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Summary Article: Rorschach, Hermann (1884–1922)
From The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science

Hermann Rorschach received his medical degree from Zurich in 1912 with a dissertation concerning hallucinations that was supervised by Bleuler. Except for a year on the staff of a sanitorium near Moscow, his career was spent mainly in posts at Swiss mental hospitals, but with some time in Russia. Heavily influenced by Freud, he was a promoter of psychoanalysis among Swiss psychiatrists.

In 1896, Binet and Henri had suggested the use of standardized inkblots to measure imagination. Rorschach was also familiar with Jung’s verbal free-association testing technique. Putting these two notions together, he extended the inkblot technique to the measurement of entire personality, but especially unconscious emotions. In fact, he had strong interests in art and had spent time drawing, including inkblots, while in secondary school.

Rorschach developed the 10 bilaterally symmetrical cards we know today from a very large number administered to a variety of psychiatric groups beginning in 1911. After supplementary testing with normals, retardates, and other special groups, he issued the first German edition in 1921. Intended for use from preschool to adult (although his data were mostly from adults), the test was scored primarily for the ratio of color to movement responses. His somewhat typological scoring system was based upon a combination of the observable and clinical insight or intuition.

With the development of a statistically based scoring system by Samuel Beck during the 1930s and by Bruno Klopfer in the early 1940s, the technique became popular in the United States. Both the Beck and Klopfer systems have declined in popularity, being replaced either by the Exner method of scoring the Rorschach or by the more empirically based Holtzman Inkblot Technique.

Suggested Readings
  • Ellenberger, H. (1954). The life and work of Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 18, 172-219.
  • Rorschach, H. (1921). Psychodiagnostik. Bern: Bircher.
    The University of the South, TN
    Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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