​Almanac: The Rorschach test

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac, November 8th, 1884, 131 years ago today ... the day Hermann Rorschach was born in Zurich, Switzerland.

hermann-rorschach-244.jpg
Hermann Rorschach.
The Granger Collection

He grew up to become a psychiatrist -- and the creator of the inkblot test that bears his name.

Rorschach would show his subjects 10 inkblots, one at a time, and asked them to describe what the images looked like to them. He believed their answers would provide a window into their social behavior.

Although he died in 1922 at just age 37, Rorschach's inkblot test lives on.

It became a staple of psychology, and of popular culture as well.

Artist Andy Warhol created a series of inkblot-like paintings in the 1980s.

And the test played a bit part in the 1995 film "Batman Forever," when star Val Kilmer talked with a police psychiatrist played by Nicole Kidman:

Bruce Wayne: "Do you have a thing for bats?"
Dr. Chase Meridian: "That's a Rorschach, Mr. Wayne, an inkblot. People see what they want. I think the question would be, do you have a thing for bats?"


The test has been the subject of controversy as well. Many practitioners objected when the original 10 inkblots were posted on Wikipedia back in 2009.

They argued the images would lose their effectiveness if future test subjects saw them in advance.

On another front, some skeptics question whether there's scientific proof that the test is even valid.

So is the inkblot test valid or not? As Dr. Rorschach used to say, it all depends on how you look at it.