Ambiguity plus Ambiguity Equals to Inkblot Tests

The inkblot 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 precise 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 inkblot personality 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 retardation.

The rise of popularity graph has also raised the criticism of the inkblot personality tests. Some fundamental defects in these instruments are listed here:

Philosophical Error

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

Many prominent psychologists have criticized this assumption. They have even offered alternative but much better justifications for your responses to the inkblot personality tests. Interestingly, substantial variations have been observed in the reaction of subjected with the change of testing situations, simple instructions, hunger, sleeplessness, drugs, anxiety, frustration, etc. The most critical factor is personality, knowledge and theoretical bent of the examiner who has to interpret your responses.

No Standardized Meanings

inkblot tests

The inkblot tests don’t specify specific meanings for the inkblots. In fact, they are not only ambiguous for the subjects but also for the examinees. The fans of the inkblot personality 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 inkblots. Furthermore, it makes hard for the third parties to validate results of the these tests.

Impact of Colors

Traditionally, colors are considered very important for the inkblot tests. However, many research findings, especially of Baughman (1958), have proved this view wrong. Now it is widely accepted postulate that color itself does not affect most of the response characteristics.

Verbal Aptitude and Ink blot Tests

Some researchers including Sachman and Lots of have proved that verbal aptitudes and skills influence the scores of Rorschach tests considerably. It has repeatedly been 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 answers given by 100 persons revealed that ‘movement responses’ are longer and linguistically more complex than ‘form responses.'

Response Productivity and Inkblot Tests

The response productivity (R) means your total number of responses to the inkblots offered. The vast 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 vary in the same direction in the number of responses falling in the specific categories. Thus the differences found in particular types 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 differs from one subject to another for reasons unknown.

The R plays a significant role in interpretation of the most of the inkblot tests. The differences not only create doubts but also demolish the whole structure of inkblot tests.

Personality of the Examiner

Unlike most of the psychological 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 inkblot tests has not improved after many decades. Ambiguous set of stimuli, vague structure, unclear instruction, obscure mode of interpretation.

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


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