RORSCHACH TEST

A projective technique in which responses to standard inkblots are professionally interpreted.The Rorschach test is based on the common human tendency to react emotionally to ambiguous stimuli such as cloud formations or shadowy shapes in a forest at night. We read, or “project,” our own interpretations and feelings into these objects, usually in a highly individual way. From this cue, Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), a Swiss psychiatrist reasoned that deeper trends of the personality could be revealed through reactions to a series of ordinary inkblots. After extensive trial and study, he narrowed these bldts down to ten which appeared to elicit the most telling responses. (Rorschach, 1921).An inkblot of the type used on the Rorschach Test and some contain patches of color. The subject is asked to examine one blot at a time and answer the question “What might this be?” The average individual gives more than one response to many of the blots; the total for the series of ten is in the neighborhood of 30 or 40. These responses are taken down by the examiner and usually scored according to a set of rules.The first step in the scoring process is to put the responses into three major categories. Location scores tell what part of the blot is used: (W) stands for the whole blot, (D) for a part of the blot, and (Dd) for an unusual detail. The determinant score indicates what aspects of the blot were utilized: if form was more important than color, the response is designated (FC), and the reverse if color was the controlling factor; if the object was seen as moving, the score (M) is used; if the response fits the objective form of the blot, it is rated (F plus), and if the form quality is poor it is rated (F minus). The content score indicates the category in which the response falls: (H) for human being, (Cg) for clothing, (A) for animal, and so on. All these scores are tallied, and a total profile is obtained.The next step is to interpret the scores. This is often done by comparing certain “response indicators” to norms obtained from large samples of the population. Rorschach theory suggests, for example, that too many original, non- popular responses indicate a disturbance of a schizophrenic nature; human movement responses are believed to represent imagination and creative impulses; and color responses are associated with emotionality. If the subject avoids using the colored portions of the blots, or gets extremely upset when he first looks at a blot containing color, his reaction is termed “color shock” and taken as evidence of difficulty in controlling emotion. If he does not respond to the shaded areas, he is probably a “black- and-white” kind of individual.The test is also believed to reveal general personality trends. Compulsive persons, for example, have a need to do everything “right,” and to maintain tight, rigid control over themselves and their world. On the Rorschach test, these people tend to respond to the details instead of to entire figures at once. The theory states that they must account for every part of the blots, just as they would feel compelled to do in a real life situation.Studies of Rorschach interpretations have shown that these indices vary greatly in validity. Single quantitative scores have proved practically worthless as indicators of specific personality traits and as predictors of future behavior. Many psychologists have therefore abandoned the usual scoring procedures and use the test only to obtain an over-all “global” impression of the dynamics of the individual. This impression is then checked against the results of a battery of other personality and intelligence tests. In this way the therapist works with the responses in much the same way that a psychoanalyst deals with the free associations of his patient. He notes the sequence of responses and tries to find the internal forces that brought them about. He forms hypotheses about the individual from his reactions to the first figure—for example, “bat, butterfly, moth, people facing each other,” or “reminds me of a bat, the whole thing” —then he looks for verification of his hypothesis in the responses to the remaining figures. The difficulty with this approach is that it depends almost wholly on the examiner’s own knowledge of personality dynamics, and his interpretations are often private and unverifi- able. Furthermore, the examiner runs the risk of fitting new data into pet theories which may tell more about his own personality than that of his subject.The Rorschach technique has been tested in many areas of human behavior, and its strengths and limitations are now fairly apparent. When it is applied in conjunction with other evaluative tests it frequently yields information that other instruments are not geared to tap. The unstructured character of the blots seems to elicit deep- seated aspects of the personality. At times, however, the test merely documents the obvious by showing that blatantly ill people give bizarre responses.On the other hand, it has uses which were not originally anticipated. Recent studies show that it gives significant information about the way people feel about their bodies—that is, their body image. A new interpretation called a “barrier score” has been developed which indicates the sharpness of distinction between the body and its surroundings. Responses like “alligator” and “armadillo” contribute to a high barrier score since the skin of these animals has unusual qualities. These responses have been found among people with symptoms that lie in or near the surface of their bodies, such as dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and conversion reaction. They are not usually given by people who suffer from jptemal conditions such as stomach disturbances and ulcerative colitis.The Rorschach test has not proven to be a valid tool for predicting vocational success. But, more important, newer investigations seriously question its validity in both diagnosis and prognosis, the two areas where it has been most frequently used. Cronbach (1960), for example, has severely criticized the assumptions on which it is built, as well as the statistical handling of data. He has estimated that 90 per cent of the conclusions based on Rorschach findings are unsubstantiated. Attacks of this kind, plus the development of newer techniques such as the Thematic Aperception Test, have resulted in a more limited use of the Rorschach in clinical work.In addition to the Rorschach, there are other important inkblot tests. The Holtzman Inkblot Technique, designed to achieve greater objectivity than the Rorschach without sacrifice of sensitivity, consists of ninety inkblots in parallel forms of forty-five each so that progress in therapy may be evaluated. The blots vary in symmetry, color, and texture, and a smaller number can be selected for intensive exploration of a particular area. One response is given to each blot and analysis of protocols by computer processes has resulted in an objective, reproducible scoring guide giving percentile norms for twenty-two response variables based on eight normal and pathological groups of individuals ranging from five years of age to adult. The newly developed Harrower Psychodiagnostic Inkblot Test is particularly well adapted to group testing, since the inkblots are expendable and subjects write their responses in private. The manual contains extensive research data, case studies, tables of frequency of response, and comparisons between normal and hospital populations.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "RORSCHACH TEST," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/rorschach-test/ (accessed June 17, 2019).
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