cover image The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

Damion Searls. Crown, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3654-9

In this clear and well-illustrated study, writer and translator Searls shares the histories of Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach as well as his eponymous test’s evolution and reception. As Searles notes, Rorschach’s test was not totally original; one precedent was the work of Justinus Kerner, a 19th-century German Romantic poet and doctor. Rorschach’s genius lay in attending to patient-sensitive specifics, including those of psychotics, and in developing an interpretative code that revolved around how the patient saw movement, color, and form in the inkblots. After Rorschach’s 1922 death at age 37, his test saw widespread use in America during the psychoanalytically oriented 1940s and ’50s; it was given to every student entering Sarah Lawrence College starting in 1940 and the army used a multiple-choice version after Pearl Harbor. However, it had fallen in popularity by the 1970s, eclipsed by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and other personality tests. Despite its occasional abuse, the Rorschach regained some of its popularity around the turn of the millennium. Searls dutifully shows how the test added a whole new visual dimension to the emerging field of psychology in general, and the study and analysis of personality in particular. Illus. Agent: Edward Orloff, McCormick Literary. (Mar.)