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Rorschach Test

Rorschach Test

HISTORY

TERMINOLOGY

ADMINISTRATION, SCORING, AND INTERPRETATION

ISSUES AND EVIDENCE CONCERNING THE RORSCHACH

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Rorschach inkblot test is one of several inkblot-based personality assessment instruments, though it is by far the most well known, commonly used, and frequently researched. Its name is derived from its developer, Hermann Rorschach (18841922), a Swiss physician and artist. Rorschach experimented with forty or more inkblots between 1917 and 1920, largely with the goal of understanding the syndrome of schizophrenia (dementia praecox) that had recently been identified and described by his mentor, the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (18571939). Contrary to popular perception, these were not simply blots of ink placed on a piece of paper that was folded in half and opened again. Instead, Rorschach used his artistic skills to refine and enhance his final inkblots so that each contained some contours that would suggest objects or images to most people. His interests were in the perceptual operations that contributed to what people saw more than in the content of those perceptions. Ultimately he selected twelve inkblots as most optimal for eliciting and identifying personality characteristics. However, reproducing them was expensive, and Rorschach had to omit two in order to publish the final set of ten in 1921.

Each inkblot appears on a white background. Five are black and gray; two are black, gray, and red; and three are various pastel colors without any black. As the inkblots were prepared for publication, imperfections in the printing process accentuated gradations in saturation that were not obvious before. Rorschach initially was concerned about this but ultimately realized the shading gradations provided another set of perceptual processes that could influence how people perceived the stimuli.

HISTORY

Rorschach died in 1922, less than a year after his work was published. In the late 1920s his test was introduced in the United States, and by the late 1960s five distinct approaches to its use had been developed by the psychologists Samuel Beck, Marguerite Hertz, Bruno Klopfer, Zygmunt Piotrowski, and David Rapaport. Each practitioner had a different approach to administration, scoring, and interpretation of the Rorschach test, which created disorganization in the research literature because there was no single test per se. In the late 1960s the American psychologist John Exner (19282006) reviewed the similarities and differences between these systems and then in 1974 published the first edition of what he called the Comprehensive System, which synthesized the most logically and empirically defensible elements of the earlier approaches. Fairly quickly the Comprehensive System became the dominant approach to administering, scoring, and interpreting the test in the United States and in other parts of the world. Although not specific to the Comprehensive System, the International Rorschach Society promotes research and clinical practice with the instrument and has twenty-seven member organizations worldwide.

TERMINOLOGY

In the late 1930s the Rorschach was classified as a projective test. This term was applied to a range of different kinds of tasks that could be used for personality assessment, such as having people tell imaginative stories that go along with certain pictures or generate pencil drawings of people. The idea was that these tasks required people to project or put forward distinctive aspects of their personality when spontaneously completing an activity without much external guidance. Projective tests were also contrasted with objective personality tests, which referred to self-rating questionnaires, where people indicate whether verbal descriptions are characteristic of them, using a fixed set of response options, such as true or false. Although the terms projective and objective are still used, they have misleading connotations and do not do a good job of describing the methods that psychologists can use to assess personality; so increasingly the Rorschach is called a performance task or implicit measure of personality.

ADMINISTRATION, SCORING, AND INTERPRETATION

Regardless of the label, the Rorschach provides a standard set of inkblot stimuli that are used with children, adolescents, and adults in a wide range of settings where questions of personality and problem solving are relevant, including psychiatric, medical, criminal, or legal settings, as well as when assessing normal personality functioning. Using the Comprehensive Systems guidelines for standardized administration and scoring, normative reference data are available for children, adolescents, and adults. On average it takes about an hour and a half to administer and score the test. During administration the examiner sits next to the test taker, presents the cards sequentially, saying, What might this be? and then records all responses verbatim. On average people give about twenty-two or twenty-three responses, and a minimum of fourteen is required. To facilitate accurate scoring, the examiner reviews each response a second time and strives to see it through the test takers eyes by clarifying the content of what is seen, where it is located in the inkblot, and the perceptual features of the ink that contribute to the response. Each response is then coded on dimensions that include location (e.g., the whole inkblot versus an unusual detail), developmental quality (e.g., vague versus defined object), determinants (e.g., movement, color, shading), form quality (e.g., how typical it is to see an object in a particular location based on an extensive table derived from more than 200,000 responses), content (e.g., human, landscape), organizational synthesis, and a series of special coding categories, many of which indicate disruptions in logic and thought processes. The codes are then summed across all responses to form what is known as the structural summary, which contains about seventy ratios, percentages, and derived scores that are considered important for interpretation. In addition to formal scores, Rorschach interpretation is also based on behaviors expressed during the testing, patterns of scores across responses, unique or consistent themes in the responses, and unique or idiosyncratic perceptions.

Unlike interview-based measures or self-report questionnaires, the Rorschach does not have people describe what they are like but has them show what they are like via the sample of behavior provided in each response. By relying on an actual sample of behavior collected under standardized conditions rather than a self-description, the Rorschach can provide information about personality that may reside outside of a persons conscious awareness.

ISSUES AND EVIDENCE CONCERNING THE RORSCHACH

The Rorschach has frequently been criticized for lacking reliability and validity. Like most personality inventories, it needs more systematically organized data evaluating the focused validity for each of its scales. In addition, based on emerging findings from around the world, the normative expectations for certain scores probably will need to be adjusted, particularly for children. Nonetheless systematically gathered statistical summaries of the research evidence show that its scores can be reliably coded and they are reasonably stable over time. Globally, across all scores that have been researched, the Rorschach is as valid as other commonly used and widely regarded personality tests. Even the most ardent contemporary critics acknowledge that its scores can validly evaluate disorders of thinking, the accuracy and conventionality of perceptions, psychotic disturbances (such as schizophrenia), dependent personality traits, cognitive complexity, anxiousness, hostility, and the ability to predict who will benefit from psychotherapy. Replicated evidence also shows that the Rorschach can quantify improvement from therapy as validly as other tests, assess the maturity with which other people are perceived, and predict suicidal self-harming behavior.

SEE ALSO Personality; Psychoanalytic Theory; Psychometrics; Psychotherapy; Reliability, Statistical; Validity, Statistical

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bornstein, Robert F., and Joseph M. Masling, eds. 2005. Scoring the Rorschach: Seven Validated Systems. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Exner, John E. 2003. The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System. 4th ed., vol. 1. New York: Wiley.

Lilienfeld, Scott O., James M. Wood, and Howard N. Garb. 2000. The Scientific Status of Projective Techniques. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 1: 2766.

Meyer, Gregory J., ed. 2001. Special Section II: The Utility of the Rorschach for Clinical Assessment. Psychological Assessment 13: 419502.

Meyer, Gregory J., and R. P. Archer. 2001. The Hard Science of Rorschach Research: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go? Psychological Assessment 13: 486502.

Society for Personality Assessment. 2005. The Status of the Rorschach in Clinical and Forensic Practice: An Official Statement by the Board of Trustees of the Society for Personality Assessment. Journal of Personality Assessment 85: 219237.

Gregory J. Meyer

Joni L. Mihura

James B. Hoelzle

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Rorschach technique

Rorschach technique

Definition

The Rorschach technique, sometimes known as the Rorschach test or the inkblot test, is a projective personality assessment based on the test taker's reactions to a series of 10 inkblot pictures.

The Rorschach technique is the most widely used projective psychological test. The Rorschach is used to help assess personality structure and identify emotional problems and mental disorders. Like other projective techniques, it is based on the principle that subjects viewing neutral, ambiguous stimuli will project their own personalities onto them, thereby revealing a variety of unconscious conflicts and motivations. Administered to both adolescents and adults, the Rorschach can also be used with children as young as three years old, although the commonly used Exner scoring system (discussed below) is appropriate only for test taker five years or older.

Purpose

The Rorschach technique is used to elicit information about the structure and dynamics of an individual's personality functioning. The test provides information about a person's thought processes, perceptions, motivations, and attitude toward his or her environment, and it can detect internal and external pressures and conflicts as well as illogical or psychotic thought patterns.

The Rorschach technique can also be used for specific diagnostic purposes. Some scoring methods for the Rorschach elicit information on symptoms related to depression, schizophrenia , and anxiety disorders. Also, the test can be used to screen for coping deficits related to developmental problems in children and adolescents.

Precautions

The Rorschach is generally used as part of a battery of tests and must be administered by a trained psychologist . Also, scoring the Rorschach test requires training in and knowledge of a comprehensive scoring system.

There is some disagreement concerning the reliability, validity, and clinical utility of the test and its scoring systems. Diagnoses for clinical disorders should not generally be based solely on the Rorschach test.

Description

The Rorschach technique is named for its developer, Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922). Rorschach, whose primary interest was in the psychoanalytic work of Carl Jung, began experimenting with inkblots as early as 1911 as a means of assessing introversion and extroversion.

The Rorschach technique is administered using 10 cards, each containing a complicated inkblot pattern, five in black and gray, two in black and red, and three in various pastel colors. Subjects look at the cards one at a time and describe what each inkblot resembles. They are instructed to look at the shape, shading, and color of the inkblots. After the subject has viewed all 10 cards, the examiner usually goes back over the responses for additional information. The subject may be asked to clarify some responses or to describe which features of each inkblot prompted the responses. Actually, there is no one correct response to any inkblot card, although there are certain common responses to some cards.

The test taker is given a lot of flexibility with how to respond to the inkblots. If a test taker asks if he or she is allowed to turn the card upside-down, the test administrator will be non-directive, indicating it is the test taker's choice. A response like this from the test administrator is consistent with the projective nature of the Rorschach technique in that the test taker is projecting his or her personality onto the test stimuli.

Results

Rorschach, who pioneered the test in 1921, did not provide a comprehensive scoring system. In response to complaints about validity, scoring methods have been devised that aim at providing greater objectivity by clearly specifying certain personality variables and relating them to clinical diagnoses. Originally published in the 1960s, the Exner Comprehensive Rorschach System used today (the 1987 updated version) is a computer-based scoring system that provides score summaries and lists likely personality and adjustment descriptions for each test taker. Specifically, this scoring system considers aspects of a test taker's response such as the content of the response, the reasons for the events present on the card, the location of events on the card, and elaboration on cooperative and aggressive behavior. Exner also recorded certain popular and common responses to the cards and the degree to which test takers chose these responses. It should be noted, however, that many examiners still interpret the scores without benefit of a computer.

Test scores, whether based on Rorschach's original formulation, Exner's comprehensive scoring system, or other scoring systems, are based on several factors. One is location, or what part of the blot a person focuses on: the whole blot, sections of it, or only specific details within a particular section. Another is whether the response is based on factors such as form, color, movement, or shading. These factors are referred to as determinants. For example, people who tend to see movement in Rorschach blots are thought to be intellectual and introspective; those who see mostly stationary objects or patterns are described as practical and action-oriented. Finally, content refers to which objects, persons, or situations the person sees in the blot. Content categories include humans, animals, clothing, and nature.

Most examiners also assess responses based on the frequency of certain responses as given by previous test takers. Many psychologists interpret the test freely according to their subjective impressions, including their impression of the subject's demeanor while taking the test (cooperative, anxious, defensive, etc.). Such interpretations, especially when combined with clinical observation and knowledge of a client's personal history, can help a therapist arrive at a more expansive, in-depth understanding of the client's personality.

While the Rorschach technique is still widely used, its popularity has decreased somewhat in recent decades. Unlike objective personality inventories, which can be administered to a group, the Rorschach test must be given individually. A skilled examiner is required, and the test can take several hours to complete and interpret. Like other projective tests, it has been criticized for lack of validity and reliability. Interpretation of responses is highly dependent on an examiner's individual judgment: two different testers may interpret the same responses quite differently. In addition, treatment procedures at mental health facilities often require more specific, objective types of personality description than those provided by the Rorschach technique.

There have, however, been studies that support the validity of the Rorschach test. When trained psychologists use a comprehensive scoring system, agreement between administrators on certain variables ranges between 80% and 100%. Also, Exner's comprehensive system is based on a standardization sample of more than 2,000 children, adolescents, and adults. This sample included a large number of schizophrenic and depressed individuals.

See also Figure drawings; House-Tree-Person

Resources

BOOKS

Exner, John E. The RorschachA Comprehensive System. Basic Foundations, Volume One. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1993.

Groth-Marnat, Gary. Handbook of Psychological Assessment. 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997.

Kline, Paul. The Handbook of Psychological Testing. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Reynolds, Cecil R. Comprehensive Clinical Psychology. Volume 4: Assessment. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1998.

Ali Fahmy, Ph.D.

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Rorschach Technique

Rorschach technique

A projective personality assessment based on the subject's reactions to a series of ten inkblot pictures.

Popularly known as the "Inkblot" test, the Rorschach technique, or Rorschach Psychodiagnostic Test is the most widely used projective psychological test. The Rorschach is used to help assess personality structure and identify emotional problems. Like other projective techniques , it is based on the principle that subjects viewing neutral, ambiguous stimuli will project their own personalities onto them, thereby revealing a variety of unconscious conflicts and motivations. Administered to both adolescents and adults, the Rorschach can also be used with children as young as three years old. The test provides information about a person's thought processes, perceptions, motivations, and attitude toward his or her environment , and it can detect internal and external pressures and conflicts as well as illogical or psychotic thought patterns.

The Rorschach technique is named for Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), who developed it. Rorschach, whose primary interest was in Jungian analysis, began experimenting with inkblots as early as 1911 as a means of determining introversion and extroversion . The Rorschach technique is administered using 10 cards, each containing a complicated inkblot pattern, five in color and five in black and white. Subjects look at the cards one at a time and describe what each inkblot resembles. After the subject has viewed all 10 cards, the examiner usually goes back over the responses for additional information. The subject may be asked to clarify some responses or to describe which features of each inkblot prompted the responses.

Test scores are based on several factors. One is location, or what part of the blot a person focuses on: the whole blot (W), sections of it (D), or only specific details (Dd). Another is whether the response is based on factors such as form, color, movement, or shading (referred to as determinants). For example, people who tend to see movement in Rorschach blots are thought to be intellectual and introspective; those who see mostly stationary objects or patterns are described as practical and action oriented. Finally, content refers to which objects, persons, or situations the person sees in the blot (categories include humans, animals, clothing, and nature). Most examiners also assess responses based on the frequency of

certain responses as given by previous test takers. Many psychologists interpret the test freely according to their subjective impressions, including their impression of the subject's demeanor while taking the test (cooperative, anxious, defensive, and so forth). Such interpretations, especially when combined with clinical observation and knowledge of a client's personal history, can help a therapist arrive at a more expansive, in-depth understanding of the client's personality.

While the Rorschach technique is still widely used, its popularity has decreased somewhat in recent decades. Unlike objective personality inventories, which can be administered to a group, the Rorschach test must be given individually. A skilled examiner is required, and the test can take several hours to complete and interpret. Like other projective tests, it has been criticized for lack of validity and reliability. Interpretation of responses is highly dependent on an examiner's individual judgment: two different testers may interpret the same responses quite differently. In addition, treatment procedures at mental health facilities often require more specific, objective types of personality description than those provided by the Rorschach technique.

Rorschach, who pioneered the test in 1921, did not provide a comprehensive scoring system. In response to complaints about validity, scoring methods have been devised which aim at providing greater objectivity by clearly specifying certain personality variables and relating them to clinical diagnoses. The Exner Comprehensive Rorschach System, released in 1987, is a computer-based scoring system that provides score summaries and lists likely personality and adjustment descriptions for each test taker. To overcome limitations in the Rorschach, Wayne Holtzman and his colleagues developed the Holtzman Inkblot Test that uses 45 inkblots, scores for 22 characteristics and allows for only one response per card.

The Rorschach is generally used as part of a battery of tests and must be administered by a trained psychologist.

See also Personality inventory

Further Reading

Aronow, Edward. The Rorschach Technique: Perceptual Basics, Content Interpretation, and Applications. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1994.

Lerner, Paul M. Psychoanalytic Theory and the Rorschach. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1991.

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Rorschach Test

Rorschach Test A widely used projective test, developed by Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922) and influenced by psychoanalytic thinking, especially the idea of free association. The test explores personality by examining the subject's responses to relatively unstructured stimuli: ten symmetrical ink-blots. Various scoring systems analyse location, content, use of form and colour, comparing these with established norms.

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Rorschach test

Rorschach test a type of projective test used in psychoanalysis, in which a standard set of symmetrical ink blots of different shapes and colours is presented one by one to the subject, who is asked to describe what they suggest or resemble. Also called ink-blot test. It is named after Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922), Swiss psychiatrist.

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Rorschach test

Ror·schach test / ˈrôrˌshäk/ • n. Psychol. a type of projective test used in psychoanalysis, in which a standard set of symmetrical ink blots of different shapes and colors is presented one by one to the subject, who is asked to describe what they suggest or resemble.

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Rorschach test

Rorschach test (ror-shahk) n. a test to measure aspects of personality, consisting of ten inkblots in colour and black and white. The responses to the different inkblots are used to derive hypotheses about the subject. [ H. Rorschach (1884–1922), Swiss psychiatrist]

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Rorschach test

Rorschach test (ink-blot test) In psychology, test used to analyse a person's motives and attitudes. The individual is presented with 10 standardized ink blots and interpretation is based on the description of them.

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Rorschach

Rorschach (rôr´shäkh), town (1990 pop. 9,535), St. Gall canton, NE Switzerland, on Lake Constance. A prosperous commercial town in the Middle Ages, Rorschach is a resort and the largest Swiss port on the lake.

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Rorschach test

Rorschach test: see personality; psychological tests.

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