What is a Rorschach test?

The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which the subject is asked to view a series of ten inkblots and then discuss the images they perceive. Originally developed by Hermann Rorschach in 1921, the test as it exists today includes assessment methods that were refinements of the original version. The Rorschach test is used to assess personality characteristics, thought patterns, and emotional function and to detect possible psychotic thoughts.

The Rorschach test consists of ten standard inkblots on white paper. Five are made with black ink only, two are black and red, and three are multicolored. The test subject is shown each inkblot and asked what he or she sees in it. The test subject is then given each inkblot in turn to examine and explain why and how the image looks like what they saw. Evaluation methods focus more on this explanation and on the subject's thought processes than on the content of their interpretation of the image.

The Exener grading system, the standard method in the United States, gives subjects' responses numerical scores based on their vagueness or specificity and the degree of mental organization that takes place, in addition to other aspects. Mathematical formulas are then applied to the data to produce a summary of the results. Skeptics of the Rorschach test believe that this approach is deceptively objective, whereas in reality, interviewer bias can never be absent from the test results.

Recently, controversy has arisen over images of the Rorschach test appearing on the Internet. To purchase a set of inkblot cards, a person must have proof of a Ph.D. in psychology. This is because the test is only effective if the images are completely new to the subject. Because the body of work compiled into the Rorschach test since its development deals with the original ten images, creating new images for each test, for example, would not solve the problem. While the Rorschach test images are now in the public domain and therefore not illegal to reproduce, psychologists and others believe that making the images public is unethical.

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