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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 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 inkblot 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 inkblot 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 inkblots, 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 inkblot 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 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 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 difficult for the third parties to validate results of the inkblot tests.

Impact of Colors in Inkblot Tests


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 has no effect on most of the response characteristics.

Verbal Aptitude and Inkblot Tests


Some researchers including Sachman and Lotsof have proved that verbal aptitudes and skills influence the scores of Rorschach inkblot 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 Inkblot Tests


The response productivity (R) means your total number of responses to the inkblots 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 inkblot tests so differences not only create doubts but also demolish the whole structure of inkblot tests.

Personality of the Examiner and Inkblot Tests


Unlike most of the pyschological assessment tools, the personality of the examiner is very important for the inkblot 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, ambiguous structure, ambiguous instruction, ambiguous mode of interpretation...

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

About the Author: Psychometrics? Some believe in them and others reject them altogether. However, reality lies in between. Saqib Ali Ateel unlocks secrets of personality, intelligence, aptitude and testing at

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