For many years, psychologists have used the Rorschach test, which consists of 10 inkblots, to gain insight into patients’ mental and emotional states. The underlying premise of the test is that people suffering from mental illness will respond in a markedly different way to the inkblots as compared to normal people. A young Canadian doctor recently published the inkblots on the popular Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, together with the most common responses, and many psychologists are outraged. The storm of controversy surrounding their publication stems from psychologists’ concerns with “maintaining test security.” Debate centers on the free spread of knowledge versus the protection of psychologists’ privileges – in this case, keeping the inkblots and the “expected responses” secret, so that respondents can’t “cheat” on the test.
Wikipedia users point out that the inkblots, which were first created by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach and published in 1921, long ago lost their copyright protection. The test has been an “open secret” for the last 30 years. Psychologists counter that widespread publication of the Rorschach inkblots undermines the usefulness of this psychological assessment tool, rendering its results “meaningless.”
Wikipedia has been called “unbelievably reckless” for not respecting “the concerns and dangers voiced by recognized scientists and important professional associations.” The doctor who posted the inkblots claims that the predictions of harm being alleged by those seeking to keep the plates secret have no basis in evidence. He’s not alone; many doubt the test’s validity or consider it discredited.
- A Rorschach Cheat Sheet on Wikipedia?
This New York Times article discusses the publication of the Rorschach inkblots by the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia and the controversy that ensued. (Source: New York Times, July 28, 2009)
- Rorschach Test
This Wikipedia entry contains the full series of Rorshach inkblots as well as the most commonly given interpretations given by respondents to the test.(Source: wikipedia.org; accessed August 30, 2009)
- Rorschach Test: Discredited But Still Controversial
This article points to the controversy concerning the fundamental validity of the Rorschach test that preceded the recent flap over online publication of the full series of inkblots.(Source: livescience.com, July 31, 2009)
- Invisible Ink? What Rorschach Tests Really Tell Us
This article discusses findings reported in 2000 about the validity of the Rorschach test, and other nonobjective tests, in analyzing psychological conditions.(Source: physorg.com, July 30, 2009)