Personal Orientation Inventory

Shostrom, E. L. (1966). Manual for the Personal Orientation Inventory. San Diego, CA: Educational and Industrial Testing Service.


The 150-item POI discriminates among self-actualized, normal, and non-self-actualized individuals.

Scale Construction:

Although the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) is based on Maslow’s theory of self-actualization, items were also taken from the following humanistic, existential, or gestalt therapy writers Perls, May, Angel, Ellenberger, Fromm, Horney, Rogers, Riesman, Watts, and Ellis. Items were also chosen from observed value judg- ments of clinically healthy and troubled patients. Scores of relative time competence and relative inner—and other— directedness.


One validation study was conducted using 650 freshmen at Los Angeles State College, 150 patients in therapy, 75 members on the Sensitivity Training Program at UCLA, and 15 school psychologists.


Test-retest reliability coefficients of 0.91 and 0.93 were reported. Coefficients of reliability ranged from 0.55 (acceptance of aggression) to 0.85 (existentiality), with a median of 0.74.


The POI and the MMPI were correlated in one validation study. Significant relationships (0.01 level) between two groups were found on four of the MMPI scales (D, Pd, Pt, and Sc) and all 12 POI scales. The POI and the Ey- senck Personality Inventory were correlated in another study. Significant relationships were found. The POI possesses predictive validity because it is able to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy groups. The POI is also able to differentiate between self-actualized, normal, and non-self-actualized groups.


The POI contains 10 subscales: 26 items on self-actualizing values, 32 items on existentiality, 23 items on feeling reactivity, 17 items on spontaneity, 26 items on self-acceptance, 16 items on nature of man, 16 items on self-regard, nine items on synergy, 25 items on acceptance of aggression, and 28 items on capacity for intimate contact.

Definitions of Subscales:

Self-actualizing values refer to values held by self-actualizing people. Existentiality refers to the ability to react to situations without rigid adherence to principles. Feeling reactivity refers to the sensitivity of responsiveness to one’s own needs and feelings. Spontaneity refers to the ability to be oneself or react spontane- ously. Self-acceptance refers to acceptance of oneself in spite of weaknesses. Nature of man refers to the view of man, masculinity and femininity. Self-regard refers to self-worth. Synergy refers to the ability to surpass dichotomies. Acceptance of aggression refers to the ability to tolerate aggression. Capacity for intimate contact refers to the ability to cultivate intimate relationships.


Abbott, S. A. (2009). The effect of an existential educational self-awareness intervention on self-awareness in college students. PhD dissertation, Walden University.

La Civita, J. L. (2009). Social interest and the Personal Orientation Inventory of artists working in a community art and wellness center. PsyD dissertation, Adler School of Professional Psychology.

Serotkin, S. V. (2010). The relationship between self-actualization and creativity as a self-growth practice. PsyD dissertation, Cali- fornia Institute of Integral Studies.

Starcher, P. L. (2006). The relationship between self-actualization and caring behavior in nurse educators. PhD dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.

Wells, J. A. (2011). Investigating the self-actualization of ultra-marathon runners, compared with non-endurance training population. PhD dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute.


A forced-choice format is used so that each item is written twice (items represent both ends of the continuum).

Sample Items

39. a. I trust my ability to size up a situation.
b. I do not trust my ability to size up a situation.
60. a. It is important that others accept my point of view.
b. It is not necessary for others to accept my point of view.
80. a. For me, work and play are the same.
b. For me, work and play are opposites.
127. a. I like to participate actively in intense discussions.
b. I do not like to participate actively in intense discussions.
150. a. I can overcome any obstacles as long as I believe in myself.
b. I cannot overcome every obstacle even if I believe in myself.