Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

MMPI-Related Pain Research through the Lens of Bibliometric Analysis: Mapping Investigatory Domain

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

MMPI-Related Pain Research through the Lens of Bibliometric Analysis: Mapping Investigatory Domain

Article excerpt

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (hereon, MMPI) and subsequent successors (i.e., MMPI-A MMPI-2, MMPI-2-RF) have been a mainstay assessment instrument in the sub-field of behavioral medicine (see Marek & Ben-Porath, 2017), particularly in the evaluation of pain patients and in research investigations with a focus on the study of pain (Deardorff, 2000; Epker, 2013; Gatchel et al., 2017; Haggard et al., 2008). Indeed, the extant literature on the MMPI-Pain nexus is voluminous, evident in the database PsycINFO which indexes 528 articles, 17 book chapters, and 92 dissertation studies in this area. Undoubtedly, this extensive body of scholarship reflects perennially high levels of research interest in the MMPI as well as this test's popularity in psychological practice (Frauenhoffer et al., 1998; Piotrowski & Lubin, 1990; Wright et al., 2016). Moreover, the MMPI has been a central evaluation instrument in the assessment and treatment of pain states (Gatchel & Turk, 1999; Keller & Butcher, 1991; Piotrowski, 2007, 1998; Turk & Gatchel, 2002; Turk & Melzack, 2011; Vendrig, 2000). Yet despite the vast volume of investigations and repository of knowledge on the topic of pain (Bruns & Disorbio, 2015; Flor & Turk, 2011; Jensen & Turk, 2014), little is known about the breadth of research emphasis and structure of published MMPI-related pain scholarship.

In order to fill this gap in the literature, the current bibliometric analysis is the first attempt to identify the breadth of investigatory interest on the MMPI-Pain nexus evident in published research. The study design examines the main areas of research emphasis, across the pool of published articles (1992-2017), on MMPI-related pain research. To that end, the aim is to identify the major 'topical' areas of investigation in MMPI-Pain research over the past 25 years.


Bibliometric analysis has become a recognized and valid means of gaining an objective perspective on research trends evident in the extant literature (De Bellis, 2009; Piotrowski 2013), including research attention devoted to specific clinical tests used in mental health assessment (see Piotrowski, 2017; Polyson et al., 1986). One major approach is the use of Content Analysis techniques in order to gain an understanding regarding the intellectual structure of a body of scholarly research (Armborst, 2017; Krippendorff, 2012). Since comprehensive coverage of the literature was a key requisite in the current design, PsycINFO served as the scholarly database for identification of MMPI-Pain related research. PsycINFO, which covers over 2,000 academic and practitioner journals in the mental health field, indexes research from disciplines such as psychology, neurology, nursing, pharmacology, sociology, and allied health.

The author (C.P., with 40 years research experience in assessment, pain evaluation, and bibliometric methods) conducted an online search of PsycINFO and identified 433 primary articles on the MMPI/Pain subject category interface. Limiting output to references for years 1992-2017, produced the final dataset of 200 articles. The author reviewed each study and determined the main focus of the article, based on the major issue emphasized by the investigator(s), evident from each study's abstract. Each article was labeled with only 1 topical designation. A running-tab reflecting individual categories was maintained, producing a final frequency-based scoring template. This procedure then served as the basis for examining the frequency distribution and ranking of topical domains.


The results of this content analysis are descriptive in nature with the sole intent to present a 'snapshot' of the scope and breadth of 'topical' focus regarding scholarly research on MMPI-Pain research, over the past 25 years. Table 1 displays, in rank order, the major emphasized topical areas. Only those topics that are represented by greater than 1% of the dataset are illustrated. …

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