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What's Wrong With The Rorschach: Science Confronts the Controversial Inkblot Test

ISBN: 978-1-118-08712-1
464 pages
February 2011, Jossey-Bass


Since its creation more than eighty years ago, the famous Rorschach inkblot test has become an icon of clinical psychology and popular culture. Administered over one million times world-wide each year, the Rorschach is used to assess personality and mental illness across a wide range of circumstances: child custody disputes, educational placement decisions, employment and termination proceedings, parole determinations, and even investigations of child abuse allegations. The test's enormous power shapes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people -- often without their knowledge. In the 1970s, this notoriously subjective test was supposedly systematized and improved. But is the Rorschach more than a modern variant on tea leaf reading?

What's Wrong With the Rorschach? challenges the validity and utility of the Rorschach and explains why psychologists continue to judge people by their reactions to ink blots, in spite of a half century of largely negative scientific evidence.

What's Wrong With the Rorschach? offers a provocative critique of one of the most widely applied and influential - and still intensely controversial - psychological tests in the world today. Surveying more than fifty years of clinical and scholarly research, the authors provide compelling scientific evidence that the Rorschach has relatively little value for diagnosing mental illness, assessing personality, predicting behavior, or uncovering sexual abuse or other trauma. In this highly engaging, novelistic account of the Rorschach's origins and history, the authors detail the wealth of scientific evidence that the test is of questionable utility for real-world decision making.

What's Wrong With the Rorschach? presents a powerfully reasoned case against using the test in the courtroom or consulting room - and reveals the strong psychological, economic, and political forces that continue to support the Rorschach despite the research that has exposed its shortcomings and dangers.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 A Psychological X-Ray: The Power of the Rorschach 1

2 A Test is Born: Origins of the Rorschach Inkblot Technique 22

3 The Rorschach Come to America 48

4 Rorschach Rules! 84

5 The Many-Portaled Quandary: Balkanization of the Rorschach 136

6 Scientists Look at the Rorschach 136

7 The Rorschach in Crisis 157

8 New Life for the Rorschach: John E. Exner’s Comprehensive System 193

9 The Unraveling of the Comprehensive System 217

10 Still Waiting for the Messiah: The Future of the Rorschach 256

11 Clinging to the Wreck: Why Some Psychologists Won’t let Go 284

12 Objection, your Honor! Keeping the Rorschach out of Court 300

Epilogue: Will the Rorschach go on Forever? 322

Appendix: Graphs on Psychometrics and the Rorschach 325

Notes 333

References 379

About the Authors 415

Name Index 417

Subject Index 423

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Author Information

James M. Wood is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso.

M. Teresa Nezworski is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Scott O. Lilienfeld is an associate professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Howard N. Garb is clinical associate professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

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