You, revealed: 'X-Rays of the Soul' examines history, influence of Rorschach test

April 3, 2012 By Peter Reuell
The Rorschach test (pictured), and the Thematic Apperception Test, developed at Harvard in 1935, present subjects with ambiguous images or situations, and analyze their responses for clues to hidden emotions and mental states.

With the creation, in 1921, of the Rorschach inkblot test, psychologists and researchers had at their disposal a tool that might offer access to the inner life or “secret self” of a subject: the projective test.

A new at Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, “X-Rays of the Soul: Rorschach and the Projective Test,” tells the story of the triumphal rise, and periodic setbacks, of the projective test movement, and portrays the heady confidence that science could be used to extract and access the most human parts of human beings.

As opposed to objective tests, which compare a subject’s responses with an accepted set of correct answers, the Rorschach test, and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), developed at Harvard in 1935, present subjects with ambiguous images or situations, and analyze their responses for clues to hidden emotions and mental states.

Visitors to the exhibition are immediately confronted with a projection of a Rorschach inkblot and analysis of subjects’ responses to the image. Other displays include examples of responses from people who are depressed, suicidal, or victims of trauma.

The rest of the exhibition is separated into two sections — one devoted to the Rorschach test, which includes examples of other inkblot analyses and how the Rorschach test has been portrayed in popular culture; the other devoted to “storytelling tests” like the TAT.

At the back of the exhibition space, a “projective theater” will play excerpts of the 1946 film “The Dark Mirror,” about twin sisters who take the Rorschach test in an effort to determine which committed a murder. Clips of researchers discussing the TAT will also be shown.

“Telling stories based on inkblots started as a parlor game in the 19th century,” said Jean-Francois Gauvin, lecturer on the history of science and director of administration at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. “It was Rorschach who saw their potential and made them into an instrument that might capture, as the exhibition title says, an X-ray of the soul.”

The exhibition will be on display in the Special Exhibitions Gallery, Room 251 of the Science Center, through June 30.

Explore further: To 'think outside the box', think outside the box

More information: www.fas.harvard.edu/~hsdept/chsi_xrays.html

Related Stories

To 'think outside the box', think outside the box

January 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Want to think outside the box? Try actually thinking outside of a box. In a study to be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, ...

Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

November 18, 2011
CEOs, teachers, and leaders claim they want creative ideas to solve problems. But creative ideas are rejected all the time. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of ...

Are we bad at forecasting our emotions? It depends on how you measure accuracy

January 26, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- How will you feel if you fail that test? Awful, really awful, you say. Then you fail the test and, yes, you feel bad—but not as bad as you thought you would. This pattern holds for most people, research ...

Recommended for you

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.