The Inkblot, Revealed
February 15, 2003 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Is that a blot I see before me?

Actually, no. At least not a Rorschach blot... "Most people have heard of the Rorschach test (pronounced "raw-shock"), but few have ever seen a real Rorschach inkblot. The blots are kept secret. When you see an inkblot in a popular article on the test, it's a fake: it's an inkblot, but not one of the inkblots. There are only ten Rorschach inkblots." Viewing the information on this page will compromise administration of the Rorschach test, invalidating your answers, so if you want to take the test in the future, don't peek. The site creators, however, recommend that you don't take the controversial test, and provide an outline (literally) of the blots, including information regarding scoring, analysis, and expected or "normal" answers, as well as some "red-flag" responses. In other words, a Rorschach cheat-sheet. (more..)
posted by taz (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hermann Rorschach developed his test in the early 20th century, and died at age 37 in 1922, only a year after publishing his "Psychodiagnostik" monograph, which, at the time, was a resounding failure, selling roughly 0 copies. Others picked up the blot baton however, advocating use of the original inkblots as an analytic tool via various approaches. A schism developed between the European and American schools of Rorschach testing, yet while many psychologists liken its scientific value to something akin to astrology, the blots are still going strong. Today anyone can learn basic Rorschach technique via the HyperHermann computerised course, while professionals can get help with their analyses with Ror-scan Rorschach scoring and interpretation software (sample interpretive scan here).

For an interesting glimpse at how interpretation of the test is applied, have a look at how seven different Rorschach analysts scored Linus Pauling's inkblot results in a blind evaluation.
posted by taz at 3:58 PM on February 15, 2003

I saw Cthulhu in all the blots. Is that bad?

great post taz
posted by Stan Chin at 4:09 PM on February 15, 2003

Stan, you obviously weren't paying attention. Plate IX was quite clearly one of the Lloigor...
posted by vraxoin at 4:26 PM on February 15, 2003

Stan, it's not necessarily bad. A lot depends on what Cthulhu was doing. Was he laying waste to the world and vomiting darkness while screaching your name? Or just playing minesweeper on his computer? Also: did he mention your mother at any point?

Fantastic post, Taz.
posted by Ljubljana at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2003

Right now, no blots appear on that page -- just red text on white: "Remote linking of our images is not allowed". So these guys were linking to someone else's images instead of making their own outlines?
posted by maudlin at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2003

Great post. I'm curious if most readers will read the cards online, or remain untainted.
posted by Beholder at 4:59 PM on February 15, 2003

I went and looked at the cards online, and the description text looked awfully familiar to me... I don't have a copy of it on hand to double-check this, but I think that the page was ripped word-for-word (and image-for-image) out of William Poundstone's "Big Secrets", completely uncredited. Either that, or Poundstone and these people plaigarized it from some other third party, which I doubt... Can anyone confirm this?
posted by wanderingmind at 5:03 PM on February 15, 2003

Vagina, vagina, vagina. None of them looked like vaginas to me (lots of thyroids, though), but almost all had vagina among the differential "safe" interpretations. When I was in college, I had two friends who were studying to become psychologists. One had been dumped by his beauty queen girlfriend for a woman, and the other had a "Choose Death" sticker on her car and kept saying she would kill herself if she could do it without hurting her family too much. I drew conclusions.

This also reminds me of how physicist Richard Feynman ended up with a psych exemption from the draft. In the psych interview he was asked how much he loved his wife, and he answered "72" or some such number. When asked to explain, he said he couldn't quantify his love, and the interviewer said "Yes, but why 72?" "You would ask me the same question if I said 46, wouldn't you?" replied Feynman.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:09 PM on February 15, 2003

I once took the test for real. Never, ever, let someone who can put you in a compromising position administer and interpret the test. I got seriously hurt because the persons who administered my exam used it as a substitute for an actual interview. It was only months later when someone with more experience, and who knew me, reviewed the results and determined that they were crap.

From my experience I have low regard for the Rorschach series. If someone wants to see something they will usually see it. The problem comes when the interviewer is the one looking for something, and others actually are putting stock in their interpretation.

posted by Tystnaden at 6:27 PM on February 15, 2003

my god they don't still use this sort of test do they...? i thought they went out the window around the same time they realized "snake pits" were a bad idea. i can't believe inkblot tests are indicative of anything but the test givers own fruitloops quotient.

my own fruitloops - most everything looked like godzilla, mothra, or ghidora to me but that's probably due to the fact we're in the middle of a gojira movie festival at my house. screee-onk
posted by t r a c y at 6:31 PM on February 15, 2003

I saw alot of spaceships.

Awesome link, thanks taz.
posted by kavasa at 6:49 PM on February 15, 2003

Great link.

I got most of the "right" answers, (tho apparently I'm gay, who knew?) but I simply can't believe anyone ever thought this test could tell you anything meaningful about a person.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:56 PM on February 15, 2003

Of related interest, Alan Moonan Bruton's Space of the Psyche art project, which morphs the Rorschach images into a single 3D object. (Bear with the fairly annoying Java presentation).
posted by raygirvan at 7:03 PM on February 15, 2003

Plate IX does look dead up like Gamera. I see lobster tribesmen doing the fire dance in Plate X. If anybody ever shows me one of these things, I am not saying a word.

Have spent one long weekend in a rehab/psychiatric facility and it was the absolute worst place for someone like me to be. Remember Michael Keaton's character in The Dream Team? That was me, cheating at pictionary during group. Who cheats at these games, and why would anyone do that in a mental hospital? They'd have to be crazy. I couldn't help myself, though. My team won, like five to zero.
posted by son_of_minya at 7:39 PM on February 15, 2003

Well done, taz. When are we going to give up on the idea of quick-n-easy ways to categorize people's personalities? Each rag and bone shop is much like the others, and infinitely different.
posted by languagehat at 8:09 PM on February 15, 2003

The first full-color card is easy. It is important that you see the four-legged animals- lions, pigs, bears, etc. -on the sides of the blot. They're one of the most common responses on the test, and you're assumed to be a mental defective if you don't see them.

Heh heh... whoops.
posted by Hildago at 9:32 PM on February 15, 2003

I'm sorry, I'm going to second wanderingmind's motion (or confirm his suspicion, whatever), and call bullshit. The site has blatantly ripped off, verbatim and uncredited, the entire Rorschach chapter from William Poundstone's Big Secrets, which was published in 1985, for Christ's sake.

The site's main raison d'etre, in case anybody missed that, is to advocate for fathers in custody disputes. They use the Rorschach test as just one example of things they suggest men not agree to in the course of a custody fight. The unbelievably sleazy way they come up with their material, however, calls their motives as well as their advice into question.
posted by yhbc at 9:59 PM on February 15, 2003

I kept seeing Europe and Italy. Some of them just look like weird blobs, especially in the multicolored ones. And one just looked like a dragon.

planetkyoto-You don't actually have to be crazy to want to be a psychologist. I just thought it sounded more entertaining than engineering. Learning about the mind, emotions, relationships, all that is just fascinating stuff.
posted by stoneegg21 at 10:05 PM on February 15, 2003

That's good to hear, stoneegg21.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:10 PM on February 15, 2003

tho apparently I'm gay, who knew?

Yeah, well, I saw the lamp. Also, am I only one who got the sudden urge to back up and try again when you got to the ones that said, "You should see less in here than you saw in the other blots..."

Um. Did I mention that I'm happy and well adjusted?

posted by hob at 10:41 PM on February 15, 2003

* coughs politely *

* pounds table *

Aah, fuggit -

* pisses in wind *
posted by yhbc at 10:44 PM on February 15, 2003

I heard you, yhbc... and, if true, that was a rotten thing to do - the sort of thing that people who have failed their Rorschach might do, I suspect (j o k e).

I did notice that it was an advocacy site for parents (mostly fathers) in custody disputes, but didn't bring it up because it didn't have anything to with the point of the post (at least not without making it a much longer post). Like t r a c y, I was surprised to find that these were actually still being used seriously for evaluatations... but as Tystnaden points out, they surely are, and sometimes with terrible consequences. I wonder how many people would have hired Linus Pauling after seeing his evaluation on a pre-employment psych test?
posted by taz at 11:23 PM on February 15, 2003

This ridiculous test is indeed still used in custody disputes. My husband and his ex-wife each had to take one during their bitter and nasty custody dispute in 2001-2002. Fortunately, he seemed to score ok on the test, giving "normal answers with an individualistic spin". (He got primary custody of the kids in the end, with their bio-mom getting them on weekends, mainly because she neglected them horribly.) I, as the new significant other, had to take the MMPI, which is not a heck of a lot more reliable. (Bio-mom's new SO had to take it, as well as my husband and his ex-wife.) For instance, I scored as being "not traditionally feminine" because I answered true to "I like science." "Not traditionally feminine", in the 1930's worldview of the MMPI, is likely a code for lesbian. Funny, because I'm ridiculously heterosexual (which was a great disappointment to my ex-husband, who tried in vain to convince me I was bi.)
posted by CoFenchurch at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2003

For what it's worth, I was coming here to say the same thing, yhbc.
posted by crunchland at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2003

I found the link to the Linus Pauling test results pretty interesting. Pauling said something like "the way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." Not sure that is the best approach to this particular test.
posted by newlydead at 7:06 AM on February 16, 2003

Yeah, I just confirmed it, after digging out my copy of the book. It's swiped, literally verbatim, from BIG SECRETS, by William Poundstone, pages 118 to 127.
posted by crunchland at 7:09 AM on February 16, 2003

sorry, crunchland (and of course wanderingmind and yhbc, and everyone else!); I would have pointed this out if I had known it.

(btw, raygirvan, the page looked interesting, but none of the individual links would load for me...)
posted by taz at 7:41 AM on February 16, 2003

Dog. Dog with its head split in half.
posted by Scoo at 10:11 AM on February 16, 2003

don't apologize, taz. you didn't write it. and while it's stolen, it's just as interesting as it ever was. (Though I did find William Poundstone's website and email address, and I pointed him to the thievery.)
posted by crunchland at 11:35 AM on February 16, 2003

As for the "no remote linking" pictures, if you don't send a referer (sic) header, you get that image instead of the actual picture. This scripts are quite common, but usually if you don't send a referer header they give you the image anyway, this is rather bad form imho. Check if you're going through a proxy (if you're using opera) if you have 'Enable Referrer logging' turned on.
posted by fvw at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2003

Oops, make that: referer (sic) header.
posted by fvw at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2003

Keep us posted, Crunchland. I want to know how this turns out... And, like he said, don't feel bad about it, Taz. this's their problem, not yours.

(And Scoo: "I... I see. And, uh, what do you think split the, uh, split the dog's head?")
posted by wanderingmind at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2003

Scoo, ya beat me to it!

I see some nice flowers myself.
posted by jeribus at 4:13 PM on February 16, 2003

Are they serious? "Please note that some personal firewall products may prevent these images from appearing. If this occurs, disable your firewall temporarily to view the images." (from the inkblot/custody page)

I only see outlines of the blots, with no colours or black in-fill, so it is hard to see much of anything at all, but it is interesting that this type of test is used in custody battles in (I assume) the US, as I am not aware of them or any other personality testing being used here (Australia) in that context. Rather, the needs of the children and the parent who is deemed by the court to have the best chance of giving the children good care are decided by evidence from the parents and government agencies if needed, with official preference being given to the parent with custody currently and unofficial preference given to the mother.
posted by dg at 5:03 PM on February 16, 2003

Outstanding! I knew I could count on MeFiers to get The Watchmen reference.

posted by Scoo at 6:09 PM on February 16, 2003


I specifically read this thread to see who would make the first Watchmen reference. Yours was nice and subtle. Good work.
posted by litlnemo at 6:56 PM on February 16, 2003

For anybody who doesn't know what these two are talking about (I didn't), check out this page.

For those of you who are familiar with The Watchmen, definitely have a look at The Annotated Watchmen, which just so happens to be by our very own ice_cream_motor, on his Cap'n Wacky site.
posted by taz at 1:04 AM on February 17, 2003

... actually, the Annotated Watchmen is written by Doug Atkinson, and presented at Cap'n Wacky.

I guess we can do without further authorship gaffes in this thread...
posted by taz at 1:13 AM on February 17, 2003

Virtually everyone sees two girls or women.

I guess I shouldn't mention I thought it was a mirrored map of Laos? Thanks for the link, no matter where it came from.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:38 AM on February 17, 2003

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