Damion Searls, The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test & the Power of Seeing

Damion Searls, The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test & the Power of Seeing

– he was born in 1884 in Switzerland, of modest parents (his father was a middle school drawing teacher & an amateur artist; his parents died when he was young
– he was both the artist who made the test & the scientist who designed/invented the test
– there are only 10 ink blots made – these 10 are always used, even today
– he was a psychiatrist & studied psychoanalysis under Carl Jung
– Bleuler – who came up with the term & defined schizophrenia as”split mind” was Rorschach’s mentor
– Rorschach met and married a Russian student – he learned & lived in Russia, before becoming disillusioned with Russia prior to the commencement of WW1
– he died at the age of 37 years (1922)| the test was released when he was 36 years of age
– the test took off in the USA – & was used in relation to discovering personality – not for how Rorschach had designed the test
– it was used in film noir movies in Hollywood as well as during WW2 in the military for recruitment (with 12% of potential draftees found to have mental health issues)
– late 1940s, Freudian terms enter the culture
– late 1940s & 1950s, the Rorschach enters popular culture (Time magazine)
– it is used on the detained Nazis at the Nuremberg Trial to find out how “evil works” with respect to Herman Goring etc.,
– late 1960s – the view of the Rorschach test changes & falls out of favour
– note: current science today says the Rorscach test is valid – provided it is used correctly – & as part of a larger battery of tests

History of the Test
– ink blots/smears were used before the test developed by Rorschach – particularly with children & the testing of their imagination – if a child could only come up with a few ideas about what the smears looked like, they were considered less intelligent than a child who could “imagine” 20 possibilities
– there were a few problems with such tests:
1) imagination is not some separate faculty within the mind – like separate stores/buckets for grit, memory, willpower (all of which are separate)
2) not all answers are necessarily imaginative – it could in fact, just mean you are perceptive

Rorschach asked people to tell him what he/she saw when looking at the ink blot

– a misconception of the test is that if you are a happy, healthy person – you will see a butterfly when shown the ink blot – of that if you snot happy/disturbed, you will see darker meanings to the shown ink blot

– in fact, Rorschach is less concerned with what you see rather he is interested more in how you see things (working from the big picture & working down to details or vice versa; or whether colour interferes with your ability to identify shapes
– based on the kind of answer a person gave, Rorschach would then assign a code
– for e.g. W for “whole picture”; D for “details”; C for citing “colour” in the answer; + for a well-seen/observed description & a “-” for an answer “totally out there”
– nonetheless – it has become a projective personality test – particularly in the USA

Source: Biography NBN | podcast date: 7 March 2017


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