Human identity is a complex and multisided subject for investigation. Therefore, numerous methods were founded in order to obtain the most detailed results regarding one’s personality peculiarities or disorders. One of the most frequently used categories of methods is projective techniques when test material is organized in a special way and used for the study of personality as a whole or its individual peculiarities. Hermann Rorschach is an outstanding Swiss scientist, psychiatrist, and psychologist. He is the inventor of one of the most controversial projective techniques – Rorschach’s inkblot test that is intended to investigate individual’s personality. The creation of the test was determined by the biography of Hermann Rorschach, and the test by itself is considered to be both reliable and unreliable depending on the area of its appliance.
It is necessary to reveal the main points of Rorschach’s biography that made a significance contribution into his studying. Hermann Rorschach was born on November 8, 1884 in Zurich. He spent his childhood and adolescent years in Shaffgauzen (Biography.com, 2016). His mother died on July 2, 1897, when Hermann was 12 years old. Hermann was enrolled in the cantonal school, which he visited the next 6 years, in the period from 1898 to 1904. This school was distinguished by the skill of teaching staff and a high performance level (Biography.com, 2016). In the spring of 1904, Rorschach with an average rating 5.0 (in those years, Switzerland had the highest score of 6.0) was the fourth among those who graduated this school. Hermann showed equally good results at the same time in all subjects. He was fond of the popular game with blots known as Klecksographie (“What's behind the Rorschach Inkblot Test,” 2012). The game was about pouring a little mascara ink on paper and then folding the sheet in half in order to get different fancy shapes. Supposedly, it was the first attempt to become aware of variability of inkblots. He received the nickname “Klecks” for his interest in that game.
Hermann Rorschach went to Zurich to study medicine in 1904 (Biography.com, 2016). Since the winter of 1904 to October 1906, he was studying in Zurich, at the same time for one semester in Berlin and Bern. The last three months of the semester required hard and continuous work for Rorschach to obtain the doctoral title which he held in Zurich. On February 25, 1909, he passed the final exams and received his medical degree. After graduation, he started working in different mental institutions. Thus, until 1913, he was working in mental institution in Switzerland and until 1915 he was an associate director of the Herisau Asylum (Biography.com, 2016). One more significant fact of his biography is that he was a resident at Waldau Psychiatric University (Biography.com, 2016). Considering the abovementioned facts of his life, it has become clear that his interest in psychoanalysis was maintained by the significant professional experience.
However, his main achievement is considered to be the inkblot test that was created as the technique of the personality’s examination. The creation of the test was determined by several important events. In 1917, Hermann studied the work by Szyman Hens who examined fantasies of his patients, using inkblot cards and studying their associations. As a result, he developed this test for his dissertation (Biography.com 2016). However, in contrast to Hens, Rorschach was interested more in how his patients saw the picture rather than on what they saw. Later, in 1918, while his training in studying the psychiatry, he noticed the peculiarities in perception of the inkblot cards by the patients with schizophrenia diagnosis in comparison with healthy people (“What's behind the Rorschach Inkblot Test,” 2012). Rorschach stated that subjects who saw the correct symmetric figure in shapeless ink blot usually were well aware of the real situation and capable of self-criticism and self-control. Both these preconditions became a starting point for working on the inkblot test.
Rorschach’s inkblot test is related to the subtype “association” in the classification of the different projective techniques (Lilienfeld, Wood, & Garb, 2000, p. 30). In fact, the point of this test is a simple blot crushed inside a folded piece of paper. Depending on what the patient has seen (a simply blot or some object), psychologist may tell about his or her personality. The test of this kind was designed for something to catch and pull out the hidden installation of the subconscious. In Rorschach’s test, there are 10 symmetrical cards: five with black and white inkblots and five with color. The procedure is divided into two parts. The first part is asking about the association with the cards while the client holds them in the hand (it lasts nearly 45 minutes), and the second part is the interpretation of the results (1.5 hours) (Lilienfeld et.al., 2000, p. 30). Three main categories are used in the process of interpretation of results: content, location, and determiners (Lilienfeld et.al., 2000, p. 31). Content shows the subjects of the client’s image that was named after seeing the card. Location explains whether the picture obtained by client was identified while analyzing the whole picture or just its parts. And determiners represent what additional parts of the picture (i.e. color, shade etc.) influence client’s perception. One more important condition of the test is the symmetry of the pictures as it gives right chance in interpretation both for right and left handed clients. The test is based on the assumption that the fact an individual can “see” in an inkblot is determined by the peculiarities of one’s own personality. Regarding all these issues, the test has become one of the most popular tools in psychoanalysis, although there are still many disadvantages of the test.
In general, there are three issues that represent the main criticism of the test (“What's behind the Rorschach Inkblot Test,” 2012). The first is that interpretation of the patient’s image cannot be conducted in an objective way as it can be influenced by the inner world of the psychoanalytic and his or her subjective associations. The second is the question regarding of the validity of the test of whether it can be used in examining personality peculiarities besides its initial purpose in diagnosing schizophrenia. The last is the reliability of the test when testers lack variability. In addition, there are also assumptions regarding the peculiarities of perception of the cards by different nationalities, which deprives the test of the opportunity to produce objective results (Nauert, 2015). All these contradictions make Rorschach’s test difficult in applying without additional investigation of the clinical characteristics of the patient.
However, despite the mentioned criticism, this test remains popular nowadays. Hughes, Gacono, and Owen (2007) asserted that a forensic psychologist uses the test almost 36 percent of his or her time (p. 281). However, it is stated that for forensic examination, it is better to use more relevant methods (Nauert, 2015). The test is also becoming influential in the other fields of human creativity, such as artist and fiction works (“What's behind the Rorschach Inkblot Test,” 2012). These facts show that the usage of Rorschach’s test takes place despite its high controversial nature.
In conclusion, Hermann Rorschach is an outstanding figure in the field of psychoanalysis. Due to combination of scientific mind and creativity, he created the test that has become one of the most controversial issues in psychology. Rich professional experience and detailed observations helped him to create an original form of diagnosing method, the inkblot test. Despite all criticism, the test remains a popular tool of psychoanalysis of one’s individuality and has become a starting point for the further variation of the test.