This page provides a quick summary of observations and findings related to the Music Apperception Test (MAT) with emphasis upon validity.

Construct Validity:

The Music Apperception Test draws from musicology, contemporary European research on the “felt” qualities of music, cognitive science, neuropsychology, and clinical observation. Drawing from these sources, music for the MAT was composed to accord with the patterns of basic emotions.

Like other individually administered personality tests employed in clinical psychology (the Rorschach and TAT), the theory and use of the MAT largely has been derived from individual case analysis. This is a “bottom-up” approach to scientific inference complemented by “top down” or “group statistical” approaches to scientific exploration and validation. In a relative sense, the former approach is highly sensitive and especially useful in hypothesis formulation. The case study provides information about the complexity of individual dynamics while group statistical approaches can only provide results that “sum over” individuals and provide information about trends or relationships that may or may not hold for the individual.

Responses to MAT compositions appear to have wide cross-cultural currency. For example, MAT responses of children in a rural village in India display similar or identical emotional themes and content to compositions as American children (van den Daele, 2007b).

Matching music to emotions by psychology doctoral students unfamiliar with the MAT closely accord with the emotions MAT compositions are intended to portray (van den Daele, 2007).

Professional dancers identify music mood, feeling, or theme with more than 90% accuracy (Yates, 2010).

Face Validity and Clinical Observation:

Existing use in clinical settings suggest that MAT performance mirrors clinical issues. Respondents who are insensitive to the emotional qualities of a composition, i.e. sad or happy, appear insensitive to affect in human relations. Respondents whose responses do not map time constraints imposed by compositions display behavior insulated from reality cues.  In these examples and for more subtle adaptation, the MAT possesses a “face validity” useful in diagnosis, treatment planning, and the evaluation of outcomes.

As the MAT progresses, compositions become more emotionally and cognitively challenging with music more discordant. Response to discordance on the MAT is an analog to responses to stress observed in therapy. The same or highly analogous defenses are employed, i.e. withdrawal, disavowal, self-deprecation, humor, etc.  In research reported in the MAT Supplement: Background, theory, and interpretation (van den Daele, 2007b), the cognitive maturity of dreams and stories told to music were found to vary with the maturity of executive judgment. Stories told to the music provide a window to emotional issues and conflicts not readily accessed by direct inquiry.

Criterion-based Discriminate Validity:

The MAT method clearly distinguishes schizophrenic and normal matched controls for response latency (p = .001), fluency measures (p = .001), content (p = .01), and narrative style (p = .01) (van den Daele, 1967).

Children are significantly quicker to respond, but less verbal than adolescents and adults. Children spontaneously engage animal stories to greater degree than adolescents or adults (van den Daele, 2007b).

Factor analyses of “word valence”, employing the Dictionary of Affect in Language, for activity and pleasantness of MAT stories yield of a first order factor that reflects individual differences (p = .001).  The words for stories employed by some persons are characteristically pleasant and active even to music that portrays anger, terror, or disgust while the words employed by other persons are passive and unpleasant even to music that portrays love and joy (van den Daele, 2007b).

The instrument decisively distinguishes latency, fluency, affective fit, and narrative style among practitioners of different forms of meditation (Garth, 2010).

Professional dancers are  significantly quicker to tell stories to music and significantly more fluent than matched controls. The mood and emotion expressed by dancers agrees with music mood and emotion with 90 percent accuracy (van den Daele, Jenkins, and Yates, in press).

Concurrent and Convergent Validity:

Response Latency significantly inversely correlates with the Matching Familiar Figures Test, which is an independent measure of impulsiveness (Quinn, 1999).

Affective Appropriateness of responses significantly correlates with the cross-cultural test of visual emotion recognition (Quinn, 1999).

Complexity of response correlates with developmental maturity and fluency correlates with verbal intelligence (Quinn, 1999).

MAT Validity and Reliability

Test-retest reliabilities for response latency and fluency are .90, and split-half reliabilities for response latency and fluency exceed .90 (van den Daele, 2007a).

Research and findings bearing upon MAT validity not summarized in the MAT Manual and MAT Supplement periodically are updated in the Posting Section of this website.


Copenhaver, G.A. (2010). Music Apperception Testing with Meditation Practitioners of Samadhi and Vipassana, and Masters of Madhyamika. San Francisco, CA: California Institute of Integral Studies Doctoral Dissertation, 2010

Quinn, K. (1999). Developmental responses to the Music Projective Test. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, California.

Tham, C. (2017). Adult imagination and remembered childhood fantasy play: A mixed methods exploratory study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, California.

van den Daele, L. (1967). A music projective technique. Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment, 31, 47-57.

van den Daele, L. (2007a). Music Apperception Test Manual. Las Vegas, Nevada: Psychodiagnostics, Inc. (113 pages).

van den Daele, L (2007b). Music Apperception Test supplement: Background, theory, and interpretation. Las Vegas, Nevada: Psychodiagnostics, Inc. (103 pages).

van den Daele, L. (2014). Music Apperception Test: Coding, research, and application. Rorschachiana, 35 (2), 2-23.

van den Daele, L.,Jenkins, S., & Yates, A. (in press). Differential Performance of Professional Dancers to the Music Apperception Test and the Thematic Apperception Test. Rorschachiana 37.

Yates, A. (2012). A Study of Creativity, Affective Attunement, and Narrative Style of Adult Modern Dancers. San Francisco, CA: CA Institute of Integral Studies Doctoral  Dissertation.