What is a Rorschach Test?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

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.

The Rorschach test is a psychological examination which analyzes a patient's perception of inkblots.
The Rorschach test is a psychological examination which analyzes a patient's perception of inkblots.

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.

A rorschach test may help to identify psychotic thinking.
A rorschach test may help to identify psychotic thinking.

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.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Is this test reliable?


@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.


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?

Post your comments
Forgot password?