July 31, 2009

Rorschach tests may not be that helpful

Rorschach tests, used by psychologists to reveal a part of someone's personality by interpretation of inkblots, may not be that helpful, U.S. researchers say.

Scott O. Lilienfeld of Emory University in Atlanta, James M. Wood of University of Texas at El Paso and Howard N. Garb of the University of Pittsburgh conducted a meta-analysis on the Rorschach Inkblot Tests and conclude they may not be the best diagnostic tool, and practitioners need to be cautious in how they use this technique and interpret their results.

There is evidence the tool may be useful in identifying patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. However, the Rorschach has not been shown to be related to major depressive disorder, antisocial personality disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder, the analysis said.

However, critics of the system argue the norms established by John Exner's comprehensive system in the 1970s, which detailed standards and norms for analyzing results, are out of date and based on small sample sizes. Furthermore, the comprehensive system's norms are not representative of the population and actually classify a portion of normal subjects as having pathological tendencies, the researchers said.

In addition, some studies suggest there may be a cultural bias and blacks, Hispanics and American Indians score differently.

The findings are published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.