Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Basic Personality Inventory

  • Ronald R. HoldenEmail author
  • G. Cynthia Fekken
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_4-1


Psychiatric Inpatient Interpersonal Problem Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Correctional Officer Response Perseveration 
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The Basic Personality Inventory (BPI; Jackson 1996) is a 12-scale, 240-item, true/false self-report measure of the general domain of psychopathology.


The BPI is a multiscale inventory that assesses psychological problems. The inventory is appropriate for adults and adolescents and for both nonclinical and clinical populations. The BPI requires a grade 5 reading level and can be completed in approximately 30–40 min. The BPI’s 20-item scales assess hypochondriasis, depression, denial, interpersonal problems, alienation, persecutory ideas, anxiety, thinking disorder, impulse expression, social introversion, self-depreciation, and deviation.

In developing the BPI, the independent psychopathology dimensions underlying the longer 566-item Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Hathaway and McKinley 1967) were first ascertained. Based on these dimensions, ten conceptually relevant constructs were identified and defined. In addition, scales representing guarded test-taking style and critical deviant behaviors were conceptualized. Subsequently, item pools were written and items were selected for BPI scales based on these constructs. In particular, an innovative item selection procedure, termed the item efficiency index (Jackson 1996), simultaneously fostered scale internal consistency reliability and inter-scale independence thus serving to promote scale convergent and discriminant validity and concurrently reduce the potential contamination of socially desirable responding (Holden and Jackson 1992). To further promote scale independence, each item is scored on only one scale. In addition, each scale on the BPI (except the critical deviant behaviors scale) has a balanced number of items for direction of keying so as to reduce the impact of acquiescent (yea-saying) or resistant (nay-saying) response styles.

Psychometric Properties


Adult normative data for the BPI are based on the responses of 1419 community adults sampled from the United States and Canada. Separate norms are available for men and women because significant sex differences do exist for some scales. Adolescent normative data, separately by sex, based on 2260 nonclinical respondents are also available as are normative data for samples of psychiatric patients, college students, and correctional officer job applicants (Jackson 1996).


BPI scale scores demonstrate acceptable levels of internal consistency. Coefficient alpha reliabilities for scores on denial (test-taking style) and deviation (critical deviant behaviors) scales tend to be lower (alpha coefficients averaging 0.65 to 0.69) than for scores on the clinical content scales (alpha coefficients averaging 0.75 to 0.80). Test-retest reliabilities based on a 1-month interval vary from 0.63 for denial scale scores to 0.87 for social introversion scale scores. Across all 12 BPI scales, the median 1-month test-retest reliability is 0.75 for nonclinical samples. For a clinical sample, the median 2-month test-rest reliability was 0.77 (Jackson 1996).

Factor Structure

The structural validity of the inventory has been examined in a set of BPI item factor analyses with samples drawn from clinical adult, nonclinical adult, and high school populations (Holden et al. 1983). Congruence between observed factors and the BPI’s scoring key indicated support for the convergent and discriminant structure at the item level, something not commonly investigated or found for multiscale measures of psychopathology.


Validity for BPI scale scores has been demonstrated for a variety of clinical and forensic samples. Holden et al. (1988) found a mean BPI scale score validity of 0.40 (0.56 when corrected for unreliability in the criteria) between the responses of 112 psychiatric inpatients and ratings by hospital mental health staff who were well acquainted with individual patients. For a sample of 64 adult psychiatric inpatients, Holden et al. (1990) reported BPI scale score validities with a median value of 0.35 where criteria comprised clinical staff member ratings. A subset of 26 of these inpatients completed the BPI again 9 weeks later and the median BPI scale score validity based on these clinical ratings was 0.47. With a sample of 101 incarcerated men in a federal institution, a median validity for BPI scale scores of 0.21 was found when correctional officers’ ratings were used as criteria (Kroner et al. 1997). The ability of BPI scales to differentiate a sample of 352 psychiatric inpatients into correct diagnostic categories has also been demonstrated (Jackson 1996).

Supplementary Scales

In addition to the standard 12 scales of the BPI, additional scales and indices have been constructed subsequent to the original development of the inventory. Scales for higher-order factors (Austin et al. 1986) of psychiatric symptomatology (sum of scores on scales of hypochondriasis, persecutory ideas, anxiety, and thinking disorder), social symptomatology (sum of scores on scales of interpersonal problems, alienation, persecutory ideas, impulse expression, and deviation), and depression (sum of scores on scales of depression, social introversion, and self-depreciation) have been developed and validated (Holden et al. 1988, 1990). Validity indices (Helmes and Holden 1986) assessing person reliability, acquiescent responding, response perseveration, faking, and socially desirable response styles are also available.


The BPI is available in English, Spanish, and French versions. Administration, scoring, and reporting can be through paper-and-pencil answer sheets and profile sheets with reusable test booklets and scoring template. Alternatively, the BPI can be computer administered, scored, and interpreted using local software or the publisher’s online assessment portal. A published BPI manual and a current bibliography of BPI research are available.


The BPI has an obvious role for the assessment of psychological problems in clinical inpatient and outpatient samples, including forensic samples. It can also be used to screen applicants for high-risk occupations, such as police officers, correctional officers, security guards, and so on. The Basic Personality Inventory has been used to assess psychological problems in a wide variety of research applications, ranging from research related to health, to stress and coping, to objective testing issues, to cultural differences, to other personality variables. At present, the extant bibliography on the BPI numbers over 180 papers.


The Basic Personality Inventory is a psychometrically sound, relatively concise self-report instrument assessing the broad domain of psychopathology. Based on its sophisticated multivariate test construction techniques applied to foster a construct approach to measurement, investigators and clinicians will find that the BPI can fulfill many research and applied needs.



  1. Austin, G. W., Leschied, A. W., Jaffe, P. G., & Sas, L. (1986). Factor structure and construct validity of the basic personality inventory with juvenile offenders. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 18, 238–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hathaway, S. R., & McKinley, J. C. (1967). The Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory (Revised ed.). New York: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  3. Helmes, E., & Holden, R. R. (1986). Response styles and faking on the basic personality inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 853–859.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
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  5. Holden, R. R., & Jackson, D. N. (1992). Assessing psychopathology using the basic personality inventory: Rationale and applications. In J. C. Rosen & P. McReynolds (Eds.), Advances in psychological assessment (Vol. 8, pp. 165–199). New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  7. Holden, R. R., Fekken, G. C., Reddon, J. R., Helmes, E., & Jackson, D. N. (1988). Clinical reliabilities and validities of the basic personality inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 766–768.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Jackson, D. N. (1996). Basic personality inventory technical manual (2nd ed.). Port Huron: SIGMA Assessment Systems, Inc.Google Scholar
  9. Kroner, D. G., Holden, R. R., & Reddon, J. R. (1997). Validity of the basic personality inventory in a correctional setting. Assessment, 4, 141–153.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Brendan Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Wichita State UniversityWichitaUSA