While out in Maine I went into a really neat gallery/used book store. There were many volumes I tried to convince myself to buy, but in the end walked away with only two: A Rorschach Workbook and Child Rorschach Responses – both published in the early ‘50s.
Yep the images above are five of the ten official Rorschach Ink Blots. Aren’t they beautiful? Luscious I’d have to say. Whoops, did I just reveal something about the depths of my psyche?
A brief investigation courtesy of Google showed that the Test is still given though probably not nearly as frequently as fifty years ago. And that there is no dearth of skeptics. I remember discussing Rorschach with an elderly psychologist a few years ago and found him to be defensive, but yet still an advocate. He held that so much data had been amassed over the years that the normative boundaries could reasonably and clearly be defined.
No matter what, administration of the test must be interesting, especially after the accumulation of considerable experience. The subject’s response is called a “Performance” because “The Rorschach test is based upon the assumption that behavior is meaningful and that when a person is presented with unfamiliar, nonstructured material, he will behave in his own individual way”.
A subject is initially given a vague instruction such as: “People see all sorts of things in these ink blot pictures; now tell me what you see, what it might be for you, what it makes you think of.” The examiner then begins to present the ten cards from a deck which is always stacked in exactly the same order.
Once the subject begins (hopefully ) to expound, the examiner takes careful, precise, and detailed notes. How long it takes to react to each card is recorded as well as how long it takes to complete a response.
Then, “An inquiry, following the performance proper, is conducted to obtain sufficient information so that a response can be scored correctly.” The examiner asks just enough questions to determine: where on a particular blot something was seen; essential info regarding form, movement, color, and/or shading of each discrete perception per card; content clarification if needed.
All of the above is scored using a complex system of annotation to “facilitate the analysis of the record as a whole”. A bar graph is created with the ‘determinant’ categories – movement, color, shading etc. across the x axis and frequency of related responses on the y axis. The result is called a Psychograph.
Location categories are tabulated by percentage: location responses of a specific sort, (whole card, large detail, small detail) are divided by total number of responses. So if thirty total responses were given of which eight were takes on the whole image on a particular card, then that score would be 8/30 or 27%. These figures are compared to the “expected” percentages.
“Normal expectancy” is that 20-30% involve the whole card; 45-55% large details; 5-15% small details; and less than 10% a combination of large details, small details, and some portion of the white space.
Content is given one of three denotations. ‘Popular’ if typical; ‘Original’ if rare, but good with respect to form and content; and ‘Bizarre’ if very rare, nebulous, and conceptually deficient.
The Handbook includes many sample responses for every category. As one might expect, there is incredible range – soup to, uhm, nuts. My favorite thus far (with consideration to the maintenance of a certain decorum in this space…) is from the ‘Content’ category for card #8 which is the upper right most above: “The pink is the evil which is slowly destroying the good in the World. Evil is triumphing and destroying the good”. Whoa.
Child Responses covers ages two to ten with age group specific observations made in six month increments up to the age of six. It is filled with an incredible amount of detail.
For example at age five: the total number of responses is slightly fewer than the two preceding ages; 58% of responses include the whole card; “content categories shift again to a more mature group… animals, objects, humans. First age plants and trees are not an outstanding category.” Sex difference not marked at this age. Colored cards are much preferred. “All the dark ones don’t look so good.”
What’s a typical response to card #8 from a five year old girl? “I don’t know what this is. Another butterfly. Or a piece of candy.”
How could this not be fun with kids? “Results of the present investigation point clearly and unmistakably to the conclusion that many types of response which are considered pathological or at least suggestive of disturbance in the adult occur quite normatively and characteristically at certain ages in the child”.
Yes, I suppose that one’s early, florid imagination is usually trimmed (like that dang lawn) by the demands of life. First half of one anyhow. Well to recall Shunryu Suzuki’s observation in Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few”.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fixin’ to break out my butterfly net again pretty soon…