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The Psych Up, Issue #009 --Dark Side of the Ink Blot Tests
July 08, 2006

Monthly Electronic Newsletter

Prickly Issues and Innovative Solutions

Issue# 9

Editor: Saqib Ali Ateel

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"The Best Benefit of Online Career"


"Ambiguity plus Ambiguity Equals to Ink blot Tests"



What is the most important benefit of having a career of your choice on the internet?

Let me first explain what I mean by a ‘career of your choice on the internet’. I have been saying in past issues of “The Psych Up” that this is an age for average individuals; like you and me. When you know something or have some passion or enjoy some hobby and know how to sell your ideas, you can choose a career of your choice on the internet.

My website is an example of such an online business. I have been a student of mysteries of personality from my childhood. Though I could never study psychology during my educational career but it didn’t end my interest in personality, intelligence, aptitude and the related issues. And this website on psychological tests is result of my interest.

And benefits...

I can count affluent money generation, work-at-home, recognition etc etc. However, the most important benefit is the luxury that it provides me to work at my own pace. I enjoy ‘full time job’, spend time with my family, attend social gatherings, and write for this website whenever I find free time. Sometimes I write 6-7 articles a month and other times I write nothing for weeks. I have been enjoying this irregularity even in publishing this ezine.

...stay tuned for the next irregular issue.


Saqib Ali Ateel

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Featured Article

Ambiguity plus Ambiguity Equals to Ink blot Tests

The ink blot tests and other projective instruments are the most defective psychological instruments. The stimuli, the philosophy, the instructions and even scoring systems are ambiguous. However, they still claim to build a crystal clear profile of your personality.

On the other hand they are getting popular by every passing day even when there is solid evidence that findings of the ink blot tests are often wrong. Most of the psychologists don’t trust them as tests but still use them for one reason or the other. The most prominent reason is the use of projective techniques to support diagnosing different mental retardations.

The rise of popularity graph has also raised the criticism of the ink blot tests. Some important defects in these instruments are listed here:

Philosophical Error

It is a fundamentally assumed that when you are offered ambiguous stimuli such as ink blots, you ‘project’ what lies in your unconscious mind. This way you disclose hidden streams of your personality.

This assumption has been criticized by many prominent psychologists. They have even offered alternative but much better justifications for your responses to the ink blot tests. Interestingly, solid variations have been observed in the response of subjected with the change of testing situations, simple instructions, hunger, sleeplessness, drugs, anxiety, frustration etc. The most important factor is personality, knowledge and theoretical bent of the examiner who has to interpret your responses.

No Standardized Meanings

The ink blot tests don’t specify specific meanings for the ink blots. In fact they are not only ambiguous for the subjects but also for the examinees. The fans of the ink blot tests claim it a quality of the projective techniques but in fact they not only ‘project’ the subjects but also the examiners to respond whatever they like for the given set of the ink blots.

Furthermore, it makes difficult for the third parties to validate results of the ink blot tests.

Impact of Colors in Ink blot Tests

Traditionally, colors are considered very important for the ink blot tests. However, many research findings, especially of Baughman (1958), have proved this view wrong. Now it is widely accepted postulate that color itself has no effect on most of the response characteristics.

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Verbal Aptitude and Ink blot Tests

Some researchers including Sachman and Lotsof have proved that verbal aptitudes and skills influence the scores of Rorschach ink blot tests considerably. It has been repeatedly observed that complexity of responses correlate with scores of the subjects on verbal aptitude tests, age and educational levels. In such a study, the verbal complexity of responses given by 100 persons revealed that ‘movement responses’ are longer and linguistically more complex than ‘form responses’.

Response Productivity and Ink blot Tests

The response productivity (R) means your total number of responses to the ink blots offered. The huge individual differences in R in various categories often lead to miscalculation and misleading results.

Suppose you differ with David in the response productivity factor, you both are likely to differ in the same direction in the number of responses falling in the specific categories. Thus the differences found in certain categories may be only an artifact resulting from the variation in the total number of responses.

It has also been observed that R varies with the intellectual level, education and age. Even more disturbing is the findings that R varies from one subject to another for reasons unknown.

Since R plays a major role in interpretation of the most of the ink blot tests so differences not only create doubts but also demolish the whole structure of ink blot tests.

Personality of the Examiner and Ink blot Tests

Unlike most of the pyschological assessment tools, the personality of the examiner is very important for the ink blot tests. There are claims for objective scoring systems but the final steps are still to be defined by the examiner, his personality, theoretical orientations etc.

Unfortunately, there are not too many qualified scorers that’s why interpretations of the same responses may vary from one psychologist to another.

From these considerations, it is understandable why status of the ink blot tests has not improved after many decades. Ambiguous set of stimuli, ambiguous structure, ambiguous instruction, ambiguous mode of interpretation...

...too many ambiguities can’t result an acceptable personality profile. Perhaps human romanticism needs much more logics to accept the reality.

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