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Author Topic: The psychometric test that promised to be an “X-ray to the soul”  (Read 132 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: October 27, 2017, 02:09:49 PM »

If you’ve ever taken the Rorschach Test for one reason or another, during which you were coaxed to tell whether what you saw in a blurry image was a cockroach, an angel, or the Devil himself, here’s a delightful tribute to and a lowdown on what has been hailed as “the most powerful psychometric instrument ever envisioned.”

In his new book The Inkblots (Simon and Schuster, 406 pages), author Damion Searls offers the first history of the psychological test that promised a short cut to the psyche, to be a veritable “X-ray of the soul.” Searls chronicles the emergence of the procedure that gave rise to the modern testing industry, doing so not as psychologist but as a literary translator who came to the test “from the cultural side.” His conclusion: the blots generated by the Rorschach Test “are beautiful – not exactly art, but not not art either.”

As described by Deborah Friedell, an editor for the London Review of Books who reviewed Searl’s book, the Rorschach test was the brainchild of Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist who started creating personality tests when he got bored during the First World War. So bored was he that he got to complaining to his colleagues in a gorgeous sanatorium by Lake Constance in Switzerland that it was “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.”

Friedell describes in her review that the Rorschach was “predicated on the assumption that people are knowable, and that just by asking a few questions it’s possible to determine if someone is fit for promotion, or to be released from prison, or to lose custody of their children.” But the author of The Inkblots doesn’t reveal how Rorschach actually designed the test that became an immense success in the psycho testing industry. Searls recounts that although Rorschach claimed in his book Psychodiagnostics that the test was “determined by empirical results,” he didn’t say what those results were and admitted that he could “offer no explanation for why the test worked at all.”

Read Deborah Friedell’s “Bear, Bat, or Tiny King?” in the November 2017 issue of the London Review of Books now!

« Last Edit: October 27, 2017, 02:11:31 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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