The Rorschach Test

The Rorschach is a test which enables to explore the psychological mechanisms of a person, both in their present functioning and in their mental structure. This test is used across the world  in a variety of fields of psychology: principally I  clinical, educational, organisational and forensic settings.

Origin

A contemporary of C.G. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach noted that schizophrenic patients had an unusual way of perceiving objects that were presented in ambiguous images. A systematic study of how shapes were perceived in inkblots by numerous patients and non-patients led him to describe various types of perception processes and establish links between these processes and psychological traits and/or some mental disturbances.

For instance, he established a parallel between a mostly global approach to the blots and the ability to synthesise (as opposed to a more analytical mind which is reflected in a more detailed approach of the blots), between sensitivity to grey and black colours and depressive inclinations, or between the proportion of well-perceived objects and quality of the contact with reality.

Rorschach proposed a typology distinguishing three basic modalities of relating to the world: introversiveness, extratensiveness and ambitency. These types correspond to the way people associate, dissociate or mix emotions and thoughts in their usual mental operations.

Contrary to his predecessors, H. Rorschach did not conceive his inkblot test to reveal the imagination abilities. He even considered that imagination played a modest role in the response process. He was interested in the act of perceiving, which revealed the psychological mechanisms of a person in their relationship to the world. His seminal and brilliant idea has been to focus the analysis of the responses not on their contents but on the way the person relates to the blots: how do they outline shapes and use the actual characteristics of the blots (colours, shadings, forms), and how close or far is the response from common perception.

Today

The sudden death of H. Rorschach in 1922 interrupted his ongoing work but the technique he had so uniquely explored reached an incredibly wide development. Almost one century after the publication of his monograph, the Rorschach test is used, studied and developed by psychologist from around the world.

 

Rorschach H. Psychodiagnostik. Bern: Bircher; 1921