Rating the Rorschach | Measuring Basic Aesthetic Responses to the 10 Rorschach Inkblots

Barry Dauphin, Ph.D., M.A. Mindee Juve, and B.A. Victoria Burnett

The Rorschach Inkblot Method (RIM) is a widely used psychological testing instrument. Patients respond to the ambiguous blots, which are analyzed to provide an understanding of personality and diagnostic characteristics of individuals. Although the test was developed several decades ago, Exner (2005) has suggested that there has not been enough research on the Rorschach to understand the basic stimulus properties of the blots. The present research is part of an effort to better understand how average individuals respond to the blots in very basic ways, apart from providing verbal responses to the blots. Although there has been some previous research in this area, it is not clear how relevant these findings are to contemporary participants. Furthermore, previous research has little diversity in the samples of participants.

Participants were shown the Rorschach inkblots in the standard sequential format. Instead of describing what the blots look like, the participants were asked to rate the blots on a large set of adjectives. The present study examines subjects’ responses to rating the Rorschach according to the likeability of each blot. Likeability represents a very basic emotional response or preference. Previous attempts to rate the Rorschach in this manner were undertake almost 3 decades ago (Insua, 1981) and the study was run in another country. The basic questions for the current research were how would contemporary Americans respond to the Rorschach blots and how would these responses compare to a sample from almost 30 years ago?

Statistical analyses of likeability ratings indicated that there were substantial differences between the blots in terms of likeability ratings, and that the differences were sometimes quite large. Although the relative likeability of the blots was consistent with earlier research, a couple of blots show substantial differences from previous research. Differences between males and females with respect to blot ratings emerged on only one of the blots. Overall, it appears that males liked the blots more than females.

The research project aims to collect ratings from a large sample over time to create numerical likeability ratings for the blots that would be representative of gender, ethnicity, and other factors. These ratings and others could provide a background upon which to improve some aspects of Rorschach interpretation.