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Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future
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Rorschach 11 05 07 Overview & Future

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The Rorschach, is it destined for the museum?

The Rorschach, is it destined for the museum?

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  • 1. Rorschach 1 Running head: RORSCHACH The Rorschach: An Overview and Future Directions Bernd Weishaupt Tuesday, November 6, 2007 Professor Harriet Gaddy, Ph.D. GPY 546: Diagnostic Assessment Centenary College
  • 2. Rorschach 2 Nothing is lost on him who sees with an eye that feeling gave; for him there's a story in every breeze, and a picture in every wave. -Sir Thomas Moore Overview of The Rorschach and Future Directions Images are to our visual senses enduring and timeless, like fire, the azure sky, the deep blue ocean, a starry night, people, animals-cats, dogs, and bats to name a few. In fact the earliest writings ever recorded by human beings are resplendent with images…antelopes and bears in prehistoric cave paintings, descriptive images of a heaven and an underworld, fertility symbols, a primal Tree of Life, and images such as the first bread baked in the first homes of the land in the creation stories of Ur (ca. 4,000 BCE). Native American and other world creation stories are all resplendent with scores of images on down to those of creation stories found in the three Abrahamic faiths- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Images whether described, drawn, painted, or printed are, for those of us who have the gift of sight, rich with meaning and associations. Needless to say, our 86-year-old fascination with Hermann Rorschach’s enigmatic inkblots should not come as a surprise to anyone. What is surprising is that a numinous, scrying, projection of inkblot impressions on ten cards, seemingly best left to mystics, is practiced and vehemently defended into the 21st Century by psychologists who claim to rely increasingly more on the scientific method than intuition the world over. The Rorschach Inkblot Test is administered almost ubiquitously. How ubiquitous is this test one might ask? The MMPI is the only test that is more popular; the Rorschach on average was administered 6 million times per year world wide in the 1990’s (Wood, Nezworski,
  • 3. Rorschach 3 Lilienfeld, and Garb, 2003, p. 2). Wood et al. found that the Rorschach was used in multiple settings: in schools to determine emotional problems and learning difficulties, in prisons to evaluate felons for parole, with convicted murderers facing the death penalty, candidates entering the ministry or priesthood, airline pilots suspended from their jobs for alcohol abuse and with suspected victims of sexual abuse. Having experienced the Rorschach myself as a requirement for entering pastoral ministry, I can readily concur that the test is still popular as a projective tool to evaluate candidates for ministry. The source of the original inkblot is ascribed to a popular game (blotto) in the late 19th Century that might well have it’s roots in the 15th Century from illustrations by Da Vinci and Botticelli (Exner, 1969, p.1). It is interesting to note that this “Da Vinci code” from the 15th Century continues to hold a fascination over modern school children in Germany even to this day in art classes. At present the game is know as “Klecksographie” and I recently discovered a reference to it listed as part of the art curriculum in the 2001/2002 yearbook in a college prep school (Gymnasium) in Penzberg, Germany (Gymnasium Penzberg, 2002). Hermann Rorschach tragically died of appendicitis complicated by peritonitis on April 2, 1922 only a few years after his monumental and “somewhat accidental” innovation and never got to see how far his discovery would eventually go (Exner, 1969, p.2). Ten inkblots (Rorschach originally being the artist that he was, had as many as 40) eventually became the standard from which the Rorschach test would be administered because the printer was unwilling to advance additional money in printing more plates-in short, they were out of ink (Exner, p.3)! Interpretations differ among Rorschach enthusiasts but the test is commonly administered by handing one card at a time in a specific order to the testee and responses are recorded until all ten cards have been seen and described. When taking the test, as in my experience, one might be
  • 4. Rorschach 4 asked, “Describe to me what you see?” The testor then may write down responses. These responses are then interpretated according to one of several systems designed for that purpose. There might be minor variations in testing procedure among psychologists, but essentially the purpose is to obtain a “reading” of each card from the test subject, which then becomes subject to “interpretation.” Interpretation became an issue based on theoretical differences among early proponents of the Rorschach and 5 systems were developed. These systems are discussed in detail in Exner’s The Rorschach Systems (Exner, 1969) and need not be elaborated upon here in any great detail. In his book on the Rorschach systems, Exner puts together an analysis of Rorschach scores submitted and analyzed by the five of proponents of the systems: Bruno Klopfer, Samuel Beck, Zygmunt Piatrowski, Roy Schafer and Marguerite Hertz. It might have been more interesting had the systematizers been able to analyze the reading from the same person, but five very different people were selected for the comparison; different ages, life experience, gender and social situation and very different presenting problems and clinical pictures (Exner, 1969, pp. 257-321). This renders the association between the 5 systems fascinating, showing some difference in interpretation and approach but less effective for purposes of comparison and establishing norms. According to Wood, of the five systems developed for the Rorschach, two divergent approaches became the most popular during the 1930’s and 1940’s, that of Bruno Klopfer and Samuel Beck. A survey done by Exner published in 1972 showed that 55 percent of Rorschachers used Klopfer’s system while 35 percent used Beck’s; the remaining 10 percent used Piatrowski, Schafer and Hertz’s system (Wood et al. 2003, p. 195). Klopfer, a practitioner from the European school of phenomenology and psychoanalysis saw the Rorschach as a clinical tool that should be used and interpreted entirely by clinicians who had the experience necessary
  • 5. Rorschach 5 for analysis (Wood et al. p. 68). While Klopfer relied heavily on clinical experience and his training in Freudian psychoanalysis, Samuel Beck, critical of the subjective interpretation sought a more systematic and psychometric approach in order to establish norms for validation of Rorschach test results (Wood et al. p.69). As an example, Beck suggested a standardized procedure of written instructions given to the subject. His method of interpretation was based on an empirical approach derived from a case-study system (Exner, 1969, p. 97). However, within 20 years, the mystique and novelty of the Rorschach seemed to begin to show signs of ennui. By the mid 1960’s, the Rorschach test came under considerable scientific scrutiny by prominent psychologists such as Joseph Zubin, Lee Cronbach, Hans Eyseneck, Laurance Schaffer, Arthur Jensen and Raymond McCall (Wood et al. 2003, pp. 175-182). The decline of the Rorschach seemed certain until the work of John Exner. In 1969 Exner published a book describing the various systems in use at the time. Later he attempted to harmonize and unify the various systems in a book, which he published in 1974, The Rorschach: A Comprehensive System, the first of three volumes- the third volume was completed in 1982 (Wood et al. p. 196). By integrating the five systems in use into one “comprehensive system” Exner made Rorschach history…the Rorschach had been declining steadily during the 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s and the end was near when in 1980 it had received according one prominent researcher on projective techniques a “new lease on life” (Wood et al. p. 194). Exner divided the test into three parts to simplify and unify the process -an introductory procedure and two separate parts; a response phase where the patient reviews cards one at a time and gives responses and an inquiry phase where the psychologist reads back each of the responses clearing up any ambiguities as needed (Wood et al. p. 198). Exner, in a nod to the psychometric community sought to demonstrate the scientific validity of the Rorschach: he calculated norms from over 700 out of
  • 6. Rorschach 6 1,332 Rorschach protocols, demonstrated an interrater reliability of .85, established a test-retest reliability factor of .75 to .85, and to top things off Exner added a depression index that claimed for the Rorschach a high correlation with affective disorders- six more indexes were added in his “System” including a suicide constellation to help identify patients with suicidal tendencies, (Wood et al. pp. 193-207). From all angles it seemed like Exner took the Rorschach to the next level up from Klopfer’s X-ray metaphor of 1940 (the claim that the Rorschach is a psychological x-ray) and further refined the Rorschach into a unified field theory of human personality…the Holy Grail of projective tests! However, presently in the 21st Century, a generation after the Rorschach renaissance, scientific skepticism and scrutiny has dislodged the euphoria injected by Exner in the 1980’s. Controversy over the use of the Rorschach and its claims is raging and various problems are beginning to show up under the light of scientific examination. Much of Exner’s scientific information on his system from the 1970’s to through the late 1980’s originated from one source- Exner while newer studies from the 1990’s through 2000 performed by independent researchers (dissertations and research articles) showed different results (Wood et al. pp. 225-255). Also, Exner’s list of impressive references in his scholarly studies referred back to his own Rorschach Workshops most of which were never published (Wood et al. pp. 225-255). Scoring reliability has been called into question- Exner’s .85 score was not a correlation coefficient at all; it is a “percentage of agreement.” Percentage of agreement is not a legitimate measure of reliability (Wood et al. pp. 225-255). Wood lists several other major concerns with Exner’s “System” such as: the test continues to display a tendency to overpathologize, the numbers for the norms don’t match, the sample population was handpicked, the test suggests a global validity for far too many diverse conditions (depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, antisocial tendencies, impulsiveness,
  • 7. Rorschach 7 egocentricity, suicidal tendency and sexual orientation), and Exner consistently failed to make available his data for peer review. The question becomes, then, what is the future of this very interesting but greatly disputed test? When the roller coaster stops, will the Rorschach be put away in a museum with other medical and scientific curiosities, artifacts & ephemera like snake oil from the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company? Or will it indeed continue as a fundamental and nearly universal projective measure and assessment of personality? The future of the Rorschach is based upon multiple factors that make it difficult to predict the final position this test will occupy in the history of psychology, however several patterns present themselves. The Rorschach will continue to remain controversial and much debated; a position unique among other psychometric tests that have been studied and reviewed thoroughly by independent researchers. Without continued strong salesmanship, support, leadership, and intensive training (in the use of it), the Rorschach, a highly stylized and controversial test will most likely end up in the museum. The copyright having expired on this secretive test makes it difficult for psychologists to administer to an uneducated public because the inkblots and their suggested interpretation can be found on the Internet…contamination is inevitable! Copies of the test and its interpretations occasionally become available on e-Bay. The 80 plus year history of the Rorschach as a product has already undergone two 20-25 year cycles. This suggests that the product has reached two growth stages and ultimately achieved maturity in Exner’s synthesis twenty years ago; it is unlikely that it will achieve further market penetration and is likely to level off and decline should it survive the current controversy and psychometric scrutiny. Due to the damage this test has caused in court cases calling upon forensic psychology; there are Internet help centers such as SPARC (The Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center) that warn people against submitting to
  • 8. Rorschach 8 Rorschach testing. No major upgrades or improvements have been made since Exner’s “System”; computerized models of the Rorschach although innovative have not morphed from Exner’s System and do not display any special discriminating characteristic; they simply provide typical characteristics of an outpatient population (Prince & Guastello, 1990). Judging from the foregoing discussion any number of situations involving the Rorschach can be seen as problematic and complicated thus making it’s future seem uncertain and unstable. No test in the history of psychology has captured the imagination more than the Rorschach. In conclusion to this report I have provided a brief summary of four major points that Wood, Nezworski, Lilienfeld, and Garb, conclude with in “What's Wrong with the Rorschach? Science Confronts the Controversial Inkblot Test.” Psychologists currently using the Rorschach will continue to use it. Future generation psychologists will tend to shy away from the controversial test. Increasing consumer awareness of the shortcomings of Rorschach will pressure psychologists to relinquish their hold on the test. Forensic and institutional use of the Rorschach will add further scrutiny and embarrassment to psychologists who use it.
  • 9. Rorschach 9 References Exner, J. E. (1969). The Rorschach Systems. New York: Grune & Stratton. Gymnasium Penzberg (2002). Mathematisch - naturwissenschaftliches und neusprachliches Gymnasium, Jahresbericht 2001/2002, 21. Jahrgang. Retrieved October, 24, 2007 from source. http://www.gymnasium- penzberg.de/menu6/jahresbericht_2003.pdf Prince, R.J. & Guastello, S.J. (1990). The Barnum effect in a computerized Rorschach interpretation system. The Journal of Psychology, Mar; 124 (2): 217-22 Wood, J. M., M. T. Nezworski, S. O. Lilienfeld, H. N.Garb. (2003). What's Wrong with the Rorschach? Science Confronts the Controversial Inkblot Test. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass, Inc.

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