Hermann ‘Klecks’ Rorschach and his Eponymous Test

The tenth blot of the Rorschach Inkblot Test

On November 8, 1884Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach was born. He is best known for developing a projective test known as the Rorschach inkblot test. This test was reportedly designed to reflect unconscious parts of the personality that “project” onto the stimuli.

Hermann Rorschach was born in Zurich, Switzerland and it is known was he was encouraged by his father, an art teacher, to express himself creatively. The young Rorschach became fascinated with making pictures out of inkblots in his early years. These kind of pictures were in Switzerland very well known as ‘Klecksography‘ and the student was soon called ‘Klecks’ by his classmates. It is assumed that Rorschach was not quite sure which topic to study at the university. As he had difficulties to chose between art and scienceRorschach asked Ernst Haeckel, who advised the young student to focus on science. However, Rorschach never abandoned art completely. [1,2]

Rorschach attended Academie de Neuchatel in 1904, studying geology and botany and studied French at the Universite de Dijon. He enrolled at the University of Bern in order to study medicine and specialized in psychology. He completed his studies in Zurich, Berlin, and Nuremberg. During his studies, Rorschach began to study psychology in combination with imagery association. Justinus Kerner published a book of a poetry collection in 1857 with each poem inspired by an accompanying inkblot. Also Alfred Binet saw inkblot tests as a potential measure of creativity. Hermann Rorschach noticed that especially schizophrenic patients associated different things with inkblots than others. This observation was followed by a series of experiments and the development of the first version of the inkblot test as a measure of schizophrenia in 1921. His test came into use in the late 1930s after Samuel Beck and Bruno Klopfer expanded its original scope. Since then, psychologists used the inkblot tests to make judgements about broad personality traits even though Rorschach originally expressed his skepticism towards using the inkblot’s value in assessing personality. [1,2]

Hermann Rorschach could not live to see these developments of the inkblot test. He died suddenly on April 2, 1922 at the young age of 37. However, by the 1960s, the famous Rorschach inkblot test became widely used, especially in the Unites States for personality tests. It was even ranked eighth in a long list of tests used all over the US for outpatient mental health care. Up to this day, the inkblot test is widely criticized, especially because it has been modified several times by various researchers. Still, it is considered as one of the primary tests used in hospitals, schools, jails and courtrooms and is used to decide on parental custody rights, assess the emotional issues of children, and determine if a prisoner is eligible for parole. [3]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture by the psychology Professor Glenn Wilson on How to profile a killer.

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