Rorschach Test - Science or Pseudo-science?

I recently stumbled upon a site…

… that provides some information about the Rorschach Test, including what the “right” answers are, and what the “wrong” answers mean. After reading it, I’m extrememly skeptical about the test, and wonder how much good science is behind it. Is it in the same catagory as phrenology and graphology, or what? Thanks.

One of the “Big Secrets” books by William Poundstone talks about the Rorschach test. It seems that some psychologists think that the test is a load of crap, while others (probably the ones that are big on Freud) think that this is God’s Own Personality Test. Frankly, I think that it’s B.S.

In the psychology class I took, the teacher was very sceptical about them. Then again, most of the class material basically showed that the modern (or, at least the 70’s) way of dealing with mental illness was almost worse than not treating it at all.

After that class, I am afraid of psychiatry.

There’s a link here to PDF files of an article called “The Scientific Status of Projective Techniques” in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, and one called “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” in Scientific American. Both take a skeptical view of Rorschach. There was an article in Skeptical Inquirer in the last year or two also which viewed Rorschach and other similar tests as less than rigorous.

Probably BS, as far as I’m concerned. I read Poundstone’s rundown on it (which was in the first Big Secrets book), and most of it seemed somewhat arbitrary. I could understand it being a useful psychological tool if the shrink analyzed your answers in and of themself, but if there truly is a “key”, as Poundstone insinuates, this smacks of crap science. For those who don’t have the book, there are a few key things to remember. First of all, each inkblot is specific, and copyrighted. A lot of people (myself included) were under the impression that these were truly random inkblots. Secondly, each inkblot has areas that represent sex organs (again, this is according to Poundstone). A prime focus of this is to diagnose people’s Freudian sex-related hangups. Poundstone even claims that certain inkblots are used to indicate schizophrenia. (Supposedly, schizophrenics see specific images in the blank areas of certain inkblots).

Anyway, I don’t want to break any copyrights here, or spread any misinformation, since Poundstone may well be full of shit. However, he makes a pretty good case for his assertions, and the images in the book of the Rorschach inkblots do look like the ones I remember seeing back when I was a kid.

In my intro Psychology text, it said that for what it was designed for, this test had a correlation coefficient of 0.33, which means that if you wanted to find the answer to a yes-no question, you’d get it right about 66% of the time. Of course, flipping a coin gets you the right answer 50% of the time. You wouldn’t want to say that it’s absolutely useless, but if you were trying to determine something, you’d probably use more than just this test.

I think I should point out that, IMO, there are a few things in Psychology that the average person believes would be absolutely useless, but that have been shown through scientific studies not to be.

Achernar: Um, I believe you’re thinking about the coefficient of determination (R2) which is the square of the correlation coefficient.

In your example a correlation coefficient of .33 implies that one variable can explain about 11% of the variance.

Not sqrt(.33) (=.57)

FWIW, .33 might indicate a moderate effect, except that I’m not sure what variables are being studied here.

Okay, my apologies for getting that wrong. I don’t remember that certainly the measurement that was given in the book, but I’m fairly sure about the 66% figure.

I have been a licensed psychotherapist for about eight years. I do not do psych testing, but I read about 20 to 30 psych evaluations a year to help make decisions concerning the placement of children at a residential treatment center (reading the psych eval is only one part of the process). I don’t see the Rorschach that much. I personally do not give the results that much weight anyway. I don’t see it as a serious diagnostic tool- too ambiguous, not reliable. The Thematic Apperception Test (where the subject looks at a simple picture and has to tell a story about what is happening) and the Rotter Incomplete Sentence Test (Ex: My Dad is …, Women think that I am…) are administered much more frequently. I read the results of these two tests not so much as an empirically reliable personality assessment tool, but rather as a way to find out more about the person and what he is going through at the present time. These tests that allow “open ended” answers can give a reader some insight into the person that they otherwise would may not have learned.

My dad is…dead.
Women think that I am…a bitch.

What does that tell you? :confused:

(BTW, I’m very happy with my psychiatrist; this is not an attack on psychiatry, which has saved my life, but genuine curiousity.)

You’re a half dead bitch? :eek: :smiley:

I’ve only taken intro Psychology, so I may be going out on a limb here. However, I think that you should be careful about asking how a Psychology test works - if you find out, it may affect the results if the test is ever administered on you.

Achernar - Based on what I have learned so far, I would not submit to the test. The test sounds so bad, so dangerous, that a little knowledge of the test is the only way to protect yourself.

KenP, I’m a bit curious, how could the Rorschach test be truly dangerous, as opposed to simply misleading? Do you mean dangerous in how they interpet the results, or am I missing something at this point?

Boy, it is accurate, then! :smiley:

Note that the info on the site is copied directly from the Poundstone book, with no credit given. :frowning:

Psychological tests can be dangerous:

  1. If a prospective employer gave a Rorschach test, it would be best to just hand over the “correct” answers.

  2. There is the case of “Dr. Death” of Texas, who gave murder suspects psych tests and invariably declared that they posed a risk to society at large. (The movie, A Thin Blue Line detailed the experience of one of those inmates who was later exonerated for his alleged crime.)

  3. If the test’s underpinnings are built on flimsy non-scientific evidence and the test happens to be a poor indicator of everything, then gaming it does no harm. False results, which would occur part of the time if the test is essentially a random indicator, could be harmful, OTOH.