Sentence Completion Method: Definition, History, and Further Reading

The sentence completion method is a psychometric technique that measures the level of a person’s personality traits and attitudes. It involves presenting a set of incomplete sentences to a participant, who then completes the sentences in a manner that describes their own feelings, beliefs, and attitudes. By measuring the responses to the incomplete sentences, researchers can gain insight into the psychological state of the participant.


The sentence completion method has its roots in the psychoanalytic tradition of the early 20th century. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, often used the technique to gain insight into the psyche of his patients. He believed that the completion of incomplete sentences expressed the unconscious and conscious thoughts of the individual. In the 1950s, the sentence completion method was further developed by psychoanalyst Robert W. White, who identified nine variables that could be used to measure a person’s personality and attitudes. The method has since been used in a variety of psychometric tests, such as the MMPI-2 and the Rorschach Inkblot Test.

Further Reading

Friedman, H. S. (2016). Fundamentals of psychoanalytic technique: A Lacanian approach for practitioners. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Kanfer, F. H., & Ackerman, P. L. (1989). Motivation and competence: Toward a better understanding of person-environment interaction. In C. E. Izard, J. Kagan, & R. Zajonc (Eds.), Emotions, cognition, and behavior (pp. 257-300). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McDowell, D., & Newell, W. (2000). The use of sentence completion technique in research. In J. A. C. Baum & J. E. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 238-260). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Meyer, G. J., & Kurtz, J. E. (2006). Clinical psychology: Science and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Webb, J. T., Campbell, D. T., Schwartz, R. D., & Sechrest, L. (1966). Unobtrusive measures: Nonreactive research in the social sciences. Chicago: Rand McNally.

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