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Chapter 14

Chapter 14

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Chapter 14: Projective Personality Tests
Projective personality tests such as the Rorschach are perhaps the most controversial and most
misunderstood psychological tests. The Rorschach has been vigorously attacked on a variety of
scientific and statistical groups, yet surveys of psychological test usage in the United States
consistently find the Rorschach continues to be one of the most widely used tests in clinical
It was found that five projective techniques (two of which were Rorschach and the TAT) were
among the 10 testing instruments most frequently used in clinical settings
The Rorschach is used extensively by psychologists and widely taught in doctoral training
programs for clinical psychologists
Projective hypothesis proposes that when people attempt to understand an ambiguous or vague
stimulus, their interpretation of that stimulus reflects their needs, feelings, experiences, prior
conditioning, thought processes, and so forth
Although what the subject finally sees in a stimulus is assumed to be a reflection of personal
qualities or characteristics, some responses may be more revealing than others
Examiners can never draw absolute, definite conclusions from any single response to an ambiguous
stimulus. They can only hypothesize what a test response means. Even the same response to the
same stimulus may have several possible meanings, depending on the characteristics of the people
who make the response
A problem with all projective tests is that many factors can influence one’s response to them. It
may reflect something one has witnessed or something one imagines rather than something one
has actually experience directly. It may reflect day-to-day problems
The interpretation of projective tests requires highly trained experienced practitioners
Historical Antecedents
J. Kerner noted that individuals frequently reported idiosyncratic or unique personal meanings
when viewing inkblot stimuli. The wide variety of possible responses to inkblots does provide a
rationale for using them to study individuals
Binet proposed the idea of using inkblots to assess personality functioning when Rorschach was
only 10 years old
Rorschach’s investigation of inkblots began in 1911 and culminated in 1921 with the publication of
his famous book Psychodiagnostik
David Levy first brought Rorschach’s test to the United States from Europe, he found a cold,
unenthusiastic response. U.S. psychologists judged the test to be scientifically unsound, and
psychiatrists found little use for it. The use of the test gradually increased, and eventually it
became quite popular
Five individuals have played dominant roles in the use and investigation of Rorschach. One of
these, Samuel J. Beck, was a student of Levy’s. Beck was especially interested in studying certain
patterns or, as he called them, β€œconfigurational tendencies” in Rorschach responses.
Like Beck, Marguerite Hertz stimulated considerable research on the Rorschach during the years
when the test first established its foothold in the United States. Bruno Klopfer, published several
key Rorschach books and articles and played an important role in the early development of the test
Zygmunt Piotrowski and David Rapaport came somewhat later than Beck, Hertz, and Klopfer, but
like them continues to exert an influence on clinical practitioners who use the Rorschach
Each expert developed a unique system of administration, scoring, and interpretation; they all
found disciples who were willing to accept their biases and use their systems

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Stimuli, Administration, and Interpretation
Rorschach constructed each stimulus card by dropping ink onto a piece of paper and folding it. The
result was unique, bilaterally symmetrical form on a white background
After experimenting with thousands of such blots, Rorschach selected 20. However, the test
publisher would only pay for 10. Only 10 finally selected, five were black and gray, two contained
black, gray, and red, and three contained pastel colours of various shades
The Rorschach is an individual test. In the administration procedure, each of the 10 cards is
presented to the subject with minimum structure. After preliminary remarks concerning the
purpose of testing, the examiner hands the first card to the subject and asks something like, β€œWhat
might this be?” No restriction is placed on the type of response permitted, and no clues are given
concerning what is expected
If the subject asks for guidance or clarification, the examiner gives little information. Anxious
subjects who are made uncomfortable by unstructured situations frequently ask questions,
attempting to find out as much as possible before committing themselves. The examiner, however,
must not give any cues that might reveal the nature of the expected response
In review of the finding that the examiner may inadvertently reveal information or reinforce
certain types of responses through facial expressions and other forms of nonverbal communication
The lack of clear structure or direction with regard to demands and expectations is a primary
feature of all projective tests. The idea is to provide as much ambiguity as possible so that the
subject’s response reflects only the subject
If the examiner inadvertently provides too many guidelines, the response may simply reflect the
subject’s tendency to perform as expected or to provide a socially desirable response. Therefore, an
administration that provides too much structure is antithetical to the main idea behind projective
Each card is administered twice. During the free-association phase of the test, the examiner
presents the cards one at a time. If the subject gives only one response to the first card, then the
examiner may say, β€œSome people see more than one thing here.” The examiner usually makes this
remark once
If the subject rejects the card – that is, states that he/she sees nothing – then the examiner may
reply, β€œMost people do see something here, just take your time.” The examiner records every word
and even every sound made by the subject verbatim
In addition, the examiner records how long it takes a subject to respond to a card (reaction time)
and the position of the card when the response is made (upside down, sideways)
In the second phase, the inquiry, the examiner shows the cards again and scores the subject’s
responses. Responses are scored according to at least five dimensions, including location (where
the perception was seen), determinant (what determined the response), form quality (to what
extent the response matched the stimulus properties of the inkblot), content (what the perception
was), and frequency of occurrence (to what extent the response was popular or original; popular
responses occur once in every three protocols on average)
In scoring for location, the examiner must determine where the subject’s perception is located on
the inkblot. TO facilitate determining this location, a small picture of each card, known as the
location chart, is provided. If necessary, on rare occasions, an examiner may give a subject a pencil
and ask the subject to outline the perception on the location chart
In scoring for location, the examiner notes whether the subject used the whole blot (W), a common
detail (d), or an unusual detail (Dd). Location may be scored for other factors as well, such as the
confabulatory response (DW). In this response, the subject overgeneralizes from a part to the
The information in which scoring categories are summarized as a frequency or percentage, is
known as the quantitative, structural, or statistical aspect of the Rorschach as opposed to the
qualitative aspects, which pertain to the content and sequence of responses

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Normal subjects typically produce a balance of W, D, and Dd responses. When a subject’s pattern
deviates from the typical balance, the examiner begins to suspect problems. However, no one has
been able to demonstrate that a particular deviation is liked to a specific problem
The relative proportion of W, D, Dd location choices varies with maturational development. W
responses occur most frequently in the 3 – to 4-year-old group. As the child grows older, the
frequency of W responses gradually decreases until young adulthood. Theoretically, adult protocols
with a preponderance of W responses suggest immaturity or low mental age
The examiner must determine what it was about the inkblot that led the subject to see that
particular percept. This factor is known as the determinant. One or more of at least four properties
of an inkblot may determine or lead to a response: its form or shape, its perceived movement, its
colour, and its shading. If the subject uses only the form of the blot to determine a response, then
the response is scored F and is called a pure form response. Responses are scored for form when the
subject justifies or elaborates a response by statements such as β€œit looks like one,” it is shaped
liked one”
In addition to form, a perception may be based on movement, colour, shading, or some combination
of these factors. These other determinants can be further subdivided. Movement may be human
(M), such as two people hugging; animal (FM), such as two elephants playing; or inanimate (m),
such as sparks flying
As with location, several attempts have been made to link the presence of each determinant as well
as the relative proportion of the various determinants to various hypotheses and empirical
Many experts believe that the movement response related to motor activity and impulses.
Numerous movement responses, may suggest high motor activity or strong impulses. The ration of
M (human movement) to FM (animal movement) responses has been linked by some experts to a
person’s control and expression of internal impulses
A special type of movement response is called cooperative movement. Such responses involve
positive interaction between two or more humans or animals. Such responses provide information
about subject’s attitude concerning how people interact
Identifying the determinant is the most difficult aspect of Rorschach administration. Because of
the difficulties of conducting an adequate inquiry and the current lack of standardized
administration procedures, examiners vary widely in the conduct of their inquiries
It has been know for years that examiner differences influence the subject’s response. As a result
of this problem, much of the Rorschach literature confounded by differences in administration and
scoring alone, let alone interpretation
Scoring content is relatively simple, Most authorities list content categories such as human (H),
animal (A), and nature (N). An inquiry is generally not necessary to determine content
Form quality is the extent to which the percept matches the stimulus properties of the inkblot.
Scoring form quality is difficult. Some experts argue that if the examiner can also see the percept,
then the response has adequate form quality, but if the examiner cannot see it, then the response
has poor form quality and is score F-
Rorschach protocols may be evaluated not only for its quantitative data but also for qualitative
features, including specific content and sequence of responses. One important aspect of a
qualitative interpretation is an evaluation of content reported frequently by emotionally disturbed,
mentally retarded, or brain-damaged individuals but infrequently by the normal population
Confabulatory responses illustrate the idea behind qualitative interpretations. In this type of
response, the subject overgeneralizes from a part to a whole. Experts believe the more
confabulatory responses a subject makes, the more likely that he/she is in a disordered state
Psychometric Properties
Clinical Validation
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