The Rorschach Test is a series of 10 inkblots used by psychiatrists to uncover personality disorders that might be revealed more easily indirectly than through direct questioning.

the eighth blot of the Rorschach inkblot test

The eighth blot of the Rorschach inkblot test (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was developed by Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist, as a psychiatric diagnostic tool for schizophrenia and described in his 1921 book, Psychodiagnostik. 

Rorschach, son of an art teacher, had enjoyed playing with inkblots and a common game using them since he was a child.  But, after getting his medical degree, he started studying the different reactions to them from various children.

For his book, he had studied 300 mental patients and 100 control subjects and settled on a set of 10 inkblots from hundreds he’d used, as the best for diagnostic purposes.

Though Rorschach died only a year after his book was published, probably of a ruptured appendix, his inkblots eventually took hold in the psychiatric world.

By the 1960s, there were five systems for scoring and analyzing Rorschach inkblots.

Into this confusion stepped John Exner, an American psychologist, who first wrote a book that was a comprehensive overview of the various systems in use, The Rorschach Systems, published in 1969.

A few years later, he developed his own system by synthesizing the best parts of the others, making it easier to get similar results from different testers. That book was called The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System.

Though in 2000 20% of correctional psychologists were reported to use the Rorschach inkblot test and 23% of psychologists used it to examine children in custody cases, its value is controversial, with many psychologists claiming it is simply a device to spur conversation between a therapist and a patient but not useful for diagnostic purposes.

That being said, there is evidence it is useful as a measurement tool for its original purpose, schizophrenia, as well as a tool for measuring general intelligence.

Valid or not, many psychologists fear that if psychological tools used to diagnose mental disorders are available to the public they will no longer be useful.

The images, however, are now in the public domain and you can see the 10 Rorschach inkblots and how they are commonly interpreted here.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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