Draw a House

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I need to find out the meaning behind a drawing of a house. I took psychology and the class all drew houses. Different parts of the house such as windows, walkway, and chimney meant something about the person. I need to find out what the house and the parts of the house mean as soon as possible. Thanks.

-- Lyndsay Rude (l_rude@hotmail.com), April 18, 2003


It means nothing at all. It was once used as a quick-n-dirty personality test in which different parts of the house, and different configurations or those parts were thought to correspond to different apects of the personality and different issues to be addressed by therapy. The "Draw a Person/House/Tree" test was discredited decades ago, however, (though some continue to use it for a variety of reasons).

Buck, J. N. (1948). The H-T-P technique, a qualitative and quantitative scoring manual. Journal of Clinical Psychology Monogr. Suppl. 4:1-120.

[Answer modified 8 May 2003. -cdg-]

-- Christopher D. Green (christo@yorku.ca), April 18, 2003.

You can find more about HTP in textbooks on projective personality testing. Basics are generally also provided in overview textbooks on psychometric testing/tests and measurements. You might also find suggestions in the literature on dream interpretation, where some schools of thought assign specific meanings to parts of a house-- there are dictionaries of dream symbols that would discuss suggested meanings ()Kleinians, for example, connect parts of the house or other dream scenes back to the mother's body. The projective tests are vulnerable in part because it is difficult to control for drawing ability. In the 1970s Peter, Paul, & Mary even recorded "The House Song" which was supposed to be about a psychotherapy session: exploring various rooms of the house was thought to be symbolic of a tour through the unconscious. Family therapists make quite a different use of house drawings: clients and students draw house plans as a way of facilitating memories of the past; a walk through the house helps memory retrieval.

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (hendrika@earthlink.net), April 19, 2003.

Hi Lyndsay, I think what you are fooling around with here is something called the "projective hypothesis." And so I think you will want to look that up some where and learn what it means to investigators of personality. See if you can find a text book of mental tests and measurements. There you will find a chapter on projective tests, and the basics will apply to your question, the drawing of a house. I don't think that you are going to find any one detail that gives you any x-ray into personality. Probably what is to be inferred from your average picture of a house will be things like: does this person have approprate motor coordination, and are there sufficiant details here to give us an idea of a level of intellegence or an ability to organize. I think you might find the interpretation rather booring actually. Usually that psychologists who use and interpret projective tests are highly trained and they have lots of experience - meaning they have seen the results of lots and lots of drawings. Even then, I think the statements that are made are of the nature of a hypothesis to be explored.

Good luck, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), April 23, 2003.

Lyndsay, Although the intent of drawing a house was surely to show your class a personality measure, you might be interested to know that there is another application for such tests. A pencil & paper test such as drawing a house, a clock, a face, or anything else that is highly familiar, certain to be known to a subject and relatively symmetric is a useful assessment tool to the neuropsychologist or neurologist. Persons who have sustained damage to the posterior regions of the brain may exhibit hemianopia or quandrantopia if components of the visual pathways in one hemisphere are involved. Such impairments typically lead to drawings that are missing one side or one quarter. Less well understood is the difficulty that autistic individuals have with drawing faces, compared to drawing other things, e.g. houses or trees.

-- Harry Whitaker (hwhitake@nmu.edu), May 08, 2003.

Children’s drawings of house, tree and person are generally presumed to reflect the child’s self-perception, personality and their perceptions of their world (e.g., quality of family life). However, any possible meanings derived from a child’s drawings should be offered with caution. Such meanings should be compared to all the other known information about that child before concluding that those meanings actually fit the child.

-- Curt Palmer (cpalmer@cv.k12.ca.us), May 23, 2003.

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