Psychopathic Traits In The Human Figure Test

We analyze how people with antisocial disorder draw a human figure.

The projective tests are one of the tools psicodiagn√≥stico most  psychotherapists clinical use. The basis of this is based on the fact that when writing, drawing or speaking, we project different aspects of our  personality, conflicts and even our aspirations unconsciously. 

Usually, these tests have a psychoanalytic basis, as we will remember it was Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, who made the first explorations about the unconscious and its importance in our daily life.

Analyzing the way psychopaths draw human figures

Intense clinical experience has shown that the drawings of the human figure represent an intimate expression of the cartoonist’s personality. The  Machover test is based on the theoretical foundation of the body scheme that we project through drawing. Today we will talk about this, one of the most widespread projective tests, used and accepted by the psychoanalytic community; At the same time, we will examine the graphic characteristics that are usually indicative of some degree of psychopathy.

Learn more about psychopaths:  “Psychopathy: what happens in the psychopath’s mind?”

Generalities regarding the drawing

Three aspects are very important when examining the drawing before inquiring about the characteristics projected in the human figure: dimension, space and position.  

Very large lines have been found in most of the drawings of psychopaths, characteristic of a personality with a notable exaltation of the ego. If we also find it in the middle of the sheet, we can affirm that the subject has a need to control his environment. If it is on the right we can assume that there are problems with authority and antisociality. 

Hand in hand with the need to control, we find a certain dependence on his environment (since the psychopath has a great need to exercise control) if in the drawing he presents accessory objects external to the human figure. Other generalities that we will find in drawings made by psychopaths are the predominance of angles and peaks, highlights and intensity in the lines. They also usually start by drawing a figure of their own sex and usually the head will be the last feature they draw.


As expressed above, the head drawn by people with psychopathic personality tends to be the last part of the body to be drawn, and it is usually disproportionately larger in relation to the size of the body, which is an indicator of self –  centeredness, megalomania and overvaluation of their intellectual capacity. 

If it is also elongated, it will be indicative of aggressiveness; in case of being very marked, it will denote the need for dominance; If there is no defined head contour, problems of connection with reality can be suspected. Expression lines on the forehead and eyebrows that are very bushy or in a direction are indicative of latent aggressiveness. Detecting emphasis in the eyes indicates paranoid tendencies, while a penetrating or threatening and also accentuated look is a sign of latent hostility.  

Very often, in addition, a notable highlighting of the nostrils is found in drawings of psychopaths, which are interpreted as evidence of aggressiveness. The emphasis on the mouth tends to show verbal aggressiveness and a special tendency to  irritability. 

If the human figure is showing the language, there is orality at a primitive level in the subject. Undeniable signs of aggressiveness at the oral level are: the presence of teeth (much more if they show sharpness or expose the canines), angular or beak features, drawing the mouth as a thick broken line. When the neck is long and also thin, the subject has problems managing her impulses; the absence of this indicates that the subject is at their mercy.

The log

Another of the very particular characteristics that are frequently found in psychopathic personalities that are especially aggressive and that have physically attacked other people are: the exaltation of the chest that indicates  narcissism, if it is also discovered, it adds hostility and arrogance; with accentuated muscular features he is an aggressive subject. 

In relation to the arms, the emphasis on the muscles and reinforcement in them show us aggressiveness and desire for physical power ; finding in the drawing the arms in a “jug” reveals a arrogant person with anarchic tendencies; long arms indicate material ambition. Angled hands are always indicative of antisociality as they are parts of the body related to bonding and social contact. 

This characteristic is also reinforced if we find fingers drawn pointed or as an express claw shape. Fist-shaped hands indicate strong repressed aggressiveness.

Lower body

If the legs are very strong, there is aggressiveness; also if the legs show movement or as if they were going to kick. Bare feet indicate primitive aggressiveness especially if fingernails are showing. 

When the genital area is exposed, there is exhibitionism and / or lack of control of sexual impulses ; If the drawing is accentuated in the genital area, such as with excessive retouching, for example or meticulousness in the drawing of the closure, there may be sexual disorders.

Other considerations

It is recalled that should always ask the subject to express a story about the human figure drawn, this story will complement the projective method will help us clarify some concerns about reinfor or.  

The clothing and actions carried out by the individuals drawn can also provide us with many data that are usually especially compensatory, within the outfits that psychopathic personalities prefer to draw we very often find that of a neat businessman (very common in white-collar criminals) or someone who performs martial arts (with a higher incidence in those who commit crimes of physical contact).

Finally, we insist that this projective test be complemented with others that allow us to delve into the unconscious aspects of the individual’s personality. 

Bibliographic references:

  • Portuondo, JA, The human figure. Karen Machover projective test. Editorial New Library.

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