Description: Rorschach inkblots were made by a psychoanalyst named Rorschach. What do you think you know about them? They were literally made by pouring ink on a piece of paper and smudging the ink be folding the paper in half. So each blot was a random event not intended or manipulated in any way to look like anything at all. Back in 1921, Rorschach and other psychotherapists working in Freud’s Psychodynamic theoretic and clinical perspective would show a Rorschach inkblot to their clients and ask them what they “saw” in it. The idea was that because there is no intrinsic meaning in the inkblot what the client “sees” is a reflection of their internal mind and memories. By interpreting their client’s responses in light of what they already knew about them and their inner and outer circumstances the therapists believed they were able to gain insight into their clients’ inner psychological environment in ways that could allow the therapist to focus their clinical efforts to help their clients. While there was a belief that a link could exist between particular “reads” of the inkblots and documented abnormal psychological conditions, the proof of such connections remained elusive. Despite this, the inkblots have remained for some clinicians a way of getting their client’s talking and the possibility that the first thing that comes to mind for the client upon viewing an inkblot might provide the clinician with useful information for moving forward with therapy. Don’t believe this? Well if this were not the case why would there be such a furor when a Canadian physician posted all 10 inkblots on line along with their “usual” interpretations in therapeutic settings (see second link below)? All of this clinical debate aside, however, there is another research use for inkblots. Can you imagine what it might be? Would the concept of “fractal complexity” provide a hint? Well maybe not but read the article tied to the first link below to find out about this new use for Rorschach’s inkblots.
Source: Why do we see so many different things in Rorschach ink blots? Ian Sample, Science Editor, Psychology, The Guardian.
Date: February 14, 2017
Photo Credit: Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images
The Inkblots reveled: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/jul/29/rorschach-answers-wikipedia
So, while there is ongoing discussion as to whether inkblots have a role to play in psychological assessment and therapy (or are really tests of creativity) the main article link above shows a way in which research participant’s reports of what they see in inkblots of varying fractal complexity might start to tell us a bit more about how our visual system and our brain make sense out of the images we see in the world. The question of why less complex inkblots give rise to the “identification” of more shapes or objects remains a challenging one. Perhaps figuring it out will tell us some important things about how our visual sensation/perception systems work.
Questions for Discussion:
- What were inkblots used for by psychotherapists?
- What are some of the conceptual and empirical questions or problems that challenge the use of inkblots?
- What does the fractal complexity of inkblots potentially tell us about the human visual-perceptual system?
References (Read Further):
Di Nuovo, S. F., & Castellano, S. (2016). Validity indices of the Rorschach test and Personality Assessment Inventory: a comparison in pathological and healthy subjects. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 4(2). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Santo_Di_Nuovo/publication/308719968_Validity_indices_of_the_Rorschach_test_and_Personality_Assessment_Inventory_a_comparison_in_pathological_and_healthy_subjects/links/57ecb6b008ae92eb4d2661c8.pdf
Taylor, R. P., Martin, T. P., Montgomery, R. D., Smith, J. H., Micolich, A. P., Boydston, C., … & Spehar, B. (2017). Seeing shapes in seemingly random spatial patterns: Fractal analysis of Rorschach inkblots. PLOS ONE, 12(2), e0171289. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0171289
Tibon-Czopp, S., & Weiner, I. B. (2016). The Rorschach Inkblot Method: Theory. In Rorschach Assessment of Adolescents (pp. 47-63). Springer New York.