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Rorschach Ink Blot Test

Rorschach Ink Blot Test

Rorschach Ink Blot Test

The Rorschach helps a psychologist to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of their client. The Rorschach is currently the second most commonly used test in forensic assessment, after the MMPI, and has been employed in diagnosing underlying thought disorder and differentiating psychotic from non-psychotic thinking. 

What is The Rorschach Ink Blot Test ?

The Rorschach inkblot test is a psychological projective test of personality in which a subject's interpretations of ten standard abstract designs are analyzed as a measure of emotional and intellectual functioning and integration.  The test is considered "projective" because the patient is supposed to project his or her real personality into the inkblot via the interpretation.

The Rorschach inkblot test was developed by Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist and proponent of psychoanalysis, in 1921. While working in a psychiatric hospital with adolescents, he noticed that certain children gave characteristically different answers to a popular game known as blotto (Klecksographie). In his original publication he characterized the blots as a "Form Interpretation Test, and cautioned that his findings were preliminary and stressed the importance of much more experimentation".  Sadly, Rorschach died in 1922 at the age of 37. He had only invested just under four years in his inkblot test.

For the 1940's and 1950's, the Rorschach was the test of choice in clinical psychology.  It fell into disfavor as many clinicians began criticizing it as "subjective" and "projective" in nature. Ironically, this was never the intention of Rorschach.

Wikipedia: Rorschach inkblot test

The following has been adapted from the Wikipedia: Rorschach inkblot test website.

A person is shown ten inkblots and asked to tell what each resembles. Like swirling images in a crystal ball, the ambiguous blots tell a different story to every person who gazes upon them.  Rorschach devised the ten standardized cards used today as well as a scoring system. Rorschach considered his test to be a test of "perception and apperception" rather than imagination. Rorschach's original scoring system emphasizes perceptual factors--for example whether a response is influenced by form, perceived movement, or color of the blot.

After Rorschach's death the original scoring system was developed further by, among others, Bruno Klopfer. John E. Exner summarized some of these later developments in the comprehensive Exner system, at the same time trying to make the scoring more statistically rigorous. Most systems are based on the psychoanalytic concept of object relations.

The Exner system is very popular in the United States, while in Europe the textbook by Evald Bohm, which is closer to the original Rorschach system as well as more inspired by psychoanalysis is often considered to be the standard reference work.


There are ten official inkblots. Five inkblots are black ink on white. Two are black and red ink on white. Three are multicolored. The psychologist shows the inkblots in a particular order and asks the patient, for each card, "What might this be?". After the patient has seen and responded to all the inkblots, the psychologist then gives them to him again one at a time to study. The patient is asked to list everything he sees in each blot, where he sees it, and what there is in the blot that makes it look like that. The blot can also be rotated. As the patient is examining the inkblots, the psychologist writes down everything the patient says or does, no matter how trivial. The psychologist also times the patient which then factors into the overall assessment.

Methods of interpretation differ. The most widely used method in the United States is based on the work of John E. Exner. In the Exner system, responses are scored with reference to their level of vagueness or synthesis of multiple images in the blot, the location of the response, which of a variety of determinants is used to produce the response (for example, whether the shape of the inkblot, its color, or its texture is primary in making it look like what it is said to resemble), the form quality of the response (to what extent a response is faithful to how the actual inkblot looks), the contents of the response (what the respondent actually sees in the blot), the degree of mental organizing activity that is involved in producing the response, and any illogical, incongruous, or incoherent aspects of responses.

Using the scores for these categories, the examiner then performs a series of mathematical calculations producing a structural summary of the test data. The results of the structural summary are interpreted using existing empirical research data on personality characteristics that have been demonstrated to be associated with different kinds of responses. Both the calculations of scores and the interpretation are often done electronically.

A common misconception of the Rorschach test is that its interpretation is based primarily on the contents of the response- what the examinee sees in the inkblot. In fact, the contents of the response are only a comparatively small portion of a broader cluster of variables that are used to interpret the Rorschach data.


The Rorschach inkblot test is controversial for several reasons.

First, because the basic premise of the test is that objective meaning can be extracted from responses to blots of ink which are supposedly meaningless. Supporters of the Rorschach inkblot test believe that the subject's response to an ambiguous and meaningless stimulus can provide insight into their thought processes, but it is not clear *how* this occurs.

Statistically, the Rorschach has extremely low inter-rater reliability. That is, the scores obtained by two independent scorers do not match with great consistency. When interpreted as a projective test, results are thus poorly verifiable. The Exner system of scoring (also known as the "Comprehensive System") is meant to address this, and has all but displaced many earlier (and less consistent) scoring systems. It makes heavy use of what factor (shading, color, outline, etc.) of the inkblot leads to each of the tested person's comments. However, as noted above, serious problems of test validity remain.

Another area of controversy is the test's norms. A great strength of Exner's system was thought to be the availability of normative scores for various populations. However, beginning in the mid-1990s others began to attempt to replicate or update these norms, and found they could not.

The test is also especially controversial because it has been commonly used in court-ordered evaluations: as a major factor in assigning custody, granting or denying parole, and so on. Given the extraordinary number of studies showing low to no reliability of many scales, this practice is questionable.

Supporters of the test try to keep the actual cards secret so that the answers are spontaneous. This practice is consistent with the American Psychological Association's ethical standards of preserving test security. The official test is sold only to licensed professionals.

Additional Information

For more information about the the Rorschach Inkblot Test, please click on the linked websites listed below.  Please remember that it may be considered a breach of ethics for a professional to administer a Rorschach inkblot test or other psychological test without the person taking the test fully understanding the nature and purpose of the test and without providing person-to-person follow-up by a qualified practitioner.

The Original Rorschach Page
Skepdic: Rorschach inkblot test.
The International Rorschach Society
Psychcentral library: Rorschach inkblot test
The Rorschach Inkblot Test, Fortune Tellers, and Cold Reading

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