Self-reporting is defined as a self-observation by the subject of his own behavior. In a broad sense, it refers to any message, whether verbal or written, that a person gives out about his or her own thoughts, feelings, perceptions or other types of manifestations.

In the field of psychological assessment, self-reporting is a type of technique that allows the acquisition of reliable, valid, fast and inexpensive information about an individual, whether for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes or for personnel selection.

The usefulness of this technique, together with its many advantages, has made it possible to speed up the psychological evaluation process, as well as to acquire first-hand information from those evaluated. In this article we will see what a self-report is and what its types and characteristics are . Let’s start with the latter.


The self-reports allow the acquisition of different types of information, thanks to the fact that can be elaborated with the purpose of asking about different aspects of people . Some examples are:

  • Motor skills: amount of coffee consumed per day…
  • Physiological responses: excessive sweating, gastrointestinal problems
  • Thoughts: Suicide ideation…
  • Subjective experience: feeling alone, believing there is no hope
  • Attributions: to think that the origin of the voices is for not having closed the door.
  • Future Expectations: How do you think your condition will improve, if your love situation will get worse?

Traditionally, this type of psychological assessment technique has been used to measure personality attributes, situation-dependent states, such as anxiety and fears , and to collect information on problem behaviours. The variables that measure self-reports can be divided into four classes

Features, dimensions or factors

The self-reports that measure these variables allow us to know the relative position of the person evaluated with respect to the rest of the normative group in a specific intrapsychic variable. An example of these are the personality tests .


It evaluates how the person feels or thinks at the precise moment the evaluation is made. In addition, the situation in which the administration is being carried out and the variables that may influence the responses given by the subject are taken into account. An example of a self-report that measures states is the STAI (State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Spielberger) in which the anxiety felt by the person at a particular time is measured.

Clinical-Behavioral Repertories

There are lists of cognitive, motor or physiological behaviors which occur with some frequency in a given psychological disorder. By means of this type of questionnaire , information can be obtained on those areas of personality and thought of the person that are altered.

Repertories, processes and cognitive structures

Cognitive processes are measured, based on the premise that they play a mediating role in motor and physiological behavior.

Types of self-reports

Throughout the development of psychological assessment, different types of techniques have been developed to obtain accurate information from individuals. Below are the most common self-report techniques and some of their most outstanding characteristics.

1. Questionnaires, inventories and scales

These are highly structured self-reports, both in the way the questions are formulated and in their answers. They evaluate specific behaviours, asking about events that usually occur with a certain frequency . They are generally used to measure personality variables.

2. Self-registration

It is a semi-structured technique in which the subject is given a sheet of paper where he is asked about a certain behavior and it is the individual himself who fills it in. The person being evaluated records his/her behavior, whether cognitive, motor, physiological or emotional, at the very moment it occurs.

Thanks to this it is possible to acquire exhaustive information about the individual , because by doing so at the same time as it is happening to him, the memory does not fail and the maximum possible information can be recorded.

3. Interview

Although some do not consider it a self-reporting technique, the interview is a tool in which two or more people interact in a two-way way and share information. Both in a psychotherapy context and in the field of recruitment this instrument implies a differentiation of roles.

The degree of structuring can be variable, with unstructured interviews, in which the interviewee is given considerable freedom to explain his/her emotional and cognitive state, and structured interviews, following a marked script set by the interviewer.

4. Thoughts Out Loud

The person is asked to speak aloud about different aspects . This type of technique is widely used in the field of experimental research. The participant is subjected to a specific stimulus and is observed how he or she responds, recording what he or she says and does. It is a type of non-structured self-report, as it allows the participant to speak freely.


These are several of the main advantages of the self-report :

  • The person being evaluated is the one who gives the information about what he thinks and how he feels, allowing him to acquire a deeper and more concrete vision of his own experience.
  • Self-reporting allows professionals to save a great deal of time.
  • They can be administered quickly and systematically, and then easily corrected.
  • They motivate those evaluated, since they are asked about aspects related to themselves and in a more intimate way.
  • The more structured ones, such as questionnaires and scales, have a higher degree of reliability and validity, and are also economical.


Like all psychological evaluation techniques, self-reports are not without their drawbacks, and they have some limitations . Below are some of the disadvantages of this type of technique, in addition to explaining some phenomena that negatively influence the results.

1. Simulation

The individual does not consciously tell the truth.

2. Social desirability

You can pretend to give a good image of yourself instead of being sincere.

3. Assent

In closed response self-reports, in which “yes/true” and “no/false” are asked, it may be the case that the individual has a tendency to answer positively .

4. Scalar errors

In self-reports evaluated by scales, it may be the case that the individual involuntarily answers towards the extreme (severity) or towards the more central values (central tendency).

Bibliographic references:

  • Fernandez-Ballesteros, R. (2007) Psychological Evaluation, Concepts methods and case studies. P. 233-265. SPAIN: Pirámide.
  • De las Cuevas, C. and González de Rivera, J. L. (1992). Self-reporting and biased responses. Annals of Psychiatry, 8(9), 362-366.
  • Fernández-Ballesteros, R. (1992). The self-reports. In R. Fernández-BaIlesteros (comp.), Introducción a la evaluación psicológica (I). Madrid: Pirámide.