Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Dealing with Inkblots

One of the most famous psychological tests is the Rorschach or inkblot test.  It's very controversial, with some people arguing it's pseudoscience and others saying it gives valuable insights.  Actually, they're both right.  It has no objective basis in that different people will score the same response in different ways, and that's before  accounting for cultural differences. However, any kind of symbolic material can serve as inspiration for useful conversations.  The problem comes when someone makes binding decisions based on these test results -- that  is the pseudoscience.  It penalizes people for not doing what someone else wanted.

I've been watching this for a long time, and finally found where someone scanned the images online.  Previously you could only find vague replicas.  This page has the full-color cards along with instructions on what the tester wants to hear.  Some of its observations (sexual imagery will get you in trouble, positive interpretations score better than negative ones) apply across many psychological tests.  By memorizing these, you now have two options: tell a tester you're already familiar with the test, which invalidates this and most other psych tests; or cheat on it by telling them what the handbook says everyone should see (or whatever other image you may wish to project).  That's very useful if, as is often the case, the test is being used against you and against your will.  (It's commonly used in contentious legal cases such as divorce or abuse, and sometimes in employment.)  In particular, note that this article highlights the type of lying ubiquitous throughout psych tests: falsely telling someone they can "do anything" or "it doesn't matter" when in fact everything is being scored and difference from the center of the bell curve is heavily penalized.  You really can't rely on anything they say unless you have read the instructions and scoring rubric (if there even is one) for yourself.

However, if you have a psychotherapist you like -- and you really need someone with a high level of experience for this, most counselors won't be able to follow it -- then you can get into awesomely deep territory by discussing symbolism back and forth.  Rorschach cards are great for this kind of exercise.  But so are most types of abstract art, and any kind of symbolic art such as Tarot cards.  If you study the symbolism of colors, shapes, etc. across cultures then it becomes even more illuminating.  Dream dictionaries are great for this because they give you a ton of ideas what things could  mean. You just have to account for the fact that symbolism always includes both a universal and an individual aspect.  Butterflies always have an element of transformation due to their metamorphic biology, but to an individual they might be very sad due to seeing butterflies at a grandparent's funeral.  Plus when you look at the different possible meanings, you can gain insights into how other people think, or spot parallels among several related symbols.  One Tarot card may have 12 possible meanings, but if three other cards all have one overlapping interpretation, that's the one active in this reading. Some branches of psychotherapy are really into this symbolic stuff, and it's ideal for handling some types of problem that don't lend themselves well to logic.  Or just for fun.
Tags: art, fantasy, how to, networking, safety, science
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