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What Is the Szondi Test?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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The Szondi test is a projective psychological test designed by Leopold Szondi in Budapest, Hungary. Similar to the Rorschach test, the Szondi test asks people to view 48 photographs of different mental patients and pick out those they feel the most in common with. Unbeknownst to the test subjects, all the people in the photographs have displayed sadistic natures in one way or another. Szondi further placed the photographs into four categories; manic-depressive, homosexual and sadistic, epileptic and hysterical, and paranoid and catatonic. Modern psychology no longer uses the Szondi test as much as other psychological tools due to the apparent weak analysis behind the theory.

Leopold Szondi speculated that people would either be attracted or repulsed by the photographs they were witnessing based on their own personalities. He also postulated that their reactions to the photographs would change and shift based on their mood, and as such the test would have to be retaken a number of times. To gather a better picture of the patient, Szondi suggested that his family history be analyzed as well. This would allow the analyst to see what disorders the family may have suffered from, and how their lives were lived in terms of love, marriage and occupation choices.

It is thought that humans have motivations and responses that are unconscious to them and the Szondi test is supposed to uncover some of these tendencies. The test is not without its detractors, with some claiming that it is not reliable because it is based on the subjective judgment of the person administering the test. Even though the method is in doubt, the tests are still quite widely employed as a means of unlocking the inner workings of people with mental and emotional problems. It is thought that by keeping the projective test ambiguous, the subject is able to talk more freely about issues that resonate on a deeper level.

The Rorschach inkblot test is also a projective test that is used to probe and understand a person’s psychological and emotional disorders. Unlike the Szondi test, the Rorschach test is still widely used and respected as a psychological tool. The projective psychological test is a personality test that asks a person to respond to cryptic stimuli. This apparently allows a psychologist to detect certain deep-seated emotional problems. The objective test is the polar opposite of the subjective test and seeks to gain insight into the person via a simple question and answer format.

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Discussion Comments
By Melonlity — On Jun 09, 2014

@Vincenzo -- you can have a lot more fun with the Rorschach test, at least. Here's an example. My mom is a psychologist. We made sugar cookies around Christmas. You know the process. You roll out a sheet of cookie dough, cut out shapes with cookie cutters, roll up the scraps and then roll out another sheet of dough.

You are supposed to repeat until you are out of dough.

Mom, though, had a different idea. She took those scraps, cut them, decorated them and then cooked them. The result was the Rorschach Christmas cookie. Celebrate the holidays and facilitate analysis at the same time, right?

By Terrificli — On Jun 09, 2014

@Vincenzo -- well, there are still assumptions made by a Rorschach test. It is assumed that everyone will see one thing or another in the test and it is also assumed that those answers will reveal something about a person's personality.

But you do have a good point. The assumptions are a lot broader and more flexible under the Rorschach test and that is why it is still used.

By Vincenzo — On Jun 08, 2014

It seems pretty obvious why the Rorchach test is still respected while the Szondi one is not. The Szondi test makes too many assumptions about the patient while the Rorchach is more neutral in approach. It doesn't guide people toward an answer. Instead, the answers relay solely on the perception of the subject.

It all comes down to assumptions and having them proved wrong over the years.

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