Monday, April 25, 2011

The Inkblot is (Maybe) the Window to the Soul AND CONTEST RESULTS!

Wow. That's all I can say. When I decided to do a contest, I was crossing my fingers for 30 entries. You guys are AWESOME. Welcome to all the new folks who hit the follow button either here or on Twitter, and thank you to all of you who have been with me a bit longer. This was really, really fun.

I tabulated all of your entries (76 of you entered, but with all of your Tweeting and linking and clicking, it made for 205 total entries) and went to, and within a few seconds, I had winners! So here they are:
  1. Winner of the $30 Amazon Gift Card: HELENE DUNBAR
  2. Winner of the Three-Chapter Critique: LEXCADE
  3. Winner of the Psychologisty Reading Pack*: ROSIE C
*Carolyn Kaufman's The Writer's Guide to Psychology and Scott Lilienfeld (and colleagues') 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology (I HIGHLY recommend both these books, and if you want another chance to win Dr. Kaufman's book, here it is--contest ends 5/7/11)

Congratulations to the winners!

Now: the inkblot. Here's the history: The Rorschach was developed by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in the early 1920s. He noticed that some children in the psychiatric hospital in which he worked had substantially different responses to a game called "Blotto". He published the Rorschach test in 1921 and advised some caution in its interpretation, stressing that his findings were preliminary. Unfortunately, he died just one year later.

Other psychiatrists and psychologists took up the mantle, some even calling it a "psychological X-ray", enabling professionals to see into the deep recesses of a patient's unconscious. It makes psychologists and psychiatrists sound pretty darn powerful, doesn't it? WE CAN SEE INTO YOUR SOULS, PEOPLE! But then, researchers got hold of it and the criticism began--the scoring was so subjective that no one could be sure it actually revealed anything.

In the 1970s, psychologist John Exner attempted to rescue the Rorschach, developing a standardized system of scoring to increase the reliability (and credibility) of the test. Exner's "Comprehensive System" is pretty complicated. It doesn't just score for content (which is what most of you were concerned with as you made your comments in the contest) -- it goes a lot further than that.

The Rorschach includes 10 inkblots, some black and white, some black and red, and some full color. You're not supposed to publicly display the actual test inkblots because if people who take the test have seen the test materials ahead of time, it could influence their responses. For each card, the examiner hands it to the person and asks "what might this be?" Then the examiner writes down everything the person says and does. The person actually goes through the cards a few times, and the final time, the examiner asks some questions to make sure she understands how the person is seeing the blot.
Here's my inkblot again--do you still see the same thing?
What's scored:
  1. Location--the examiner codes which part of the inkblot the person uses to form his response. For example, two of you focused on white space around the blot, but many of you gave responses based on the whole thing.
  2. Determinant--what quality of the blot was used to form the response. An example would be that 17 of you gave responses that could be coded for movement because you said you saw "dancing" humans or animals of some type. Many of you gave responses solely based on the form of the inkblot only, and some of you gave responses based on both the form and the color.
  3. Content--this is the actual content of the response, which can be coded into 27 categories. For example, many of your responses would be coded for human or human mythological content, either whole or detail (that includes all the goblins and demons), and there were even more animal or animal mythological responses (like the dragons). Some of you gave responses including anatomy (skulls, pelvises), art (the Grecian urn), explosions (of a piece of food, oddly enough, Dr. Kang). Only one of you gave a sexualized response (I'm looking at you, Mr. MacNish ... but I suspect some of you were holding back).
  4. Popularity--there are some responses that are commonly given for certain cards, so in this category, the examiner codes whether the person's response was one of those. Of course, your responses were the FIRST EVER to this magnificent inkblot, so you can review the comments and see if your response was similar to many others (there were lots of angry goblin/demon faces and lots of dancing animals)
  5. Organizational activity--the examiner actually codes how the person synthesized the various parts of the inkblot to form a coherent response (or not). This sucker is complicated to code and I'm just not going to get into it in this post. I'll touch on it Wednesday.
  6. Form Quality--the extent to which the response "fits" the inkblot. I'd say nearly all of you gave a response that fit the blot at either the superior or ordinary level.
All right, I'd say this is just about long enough. On Wednesday, I'll talk more about the interpretation of the test results, as well as some of the controversy surrounding this particular test (um, there's A LOT).

Since it's Monday, please go check out Lydia's Medical Monday post, as well as Laura's Mental Health Monday post.

In addition, please go visit Justine Dell's blog. She was my very first crit partner, and while I was in Indiana, I went to meet her in person for the first time (she lives in Bloomington, IN). She's posting about it today ... along with some pictures (this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I'm not actually a stick figure with 18-inch-long fingers). I don't really deserve the things she says about me, but what she writes about how fun and amazing our day was--that's absolutely true.

So ... back to the Rorschach. What do you think--is it scored how you expected? More complicated? Less? I haven't even started to talk about how to actually interpret it--are you intrigued or bored? Is it as mysterious as it seemed last week, or does it seem more mundane?


  1. Congratulations to your winners, and thanks for the interesting post!

  2. I missed this contest -- maybe because I was on vacation last week -- but it looks fascinating! Yes, the coding of the inkblot is more complicated than I expected (and you have to do this for 10 cards, huh?). Can't wait to hear how it's interpreted!

    And how are the results used in modern psychology today?

  3. Congrats on the winners!! Looks like I missed the contest - oh well! Gave others a better chance of pulling a win!!!

    Ooo I'm looking forward to how it'll be interpreted. Such an interesting post!!! I love it!

  4. Congrats to the winners! Carolyn's book is great. I'm going to look into the myths one now. It's been a while since I took psychology (and social psychology) in university.

  5. I'd love to see the interpretation. :-)

    I know there was a huge kerfluffle a couple of years ago when someone posted all of the standard Rorschach blots online. They were pulled from the original post, but like all things online, they're still there in Google's long term memory.

  6. We discussed Rorschach in my Anthropological Theory class (of course some anthros have done this test with hunter gatherers and the like), but mostly the prof made fun of the concept. I'd be really interested to know how or if Rorschach is still used in psychology today.

  7. Very interesting!! I had no idea how those things were scored.

    Congrats to the winners!

  8. I'm really interested in finding out the interpretation of the responses. It's fascinating to see the different ways people delve into the human mind. And congrats to the winners!

  9. Congrats to the winners!

    I think ink blots are fascinating. ;)

  10. congrats winners!!!!
    ohman! it's so fascinating all the facets of the interpretation of the rorschach! i'm really interested in learning more about it! but i suspect it's much like dream interpretation (which i admittedly do not know much about) but where there are common themes that could indicate something, but the basis of the testing is so individualized there is no quick analysis or conclusion you can come too... come to think of it, that sounds like most anykind of study of the human mind and thought process. hmmmm...
    looking forward to your next posts!
    and hooray for meeting justine! :)

  11. oh! and i wanted to say that it was really interesting that some focused on the white space! i hope you address that specifically at some time, because that was really unexpected to me, and makes me think that their novels would be really unique... but i know that's a big logic leap to take, but still... HOP!

  12. I work in the field of mental health, and last week I had lunch with a local psychiatrist. We were examining a handmade easter egg, and she reported she thought the design looked like a blood spatter! I teased her about her deep psychological angst!

  13. Congrats to the winners! You know it's interesting, at one point in my life I DID know most of that, but even when I read the post and participated I hadn't really remembered. It's pretty cool, especially to artists I think. ;D Maybe you should set up a side business where you psychoanalyze us all... Nah, that might be disturbing for you. Writers are awesome, but sometimes strange folk.

  14. That was really cool. I will be back Wednesday to read more details. Not boring. Very cool. Want to know what else is really cool? I lived in rural Indiana for nearly 9 of my kid years. Small world, no?

  15. Very first?!?!? Don't you mean only??? Gasp!!! You know how I feel about sharing, Dr. B.

    Totally kidding.

    Hmm...only slightly.
    *goes and hides under the table*


  16. I should have known I'd have the weird answer. Congrats to the winners, and thanks for the fascinating explanation of how to interpret the answers!

  17. This is wonderful stuff. Can't wait for Wednesday to find out more.

  18. What a fun contest! Congrats to the winners.

  19. Congrats, all you winners. Those were great prizes.

    I really want to read Carolyn Kaufman's book. (There's even a review of it in my beloved The Writer magazine.)

    Well, I have to admit you have me intrigued about ink blots now. You knew they could be so fascinating!

  20. That last sentence is supposed to read "Who knew..." But I suppose "you knew," too.

  21. I was kind of disappointed to find you're not really a stick-figure. Another illusion, shattered. *sigh*

    Seriously, very cool that you got to meet your crit partner! I met mine when I convinced her to come to a writer's conference in Baltimore. She flew from Chicago and stayed in town without ever meeting me. Brave woman!!

    Congratulations to all the winners!

  22. So interesting to hear the space around the inkblot is something important. Congrats to the winner!

  23. So, am I crazy or not? I tried to figure it out from the scoring guide, but I'm not sure...I'm thinking dancing hippos in a grand ballroom is a normal response. (fingers, elbows and knees crossed)

    Congratulations to the winners. :)

    Great post, Sarah!

  24. Ah, congrats to the winners and thanks Sarah for posting some more history/backgrounds on the inkblot tests. I've always found the concept a tad disarming. . . that is, when I think about the inkblots I feel spooked out LOL. What do you think that says about my mental state (don't answer that - I want to live in blissful ignorance:)

  25. that's really interesting! Now I'm curious as to how the real inkblots are scored.

  26. First, thank you! I'm so excited.

    That's really interesting about how the ink blots are scored, and that's not at all how I thought it would be. Thanks for the info.

    East for Green Eyes

  27. Bleeping bleepity bleep! I go away for a few days and look what I missed. :( Very interesting!

  28. Congrats to the winners and thanks for the fun contest. It was a unique change to what I am used to viewing when I read blogs. I am always fascinated by the psychological analysis and interpretation of human behavior, actions and thought process. I do not see many ink blot test results in court, but when I do it seems that the doctor almost always go into an in-depth discussion on images that the person associated with sex and sexual content.

    I am looking forward to reading more about how you actually interpret the results.