Who Invented the Inkblot Test


The inkblot test was invented in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach. This test, which is what would be considered a projective psychological test, consists of 10 inkblots that are printed on individual cards. There are five color cards and then five black and white cards, each designed to help a psychologist evaluate the mental state of a patient they are treating. It was initially published in Psychodiagnostik.

Rorschach himself was born in Switzerland and the idea behind the inkblot test is believed to come from his interest in poetry. Justinus Kerner published a book of poems in 1857 that were inspired by random inkblots and it is believe that this book was a background inspiration for the test itself. Rorschach died of what is believed to have been appendicitis just a year after creating the test.

Others Took Up the Cause After Rorschach’s Death

Hermann Rorschach decided to pursue science and medicine in his 20’s, having an initial fascination with art. Part of this was due to his father, who was an art teacher, who died when he was 19. His mother had passed away 7 years earlier. Being torn between what he felt like he should do and what he wanted to do, he wrote Ernst Haeckel to ask what he should do. Being a biologist, Haeckel encouraged Rorschach to pursue science.

After passing away at the early age of 37, the inkblot test that he created was picked up by other professionals so that it could be further developed. The German psychologist, Bruno Klopfer, began by making improvements to the scoring system of the test that Rorschach had developed. Klopfer also began to promote projective personality tests as an important part of the diagnostic criteria, which brought the inkblot test to the forefront of mental health care and it has stayed there for a century.

By 1960, the Rorschach test was so popular that is was ranked eighth in the tests that were given for outpatient care for mental health issues.

There Is Some Controversy With the Inkblot Test

The primary issue that many people have with the inkblot test is the fact that the entire process is subjective. It is based first on an interpretation of what people believe the inkblot to be. It is then diagnosed based on the psychologist’s perception of the patient’s perception. Although it can be an effective assessment tools with certain diagnostic issues, it is not always a fair definition of mental stability.

Despite this, however, the inkblot test is still used today in a wide variety of applications. Jails use it to help determine if prisoners should be eligible for parole. Schools use the test to assess how emotionally stable a child might be. Hospitals use it to help diagnose issues and even the court systems today use the test to decide on parental custodial rights.

Hermann Rorschach may have lived a short life, but the contributions that he made have resounded for many generations. Although not everyone may agree with the inkblot test, there is no denying the fact that is has been seen and used as an effective tool to help others throughout the last 100 years and looks to continue having an influential presence on society in the future.