R is for Rorschach

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You have heard of the Rorschach test. Mostly, you have heard jokes about it…or made jokes about it. So, what makes the Rorschach test so funny? More than likely, the deep derision between the camps who swear by it and the people who think it is utter nonsense. Which group do you claim?

Rewind

In 1921, Hermann Rorschach published Psychodiagnostik, which was the basis for his inkblot test. Based on principles which stretched back to Leonardi da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, Rorschach picked ten inkblots which patients were to observe.

Hermann Rorschach c. 1910 ~ via Wikipedia

Complicated algorithms, scoring and psychologist observation are used to interpret the actions and answers of the patient to diagnose thought disorder, primarily in those who are unwilling to discuss their thought processes. Rorschach died the year following the book without fully disclosing the entire process or silencing then critics who felt his four years of testing 300 patients and 100 control subjects was insufficient to have a fully developed system.

Psychodiagnostik was republished by Hans Huber in 1927, including a paper Rorschach had not published before his death. The Rorschach test would be used for the next 15 years without large resistance.

Resistance

The late 1950s and ’60s saw the Rorschach test fall out of favor among psychologists for myriad reasons. The most prominent was the subjective nature of scoring the test. Psychologists testing the same patient would come up with wildly varying scores.

The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System ~ John E. Exner, Jr.

With more than a handful of ways to score the test, Dr. John Exner studied them all and compiled an exhaustive plan to standardize the test. In 1969, he published The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System (CS). Exner’s system of scoring has produced far more consistent results from psychologists than the original scoring model from Psychodiagnostik.

Exner’s books on the Rorschach extend through 2005, the year before his death, and cover hundreds of thousands of Rorschach tests in various settings with adolescents, teens, adults and children. These included a revisiting of the original norms to account for societal changes between his 1960’s research and the turn of the century.

Reading

The ten cards, often called plates, are presented to the patient in a specific order. The psychologist records reactions and responses, including, but not limited to:

  • Whether patient turns or tilts the plate
  • Time before response
  • Content of response
  • Popularity vs. originality of response
  • Reaction to color and white space
  • Semantics in responding
  • Body language
  • Sounds patient makes
  • Number of responses
  • Questions asked

Many psychologists video or audio tape test sessions to measure time for responses later with more accuracy. This allows for more detail to be recorded prior to scoring.

Ruckus

Over the years, two major issues have arisen about the Rorschach test. The first is the secrecy surrounding the plates and the scoring. Since the test has outlived its copyright in both Switzerland and the United States, the plates and the book are both public domain. Some psychologists claim patients can influence their answers by being exposed to the materials prior to the test.

The second is a cry the test is outdated. Despite vocal opposition to the test, 80% of psychology schools still teach the Rorschach test as a diagnostic tool, although it is not considered to be definitive without other testing and observation. In the end, even dissenters recognize the test’s validity in areas such as schizophrenia, dependency, anxiety, hostility, intelligence and thought disorders.

Reliability

Exner’s rehabilitation of the scoring model made the test more reliable. Its major stumbling block was its North American basis. There are influences which are interpreted in the CS which are not weighted the same in other cultures. For example, a response about the texture of the plate has meaning in the CS, but is not evidenced in Europe or the Far East.

The most reproduced of the Rorschach inkblots ~ Plate V

In 2007, a group of five leading international Rorschach researchers introduced a composite based on international norms, which they propose should replace the original norms of 600 and 450 test subjects compiled by Exner. By 2009, at the European Rorschach Association meeting, these five announced plans to initiate a new system based on the international norms to replace the CS.

It is undecided as to whether this is the best approach. Japan and Argentina have adjusted their results to the CS to reflect their cultural differences without changing the methodology. The new international system seeks to replace the methodology by adhering to international norms rather than more specific norms set by culture.

Results

The only question asked when you are handed a Rorschach inkblot is What do you see? You have already see Plate V. Below are Plate III and Plate X. They have the widest variance for culture.

The Rorschach Inkblot Test ~ Plate III

The Rorschach Inkblot Test ~ Plate X

Despite the popularity of the Rorschach test, it is not available as a diagnostic tool online. All Rorschach tests online are parodies and should not be taken as clinical results or definitive of any psychological or psychiatric diagnosis. Rorschach tests should only be taken with a licensed practitioner.

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Have you ever taken a Rorschach test? What do you see in these three Rorschach inkblots? Do you think the Rorschach test is reliable? 

If you tweet or +1 this post, please use the hashtag #AtoZChallenge!

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
Inkblot images are public domain via Wikipedia.
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28 Comments

  1. The first one is obviously the rabbit from Donnie Darko wearing fancy dress wings. The second one looks like a couple of women disposing of some evidence. The third one is a fireworks display over the Champ de Mars in Paris, with the Tour Eiffel in the background.

    God alone knows what this says about me, but since Red has already had ample opportunity to form an opinion of my mental state, I’m gonna let this one stand 🙂
    Melanie Denyer recently posted..Suzzle banana cake recipeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 20, 2012

      ROFL! I absolutely love your answers! I would never attempt to judge someone by their answers to this. There are quite a few of them I could not come up with much of an answer for beyond the completely smart Aleck “inkblot”.

      Disposing of evidence!! I love it! Great to see you today, Mellie. 😉

      Reply
  2. I see a butterfly on the first, two people in love on the second, and two fairies on standing in front of a bridge leading to a tower/castle.

    I know there are no licensed professionals around (besides Red lol), but I do not mind giving my answers.
    Alexandra Heep recently posted..R is for Rory GallagherMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 20, 2012

      Oh, more good answers! Butterfly is one of the most popular answers for Plate V. I like the idea of fairies! I would never dream of judging anyone by their answers on this one 😉

      Glad to see you tonight!

      Reply
  3. The first one is obviously a flying wombat. The second one is two waiters in tuxedos petting their wombats, and the third one is my rocket ship blasting off with two Wombies on the ground waving goodbye.
    Binky recently posted..Social BeesMy Profile

    Reply
  4. They each look like droplets of various inks dropped on sheets of paper which were then folded in half, creating weird designs that can be interpreted by equally weird theories, and they all should be modified with neon colours and made into public domain covers on alien comic books. “:)
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..R is for RealityMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 20, 2012

      Just what we need…psycho-trained and -analysed aliens. I wonder if they would be maladjusted?

      Reply
      • If aliens are anything like us, yes. We are all maladjusted, it is simply a matter of six degrees of separation and interpretation by smartasses like Rorschach …um…so what do you see in these dots eh…. must be the cherry bits in the macaroons…um..oh, my, what do those cookies look like to you, anyway, eh…? ….”:))
        Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..R is for RealityMy Profile

        Reply
        • Red

           /  April 21, 2012

          I do not believe it takes 6 degrees…most days, it barely takes 3.

          Reply
  5. I have taken the Rorschach – it actually was administered in the home of a psychotherapist on Staten Island. I was in Manhattan for a job interview, his schedule was tight and so I made the trip over.

    I still remember my answers to the three you’ve posted. The first I identified as a butterfly that had gone through a lawn mower. The second clearly represents two African women at a cooking pot, and the third is a runway model for an unsuccessful fashion house.

    I love the Rorschach, and tend to see the whole world in Rorschach-like terms. One of my photographer friends posted a native Texas cactus on his site today, adorned with four bright red fruits and long thorns. I said the fruits and thorns looked like 1950’s appetizers on toothpicks. Analyze that!
    shoreacres recently posted..Transocean, Titanic and the LawMy Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 20, 2012

      ROFL! I love it, Linda! Those are fabulous answers! Still laughing about the hors d’oeuvres!

      Reply
  6. I see ink blots 🙂 The first one is a bat. The others I have no idea. This is like projects the kids make in elementary school. I’ve never taken the test, but I imagine you can learn a bit about people by their responses. I think it is too subjective, however. Not just different ways of analyzing results, but the projections of the therapist giving the test. 🙂
    Angela recently posted..Communication Busters: Predicting the FutureMy Profile

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    • Red

       /  April 20, 2012

      The projection of the analyst are what Exner fixed in the thing. I have seen a lot of the results hit dead on. It just takes a really long time to get the results because so much has to be examined. I can see how the old ones would have been biased before recordings…very easily. And bat is the second most popular answer.

      Reply
  7. Wow, how about those two cops hauling a criminal off to the Eiffel Tower with all those quacking ducks and crabs cheering them on? Crazy shit. I’d love to do the test.
    Liquorstore Bear recently posted..ASTROLIQUOR for April 20-26—What the stars say you should drink!My Profile

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    • Red

       /  April 21, 2012

      One of these days, I am going to have to find someone who does these. No practitioners in my neck of the woods. But then again, to find a psychiatrist, I have to drive more than 50 miles.

      Reply
  8. Plate V is a vampire bat.
    Plate III is a pair of cannibals carrying the pot of soup over to the table.
    Plate X is a bleeding Eiffel Tower with parasites coming to drink the blood.

    Okay now I know for certain I am weird. My brain is making up stories to go with each picture. Yeesh.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 21, 2012

      ROFL! I love it. Animals and actions. Not breathing a word of what that says 😉

      Reply
  9. 1 – woman seen from above after an orgasm
    2 – women hauling laundry from a river
    3 – birth canal and reproductive system

    No never taken it. Don’t really have an opinion of reliability, however with the images being public domain I would suspect not so much.

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 21, 2012

      I linked out to the scoring system from the post. It is a maze of letters and numbers which are primarily useless without the adjusted books, which all changed in the last publication (2005). The scoring model will not fall out of copyright until 2075. That said, the practitioners who use it do a really good job of protecting the process. The set of coasters with the blots have been available since the mid-’80s.

      So few people ever see the real inkblots in reference to the Rorschach name, or even have heard Rorschach, they never associate the blots with the actual test. One of the standards given is the American eye chart. For the one willing to sit down and memorize it, it will not deter the optometrist from measuring the lack of sight. Although the answers will be pat (based on the standardized test), the reaction time and other factors will give the patient away. Same rule applies here.

      Reply
  10. Hmmmm… First one is a flying insect of some description, plate three is two women arguing over a large pot, the last one makes no sense at all… 🙂

    Never had the test, but then I’m obviously crazier than a rat in a plugged up outhouse, so didn’t need it! 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.
    prenin recently posted..Friday – peace and quiet.My Profile

    Reply
    • Red

       /  April 21, 2012

      ROFL! Bug or insect is the fourth most popular answer for Plate V. Seeing women in the picture fighting/holding something is the number one answer for Plate III. You answer is not unusual for Plate X. I say, that makes you pretty normal, Pren!
      {HUGZ}
      Red.

      Reply

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