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What is a Rorschach Test?

Niki Acker
Updated Jan 20, 2024
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The Rorschach test is a psychological examination in which the subject is asked to view a series of ten inkblots and then discuss the images he or she perceives. Originally developed by Hermann Rorschach in 1921, the test as it exists today includes methods of evaluation that were refinements of the original version. The Rorschach test is used to assess personality characteristics, thought patterns, and emotional function and to detect possibly psychotic thinking.

This test consists of ten standard inkblots on white paper. Five are made with black ink only, two are black and red, and three are multi-colored. The test subject is shown each inkblot and asked what he or she sees in it. Then, the test subject is given each inkblot in turn to examine and explain why and how the image looks like what he or she saw. Evaluation methods are more focused on this explanation and on the subject's thought processes than on the content of his or her interpretation of the image.

The Exener system of evaluation, the standard method in the United States, gives the subject's responses numerical scores based on their vagueness or specificity and the degree of mental organization that takes place, in addition to other aspects. Mathematical formulas are then applied to the data to produce a summary of the results. Skeptics of the Rorschach test believe that this approach is deceptively objective, while in reality, the biases of the interviewer can never be absent from the test results.

Recently, controversy has sprung up over the images of the Rorschach test appearing on the Internet. In order to purchase a set of the inkblot cards, a person must have proof of a doctorate in psychology. This is because the test is only effective if the images are completely new to the subject. Because the body of work compiled on the Rorschach test since its development deals with the original ten images, creating new images for each test, for example, would not solve the problem. While the Rorschach test images are now public domain and therefore not illegal to reproduce, psychologists and others believe that making the images publicly available is unethical.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon262376 — On Apr 19, 2012

Is this test reliable?

By parmnparsley — On Mar 16, 2011

@highlghter- I assume you mean subjective. Diagnosing psychosis is something that will always be somewhat subjective. The symptoms of psychosis vary, and are dependent on perceptions of the patient. The Rorschach inkblot test is only one part of an interview process used to diagnose psychosis.

By highlighter — On Mar 14, 2011

What types of interpretation of the inkblot test would be indicative of psychotic thinking? Do psychologists still use these tests, especially considering the inkblots are available online? Are there any other types of tests that serve the same purpose…maybe something that is not as objective?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of...
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