The Rorschach (pronounced 'roar-shock') inkblot test is a method of psychological evaluation. It is a projective test associated with the Freudian school of thought. Psychologists use this test to probe the unconscious mind.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Methods
3 Controversy
4 References


The Rorschach inkblot test was developed by Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychologist, in the early twentieth century. Rorschach was a proponent of Freudian psychoanalysis, which emphasizes the role of the subconscious.


There are ten "official" inkblots. Psychologists prefer that the general public not see them so that it will not skew results when the test is peformed. The psychologist shows the inkblots in a particular order and asks the patient to say the first thing that comes to mind. After the patient has seen and responded to all the inkblots, the psychologist then gives them to him again one at a time to study. The patient is asked to list everything he sees in each blot. The blot can also be rotated. Although the psychologist will not tell the patient so, spontaneous turning of the blot or asking permission to do so is seen as a positive sign if the blot is turned 90, 180, or 270 degrees; however, turning the cards at odd angles or covering portions of the cards is considered a sign of brain damage. As the patient is examining the blots, the psychologist writes down everything the patient says or does, no matter how trivial. The psychologist takes into account whether all of the card or a portion of it is used.


Methods of interpretation differ. In one interpretation, each inkblot reveals the patient's feelings about a particular person or situation. For example, one inkblot is supposed to represent the patient's mother. Negative comments regarding the images in this inkblot indicate unresolved conflict with the mother. Another inkblot shows how the patient feels about his father. Most, if not all, inkblots contain sexual symbols and images. Some are quite blatant. More than four mentions of sexual imagery means that the patient has an obsession with sex. Seeing certain images may indicate schizophrenia, although this is disputable.


The Rorschach ink blot test is controversial for several reasons. Firstly, there is no reason to believe that images found in the ink blots represent some core personality or self rather than feelings, past experience, creativity, or some other part of the mind that would not play a major part in the patient's actions.

Secondly, because the blots of ink are inherently meaningless and subjective, evaluating the results of a test requires the blots of ink to have meaning in the first place. Otherwise, the images projected into the patterns would be of little value in assessing personality traits. But the phychologist must project onto the patterns in order to give them any meaning and, in a sense, take the test him/herself. So the results of any test will not only show what the patient projected onto the ink blots, but also what the psychologist projected onto the projections of the patient. Third parties could be called in to evaluate what effect the psychologist's interpretations had on the results of the test, but the third parties' evaluations would also be slanted by their own subconscious interpretations of meaningless patterns. The process of evaluating and re-evaluating could go on for ever.

Thirdly, although a large number of people with a certain trait see specific images in an ink blot-—sociable people have a tendency to see animals in this image; people with schizophrenia have a tendency to see a vase in this image-—any given person who sees an image that is seen in an ink blot by a large number of people with a specific trait will not necessarily have that trait her/himself. The Holtzman Inkblot Test was designed to resolve some of the problems of the Rorschach test.

When interpreted as a projective test, results are poorly verifiable. The Exxner system of scoring, which interprets the test in terms of what factor (shading, color, outline, etc.) of the inkblot leads to each of the tested person's comments, is meant to address this, but problems of test validity remain.


The Skeptic’s dictionary,;

for a thorough examination of the test,;

Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology,;

for more information about the scoring system,;

for a history of inkblot techniques,