How You Feel About Rorschach Tests On Wikipedia Says A Lot About You

from the meta-meta-rorschach-test dept

The NY Times has an article about how a group of psychologists are quite upset that the original 10 “Rorschach test” ink blots have been added to Wikipedia, along with brief explanations of what people commonly see in the ink blots (here’s the Wikipedia page on the Rorschach test). As I would hope most of you know, Rorschach tests are used by some psychologists, believing that what people see in the blots can tell the psychologist a lot about their personality. The ink blots themselves are in the public domain, so there’s really no legal issue over them being available, but that hasn’t stopped the complaints. Some psychologists are worried that this creates a “cheat sheet” that will be abused. To that, I say that if your test is so easily gamed, it’s time to find a different test.

But, much more bizarre is the claim by the German publisher of Rorschach’s book, Hogrefe & Huber Publishing, that it’s likely planning legal action:

We are assessing legal steps against Wikimedia…. It is therefore unbelievably reckless and even cynical of Wikipedia to on one hand point out the concerns and dangers voiced by recognized scientists and important professional associations and on the other hand — in the same article — publish the test material along with supposedly ‘expected responses.’

It’s pretty difficult to see any leg to stand on. The content is clearly in the public domain. And, on top of that, the issue shouldn’t be with Wikimedia, but the guy who uploaded the images. Also, most of that statement from the publishing company doesn’t make much sense. It’s not cynical to both post the images and the discussion about the concerns. It’s actually quite logical and reasonable.

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Comments on “How You Feel About Rorschach Tests On Wikipedia Says A Lot About You”

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41 Comments
BulmaRO says:

Streisand Effect here anyone?

i think the roschasch test is interesting, but never in my life took the time to read the wikipedia entry you know, feel like i still don’t need to know what it is used for or how.. now that they are making soo much noise is a matter of time for all to be reading and effectively learning from it.

just dumb.

Anonymous Coward says:

“German publisher of Rorschach’s book, Hogrefe & Huber Publishing, that it’s likely planning legal action:”

The view expressed in the quote express business level thinking in that their belief is that Wikipedia operates just as their company does pubishing bu usage of the same system. No grasp that the internet is different or that they are out of date.

It started with the turn of the century, the 19th to 20th that is and progressed through WW1. The horse or mule was out the car or motor transportation was in. By 1930 there were many major companies and individuals that were simply out of tune with the times. They survived very well with horses and buggies but did not understand what to do with themself in a motor driven world. Add in a major financial event based on over leveraged financial speculation and you have the root causes of The Great Depression.

It started at the turn of the century, the 20th to th 21th that is. Information that was limited to the privileged and locked away in libraries became freely available at the click of a mouse. Add in a major financial event based on overleveraged financial speculation.

Anonymous Coward says:

1 = a mardi gras mask for a 4 eyed person
2 = gnomes about to arm wrestle… or play paddy cake
3 = the face of an insect in weird lighting
4 = the front view of a badass rugged guy riding a motorcycle
5 = a moth
6 = ink that smudged when some dumbass folded a sheet of paper with ink at the crease
7 = clouds
8 = another bug face
9 = blue people kissing
10 = an ice queen bitch in a pink coat, blue bra, and green/yellow chaps charging up a blue hyduken fireball

am i crazy doc?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1: Evil demon (how can anyone see a butterfly?)
2: a pelvis bone as seen from above
3: A death shroud for an alien (that one from Titan AE)
4: I can’t see, I think our Internet connection is broken (or wikipedia is)
5: I can’t see how anyone doesn’t see a bat
6: yeah, ink blot
7: a necklace
8: A CAT scan of a brain
9: Sea horses on coral
10: a salsa party with lobster and crayfish

It doesn’t look like all forms of crazy are covered by with Wiki article.

Isn’t the entire point of an inkblot test just to gauge a response? The picture doesn’t matter, only the answer. They could just easily get new ones. Oh, and I’ve never been given these inkblots before, I’ve only ever seen them on TV.

elmer (profile) says:

I can see why

I can see why they wouldn’t what these readily available. It’s not a matter of copyright but of being able to administer the test without having the results muddled by prior exposure. It’s akin to having the answers to personality tests given out (that is how different answers are measured). It would seriously undermine the legitimacy of the tests.

I’m a little surprised though that there are only 10 images that are used. It seems that with so much time having passed new ones would have been created to supplement/replace the old ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

I seen an episode on pen and teller telling everyone how easy it is to cheat a lie detector test. I personally wouldn’t take all these crazy psychological tests seriously, in fact, those who do are probably psycho themselves (there is a new test, ask someone if they’re insane enough to take one of these tests seriously and if they are then you label them insane).

Jake says:

A thought occurs to me. Remember that story about the Erin Andrews nude video, where you came to the conclusion that downloading it wasn’t legal, but if you do you’re kind of a jerk?
I’d say that if someone points out to Wikimedia that one of their articles could potentially hinder people’s access to needed psychiatric treatment, and Wikimedia effectively shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s in the public domain; not our problem”, that really isn’t much more morally defensible.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A thought occurs to me. Remember that story about the Erin Andrews nude video, where you came to the conclusion that downloading it wasn’t legal, but if you do you’re kind of a jerk?
I’d say that if someone points out to Wikimedia that one of their articles could potentially hinder people’s access to needed psychiatric treatment, and Wikimedia effectively shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s in the public domain; not our problem”, that really isn’t much more morally defensible.

Really? I don’t believe they’re even in the same ballpark. The Erin Andrews video was a massive violation of her privacy. Rorschach inkblots don’t have privacy.

Jan says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is not about privacy but it is about – maybe not illegal but real – harm done to innocent people.

Believe it or not, Rorschach is very powerful tool that can be used by therapist to help people who really really suffer (and trust me I know what I am talking about – if I had to pick cancer or schizophrenia I would prefer to get cancer). Previous exposure to this test can make this test useless so this very needed help is not accessible to those people. This does not seem unethical and disgusting to you?

Even when writing about movies they have decency to put SPOILER WARNING before the plot of the movie – and this is not just about movies – it’s about someones health and therapists ability to help them – don’t you think it deserves some concern?

The fact that some people do not believe Rorschach is valid does not mean anything. It’s like saying “hey, experts say this Ebola virus is deadly but I don’t believe this… let me kiss you”.

Jake says:

Re: Re: Re:

My point exactly, Jan. I will grant that the publishing company is way off base in making it out to be Wikimedia’s fault, -for that matter I can’t imagine that whoever wrote the article was acting maliciously- but I would respectfully argue that they are complicit if they knowingly permit their flagship product to be used in a way that causes people harm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Previous exposure to this test can make this test useless so this very needed help is not accessible to those people. This does not seem unethical and disgusting to you?

I question your premise. If by “prior exposure” you mean “instense study” or “memorization,” then your conclusion may be valid — it may invalidate the use of the test in the future. However, I would wager that a vanishingly small percentage of people would do this, and almost all of those that do are either in therapy or destined to become psychologists. Or both, I suppose.

If by “prior exposure” you mean “read a wikipedia article and look at them once out of curiosity” then I think it in no way invalidates the test, as the details will be forgotten rapidly.

If I’m wrong and brief, casual exposure does indeed cause problems, then the test so so fragile that it would have to be considered unreliable to begin with. These inkblots were always readily available for study: I first saw them in a book in the public library about 30 years ago.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The fact that some people do not believe Rorschach is valid does not mean anything. It’s like saying “hey, experts say this Ebola virus is deadly but I don’t believe this… let me kiss you”.

So you automatically reject any scientific investigation if it calls your dogma into question? Pyschiatry is a religion, where “normal” people are deemed healthy and “abnormal” people require expensive “treatment”. Rorschach tests are nothing more than cold reading. Might as well go to a fortune-teller. It would be cheaper.

Psychiatrist: What do you see in this inkblot?
Me: I see an idiot, and it’s you.

Clamp Down says:

Re: what this test even tells you...

Well that’s kind of the idea. Many people will do something *that* obvious and not even know it. If a person looking at the splotches tends to see different kinds of insects, and they’ve come to you for help with unresolved feelings of dread or panic attacks…

…you might ask them at some point in the therapy how they feel about spiders for example.

It’s not an exact science…but it is logical.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, psychologists are complaining about these tests in Wikipedia and threatening to sue? Clearly I need to read this Wikipedia article and get myself thoroughly acquainted with these pictures and blotches. If I memorize them I have a greater chance of understanding the issues. Thank you psychologists for pointing me to this important article.

Clamp Down says:

“It’s not cynical to both post the images and the discussion about the concerns. It’s actually quite logical and reasonable.”

Exactly.

For instance, if someone were to find a way to hack into Techdirt and fuck everything up for you guys, it would not be cynical to both post the hacking process and the discussion about your concerns about being hacked – it would be funny.

These people are clearly ignorant of the difference between cynical and funny. How ironic.

Tristin (profile) says:

Rorschachiavellian

The test was originally rather pointless and misguided. However, it was turned into a somewhat decent test a few decades after its conception. This was not a result of the inkblots themselves, however, but as a result of the scoring system built around it. Because there was such a massive amount of data available from decades of scoring, the test researchers were able to see patterns and reach conclusions that they consider accurate and reliable.

The problem the psychologists have with this situation is not that simply that their precious inkblots are tainted, but that they will be required to start over gathering data and figuring out how it can show a personality. And this time they won’t have the benefit of decades of naivety to keep an illegitimate test in use. Which means it will cost a lot of money.

The even bigger problem I have with this situation is that it is just now gaining attention. I gave a presentation on the test as an undergraduate about five years ago. I used mock inkblots I found on the Internet as examples, but was told by my professor afterwords that half of the examples were real inkblots from the Rorschach test. I dug a little deeper and found the entire test and its common interpretations without much trouble. That was 5 YEARS ago!

I say thank heavens this has finally received mass publicity. The longer psychologists were in denial about the effectiveness of their test, the more diagnoses were compromised by questionable results.

Nate (profile) says:

Re: my first look at the cards.

1. mask. angel. birds.

2. clown. 2 bears.

3. 2 people carrying a pedestal

4. mountain. wizard with shadow above him.

5. something is in flight. or pinned to the wall of a display case.

6. bear skin rug. great statue.

7. two girls looking at each other. one girl looking at her reflection.

8. A fire. two animals standing over a fire next to water

9. moose and a deer

10. underwater scene. seahorses. blue crab. red sea eels

Rekrul says:

1. Two angels trying to lift someone up.
2. Two elephants touching trunks.
3. Two guys in old-time suits lifting a pot.
4. Frankenstein’s monster lying down without arms, but with a massive penis. Or a guy on a motorcycle.
5. Bug alien from an old Doctor Who episode.
6. The Spaceship from the movie Lifeforce.
7. Nothing.
8. Alien wearing a helmet from a Japanese SciFi show/movie.
9. A giant frog behind a long-necked cow wearing a blouse.
10. A character from a Japanese anime, wearing red robes, a pointed hat and holding pom-poms.

Mike (profile) says:

Not Just Copyright, Not Just Rorschach

As someone who studies psychology, I’d like to agree with and add something to what Jan said above.

This test *critically* relies on people being honest and open about what they see — and not just this test, but others in psychology too (read: this is a precedent issue too).

The whole idea in this particular test – I repeat, because this is critical here: the WHOLE idea – is that the viewer makes whatever observation comes to mind, which almost always gives an impression of their unconscious state of mind. This, in turn, is often always about something that the person is not comfortable (or able) to articulate openly.

The more a person knows about how this test – and other tests! – are interpreted, the less likely some patients may be to ‘disclose’ their situation, and therefore less likely to be helped. (note: this does problem not require any conscious `gaming,` as you call it).

Mike (Masnick), in this article, you`ve essentially argued that because wiki’s publication of the Rorschach is clearly legal (and I agree that it is), it is also ethically acceptable. I know that, on the many issues where your expertise allows a firm grasp of the subtleties at hand, you understand such a claim to be false.

I ask that you, at the very least, consider that there are issues here which extend beyond mere copyright. This ethical issue is not centred on profit (as with so many other copyright cases), and the principle is not even centred on the Rorschach in particular.

The issue is that test results may be confounded if their inner workings are revealed, rendering them less useful, reducing or slowing the help that psychologists can deliver. The unusual characteristic with the Rorschach is that simple viewing and explanation may be enough to have this effect.

Miguel says:

Do some research Dude

I guess psychologist don’t do a lot of research. Otherwise, I don’t understand why they are so worried about something published 87 years ago. I think they shouldn’t complain, but instead they should research and make new ones and better tests. I should not trust someone anchored in the twenties of last century.

Jan says:

Re: Do some research Dude

But that is exactly the value – the research that has been done about Rorschach since then!

What you say is like saying “I guess those guys at Boeing don’t do a lot of research. Planes have been invented almost a century ago and they have not come up with anything else since then. I should not trust someone anchored in the twenties of last century.”

David says:

Re: Re: Do some research Dude

Do you make a living out of making faulty comparisons? Planes and flight technology have evolved tremendously in the past century, and they will continue to do so. The psuedo-science of inkblots hasn’t changed one little bit—other than people like you becoming more dogmatic in their faith in it.

Tristin (profile) says:

Ethics...

It’s funny that ethics always gets dragged into it as if deciding something is unethical will somehow prevent that thing’s inevitability. The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether it is ethical, in this case or in any other. What matters is that it happened and it will continue to happen.

The psychological testing community needs to face this moment as a sign of the new era. Rorschach was the first mainstream example of what is already occurring with several tests. Denial of reality will not improve the current system, so they must adapt and find a better way to create good tests that can’t be ruined by some foreknowledge of their contents.

It’s no secret that a somewhat small sampling of tests make up the bulk of all psych personality testing. Other tests exist, but get ignored simply because they haven’t been around and testers go with what they know. Maybe this will be the moment that wakes up the testing world and creates a boom in the industry. Let’s hope they respond so well.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Interesting trend

I suggest that the whining psychologists look at this as an opportunity: just look at this thread, wherein we have multiple responses to the Rorschack Test against which to test their BS.

They could set up a Rorschack Hot-or-Not style site where you describe what you see in the pictures (be careful not to allow html/hotlinking though, or you will get much goatse), this would surely give them more insight into the human brain than they could ever want.

aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile) says:

How I feel

“And what does this picture remind you of?”

“A symmetrical ink blot card, as designed by Rorschach?”

“Yes, but what does that Ink Blot LOOK like?”

“Some spilt paint?”

“Ok, but if it were, say, something else, what would it be?”

“Oh! I get you. Well I SUPPOSE I could be… er…”

“Yes?”

“Spilt tomato sauce?”

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