What is the Rorschach Test?

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In this blog we will discuss what the rorschach test is.

We will also discuss its history and development, uses, administration and interpretation, as well as the criticisms of the rorschach test.

What is the Rorschach Test?

Rorschach Tests is a projective psychological test also known as the Rorschach inkblot test developed by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in 1921. 

In this projective method of psychological testing, the person is presented with 10 inkblots of colours that are largely black and grey with some other colours of different shapes and patterns. 

The subject or the person who is being assessed is asked to descieb or interpret the inkblots and the images that they see. The test is largely used to assess an individual cognition and their personality as well. 

Though it’s used for diagnosis is controversial. It is also used by some practitioners to assess for a personality disorder diagnosis or other cognition related symptoms for diagnosis of mental disorders. 

How was the Rorschach Test Developed?

The Rorschach Inkblot Test was developed in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach, a swiss psychologist, after whom it was named.

The test was inspired by one of the games that Hermann favoured when he was a child called Klecksography. In this game, children are required to create inkblots and make stories and poems around the inkblots based on what they see and how they interpret the inkblots. 

This game is what influenced and inspired Hermann’s development of the test which was created with Hermann’s own artistic skills to enhance the final inkblots that he used as his universal set of 10 inkblots for his test. 

Thus, the inkblots were not random nor simple but rather each placard of inkblots contained carefully placed shapes to suggest objects or specific images to people who are looking at it.

He began the development of his ink blot test while working in a psychiatric hospital where he noticed that schizophrenic patients responded to the inkblots very differently from others who had other psychiatric diagnoses. 

Based on this observation, he began to develop his test as he wondered if these inkblots could be used to create profiles for different mental disorders. His development of the test was inspired by the works on symbolism by Sigmund Freud to create a systematic approach to using inkblots as an assessment tool.

How is the Rorschach Test Administered?

The test consists of 10 official universal inkblot cards printed separately and out of the 10- five are black and grey, two are black, grey, red, and three are multicoloured without any black on the cards. 

The test is administered by an examiner who has been trained and certified to administer the test. The examiner who is a licensed clinical psychologist or a psychotherapist will present you with each card and ask you what you see in it or ask you something like “What do you think this is?”

You are free to interpret however you want and also take however long you want to interpret the cards by giving as many responses as you want for each card. You can also hold the cards in different positions like trying it sideways or holding it upside down etc.

As you respond, the examiner will record everything you say- either in writing or through voice recording and they will also take note of any thing that you might be saying that you consider trivial.

They will also note the time that is taken for each card, the position that the card is held, as well as your emotional and facial responses to the cards. 

Once you go through all the cards the first time, the examiner will run you through the cards a second time but this time it will be done with the objective to understand what you see in the cards. 

So the examiner will ask you to identify and describe what you saw originally and point out what features of the blots made you interpret it so. 

How is the rorschach test interpreted?

When examiners are interpreting the responses for the Rorschach test, they are focusing on a few essential factors. These include:

Content

Content for the test interpretation refers to the words, names, objects etc that have been used in your responses for the cards. Some of the universal contents that is commonly recorded include:

  • A whole human figure (H)
  • Human Detail (Hd) like an incomplete human form like a leg, head, part of an arm etc or a whole form without a body part such as a headless person. 
  • Human Detail that is fictional or mythological (Hd) such as an incomplete fictional or mythological human figure example, wings of mythological creature. 
  • Animal Detail (Ad) such as an incomplete animal form like a claw, a paw, a cat’s head etc. 
  • Sex (Sx) which refers to anything that involves the them of sexuality such as sex organs, activity of a sexual nature, or sexual reproduction.
  • Nature (Na) which includes anything that has to do with physical nature such as astronomical or weather like rain, rainbows, sun, clouds, storms etc. 

In most cases, the responses that participants give are common while for others it tends to be unique. The more atypical the response is, the more notable they are as they might indicate disturbances in cognition and thought processes. 

Location

Another factor that examiners look into is the location on the card that has informed your responses and also refers to how much of the inkblot you used to answer the question. 

Locations include codes like:

  • “D” if a commonly described part of the blot was used.
  • “Dd” if an uncommonly described or unusual detail was used.
  • “S” if the white space in the background was used. 
  • “W” if the whole inkblot was used to answer the question. (verywellmind)

Determinants

The most complex feature of Rorschach scoring is the determinant coding where the examiner considers the reasons why the client is seeing what they are seeing. 

It looks into the factors and determinants that influences one’s responses across six broad categories such as:

  • Colour
  • Form
  • Movement
  • Pairs and Reflections 
  • Shading

There are at least 26 possible determinant codes since all of the six categories have subcategories and multiple determinants can be used against a single response. 

Once the cards have been shown, the responses are coded and then a report is created based on the patient’s scores integrating their responses and reactions to form an interpretation of the responses to create a profile. 

To create a report is a complex process and requires the examiner and interpreter to be experienced and have been trained in the process of administering and interpreting the test as well as expensive knowledge related to personality dynamics. 

What are the criticisms of the Rorschach test?

Despite How famous and well known the rorschach’s inkblot test is, the test has been heavily criticised for various reasons. 

The multiple scoring system- as many as five systems- were presented before 1970 which was so different from each other that they represented five different versions of the same test- this made it difficult for the test to be valid and reliable across differing settings. 

It was only in 1974, John Exner published a comprehensive new scoring system that integrated the robust elements of older scoring systems which lead to a more standard approach for the use of this test.

Another criticism was that the Rorschach test lacks reliability which means that it is difficult for one to get the same results on the same subject when administered twice since scoring relies on the interpretation of the examiner. 

So this means that interpretations of the same responses can differ when examined by two separate examiners which is detrimental to the diagnosis and conceptualisation of the patient’s profile.

Research finds that the test is unable to accurately do what it is supposed to be doing, which is to accurately diagnose disorders including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders; however, supporting research on the validity of the test for schizophrenia has been explored. 

What are the applications for the Rorschach test?

One of the main applications for the rorschach test is that it was developed to be used for the identification and diagnosis of serious mental disorders like schizophrenia. However it has also been used to assess and diagnose disorders like Depression and anxiety.

Over the years, the test is also used to identify personality traits, not necessarily diagnose personality disorders, but rather to identify traits of personality in individuals based on their responses to the cards. 

Conclsuion

In this blog we discussed what the rorschach test is.

We also discussed its history and development, uses, administration and interpretation, as well as the criticisms of the rorschach test.

FAQ related to Rorschach test

What does a Rorschach test tell you?

The rorschach test was originally developed for the identification and diagnosis of serious mental disorders like schizophrenia. However it has also been used to assess and diagnose disorders like Depression and anxiety as well as also used to identify personality traits, not necessarily diagnose personality disorders, but rather to identify traits of personality in individuals based on their responses to the cards. 

Is the Rorschach test still used?

Despite the criticisms that the test has received and the use for more empirically sound, reliable, and valid testing and assessment tools, the rorschach test is still being used by some personality psychologists and psychotherapists for their patients. 

Can you fail a Rorschach test?

No, you cannot fail a rorschach test since it is an interpretive and projective test and not a test that assesses one’s skills. 

Is the Rorschach test projective?

Yes, the rorschach test is a projective psychological assessment developed on the perspective that the responses of the participants or test subjects is a projection of their thoughts and beliefs which make up their personality profiles. 

What inspired the Rorschach test?

The rorschach inkblot test developed by Hermann Rorschach was inspired by one of the games that Hermann favoured when he was a child called Klecksography. In this game, children are required to create inkblots and make stories and poems around the inkblots based on what they see and how they interpret the inkblots. 

References

Rorschach, H. (1921). Psychodiagnostik. Bern: Bircher (Hans Huber Verlag, Trans., 1942).

Searls.D. Can we trust the Rorschach test? The Guardian. Retrieved on 20th March 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/21/rorschach-test-inkblots-history

Cherry.K. The Rorschach Inkblot Test. Verywellmind. Retrieved on 20th March 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-rorschach-inkblot-test-2795806#toc-history

Frothingham, M.B. (2021, Nov 02). Rorschach Inkblot Test: Definition, History & Interpretation. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/what-is-the-rorschach-inkblot-test.html

Piotrowski, Z. A. (1987). Perceptanalysis: The Rorschach method fundamentally reworked, expanded and systematised. London, UK: Routledge.

Weiner, I. B. (2003). Principles of Rorschach interpretation. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Rorschach test. Britannica. Retrieved on 20th March 2022. https://www.britannica.com/science/Rorschach-Test

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