Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to Interpret Your Rorschach Ink Blots

I occasionally poke around the news site Reddit, and came across this discussion related to the Rorschach Ink Blots. It seems only fair to post some of the interpretation summaries so that Redditors can see how they did.

I imagine that these days a lot of people will see imagery from many of the games they have played, movies they have seen, local TV shows, popular songs, etc. The standard imagery seems to be based on psychoanalysis and original conjectures of the 1920s. It would probably be dangerous to try to derive universals, when so many variations exist between subcultures, etc in each region of planet earth.

For example, a Yankee team uniform has different meaning in NYC vs in Boston. (The two cities are known for a long standing baseball sports rivalry)

Every Rorschach image has at least one obvious representation of sexual anatomy. You're not expected to mention them all. In some interpretation schemes, mentioning more than four sex images in the ten plates is diagnostic of schizophrenia. Most Rorschach workers believe the sex images should play a part in the interpretation of responses even when not mentioned.

The trouble is, subjects who took Psychology 101 often assume they should detail every possible sex response, so allowances must be made. People have since also come up with various methods and systems to try to objectively score the tests, but a lot of it is still the basis of you think it should mean this, and they think it should mean something else. It is like dream interpretation. They have been compared to fortune telling.

This information on Interpretations is compiled from data seen at

  1. www.your3dsource.com/are-you-crazy-inkblot-test.html
  2. deltabravo.net/custody/rorschach.php and
  3. www.mrcoward.com/slcusd/The Rorschach Test.htm
Pics are from Wikipedia, and are in the public domain in both Switzerland (their country of origin) and the USA.

Note that these pictures are pretty small, you can click on them to embiggen (see larger)

Also note that the originals are thick, rectangular cardboard, 6 5/8 inches by 9 1/5 inches., and that this will make a difference on what you see.

I do not believe that the tests are anywhere near valid.

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The Rorschach Ink Blots

The cards are numbered 1 through 10, and that is the order in which they're always given to you by the psychologist.

Plate I


Possible Sexual Imagery: Breasts, primarily the rounded areas at the top of the image.

Good/Common Answers: "Bat, butterfly, female figure (in the centre), moth"

You may be a little paranoid if you see: "Mask, animal face, jack o lantern"

Bad Answer: "Anything insulting about the female figure (it is an indicator of your own body image)"

The first blot is easy. How fast you answer is taken as an indication of how well you cope with new situations. The best reaction is to give one of the most common responses immediately.

A bad response is any that says something untoward about the central female figure. "She" is often judged to be a projection of your own self-image. Avoid the obvious comment that the figure has two breasts but no head.

If you don't give more than one answer for Plate I, many psychologists will drop a hint -- tell you to look closer.

Plate II


Possible Sexual Imagery: Male sex organ at top center or, in some cases, a vagina (at the center near the bottom).

You should see this image as: "Two human-like forms (females or clowns) If you don't it is an indicator that you have trouble relating to people."

Other Good/Common Answers: "Butterfly, cave entrance"

It is important to see this blot as two human figures usually females or clowns.

If you don't, it's seen as a sign that you have trouble relating to people. You may give other responses as well, such as cave entrance (the triangular white space between the two figures) and butterfly (the red "vagina," bottom center).

Should you mention the penis and vagina? Not necessarily. You may not say that the lower red area looks like a vagina, but psychologists assume that what you do say will show how you feel about women. Nix on "crab"; stick with "butterfly."

Plate III


Possible Sexual Imagery: Male sex organs and female breasts, right about where you would expect to find them.

This is the blot that allegedly can determine sexual preference.

A heterosexual response would be: "Seeing two male figures"

A homosexual response would be: "Seeing two androgynous (remember "Pat" from SNL?) or female figures."

Most people see the two human figures. Both figures have prominent "breasts" and an equally prominent "penis." If you don't volunteer the gender of the figures, you'll be asked to specify it.

This blot has been the subject of much debate, so it's best to take your answer's meaning with a grain of salt. Does it work? Not really

The splotches of red ink are usually perceived separately. Common responses are "bow-tie" or "ribbon" (inner red area) and a stomach and esophagus (outer red areas).

Plate IV


Plate IV is the "father card." At first glance it is a difficult blot to see as a single image. The two lower corners are often described as shoes or boots. This card may also be seen as viewing a person from below or a male figure with an enormous sex organ.

The "boots" are fairly conspicuous; between them is the apparent head of a dog or Chinese dragon. Many subjects see the blot as an animal skin. After a few seconds, though, most can see it as a standing figure seen from below.

The boots become the feet, enlarged because of the unusual perspective. The arms and head, at the top, are smaller. Common descriptions are bear, gorilla, or man in a heavy coat. Rorschach theorists equate your description of the figure with your perception of your father or male authority figures.

Possible Sexual Imagery: A pair of male sex organs, typically seen at the top of the image. Some subjects may instead visualize a vagina in the upper center of the blot.

Good/Common Answers: "A standing figure (man, bear, gorilla)"

A Bad Answer Would Be: "To describe the figure as menacing in any way, i.e. a monster, or attacking gorilla, as this blot indentifies with your perception of your father, or authority figures."

Plate V



Possible Sexual Imagery: A pair of male sex organs at the very top of the inkblot.

Good/Common "Answers: Bat, Butterfly"

Bad Answers: "Seeing the butterfly antennae as scissors or any cutting device is an indicator of a castration complex. Schizophrenics occasionally see moving people in this image. Seeing crocodile heads on the ends of the bat's wings indicates hostility."

Rorschach himself thought this was the easiest blot to interpret. It is a bat or a butterfly, period. You don't want to mention anything else.

Many psychologists take particular note of the number of responses given to this plate. If you mention more images here than in either Plate IV or VI, it is suggestive of schizophrenia.

Plate VI


Possible Sexual Imagery: The head of the male sex organ (the portion at the top of the card) or alternately, a female sex organ (middle and bottom part of the card).

Common Answers: "animal hide, boat, submarine, mushroom cloud, men with long noses and goatees. Apparently this blot reveals subconscious attitudes about sexuality."

Occasionally described as a foreshortened view of a person with their arms outstretched.

Basically, the secret of this plate is to turn it. A good response is to say it looks like an animal hide (about the only reasonable response when held right side up), then turn it on its side and say it looks like a boat or surfaced submarine with reflection, and then turn it upside down and say it looks like a mushroom cloud, a pair of theater masks, or caricatures of men with long noses and goatees.

Plate VII




Possible Sexual Imagery: The female sex organs (seen at the bottom of the card where the figures join.

Good/Common Answers: "Two Girls, or Women"

Bad Answers: "Insulting descriptions of the two figures i.e. gossips, girls fighting, witches.

This card has a rough "V" shape sometimes described as faces pointing towards one another, "bunny ears", or similar visualizations.

This blot is supposed to reveal how you really feel about your mother. Virtually everyone sees two girls or women. Deprecating descriptions of the figures~ "witches," "gossips," "girls fighting," "spinsters" indicate poor maternal relations. Seeing the blot as thunderclouds instead of female figures suggests anxiety to some psychologists; seeing it as a walnut kernel may mean a vulvar fixation.

There is an entirely different side to this blot, but you're not supposed to see it. The white space between the girls or women can be interpreted as an oil lamp or similar object. It is claimed that only schizophrenics usually see the lamp.

Plate VIII



A very colorful card with blue, orange, pink, and gray ink. A roughly diamond-shaped image with lots of places to see things

Possible Sexual Imagery: Female sex organs, usually seen at the bottom of the card.

Good/Common Answers: "Four legged animals such as lions, pigs, bears, etc. on the sides. Other common responses are tree, butterfly, rib cage, christmas tree."

Bad/Answers: "Not seeing the four legged animals can indicate that you are mentally defective"

It is important that you see the four-legged animals- lions, pigs, bears, etc. -on the sides of the blot. They're one of the most common responses on the test, and you're assumed to be a mental defective if you don't see them. Other good responses are tree (gray triangle at top), butterfly (pink and orange area at bottom), and rib cage or anatomy chart (skeletal pattern in center between blue rectangles and gray triangles). The entire configuration can be seen as a heraldic design (good answer) or a Christmas tree with ornaments (reaching).

Children tend to like this blot and say a lot about it-the bright colors and animal shapes make it more interesting than your basic penis/vagina number (II, IV, or VI).

Plate IX


Another colorful card, this time with orange, pink, and green inks. This one is tough to visualize anything specific in; most test subjects struggle to find something to "see" in it.

Possible Sexual Imagery: Female sex organs, usually seen at the bottom of the card.

Good/Common Answers: "Fire, smoke, explosion, map, anatomy, flower."

Bad Answers: "Mushroom cloud on the centre line at top can indicate paranoia. Monsters or men fighting can indicate poor social development."

If you're going to throw up your hands (figuratively!!!) and plead a mental block, this is the place to do it. The colors clash, apparently by Rorschach's design.

If you turn the card ninety degrees, you can make out a man's head in the pink areas at bottom. (The man is identified as Mark Twain, Santa Claus, or Teddy Roosevelt.)

As with Plate V, the psychologist may be counting the number of responses you give to this blot for comparison with the preceding and succeeding blots. You want to give fewer responses to this blot.

Plate X



This is the last Rorschach card and certainly the most colorful, consisting of blue, gray, pink, green, orange and yellow inks. It's a very complex mish-mash of shapes with lots of "activity" and plenty of places to "see" things.

Possible Sexual Imagery: Male sex organs at the top center of the card.

Good/Common Answers: "Sea life, or a view through a microscope. Also common: spiders, crabs, caterpillars, rabbit's head"

Bad Answers: "Two faces at top centre blowing bubbles, or smoking pipes can indicate an oral fixation"

The unspoken purpose of this last blot is to test your organizational ability. Plate X is full of colorful odds and ends easy to identify---blue spiders, gray crabs, paired orange maple seeds, green caterpillars, a light-green rabbit's head, yellow and orange fried eggs--and you're expected to list them.

But the psychologist will also be looking for a comprehensive answer, something that shows you grok the whole Gestalt. There are two good holistic answers: sea life and a view through a microscope.

Some subjects see two reddish faces at top center, separated by the orange maple key. If you describe them as blowing bubbles or smoking pipes, it may be interpreted as evidence of an oral fixation. Seeing the gray "testes" and "penis" as two animals eating a stick or tree indicates castration anxiety.

2 comments:

the.7th.direction said...

Really interesting, thanks! I remember looking at the images the other day and wondering what my interpretations meant. It seems I got all of them in the good/common answers... so I guess that's good?

Karen Glavimans said...

Plate VIII....is interesting. I see the animals but look to me like a young man, dressed up for a date or party...that was not in the normal comments....am I strange?? For the rest, my comments were among the normal..Thank God!