|There's even a comic book|
character named Rorschach.
I talked on Monday about the various things an examiner looks at as the person describes what he sees in the ten Rorschach inkblots. The examiner codes/rates the person's responses and compiles 100-150 scores based on those ratings. The examiner then compares those scores to the norms provided by the Exner system (these are based on the scores of a large sample of individuals who took the Rorschach and were scored using the system). The person's scores--and where they fall compared to the normed scores--are supposed to be an indication of personality functioning.
Examples: If you focus on tiny details of the blots instead of the whole thing? Obsessiveness. Interpreting the white space around the blot? You have a negative/obstinate streak.Seeing a lot of reflections and mirror images in the blots? Narcissism. Seeing food images in more than a few of the inklbots? Dependency.
Get the idea? Proponents of this test suggest it's useful in the detection of all sorts of psychiatric conditions and symptoms.
There are some problems with these claims, though. Just a few of them:
- not all the Rorschach categories (in fact, only about 50%) have sufficient interrater reliability. That means that if two people score the Rorschach, they might not come up with the same conclusions. Or they might come up with really different conclusions.
- it has a tendency to make normal people seem kinda crazy. There have been at least a few studies that show that when kids and adults who are psychologically healthy take the Rorschach, their responses get scored as pathological much more often than you'd expect. Oh, and African Americans, Native Americans and Native Alaskans, Hispanics, and Central and South Americans also give responses that differ significantly from the norms of Exner's Comprehensive System.
As it turns out, WE CAN'T REALLY SEE INTO YOUR SOULS, PEOPLE. Er, at least, not like this.
In the last decade, researchers have demonstrated that the Rorschach does NOT reliably detect depression, anxiety, psychopathic personality, tendency toward violence, or sexual abuse in children. Sexual offenders differ from other offenders in some subtle ways--but the research is not rigorous enough for psychologists to say with confidence, "yes, this person is definitely likely to commit a sexual offense." After all--remember that the Rorschach (and the Exner Comprehensive Scoring System specifically) sometimes makes normal, healthy people seem deviant. What it is relatively good at detecting: schizophrenia and other thought disorders. That makes sense, yes? It's quite good at identifying individuals who have overly tangential, disorganized thoughts.
If you really want to delve into the details of the controversy, check out this article. The key to using the Rorschach well is extensive training, careful administration, strict scoring and a focus on the scales that show verified reliability and validity, gathering of a great deal of additional evidence through other methods, and cautious interpretation.
|Check it: Search "psychologist" on |
Microsoft Clip Art, and many of the
graphics include some
representation of the Rorschach
However, this seems to be changing in the last several years. Use of the Rorschach appears to be on the decline (particularly among forensic psychologists who testify in court) as a result of all the research evidence. The psychologists I know who use it do so only in conjunction with a number of objective tests and other techniques (diagnostic interviews, records review, etc.). They are really careful not to base their conclusions about personality and diagnosis on Rorschach information alone.
If you're wondering about me: I got some training in the Rorschach in graduate school, both in administering and scoring it. But FAR from the extensive training one would need to score it with any confidence or validity. As to whether I use any other projective tests in my evaluations of young children ... well, that's a post for another time.
For those of you who were thinking I'd come up with some conclusions about your sanity or psychic functioning, sorry if I've disappointed you. I think the Rorschach is a fascinating instrument, one that has its uses, but that also demonstrates the limits of what psychologists and psychiatrists can do.
Yes, your responses to my improvised inkblot said something about each of you. But that "something" is only the tiniest tip of the ginormous, complicated iceberg of YOU. And that tiny "something" could be affected by a huge number of factors (like how much sleep you'd had the night before, how many Disney movies you'd seen recently, the type of WIP you're currently working on, the way your brain processes information, your value system, your culture, your creativity, your intelligence, your knowledge that your comment would be public, etc., etc., etc.). It would be exceedingly arrogant of me or anyone else, no matter what our training, to draw broad, definitive conclusions based on that tiny bit of mysterious, context-free "something".
Is that what you thought I'd say?