Rosenzweig Picturefrustration Pf Study

The Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration (P-F) study is a semi-projective technique of personality diagnosis that has been successfully used for the past half-century both as a clinical device and as an investigative procedure. It was developed as a method for exploring concepts of frustration theory and examining some dimensions of projective methodology (Rosenzweig, 1945). Based on earlier experiments on psychodynamic concepts, including frustration, repression, and directions and types of aggression, an Adult Form appeared in 1948. A Children's Form for ages 4 to 13 was published four years later, and in 1964 a form for Adolescents was added.

The P-F consists of a series of 24 cartoon-like pictures, each depicting two persons involved in mildly frustrating situations of common occurrence. Facial features and other expressions of emotion are deliberately omitted from the pictures. The figure at the left is always shown saying words that help to describe the frustration of the other individual. In the blank caption box above the frustrated figure on the right, the subject is asked to write the first reply that enters his or her mind.

It is assumed as a basis for P-F scoring that the examinee unconsciously or consciously identifies with the frustrated individual in each picture and projects his or her own bias into the responses given. To define this bias, scores are assigned to each response under two main dimensions: direction of aggression and type of aggression. Direction of aggression includes extraggression (EA), in which aggression is turned onto the environment; intraggression (IA), in which it is turned by the subject onto him- or herself; and imaggression (MA), in which aggression is evaded in an attempt to gloss over the frustration. It is as if extraggres-siveness turns aggression out, intraggressiveness turns it in, and imaggressiveness turns it off. Type of aggression includes obstacle-dominance (OD), in which the barrier occasioning the frustration stands out in the response; ego (etho) defense (ED), in which the ego of the subject predominates to defend itself, and need-persistence (NP), in which the solution of the frustrating problem is emphasized by pursuing the goal despite the obstacle. From the combination of these six categories, there result for each item nine possible scoring factors.

It is essential to observe that aggression in the P-F and in the construct on which it is based in not necessarily negative in implication. In the context of the P-F, aggression is generically defined as assertiveness, which may be either affirmative or negative in character. Need-persistence represents a constructive (sometimes creative) form of aggression, whereas ego (ethos) defense is frequently destructive (of others or of oneself) in import. This point is particularly noteworthy because in many technical theories of aggression this distinction is overlooked and aggression is thought to be practically synonymous with hostility or destructive-ness. Common parlance, when not contaminated by psychoanalytic or other psychological conceptualizations comes close to the broader usage of the term aggression, which the P-F Study employs.

Although the scoring of the P-F is always phenotypic (according to the explicit wording used in the response), interpretation is genotypic, involving three kinds of norms: universal (nomothetic), group (demographic), and individual (idiodynamic). Statistical data used in interpretation refer to group norms, that is, the extent to which the individual performs vis-à-vis the group to which he or she belongs (based on age, sex, etc.). Individual (idiodynamic) norms, which derive from the unique wording of the responses and in interrelation of the scored factors in the protocol, complement the group norms. Universal (nomothetic) norms are represented by the constructs on which the instrument is based, and these underlie both group and individual norms. AGroup Conformity Rating (GCR) measures the subject's tendency to agree with the modal responses of a normal population sample.

Interscorer reliability has been found to be 85% for the adult form. The results of a retest reliability, with some variations, have been demonstrated to be high. The various scoring categories selectively showed significant reliability as determined by the split-half method, but by the retest method the major scoring dimensions of the P-F have been demonstrated to agree with significant reliability.

The P-F has been studied for both construct (criterion-related) and pragmatic validity with significantly positive results. In addition to the clinical purposes for which the P-F study was originally intended, it has been used as a screening or selection device in business, industry, and schools and for research on cultural differences. In particular, the GCR has proved to be of value. The categories of "etho-defense" and "need-persistence" also have been shown to have differentiating potential, and some positive results have been obtained for obstacle-dominance. The results of P-F in hospital and clinic settings have proved useful, but an exclusive reliance on the P-F as a symptom-differentiating tool in such contexts is not recommended. Used in conjunction with other tests or as part of a configuration index, the technique has significant potential.

The published evidence for P-F reliability and validity are summarized in the Basic Manual (Rosenzweig, 1978b) and discussed in detail in the book Aggressive Behavior and the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study (Rosenzweig, 1978a).

It is important to observe that the P-F Study is one of the few projective methods that directly apply a systematic theory of behavior, in this case, of aggression. Moreover, by employing in its scoring the three types of norms (nomothetic, demographic, and idiodynamic), the instrument is compatible with the general theory of personality known as idio-dynamics.

The P-F has been translated and adapted, with standardization, in nearly all the countries of the Americas, Europe, and Asia and thus has become a natural tool for cross-cultural investigation. It is particularly noteworthy that the Japanese have intensively pursued the relationship be tween the constructs of frustration theory and the standpoint of idiodynamics, and a Japanese book on this topic is in preparation.


Rosenzweig, S. (1945). The picture-association method and its application in a study of reactions to frustration. Journal of Personality, 14, 3-23.

Rosenzweig, S. (1978a). Aggressive behavior and the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study. New York: Praeger.

Rosenzweig, S. (1978b). Basic Manual for the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration (P-F) Study. St. Louis: Rana House. (Distributed by Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, FL.)


Clarke, H. J., Fleming, E. E., & Rosenzweig, S. (1947). The reliability of the scoring of the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 3, 364-370.

Pareek, U. N. (1958). Reliability of the Indian adaptation of the Rosenzweig P-F Study (Children's Form). Journal of Psychological Researches, 2, 18-23.

Pichot, P., & Danjon, S. (1955). La fidelite du Test de Frustration de Rosenzweig. Revue de Psychologie Appliquee, 5, 1-11.

Rauchfleisch, U. (1978). Handbook zum Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Test (PFT) (Vols. 1-2). Bern, Switzerland: Hans Huber.

Rosenzweig, S. (1944). An outline of frustration theory. In J. M. Hunt (Ed.), Personality and the behavior disorders (Vol. 1, pp. 379-388). New York: Ronald Press.

Rosenzweig, S. (1950). Frustration tolerance and the picture-frustration study. Psychological Service Center Journal, 2, 109115.

Rosenzweig, S. (1951). Idiodynamics in personality theory with special reference to projective methods. Psychological Review, 58, 213-223.

Rosenzweig, S. (1960). The Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study, Children's Form. In J. Zubin & A. Freedman (Eds.), Projective techniques with children (pp. 149-176). New York: Grune & Stratton.

Rosenzweig, S. (1970). Sex differences in reaction to frustration among adolescents. In J. Zubin & A. Freedman (Eds.), Psycho-pathology of adolescence (pp. 90-107) New York: Grune & Stratton.

Rosenzweig, S. (1977). Outline of a denotative definition of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 3, 379-383.

Rosenzweig, S. (1978). An investigation of the reliability of the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration (P-F) Study, Children's Form. Journal of Personality Assessment, 42, 483-488.

Rosenzweig, S., & Adelman, S. (1977). Construct validity of the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration (P-F) Study. Journal of Personality Assessment, 41, 578-588.

Rosenzweig, S., Ludwig, D. J., & Adelman, S. (1975). Retest reliability of the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study and similar semiprojective techniques. Journal of Personality Assessment, 39, 3-12.

Rosenzweig, S., & Rosenzweig, L. (1952). Aggression in problem children and normals as evaluated by the Rosenzweig P-F Study. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 47, 683-687.

Rosenzweig, S., & Sarason, S. (1942). An experimental study of the triadic hypothesis: Reaction to frustration, ego-defense, and hypnotizability: I. Correlational approach. Character and Personality, 11, 1-19.

Saul Rosenzweig Washington University

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  • Patrick
    How was the rosenzweig pisture fustraation test develop, scoring, norms, and interpretation?
    4 years ago
  • gabrielle
    How to score the picture frustration study Indian adaptation?
    3 years ago

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