The Rorschach Test: Additional Information And Commentary
Additional information on the Rorschach test, a controversial psychological with little or no merit (and an improper test to use in the context of a custody case or evaluation).
The Rorschach test is controversial; some mental health professionals swear by it, some swear at it. For example:
"Nobody agrees how to score Rorschach responses objectively. There is nothing to show what any particular response means to the person who gives it. And, there is nothing to show what it means if a number of people give the same response. The ink blots are scientifically useless." (Bartol, 1983).
"The only thing the inkblots do reveal is the secret world of the examiner who interprets them. These doctors are probably saying more about themselves than about the subjects." (Anastasi, 1982).
With this in mind, we present some additional commentary on the Rorschach test, much of it sent in to the SPARC site by mental health professionals who either use the Rorschach or are familiar with it. "Your website is providing an excellent service to people such as myself, who are going to have to take the Rorschach Test as part of the hiring process for gaining employment in law enforcement. The information in your website has greatly eased my anxiety of being subjected to such an outdated test."
"John C." "I disagree with many of my colleagues. I feel one cannot invalidate a test that is of unproven validity. I had a student once who gave the Rorschach and, without even looking at the responses or scores, wrote the '...most obvious psychobabble' he could think of, turning it in as his report.
The instructor subsequently told the student that this was '...one of the best reports he had ever seen'. The Rorschach should be used only for its original purpose, i.e. a parlor game. Although I cannot remember the author, I remember once reading in Buros something to the effect that "The Rorschach was intended to be an x-ray of the mind but it turned out to be more of a mirror". I, for one, think your page does a public service by exposing a vestigial, anachronistic, and invalid psychological assessment procedure."
Daniel E. Stanczak, Ph.D. San Antonio, TX USA - Monday, June 26, 2000 at 11:22:28 (EDT)
One psychologist wrote in and said:
"Just a point of note ... Your information on the Rorschach is somewhat out of date. As a psychologist, I am not so much bothered with the fact that you put the information on the page ... but that it is not accurate. Specifically, in the example you mention that the psychologist used the Beck or Klopfer method. That is correct regarding the example; however, very few American psychologist still use that method. The current method (which is much more valid and reliable) is the Comprehensive System developed by Exner."
"I would suggest that you may want to put some sort of disclaimer at the top of the page that advises readers that the use of the information provided would compromise the evaluation and it is better for the client to tell the psychologist that they are familiar with the Rorschach. They don't have to say why they are familiar, but any ethical psychologist would not then administer the test and the issue of its validity would be a moot point. Or, if the person still wants to take the test, they should probably be aware that a compromised administration is as likely to hurt the person as it is to help them. The reason I say this is that I beleive that most psychologists (ethical ones at least) are looking out for the best interests of the child. If the psychologist suspects the person has been coached (whether in person or otherwise) that will make the person look very bad. On the other hand, if the person "gets away with it" it is possible the information may actually make the person seem worse than they really are."
"I say these things because I presume you want to help those fathers who are really good parents and being screwed by a bad system rather than helping legitimately bad fathers who are playing some game with the lives of their children. Fathers who truly care about their children will show that on the Rorschach and there should be no need to cheat ... presuming an ethical and competent psychologist."
"In the case that the psychologist is not competent or ethical ... here are some more suggestions for your users:
Although a client in a court mandated situation may not be able to refuse the evaluation, he can probably refuse to take a Rorschach or contest its use. The easiest way is to simply tell the psychologist that he is familiar with the test. Or the person can ask the person is they use the comprehensive system and refuse if the person does not.
The person can state they are willing to comply with the administration of objective tests (e.g., MMPI-2) but do not want to take projective tests. (By the way... the MMPI-2 is also a notoriously poor test ... it is outdated with poor norms, etc. See Ziskin and Faust's book for more information).
After the fact, a person can file a complaint with the State Psychology Board or the American Psychological Association for breach of duty, malpractice, etc.
Better yet, if the person can afford it, hire a private psychologist to perform an evaluation. Make sure the psychologist is ethical and competent and has experience in child custody litigation. If one can afford a psychologist who is board certified (i.e., has a ABPP or ABFP after their degree), this is even better because these individuals are more likely to use appropriate child custody assessments."
"If someone took your suggestions at face value, and gave all 'popular' responses included in your list, they might well be seen as rigid, uncreative, and unable to problem-solve in a unique and positive way. Maybe not. It would all depend on a number of factors not included in your article; such as, the interpretive system used, the total number of percepts, and responses to other test materials."
Another psychologist wrote in and said:
"I have performed about 200 full scale custody evaluations for the local family courts in Hawaii and about 4,000 evaluations during my 20 years of testing. I am well aware of the uneven playing field in the divorce business. I have no problem with the accuracy of the information you provide about the Rorschach (although I need to take a closer look). I question its actual value to your clientele especially in light of the obvious violation of test security. As I said before, if you suppose that by reading the material you are helping the client, I think you are mistaken.
First, the standard instructions include a question, have you ever taken or heard of the test before? Well, if the person denies that he has (and he has read your website) then he is lying. Second, he places his credibility in question in a situation where the stakes are high. In other words, I don't believe the material should be there at all. I have not had a chance to look your website over in toto but have you also provided coaching material on the Wechsler scales or the MMPI, the other two most commonly used tests?
In short, any actual attempt to put the information to use, presumably for good reasons, is a relatively easy thing to detect (if you don't believe me then check out the MMPI and Rorschach malingering/fake good literature). Then you have a client who during the psych eval comes across as inauthentic, faking, or lying...a potentially devastating outcome in a custody matter."
Marvin W. Acklin, Ph.D, ABPP
Some additional notes from "Misuse of Psychological Tests in Forensic Settings: Some Horrible Examples" by Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield "Few evaluators using the Rorschach acknowledge its limitations. If the Rorschach is used, its limitations should be clearly noted unless the Exner system is used. And then, it is necessary to say what is being scored by the Exner system. But often, idiosyncratic interpretation techniques are used to form conclusions and make recommendations which affect the lives of people."
"There is no empirical support for the validity of the Rorschach, except when the Exner system is used. Reviews in the Buros Mental Measurement Yearbook for every year in which this test has been reviewed state that there is no research demonstrating its validity. For example, in the Eighth Mental Measurements Yearbook Peterson concluded: "The general lack of predicted validity for the Rorschach raises serious questions about its continued use in clinical practice.""
In commenting upon the use of the Rorschach, Dawes writes:
"Now that I am no longer a member of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee, I can express my personal opinion that the use of Rorschach interpretations in establishing an individual's legal status and child custody is the single most unethical practice of my colleagues. It is done, widely.
Losing legal rights as a result of responding to what is presented as a "test of imagination," often in the context of "helping" violates what I believe to be a basic ethical principle in this society - that people are judged on the basis of what they do, not on the basis of what they feel, think, or might have a propensity to do. And being judged on an invalid assessment of such thoughts, feelings, and propensities amounts to losing one's civil rights on an essentially random basis."
Example 8 The psychologist in this example interpreted the Rorschach as reflecting:
... highly defensive stance which is accompanied with blocking, censoring, and inhibition of his underlying affect ... an undercurrent of anxiety, unrequited love, and cloaked sexuality ... difficulty with relating appropriately to others ... latent polymorphous perverse orientation to the environment ... fantasies (that may include) homosexual, bisexual, and exhibitionist feelings ... hostility toward women ...
Examination of the man's actual responses to the Rorschach yields no evidence for interpreting his Rorschach as pathological. Although there is indication of scoring, apparently using the Klopfer or Beck scoring approaches, there is no report of any of the ratios and no attempt to base any of the interpretations upon either a scoring summary or specific responses. Within the Rorschach literature the actual responses of the client do not warrant these interpretations. They are personal, subjective, and idiosyncratic interpretations. The interpretations assert the reality of inferred unconscious processes going on inside the client. There are no scientific data to support postulation of these intervening variables. The phrase, "latent polymorphous perverse orientation to the environment," is meaningless jargon with no referent in reality.