A bear, a bat, a pair of legs, never a tiny king from a fairy tale
November 21, 2017 11:41 AM   Subscribe

    But for the actual test – this is the sentence that Rorschachians always repeat – ‘what matters isn’t what you see, but how you see.’ A few ‘content’ answers would later come to be thought significant: ‘food responses’ indicate that a person is ‘unusually dependent’ in relationships; a lot of sexual responses point to schizophrenia. But of more importance is whether an answer is judged to have ‘good form’ – ‘whether it could reasonably be said to describe the actual shape of the blot’ – as determined by Rorschach’s own sense of things, and also by responses from other ‘normal subjects’; he doesn’t say how he determined that those subjects were normal.
Deborah Friedell reviews The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

    [I]n the 1980s, a group of psychologists found that 80 per cent of ‘normal individuals’ are found by the test to have ‘depression or serious character problems’. Another study: when the Rorschach was given to aviation students and hospitalised psychiatric patients, the test results couldn’t distinguish between the two groups. The US military lost interest in the Rorschach after too many recruits were screened out, though most American clinical psychology programmes continue to teach it, and Rorschach results are still presented as evidence in American courts, particularly in child custody evaluations, and in civil trials in which plaintiffs have to demonstrate that they’re suffering from emotional distress. Estimates vary, but probably at least a few million people worldwide will take the test this year
posted by not_the_water (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Fascinating article. (Psychiatrist Crush Tuesday: Hermann Rorschach)
posted by Jellybean_Slybun at 11:58 AM on November 21, 2017

Because of their symmetry, almost every single blot looks like an x-ray of a hip bone or a cross section map of the female reproductive system. And, of course, once I noticed that, I could not. stop. seeing it.

So there I was, taking the Rorschach test, wondering if I should keep giving that answer, because that was just going to result in some wacky kind of diagnosis. But if I didn't, wasn't I sabotaging the test?

Also, what kind of freakish nightmare butterflies do people have experience with that they think so many of the tentacled black blots look like a butterfly?
posted by Karmakaze at 12:15 PM on November 21, 2017

...this is the sentence that Rorschachians always repeat – ‘what matters isn’t what you see, but how you see.’

I've always preferred, "I'm not locked up in here with you, you're locked up in here with me."
posted by Splunge at 12:19 PM on November 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

"Don't look at me. You're the one with the dirty pictures!"
posted by mondo dentro at 12:28 PM on November 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

a pretty butterfly
posted by entropicamericana at 12:34 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by Halloween Jack at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

The last time I took an "ink blot" test was right after waking up from being shot in the head and some local doctor kept asking if "he got everything right" and then shoved me out the door towards the local saloon.

Ain't that a kick in the head...
posted by deadaluspark at 12:48 PM on November 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

OK gotta hear that story in full
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

So he shows me an ink blot test, and he says, "Emo? What does the ink blot look like to you?"
I said, "Oh, it's kinda embarrassing..."
He said, "Don't be silly, Emo, everyone sees something. What does the ink blot look like to you?"
I said, "Well... eh... it looks like, uh... it looks like... Standard Pattern #3 in the Rorschach Series to test obsessive compulsiveness."
And he gets kinda depressed, so I say, "Okay, it's a butterfly." and he cheers up.
He shows me another one, and says, "What does this ink blot look like?"
I said, "It looks like a horrible, ugly blob of pure evil that sucks the souls of man into a vortex of sin and degradation."
He says, "No... the ink blot's over there, that's a photo of my wife you're looking at."
"Oh... was I far off?"
He says, "No, that's the sad part."

- Emo Phillips
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:55 PM on November 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

My professor for assessment brought this up recently. As a projective test of personality or mental illness it's useless, but she's said that it can sometimes be useful with someone with a form of psychosis. Themes in responses often correspond to themes in hallucinations or delusions. So, not useful as a diagnostic tool, but may help in therapy when you need an understanding of the sort of distorted reality an individual is working from.

Of course, I don't think there's research behind this, but it's an interesting idea.
posted by brook horse at 2:08 PM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nice little article. I am not surprised to learn this test is garbage but I was interested in how specifically. There's something compelling about the whimsy and creativity if the original idea of the test but boy does it need to go now.
posted by latkes at 2:13 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I actually did have a Rorschach test way, way back in the day, when I was about ten. I was living in a dysfunctional family and having lots of problems, and went in for some tests. I did the Rorschach and drew some pictures and whatnot, which was OK, and had an EEG, which was weird but fascinating in a sci-fi sort of way. I read the psychologist's report years later, and the Rorschach guy had diagnosed me as having some sort of brain injury or disease based on his subjective interpretation of these tests, only to have his thesis ruled out by the EEG. I showed the reports to a therapist at college whom I was seeing for various adjusting-to-college issues, and he laughed loud and hearty. "Christ, this asshole... this is why people laugh at shrinks."
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had no idea anybody still used Rorshach tests. That's nuts! As science goes, it's about as scientifically grounded a technique as trepanning and phrenology.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:26 PM on November 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

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