I wonder what the psychological meaning is, if a person finds a resemblance between some photographs of Brad Pitt and Doctor Hermann Rorschach. Ten years ago, the similarity of their faces and even their hairstyles gave me pause.
Ivan Pavlov’s dog, Sigmund Freud’s couch, and Hermann Rorschach’s ink blots are the three most popular cliches about psychology. What was it about this young man that made his name so iconic?
Hermann was born in Zurich, Switzerland on November 8, 1884. His mother died when the youngster was only twelve. His father, who always encouraged Hermann to express himself creatively and effectively, passed away seven years later. Rorschach and his two siblings enjoyed artistic, intellectual childhoods. When Hermann was still in high school, he became fascinated with a youthful game called “Klecksography”. The game consisted of making pictures out of random ink splotches. Rorschach liked the game so much, that he acquired the nickname, “Klecks”.
Rorschach studied botany and geology for a year in 1904 at Academie de Neuchatel then took some French classes at Universite de Dijon. By the end of that year, Rorschach began medical instruction at the University of Berne specializing in psychology. He completed his coursework and travels, then graduated at the University of Zurich in 1909.
In 1910, Rorschach married his medical school Russian classmate, Olga Stempelin. They eventually had a daughter, Elizabeth and a son named Wadin. By 1915 Rorschach became associate director of the Herisau Asylum.
During the time Rorschach was still a student, he often wondered why various people expressed different reactions to particular stimuli. He also thought about the Klecksography game he so loved as a youth. Rorschach linked interpretation of Klecksography splotches with the newly emerging field of psychoanalysis.
Rorschach referenced some of the studies of Doctor Szyman Hens, who was already studying his patients’ fantasies with inkblots. Rorschach then thought about how his acquaintence, Carl Jung, had been analyzing patients’ subconscious thoughts with the use of word association drills. Rorschach had one other supposed influence, a book of poetry by Dr. Jusinus Kerner, who claimed to have been inspired by contemplating an inkblot.
Dr. Rorschach took the next logical leap by combining his love of art with his knowledge of psychoanalysis. Rorschach began showing various inkblots to people in order to study their responses. He noted how his patients reacted. From this information, he developed his inkblot test.
The original Rorschach Inkblot Test involved ten inkblot cards. Five were black ink on white cards and five in colors on white cards. The patient was asked what each image made them think of. Rorschach noted the answers. The doctor then displayed the cards to the patient again and asked the reasons for the previous associations. From the assembled interview answers, Rorschach could conclude basic social behavior patterns of the patient.
To test his method, Rorschach tried 300 patients with one third of them as control subjects. This test led to further, continuous development of his inkblot test. In 1921, Rorschach published his book Psychodiagnostik. He used the inkblot tests to determine general behavior patterns but retained skepticism over their reliability to analyze personality. Rorschach believed his inkblot test should be used in concert with other psychological techniques.
On April 2, 1922, Dr. Hermann Rorschach died suddenly as a result of peritonitis at the age of 37. Medical officials believe the cause was a ruptured appendix.