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IN THIRD Grade, I had a Rorschach. No, my mother didn’t have me tested. The Cleveland Board of Education did, as part of its innovative Major Work Class, a kinda early-1950s A.P. program. Apparently I was found sufficiently non-pathological to be enrolled in Major Work. To this day, I remember fondly its open classroom and highly interactive schooling.
That was the sole Rorschach of my life, though from time to time I’ve had other psychological evaluations, a couple of which suggested to me the analogy that social science is to science as military music is to music. Or maybe it was just my answers.
One of these tests was administered, around high-school graduation time, by the Ohio State Employment Bureau. After what seemed like a half-day of extensive questioning (it might have been 30 minutes), the tester lady said brightly, “Well, these show you want to be an orchestra conductor. What instrument do you play?”
I responded, “None.” From that point on, the tester lady displayed decidedly subdued interest.
In truth, I love music but believe that, years before, I had flunked the Third Grade tone-discerner test, and thus wasn’t offered a school-provided musical instrument to take home proudly in its neat imitation-leather case.
I wonder, did this failure affect my performance on the Rorschach? Or lead to its taking?
All this came back to me while reading “Bear, Bat, or Tiny King?” by Deborah Friedell in the London Review of Books, November 2, 2017. Deborah reviews The Inkblots, by Damion Searls, what she calls, “the first history of ‘probably the ten most interpreted and analysed paintings of the 20th century.’ ”
Hermann Rorschach, 1884–1922, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who, Friedell notes, “started creating personality tests when he was bored during the First World War.” She quotes Rorschach complaining to sanatorium colleagues about “the Germans’ duty to kill as many Frenchmen as possible, and the Frenchman’s duty to kill as many Germans as possible, while it’s our duty to sit here right in the middle and say ‘Good Morning’ to our schizophrenic patients every day.”
Each of the ten standard inkblots that Rorschach devised is symmetric. Five of them are monochromatic; two add red bits; the last three are multi-hued.
The person being tested is shown each, in order, and asked to freely-associate the image with whatever comes to mind. Multiple answers are fine. At the very least, the test is useful in encouraging people to chat. Rorschach specialists go much, no, make that much, much deeper in assigning psychological traits to responses of one sort or another.
The Wikipedia article offers details, with typical responses cited such as “bat,” “animal skin,” and “human figures.”
Apparently, “Mom preparing poison for dad’s lunch kit” might set off pathology alarms.
I don’t recall any of my Third Grade responses. But No. 3 sure looks like “two amorous bebop cats jamming opposing ivories.”
Your turn. We can meet here tomorrow. (Anonymity is my watchword.)
According to Wikipedia, these days, 80 percent of psychology graduate programs in the U.S. teach the Rorschach Test. By contrast, it notes “Many psychologists in the United Kingdom do not trust its efficacy and it is rarely used.”
Instead, 80 percent of Brit psychologists use the MMPI, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Friedell devotes a portion of her article to the MMPI. It’s an extensive questionnaire, probing agreement/disagreement with statements such as “I enjoy detective or mystery stories.”
I wonder if the Ohio State Employment Bureau used the MMPI in guiding me into a fulfilling life of orchestra conductor?
The MMPI was ginned up in the 1930s by doctors at a University of Minnesota hospital. The test’s control group, known as “Minnesota normals,” was comprised of friends and relatives visiting the doctors’ patients. Minnesota normals, notes Friedell, were “all of them white, mostly rural, overwhelmingly Protestant.”
Hands, please, of those surprised that non-whites are found to display more psychopathology in their MMPI responses than the control group.
I restate my earlier comment about social science:science as military music:music.
In concluding, back in the late 1970s, I had an excellent job at SAE International, only to jump ship to R&T engineering editor. SAE asked me to sit an exit psychological evaluation, the results shared with me.
The tester wrote, “You are a rare individual who is able to fulfill his dreams in a rational manner.”
He didn’t mention the one about orchestra conductor. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017