What is Herman Rorschach Inkblot Test? Definition and Tests

Rorschach Inkblot Test

The Rorschach test is one of the projective personality tests, developed by a Swiss psychiatrist, Herman Rorschach (1884-1922) in 1921. Rorschach splashed ink onto a piece of paper and then folded the paper in half, forming a symmetrical model to make the test.

Rorschach used ten symmetrical inkblots, irregular in outline, and varied in shading, in which 5 of the cards in the test are black, white, and gray, the remaining 5 cards and others are of various colors. These unstructured cards were used as a diagnostic tool. While administrating the test the subjects were asked what they saw in the inkblots, and their responses were recorded.

Rorschach Test

There are several steps in the administration of the test. The subject has presented these cards and is asked to describe what they look like. Each of these cards is presented one at a time and the test is taken individually. There are no right or wrong answers. This test administration is divided into three periods.

Rorschach Test Periods

Free Association Period

In this free association, the period examiner records the subjects, responses, comments, reactions, and time taken for the first response. The total time for the test, the position of the card, and the time when each of those responsibilities is given are recorded.

For example, a teenager whose parents were divorcing and battling for custody of her was shown an inkblot similar to the one produced in the figure above. The subject saw a girl being torn apart down the middle, “with feelings of each side”, just as she felt torn by the conflict at home.

Inquiry Period

After the responses of all ten cards have been presented, the examiner questions the examinee about each response to find out which part of the blot was used to respond. The subject is also enquired about the important features of the pictures.

For example, questions such as “what gave you that impression?” and “what made it seem like a…?” These verbal, as well as non-verbal comments, gestures, mannerisms, attitudes, and behaviors, are recorded.

Testing of the Limits

In the third period of the Rorschach test, the examiner notes what kinds of responses have not been given by the subject, responses usually which are given by the other subjects. The examiner suggests to the subject to see like others see it, and tries to discover whether it is due to failure, lack of interest, unwillingness, or inability that is the cause for the subject’s oversight.

Rorschach Test Criteria

After the responses have been tabulated and scored an interpretation of the Rorschach test is done on the basis of four main criteria, location, determinants, contents, and originality. The interpretation of RT is a skill that requires expertise to convey its meanings.


The subject’s preference of using a whole blot (W), a large detail (D), a tiny detail (d), is indicators of his personality. For example, using the entire part of the blot is said to include integrative, conceptual thinking, whereas the use of a high portion of small details suggests compulsive rigidity. The extensive use of D is said to indicate the individual’s attention to the routine problems of daily life.


Determinants covers movement (M), animal motion (FM), color (C), and shading (K). Many subjects perceive it as though they are performing or doing something involving action, such as kicking feet, two bears climbing, etc.

Animals in motion (FM) are considered to represent a more infantile level of fantasy that is not based on external reality. The heavy reliance on color might indicate impulsive behavior, while using few colors in the response may point out depression and lack of C responses indicate avoidance of emotional stimulation. An excess of M indicates responsiveness to inner impulses.


The individual’s responses are divided into man, animal, trees, scene, man-made objects sexual indication, attitudes, interests, etc.


The responses given by the subject are divided into whether it is popular, original, and normal or deviated from the normal responses of other subjects.

Assessing the reliability and validity of Rorschach‘s interpretation is a difficult task. Critics of the Rorschach test have noted the absence of any psychological theory that justifies these interpretations. The expenses involved to administer the test also make it very difficult to approach.

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