a century later, it still divides

Inkblot from a Rorschach test.

What could it be? Ink stain. Symmetrical. Odd. Rather beautiful… Certainly, but still? It looks like a bat. Unless it’s female? A basin x-ray? This scene evokes an interview between a therapist and his patient, to whom he makes pass the Rorschach test. Very present in popular culture, painted by Warhol, staged by many film directors, this test, although controversial, has enjoyed persistent success.

It owes its name to the psychiatrist who invented it, Hermann Rorschach, son of an art teacher, who hesitated for a long time between an artistic and a medical career. “Hermann Rorschach was very interested in optical illusions. He stayed in Russia, where he collected drawings published in newspapers, in which a main image houses hidden elements. He was also interested in the ambiguity that emerges from composite images,” explains the psychologist Sadegh Nashat, lecturer at the University of Geneva and fine connoisseur of the work of Rorschach, whose archives he studied, kept at the University of Bern.

To develop his test, the psychiatrist made a hundred studies of inkblots, more or less complex, always presenting an (imperfect) mirror symmetry. “These boards are not the result of chance, but of meticulous work. To test them, he presented them to difficult adolescents placed in institutions, and to people with schizophrenia, asking them what they were about. By studying their answers, he thought he could discern certain pathologies and personality traits.continues Mr. Nashat.

two streams

In 1921 Hermann Rorschach published Psychodiagnosis, the work in which he presents his method. He will hardly have time to deepen his research: he dies suddenly the following year, at the age of 37. “He himself considered his work as a beginning and warned against hasty interpretations that could be drawn from his test”underlines Jacques Van Rillaer, professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Louvain, in Belgium.

The specialized search engine Google Scholar identifies 118,000 publications having been devoted to it

Initially received rather coldly by his colleagues, the Rorschach test is gradually gaining in popularity, used in clinical practice but also in the context of legal expertise and for recruitment. It has been the subject of numerous scientific studies: to date, the specialized search engine Google Scholar has identified 118,000 publications devoted to it!

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