clinical state at the time.
Aileen Wuornos [AW]: In the film “Monster”, Aileen is a prostitute who falls in love with a young lesbian woman. Shortly after a man rapes her and tries to kill her, but she succeeds in killing him instead, and after that starts to kill men whom she contacts as a prostitute. Please note that the Aileen Wuornos described in this paragraph is the Aileen of the film as seen by the raters in this study – not the real character.
AW was perceived as a person with co-morbid borderline and antisocial personality disorder. Her scores on other personality disorders are well below diagnostic cut-offs. In terms of the five-factor model, she is less conscientious than the others, and a medium-high scorer on neuroticism. She would clearly be diagnosed with co-morbid borderline and antisocial personality disorder, had this been a diagnostic evaluation (indeed, the real Aileen Wuornos was diagnosed with borderline and antisocial personality disorder by clinicians who saw her) .
Suzanne Stone [SS]: Suzanne Stone in the film “To Die For” is a young woman who wants to be on television at any cost. She marries a young man, but soon begins to have affairs with TV producers to accomplish her main goal: to become a news-reporter at a major TV station. When her husband tries to persuade her to settle down and have children, she decides to have him killed instead, taking advantage of three troubled youths, whom she has met while trying to make a TV production.
SS was seen as a prototypical narcissistic person by the raters: on average, she satisfied 8 of 9 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, some histrionic personality disorder criteria, and relatively few others.
In terms of the five-factor model, she is as open to experience as the others, as conscientious as the others (except for AW), as extraverted (except for SM), as disagreeable (except CS), and a low-scorer on neuroticism.
Had she been evaluated for personality disorders, she would receive a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
Coleman Silk [CS]: Coleman Silk in the movie “The Human Stain” is a middle-aged university professor who gets fired from his job under suspicion of racism against two African-American students, whom he has never met (and thus, he does not know the colour of their skin). The loss of his jobs leads to a chain of events that reveals much about his difficult life as well as lead him into new experiences. Among other things, it turns out that he has grown up in a family of African-Americans, and has kept this fact a secret for various reasons.
CS was rated as the least disordered of all the characters, scoring very low on all personality disorder scales. In terms of the five-factor model, he was seen as more agreeable than the others, and the lowest scorer on neuroticism.
Had he been evaluated for personality disorders, he would not be diagnosed with a personality disorder.”
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