Rorschach Inkblot Test

Personality tests "are instruments for the measurement of emotional, motivational, interpersonal, and attitudinal characteristics, as distinguished from abilities."1 Some types of personality tests are called "projective techniques." According to one text:

A major distinguishing feature of projective techniques is to be found in their assignment of a relatively unstructured task, i.e., a task that permits an almost unlimited variety of possible responses. In order to allow free play to the individualís fantasy, only brief, general instructions are provided.2

The idea is that the test taker will project himself into the unstructured task.

Probably the best-known and most idolized of the projective techniques is the Rorschach inkblot test. Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach developed this test, which has been used for more than 80 years. The test consists of 10 cards. Each card has a bilaterally symmetrical inkblot on it. Five cards are black and white and the other five are colored. An examiner shows the cards to the individual and asks him to describe what he sees. The examiner then evaluates the personís responses according to specified guidelines.

The guidelines reveal the testís religious bias. If a person sees religious symbols, those responses will generally be scored as abnormal. The Rorschach Interpretation: Advanced Technique authors say:

Religion contents are virtually never present in the records of normals. Their occurrence is associated with profound concern about the problems of good and evil, concern which, almost always, is a screen for and displacement of guilt induced by sexual preoccupation. Religion contents may be used to infer critical and unresolved problems of sexuality . . . [religion] responses are most common among schizophrenics, particularly patients with delusions which concern religion.3

One wonders how many unsuspecting Christians might have taken the Rorschach and consequently been treated for sexual preoccupation.

Everyone seems to know about this seemingly magical instrument, but few lay people question its validity. At least one million people took the test each year during the mid-sixties. About five million hours of administering and scoring added up to a whopping $25,000,000 per year during those years.4 Although there has been a slight decline, the Rorschach has continued to be used at a rate of nearly a million per year, which would equal a much larger bill at todayís prices.5

Dr. Robyn Dawes says, "The Rorschach Ink Blot Test is the test most highly recommended by professional psychologists, and it is one of the most widely used."6 Even though psychotherapists are aware of studies that reveal the Rorschachís poor validity, they continue to use it. Why? Because they hope to discover at least one hidden clue to understanding the person. Yet, what do they really find? Hidden treasure? Or is the treasure they are looking for as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? In purporting to reveal and even measure the personalityís deepest levels, the Rorschach cannot even help anyone distinguish between foolís gold and the real thing

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz says:

In more than twenty years of psychiatric work, I have never known a clinical psychologist to report, on the basis of a projective test, that the subject is a "normal, mentally healthy person." While some witches may have survived dunking, no "madman" survives psychological testing . . . there is no behavior or person that a modern psychiatrist cannot plausibly diagnose as abnormal or ill.7

After researching the use of several projective techniques, Dr. Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues say that there is "virtually no evidence" to support the idea that the Rorschach inkblot test reliably diagnoses emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety. Their research seriously questioned using the Rorschach as a diagnostic tool either for court cases or for psychotherapy.8

Dr. Margaret Hagen, in describing the fraud of psychiatric testimony in court, criticizes the use of the Rorschach inkblot test and asks some important questions about it:

And what sort of thinking or logic dictates that schizophrenics or depressives or obsessives or whoever all feel the same way about the color red or the use of detail or "negative" space or whatever as required by Rorschach scoring systems?

Or, vice versa, that a great many people answer religious or political questions in common ways, or see one particular inkblot as looking like a butterfly, says nothing at all about their possible mental illness or lack of it, about their schizophrenia or depression, or their degree of compliance or contrariness or whatever. Why would it?9

After an extensive analysis of the Rorschach inkblot test and review of the literature, Dr. Arthur Jensen presents his conclusion in the Mental Measurements Yearbook. He says:

Put frankly, the consensus of qualified judgment is that the Rorschach is a very poor test and has no practical worth for any of the purposes for which it is recommended by its devotees.10

Dr. Anne Anastasi says:

The accumulation of published studies that have failed to demonstrate any validity for such projective techniques as the Rorschach . . . is truly impressive.11

The Rorschach and other personality tests of poor validity have been used far too long. They have been used far too long by psychiatrist and psychologists who claim to be Christian. And, they have been used far to long to evaluate Christians seeking to serve the Lord. Yet, it will be even longer before they are abandoned. As long as horoscopes remain in vogue, the Rorschach and other personality tests will also retain their mystique.

1 Anne Anastasi. Psychological Testing, Sixth Edition. New York: Macmillan Publishers, 1988, p. 523.
Ibid., pp. 594-595.
Leslie Phillips and Joseph Smith. Rorschach Interpretation: Advanced Technique. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1953, p. 149.
Arthur Jensen. The Sixth Mental Measurements Yearbook. Oscar Krisen Buros, ed. Highland Park: The Gryphon Press, 1965, p. 501.
Charles C. McArthur. The Seventh Mental Measurements Yearbook. Oscar Krisen Buros, ed. Highland Park: The Gryphon Press, 1972, p. 443.
Robyn M. Dawes. House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. New York: The Free Press/Macmillan, Inc., 1994, p. 146.
Thomas Szasz. The Manufacture of Madness. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970, p. 35.
Erica Goode. "The Battle over Rorschachís Fabled Blots," Santa Barbara New-Press, Feb., 27, 2001, p. D1.
Margaret Hagen. Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice. New York: Regan Books/HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, pp. 30-31.
Jensen, op. cit., p. 501.
Anastasi, op. cit., p. 621.

(PAL V9N5 * September-October 2001)

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