Monday, February 13

An Actual Article

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You need to read/skim it.

I'm positive that since Izzy was soliciting, he or she would not mind me posting that screenshot.  The images are either mine (submissions) or public domain (Hermann's cards). Here is the article that Izzy produced:

Rorschach Tests: Tainted Testing Tool or Ingenious Inkblot Interrogations?

The Rorschach Test has fallen victim to a lot of slating over the years. Numerous experts in the field of mental health have said the test has little or no validity. Although a report from 2003 admits it has some usefulness, it is not exactly praised either: “Though falling woefully short of the claims made by proponents, [the test] nevertheless possesses validity greater than chance.”
So the question is – is Rorschach a bunch of phoney baloney or does it really work?

Cold Reading

Part of the controversy surrounding the test is the idea that during a session the tester may actually be conducting a form of cold reading. Awareness of cold reading has grown over recent years, with a number of celebrity magicians and illusionists demonstrating their ability to use this technique to mimic the readings offered by psychics and mediums. An experienced cold reader can discover a significant amount of information by studying their subjects body language, speech characteristics, gender, age, religious beliefs, etc. By analysing  someone in this way, a cold reader can reflect back to the person details which give the impression that the reader has mind reading abilities, or that they are able to communicate with dead loved ones. However, these are also things which a skilled therapist would be able to pick up on easily in their clients.

You say Tomato…

Another criticism is that the therapists subjective judgement and interpretation of a patients responses makes the results unreliable. For example, when someone has seen the image of a bra in an inkblot, male psychologists have considered this response as a ‘sex’ response, whereas female psychologists would class it as a ‘clothing’ response. Such varying interpretations mean that patients seeing the same picture will be analysed differently depending on who is doing the testing. And this doesn’t even take into account the natural cultural differences in responses to images.

Yet despite the criticisms, the test is still widely considered an accurate method of evaluation by many. Among clinical psychologists involved in assessment services it is used 80% of the time. Its uses range from detecting personality disorders to evaluating patients that might need alcohol intervention programs. But with so many arguments against it – including its inability to diagnose a wide range of psychological disorders and the difficulty in producing a test ‘norm’ – what has the Rorschach actually got going for it?

Brain Biology

Research has found that one particular inkblot, card III of the 10 original images created by Hermann Rorschach in 1921, shows that people with larger amygdala’s give more unique responses. If you’re not familiar with your amygdala, it’s the part of the brain which processes and stores memories of emotional events. It’s both a useful and pesky piece of biological engineering, both helping us learn how to deal with situations and creating fear programming.  As researchers have found a higher frequency of unique responses from artistic types, this suggests that enlarged amygdala’s might be related to creativity. The test is also widely accepted as a valuable tool in assessing thought disorders in schizophrenics.

What’s in a word?

The test has also been useful in highlighting the variety of thinking patterns found from culture to culture. For example, Japanese participants will often see a ‘musical instrument’ in card VI, whereas other cultures will see an animal hide. Even when patients see a similar creature in the image, the word they choose to describe the creature is unique to their language. Scandinavian’s might see a ‘troll’ where the French will see an ‘ogre’. Whilst at first glance it might be tempting to think these words mean the same thing, each word carries its own connotations. On the one hand, this language difference could be used as an example of the tests vulnerability to interpretation, but it also serves as vital evidence of how the language we grow up using can determine how we process ideas. 

The Ironic Conclusion

Ironically the validity of the Rorschach test is in itself determined by interpretation. This isn’t rare in psychology. Many evaluation tests have both fans and critics alike, as do various types of therapies and theories. The definitions of mental illnesses themselves, and ideas about what creates mental wellness, differ depending on who you speak to. The answer to the question of whether Rorschach is a tainted testing tool or ingenious inkblot interrogation is much like the nature of the ink blobs  - it’s in the eye of the beholder.