The FAA won’t be using the MMPI-3; should you?

If the FAA doesn't use it, should you? The FAA won’t be using the MMPI-3; should you?

If you’re interested in the MMPI-3 here are two previous blog posts I’ve written related to it:

  • MMPI-3, WAIS-V, WISC-VI and Test Security:

  • The release date for the MMPI-3 is expected to be in Fall 2020:
    A new MMPI by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet, right?

Given the potential for confusion in the marketplace and that science related to the MMPI-2 might not necessarily translate to the MMPI-3, it makes sense for us to pay close attention to the behavior of test publishing organizations.

Full disclosure: I have a past history of being publicly skeptical or even cynical of some things related to the personality testing industry. For example, I called out the construction of the DSM-5 personality disorders task force with a statement like “should authors of personality assessments be allowed to author how personality is assessed?” I posted a bit about that here if you’re interested:

In relation to the current question: If you’re going to use the MMPI-3, it would make sense to be sure you know what it actually is that you’re using, right? Remember in the world of science there is a difference between marketing materials and independent scientific evidence free from bias and conflicts of interest. Please keep that in mind when you see this iteration of the MMPI marketed as “MMPI-3” with the available courses primarily being presented by someone with a financial interest in the adoption of the MMPI-3. I will say one thing to keep in mind before introducing the following article. When it comes to psychological testing we know it makes sense to use current norms. However, when it comes to scientific evidence it does not always make sense to be an “early adopter,” because sometimes a very limited pool of evidence can be flawed. You do have the ability to decide for yourself to not be an early adopter when it comes to the MMPI-3 if that is what you conclude.

The MMPI-3 (and MMPI-2-RF) and the FAA.

I did not write the following article. I am posting it here at the request of one of the authors, Dr. Alan Friedman, and because I think it is worth your consideration. I did run it past Dr. Chris Front at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get his perspective on it prior to posting. Dr. Front indicated to me by email “Dr. Friedman contacted me prior to posting his list serve message to inform me that he planned to do so and, as due diligence, to ensure that he had his facts straight with regard to the FAA policy. His post accurately represents the FAA policy with regard to the use of the MMPI-2, MMPI-2-RF, and MMPI-3 in psychological and neuropsychological assessments conducted for the purpose of FAA medical certification for pilots and air traffic controllers.

As a former Navy clinical psychologist who maintains contact with colleagues at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI), I can also verify Dr. Friedman’s claim that NAMI also continued to use the MMPI-2 rather than adopt the MMPI-2-RF due to their awareness of the FAA findings and policy.”

Here is the complete unedited article which was not written by me, Todd Finnerty, Psy.D., however I take full responsibility for any issues n the text above or any errors in copying and pasting including some minor formatting issues below.

Shared Article:

MMPI-3 Prohibited by FAA for Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluations

By Alan F. Friedman, Ph.D. and David S. Nichols, Ph.D.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it will not allow the use of the MMPI-3 for pilots and air traffic controllers (FAA, 2021). This prohibition is also consistent with the FAA’s non-allowance of the MMPI-2-RF. Instead, the FAA will continue to require that the MMPI-2 be used.
Specifically, FAA guidance states that the MMPI-3 and the MMPI-2-RF are not acceptable substitutes for the MMPI-2 for assessments conducted for FAA medical certification purposes.

The FAA (2021) notes that the development team for the MMPI-3, led by Yossef Ben- Porath, Ph.D., simply revised the MMPI-2-RF and called it the MMPI-3. A more correct and forthright title designation would have been “MMPI-2-RF-Revised” or “MMPI-2-RF-2”. We (Friedman & Nichols, 2017) suggested these less deceptive and more accurate titles in an article in The
National Psychologist (, but our suggestion was not followed by the University of Minnesota Press. These more authentic titles clearly would not have provided the marketing advantages of implying that the MMPI-3 is a true successor/revision of the MMPI-2. Simply stated, it is not.

After the MMPI-2-RF was published in 2008, the FAA conducted an internal study comparing the sensitivity of the MMPI-2-RF to the MMPI-2. Their study found that the MMPI-2- RF could achieve the same, but not superior, positive predictive power as the MMPI-2 in identifying confirmed aeromedically disqualifying psychopathology among air traffic controller applicants only if cut scores in the normal range of 55-60T were used. Consequently, the FAA told psychologists performing assessments of air traffic controllers and pilots that the MMPI-2-RF was not an acceptable substitute for the MMPI-2 because it would produce an excess of false negative decisions.

The FAA was able to conduct this comparative analysis because it had access to the item level responses of over 5,000 air traffic controller applicants. Their study established normative values and further research with over 20,000 applicants confirmed the MMPI-2 norms and the utility of the MMPI-2 in the evaluation of these applicants. (Greene, Nichols, Front, & King, in press).

It is important to recognize that few, if any, other agencies have the data necessary to manage the type of comparative analyses that the FAA was able to conduct. For example, the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, the entity within the Navy that evaluates naval aviators, air crews, and air traffic controllers, was aware of the FAA analyses and findings and, as a result, has continued using the MMPI-2 in preference to adopting the MMPI-2-RF. While other
federal agencies allow the MMPI-2-RF, and likely the MMPI-3, their use is not likely based upon comparative analyses between the MMPI-2 and the significantly altered MMPI-2-RF and MMPI-3. It should be noted that the MMPI-2 continues to be widely used in law enforcement agencies and
in other public safety sensitive sectors for selection and evaluation of personnel. (Butcher, Front, & Ones, 2018).

The MMPI-2-RF and its revision, the MMPI-3, do not use the empirically derived MMPI clinical scales as does the MMPI-2, and they do not use the MMPI-2’s code-type interpretation approach based upon decades of correlates accumulated through empirical research. Instead, the MMPI-2-RF and MMPI-3 are centered upon a set of content driven scales called the Restructured Clinical (RC) scales. It should be noted that there is a 40% reduction in the number of items on the MMPI-2-RF. This eliminated many of the work-related items as well as 50% of the items on 8 of the 10 RC scales as
compared with the MMPI/MMPI-2 clinical scales.

Despite its adoption by many, the MMPI-2-RF has met with broad and significant criticism (Friedman, Bolinskey, Levak, & Nichols, 2015; Greene, Rouse, Butcher, Nichols, & Williams, 2009; Ranson, Nichols, Rouse, & Harrington, 2009; Erard, Nichols, & Friedman, 2018). Numerous and widely
used MMPI textbooks, chapters, and articles clearly note and describe that the MMPI-2-RF is not a replacement for the MMPI-2 (e.g., Butcher, Hass, Greene & Nelson, 2015; Friedman, et al. 2015). Ben-Porath himself (2017) has acknowledged that the MMPI-2-RF represents a “paradigm shift,”
and noted that the MMPI-2-RF was “introduced as an alternative to rather than a replacement for the MMPI-2” (p. 277). Yet, in contrast to this statement by Ben- Porath, in December 2020 the University of Minnesota Press released an announcement stating that the “MMPI-3 is intended to be a replacement version of the test” and “strongly encourages all users to transition to the new
version of the test.” This advice is ill-advised and test users should be aware of the significant differences between the MMPI-2 and the MMPI-3.

It may ease the concerns of psychologists using the MMPI-2 to learn that the University of Minnesota Press announcement of December 2020 also stated that “there are no plans at this time to discontinue the MMPI-2 or MMPI-2-RF…” This statement is also supported by emails received in 2020 by Friedman from Douglas Armato, Director of the University of Minnesota Press, stating that there were no plans or discussions to discontinue sales or distributions of the MMPI-2. However, the University of Minnesota Press and its distributor, Pearson Assessments, has followed a marketing strategy of workshops, webinars, and symposia focused on promoting the MMPI-3.

A recent chapter by Williams, Butcher, and Paulsen (2019) emphasizes that psychologists should concentrate more carefully on publishers’ marketing efforts at the expense of scientific justification for its test revisions. It follows, therefore, that clinicians should diligently examine the literature to determine whether the evidence supports the MMPI-3 as a valid substitute for the MMPI-2, given that there have been decades of validational research with air traffic controllers, pilots, and other aerospace personnel accumulated specifically for the MMPI and the MMPI-2, producing valid normative data (Butcher, 1994; Butcher, 2002). This is not the case for the MMPI- 2-RF and its successor, the misnamed MMPI-3.
In accordance with the American Psychological Association’s (2018) Guideline #8 of the Professional Practice Guidelines for Occupationally Mandated Psychological Evaluations, “Psychologists seek to select and rely on assessment tools validated for use with a population appropriate to the
evaluation.” The key word here is “population.” Without the relevant population as a focus of empirical study, it is not possible to fulfill the other intent of Guideline #8 which is “to select assessment tools that produce reliable data supporting valid inferences pertinent to the referral
question(s)” (p. 193). To our knowledge there are no comparative studies other than that of the FAA comparing the efficacy of the MMPI-2 and MMPI-2-RF with pilots and air traffic controllers.

Bluntly stated the MMPI-3 is a departure from, not a continuation of the MMPI-2. The FAA clearly recognizes the marketing strategy and language used by the publisher and distributor to influence consumers into thinking that the newly released MMPI-3 is a continuation of the MMPI-2. It clearly
is not, and the FAA does not officially acknowledge either the MMPI-2-RF or the MMPI-3 as an acceptable replacement for the MMPI-2, and will not permit its use now, or likely in the future.


American Psychological Association, Professional Practice Guidelines for Occupationally Mandated Psychological Evaluations. (2018). American Psychologist, Vol. 73, No. 2, pp. 186-197.

Ben-Porath, Y.S. (2017). An Update to Williams and Lally’s (2017): Analysis of MMPI-2-RF Acceptance. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 48, pp. 275-278.

Butcher, J.N. (1994). Psychological Assessment of Airline Pilot Applicants with the MMPI-2. Journal of Personality Assessment, 62, pp. 31-44.

Butcher, J.N. (2002). Assessing Pilots with the “Wrong Stuff”: A Call for Research on Emotional Health Factors in Commercial Aviators. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 10, pp. 1-17.

Butcher, J.N., Front, C.M., & Ones, D.S. (2018). Assessing Psychopathology in High-Risk Occupations. APA Handbook of Psychopathology: Vol. 1, Psychopathology: Understanding, Assessing, and Treating Adult Mental Disorders. Edited by J.N. Butcher & J.M. Hooley, pp. 245-272. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Butcher, J.N., Hass, G.A., Greene, R.L., & Nelson, L.D. (2015). Using the MMPI-2 in Forensic Assessment. American Psychological Association: Washington, DC.

Erard, R.E., Nichols, D.S., & Friedman, A.F. (2018). Evaluating Psychopathology with Personality Assessment Instruments. In APA Handbook of Psychopathology: Vol. 1, pp. 169-199. Edited by J.N. Butcher & J.M. Hooley. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Federal Aviation Administration (January, 2021). Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners. Washington, DC.

Friedman, A.F., Bolinskey, P.K., Levak, R.W., & Nichols, D.S. (2015). Psychological Assessment with the MMPI- 2/MMPI-2-RF (3ʳᵈ Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Friedman, A.F. and Nichols, D.S. (2017). MMPI-3: Revision of the MMPI-2 or Marketing Hype? The National Psychologist, Vol. 26, No. 6 (p. 1).

Greene, R.L., Nichols, D.S., Front, C.M., & King, R.E. (in press). Screening Air Traffic Control Specialists with the MMPI-2: Scale Modifications to Increase Predictive Utility. Technical report, Office of Aerospace Medicine, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC.

Greene, R.L., Rouse, S.V., Butcher, J.N., Nichols, D.S., & Williams, C.L. (2009). The MMPI-2 Restructured Clinical (RC) Scales and Redundancy: Response to Tellegen, Ben-Porath, & Sellbom. Journal of Personality Assessments, 91, pp. 222-226.

Ranson, M.B., Nichols, D.S., Rouse, S.V., & Harrington, J.L. (2009). Changing or Replacing an Established Psychological Assessment Standard: Issues, Goals, and Problems with Special Reference to Recent Developments in the MMPI-2. In J.N. Butcher [Ed.]. Oxford Handbook of Personality and Clinical Assessment, pp. 112-139. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Williams, C.L., Butcher, J.N., & Paulsen, J.A. (2019). Overview of Multidimensional Inventories of Psychopathology. Goldstein, D.N. Allen, & J. DeLuca [Eds.]. Handbook of Psychological
Assessments (4ᵗʰ Ed.), pp. 397-417. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

You can contact the authors by email at and