Comments on
Rorschach Inkblot Cards

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Psychologists can be an odd bunch.

Some of their expertise comes in the understanding of complex psychological tests. Older tests used are called “projective” tests and while a few are still in use amongst the more psychodynamically-minded psychologists, most are not. Instead, most psychologists rely …

14 Comments to
Rorschach Inkblot Cards

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  1. I suffered through a class on the Exner system back in the day but I stopped using the Rorschach quickly enough. The only emotional insight I gained from the Rorschach is that I hate projective tests.

  2. I’m surprised, John. Most often I respect your opinion and agree with your insights regarding our profession. However, here I must disagree. I, too, learned the Exner scoring system back in graduate school. However, I continue to use the Rorschach as part of my Neuropsyc battery. I may use the RIT (Rorschach Inkblot Test) at other times with my therapy clients to better understand underlying cognitive processes, affect management, self and other perception. I find the hypotheses generated – yes, there are computer programs that are helpful here, too – as gateways to better understanding my therapy and testing patients, assisting me to target appropriate interventions. I know the RIT gets a bad rap by many in the mental health community and the public at large. Nonetheless, it is invaluable to me in better understanding the people with whom I work.

  3. It’s nothing new, it has been online for (probably) many years, you just had to google it.

    I don’t really consider it any more “secret”. Since we have an internet, it’s just not, and it would be impossible to make it secret. On the Web people just share information, all information.

    Welcome in XXI c. Do psychologists keep up with all the changes in modern world?

  4. I am surprised that you state that older tests are called “projective.” Projective tests are assessments in which the responder is allowed to respond freely and spontaneously.

    In my current doctoral program I am required to take a class focused on the Rorschach and the Exner system.

    In addition, there is much subjectivity left to the MMPI-2 concerning the interpretation. It is true that this is an objective testing measure, but there is an art to the way it is put together. When looking at the scores complied from the clinical scales, subtests, etc., the psychologist interprets, makes connections, and poses hypotheses– these are based upon a combination of the examinee’s background, presenting problem, and test results.

  5. I thought that I was savvy about the inkblots. I’d taken a High School psych class that presented them as black stains, like ink.

    A few years ago, I got to view these “inkblots” up close and personal. I was at the end of a four hour psych test, when I peeped on these blots.

    You should know that they in no way resemble an ink blot. I could glom some images in the first few, but frankly, they are but tepid images for anyone with a visual mind.

    I was tired of the four hour test, so I started saying that they looked like inkblots, just to be done.

    In reality, they look more like sad attempts at water-colour. Pallid, insipid and without any strength.

    But I’m a visual person. What do I know?

  6. @Jerry – I find the _standard_ use of something like the Rorschach to be mired in significant concerns regarding its scientific underpinnings. While it may have had a place in our standard battery at one time, I’d like to think our science and objectivity has gotten to a point to recognize some of the weakest links in such testing.

    For anyone who doubts the illegitimacy of the Rorschach in regular use, I’d suggest reading the Scientific American article on them:

    http://www.psychologicalscience.org/newsresearch/publications/journals/sa1_2.pdf

    (Which isn’t to say it might not yield insights when properly wielded in rare circumstances, because other tests have come up with little to go on…)

    @Robyn – Good point, but most of the projective tests I know of _are_ older and in disfavor for their lack of validity and interrater reliability. Just because they’re still taught doesn’t make them any more scientific.

    Yes, there is an element of subjectivity in interpreting any test from virtually any field. But there is also a great deal more psychometric science that goes into a test like the MMPI-2 and its ilk than the TAT or Rorschach.

    @Timo – It may have been online for years, but it’s often just as quickly taken down upon legal threats. This is the first time I’ve seen it on Wikipedia (it’s not like I’m looking for it everyday or anything either :) ).

  7. Working in the mental health field, I had seen the and understood the interpretations of the Rorschach test. When I was hospitalized in 1991, the psychologist who administered the test was a familiar face as I knew her vaguely from church. Okay, delimma, right? Not, really as long as I didn’t have a problem with her and as long as I answered with my honest opinions that it shouldn’t matter.

    Well, I was really surprised how accurate her findings were. She did not know anything about me from church. But, it is a for that moment in time test. It was right on target.

  8. It’s been pulled from Wikipedia, BTW, as of 9/28 in the afternoon…The Argentine site hosting the (poor quality) scans is still up, however…The Rorschach legal reps are very quick and powerful…for sure.

  9. The beauty and wonder of Wikipedia is that once it publishes something, it will always be there in a history revision for all to see and find:

    Rorschach Inkblot Cards

  10. To think that any test that is not objective is useless seems, to me, naive. Therapy is as much art and relationship as it is objective testing. Even the objective tests you mention, (such as the WAIS-IV) are not totally objective. Some of the most valuable information obtained from such tests comes from the test-giver’s observations. How anxious is the client, and during which parts of the test? What are the clien’ts mannerisms and comments during the test? These cannot be noted by a computer.

  11. It always strikes me as funny when people attribute power to great entities such as the “Rorschach legal reps.” This itself is a mini projective test.

    It is actually a violation of copyright to have the test posted online as it comprises the test’s validity. Just as you wouldn’t want questions from the WAIS-IV’s subtests posted so that clients could research answers and artificially inflate scores, the same goes with this test. There is much data to be gained about a person’s internal world from this test that cannot be obtained elsewhere and which can be used to significantly help the person function. It’s not a scary psychosis-inducing, outdated, unsupported measure. I think that because it deals with unconscious forces, it gets a bad rap. Also, in unskilled hands, especially with vulnerable populations, people have not been treated as delicately as needed. This is an important test. It is still widely taught and utilized and should be respected by professionals just as any other measure.

    • Shocking that a licensed psychologist would so casually violate test confidentiality (and thus violate the APA code of ethics).

    • Have given and interpreted hundreds of Rorschachs under Exner’s system, and it’s results have been consistent with clinical impressions and personality test data. There are some indexes in Exner’s system that are shown to have validity, in research studies, and I focus on those, in my interpretation. As far as publishing the cards online, you know–it’s disturbing but never surprising to me to see lay people “expose” the Rorschach, but it is shocking to see a licensed psychologist violate test confidentiality (and thus an APA ethical code) in such a glib, pompous manner. Just for lay peoples’ understanding: the Rorschach and other tests are kept private in order to protect the public, because knowledge of the test items places the validity of the test at risk. The fact that this psychologist did not explain that, but instead spoke of the Rorschach as some weird, outdated voodoo technique is not concerning, it’s scary.

  12. Copyright is a legal protection for intellectual property rights; it has nothing to do with violating a test’s “validity.”

    I’ve searched high and low and couldn’t find any research that validates the theory that re-giving the Rorschach will somehow invalidate the results; or that anyone exposed to the cards before they’ve taken the test given qualitatively different answers or somehow “biased” answers. If you have any citations, I’d be happy to read them. Otherwise, this is just more of the psychological myths that continue to surround this test.

    I also highly recommend this article:

    Wagner, E.E. (2004). The Coattail Effect: Why True Believers Continue to Believe in the Rorschach. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 3(1), 58-59.

    Just because something’s always been done and we attribute some value to it (much as the medicine men of old attributed some value to dancing around to “create” the rain), it doesn’t mean we should throw out our objectivity and science and empiricism. Because if we do it for tests like the Rorschach, we also need to do with a straight face for any medication or the next pop treatment that comes down the pike.

  13. I am also a former RIT practitioner. I stopped using the technique many years ago as my practice changed. Now I look at the RIT as quaint and unscientific (no matter how it’s scored). However, much of human behaviour, probably most, is beyond current scientific understanding. The RIT provides a framework to help the practitioner understand the client, and, as such might be as important in a therapeutic context as any other method of personality analysis. There are many flaws in the scientific foundations of so-called objective measures. Just because there is measurement, analysis (using number-crunching computers), and yield (a profile), it does not mean that the process is scientific, or at least accurate.

  14. im doing a project about the rorscharch inkblot test & its quite difficult. but i enjoy a challenge.

    :)

  15. The Rorschach is the most widely researched psychological instrument. Like any other test, scoring systems are developed in a way that maximizes reliability, but also recognizes error. We all know that one never uses a single test to diagnose. Rorschach data very often (every time that I have administered it) is consistent with other reports, including clinical interview, objective testing and client history.

  16. The blots are up on wikipedia. I saw them today. It says “This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
    Public domain works must be out of copyright in both the United States and in the source country of the work in order to be hosted on the Commons. If the work is not a U.S. work, the file must have an additional copyright tag indicating the copyright status in the source country.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rorschach1.jpg

    But the PAR lists a recent copyright:

    Note: Rorschach is a registered Trade Mark of Verlag Hans Huber AG, Bern, Switzerland. Rorschach® Test Plates and Rorschach® Miniature Test Plates © by Verlag Hans Huber AG, Bern, Switzerland, 1921, 1948, 1994. Reproduced by permission.

    What is worse than the plates being up on wiki is that there is now a facebook application that shows them…the “Ink blot insanity test” which is a program developed by Jason Mishkid.

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