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Cool Things - Inkblot Test

Inkblot test slideA physician named Hermann Rorschach developed the Rorschach test, one of psychology's best-known evaluations, around 1920.  Rorschach developed the test from a popular game he played as a child.

Hermann Rorschach grew up in Switzerland.  One of the most popular games of his youth was Blotto or Klecksographie, a game requiring players to make up poems or act out charades based on what they see in an inkblot.  Rorschach enjoyed the game so much that his classmates nicknamed him "Klecks," the German word for "inkblot."

Rorschach's interest in inkblots continued into adulthood.  While studying patients with schizophrenia in medical school, Rorschach observed that, when asked what they saw in the inkblots, the patients gave responses much different from those of his friends.  He wondered if the inkblots could be used to create profiles of different mental disorders.  Perhaps people with depression interpreted the images differently than those with anxiety or schizophrenia or no mental illness.

With his hypothesis established, Rorschach began studying 405 subjects, 117 of whom were not psychiatric patients.  Each person was presented with a card and asked, "What might this be?"  This was repeated with as many as 15 different cards per subject.  Rorschach didn't analyze what the subjects saw, but rather the characteristics of what they reported, including if they focused on the image as a whole or on a smaller detail, or if they took a long time to provide an answer.  For example, one card shows an image often interpreted as depicting two people.  If the subject took a long time to respond, he or she might be revealing problems with social interactions.  After four years of research, Rorschach believed that his test could help diagnose mental illness and interpret a patient’s behavior.

Rorschach published his findings and ten standard inkblot cards in 1920.  The popularity of the test grew, reaching its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s.  Modern psychology has questioned the usefulness and accuracy of the test.  Psychologists who doubt the test believe it is impossible to score, and that the analysis of responses probably says as much about the psychology of the doctor as it does the patient.

The Rorschach slides shown here were used at the Southard School, an inpatient hospital for children at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.  Because the Rorschach Test is typically printed on large white cards the patient can hold and move, it is possible these slides were used for training purposes to teach therapists how to administer and score the test.  The slides were donated to the Kansas Historical Society in 2011, and are part of the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Inkblot Test

Author: Rebecca Martin

Date Created: April 2012

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.