Rorschach Inkblot Test


The use of symmetrical, random, non-specific inkblots as a psychological test was invented by Swiss Psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) who developed, designed and selected 10 inkblots as a tool for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. After his death they were picked up by other psychoanalysts and the subjects' responses codified by American John E. Exner in the 1960's. Exner popularised the use of the inkblots and he set a scoring system which could be used to evaluate responses in, what he thought, was a consistent way. However the tests were by now being used to diagnose many more psychological conditions than what its inventor had intended.

In the 1960s, research by psychologists Loren and Jean Chapman showed that at least some of the apparent validity of the Rorschach was due to an illusion. The tests were being used to diagnose homosexuality which was regarded as a psychopathology and the Rorschach was the most popular projective test. Their work - using false responses - showed that any 'diagnosis' was purely the interpretation of the evaluator and not the subject. This is the problem with the tests, as the subject is interpreting the cards, the reviewer is interpreting the interpretation. It's as valid as dream reading or handwriting analysis. The legal textbook, The Attorneys' Textbook of Medicine states: "[The] results do not meet the requirements of standardization, reliability, or validity of clinical diagnostic tests, and interpretation thus is often controversial".

Despite this, the tests are still widely used in the US, especially in the prison system, whereas in the UK it is far less prevalent. Some studies have shown that it has use in diagnosis of schizophrenia as Rorschach had originally intended and some correlation is seen in the responses from subjects with other higher intelligence tests - but because more intelligent people tend to be elevated on many pathology scales, the reviewer may therefore determine someone is pathological in some form.