This psychological test can help doctors analyze your personality and was once used to diagnose mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
Doctors often use tools and rating systems to ensure accuracy and consistency when making a psychological diagnosis.
The Rorschach inkblot test, also known as the Rorschach test, is sometimes used alongside other approaches to diagnose personality and mental health disorders. Chances are, you’ve seen the test performed in popular culture but may have never experienced the assessment itself.
Hermann Rorschach held a strong interest in inkblots from childhood, continuing into adulthood. In 1921, he published the inkblot test, and Samuel Beck introduced it to the United States nine years later.
The Rorschach inkblot test may be one of the most widely known psychological assessments, but it is an imperfect test with skeptics and criticisms.
The Rorschach inkblot test consists of 10 symmetrical inkblots, some are colored, black and red, or just black. One at a time, the person being tested is shown each inkblot and asked to describe what they see.
There are no right or wrong answers, and you can see more than one thing. The clinician then records the responses verbatim.
Next, the clinician begins the inquiry phase. As they hold up the same cards one by one, the participant is asked to point out the location of their responses in each inkblot and why they see what they see.
According to Rorschach’s theory, their responses can give clues on the inner workings of their personality. This is known as a projective measure. In other words, the test is used to assess an individual’s response to ambiguous stimuli to uncover unconscious thoughts.
Hermann Rorschach was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who followed the teachings of another famous psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
When developing the test, Rorschach noticed that those diagnosed with schizophrenia saw similar things in the inkblots. This allowed doctors to assess others by analyzing how they interpreted visual information.
To market the tool as a key to unlocking secrets of the human mind, Rorschach promoted it as a “psychological X-ray.”
The Rorschach test, used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools, is a projective measure for identifying a person’s state of mind and various personality traits.
The inkblots have up to 300 different reported interpretations for each blot. You may wonder if the Rorschach test is able to help diagnose mental illness, or just an exciting means to spark your interest and intrigue.
Though Rorschach’s inkblot test is not used as widely as it once was, there are some diagnostic situations it’s still used for today.
Doctors and psychoanalysts once used the inkblot test to help diagnose mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.
This is because the Rorschach test was believed to identify common traits related to schizophrenia, specifically those relating to emotions, affect, and cognitive distortions.
For example, those with schizophrenia might have an intense reaction to inkblots, such as expressing emotional distress or anxiety from the images.
People interested in adopting a child from the Czech Republic are required to undergo a psychological evaluation and submit the psychologist’s report as part of their application documents.
The main psychological evaluation requires conversations with a therapist as well as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) — a standardized test of more than 300 true or false questions to assess a person’s mental health and personality.
However, in addition to this mandatory evaluation, applicants are also strongly encouraged to undergo the Rorschach test, which is not only used to assess the applicants’ suitability as adoptive parents but also help match them with a child.
Back in the 1950s, the inkblot test was used to measure intelligence and creativity, and famous artists like Andy Warhol used the inkblot patterns to trigger their imaginations to create art.
A 2014 study also highlighted that those who experience higher emotional stress during the Rorschach test may have greater creative strength.
When analyzing your responses to the inkblots, a mental health professional can learn about different areas of your personality, including:
- coping style
- stress management
- interpersonal relationships
- cognitive meditation
Each inkblot is specifically designed to look like many possible images.
Your doctor or therapist typically looks for three things in your response:
- what you perceive
- where it is in the inkblot
- how the inkblot feature contributes to your response
Next, the clinician categorizes your response as:
- other specific characteristics
The clinician applies scores to your responses using a coding system, known as the Exner system. The scoring system is time-consuming and complex.
Interpreting Rorschach inkblot tests requires a high level of knowledge, skill, and training. The interpretation is also done with extensive supervision.
Some professionals might use a computer system to analyze your scores, but this may not be reliable enough on its own. That’s why many use both the standard test and computer-assisted scoring methods.
As mentioned, the Rorschach test comes with concerns and controversy.
The only data measured is spoken by the person tested. So, anyone can misrepresent or incorrectly verbalize what they see in the inkblots, whether intentional or not.
Therefore, the person being tested must feel comfortable being open and honest with the clinician while also remaining fully cooperative to ensure accuracy.
Testing tends to assume that people with certain mental health diagnoses have a significant amount of overlap in symptoms.
However, people are unique and can exhibit different behaviors and symptoms in their individual diagnoses.
Like the weather, predicting behaviors isn’t always possible.
The human brain is complex and multi-dimensional, influenced by your environment and your body’s physiology. This could mean that your test’s predictions may not be accurate.
The Rorschach inkblot test may not be a foolproof way to identify one’s thoughts. However, when used with other testing measures, it may help identify emotional functioning, personality traits, and specific mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.
The test may also be an excellent way for you and your new therapist to begin the conversation and review any concerns bothering you. Taking an inkblot test, although timely and potentially costly, can allow you to shine a light on some of your subconscious thoughts.
When you ask for help, you are taking a positive step in improving your mental health and wellness. Being open and honest with your therapist can allow them to learn more about you and your symptoms, while gaining better insight into the causes of your behaviors and issues.