9 Revealing Facts About the Rorschach Test

Orlando/Three Lions/Getty Images
Orlando/Three Lions/Getty Images

It’s become as iconic an image of psychology as Sigmund Freud puffing on a cigar. The Rorschach test, named after creator and psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, has been allowing people to interpret its abstract inkblot images—and for mental health professionals to draw conclusions about their personalities and possible mental disorders—since its debut in 1921. For a clearer picture, check out some facts about the test’s origins, efficacy, and more.

1. THE RORSCHACH TEST WAS INSPIRED BY A CHILDREN'S GAME.

In the late 19th century there was a popular children's game called klecksography—the art of making images with inkblots. The game generally involved pouring ink onto paper, folding the paper over, and seeing what images emerged. Working in a Swiss asylum, Rorschach wondered if patients would interpret these inkblots differently depending on pathology, which he had some success with. That inspired him to begin using his own custom-made, abstract, symmetrical designs to solicit conceptual answers from his subjects. In doing so, Rorschach believed he could burrow deeper into a patient's subconscious than written psychological tests allowed.

2. WE KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT HOW THE RORSCHACH TEST CARDS WERE DESIGNED.

Rorschach first developed the inkblot test of 10 splotchy cards to diagnose mental illness. According to Damion Searls, author of a history of Rorschach and his creation titled The Inkblots, no surviving memos or notes exist that detail Rorschach's process for designing the cards or what data or sources he might have used to craft them. In his later writing, Rorschach said only that "empirical observations" informed the blots and that he had "no explanation for why the test worked at all," according to Searls.

3. RORSCHACH'S COLLEAGUES WEREN'T IMPRESSED.

Although Rorschach was eager to publish the inkblots in 1918 to bring them into wider use, the illustrations were met with derision. Publishers wanted him to pay them to reproduce the cards, possibly owing to wartime paper rationing. Worse, his colleagues didn't believe the blot test had any demonstrable value. After Rorschach published them in his 1921 book, Psychodiagnostics, German psychologists called them "crude." The test didn't receive wide acclaim until it was brought to the United States by child psychologist David Mordecai Levy in 1923—a year after Rorschach died at age 37 from appendicitis.

4. THE RORSCHACH BLOTS ARE VERY DELIBERATELY MESSY.

Rorschach developed the 10 blots with a kind of structured disorder. While the cards appear messy, he felt they couldn't present as deliberately crafted, otherwise patients might think the art was customized for their own specific session. Rorschach also omitted any perceptible brush strokes or other indications they had been handmade.

5. SUBJECTS HAVE THREE REACTIONS.

Typically, people exposed to the Rorschach test are processing each image on three planes: form, movement, and color. They examine the blot’s form, or shape. Some might see a bear; others, a bat. People will also assign varying levels of movement to the shapes. If they see a person, he or she might be dancing. Finally, Rorschach observed how people reacted to the introduction of color in five of the 10 cards. A person's response to the sudden infusion of pigment into the black and white shapes might indicate stronger emotional responses.

6. RORSCHACH THOUGHT THE TEST WOULD WORK ON EVERYONE—EXCEPT TEENAGERS.

Rorschach believed answers to his test could illuminate a subject's psychological state. Creative types might see more images in motion, while those ruminating on details lacked imagination. Depressed persons didn't remark much on the introduction of color, while “neurotics” were said to be alarmed by the sudden explosion of red. The only subjects he felt the test failed to assess were teenagers, since they had too much in common with the clinically insane.

7. THE BLOTS HAVE NEVER CHANGED.

From their initial publication in 1921, the 10 blots designed by Rorschach have never undergone any kind of facelift. Contrary to popular belief, psychologists don't create their own cards. They use Rorschach's, and his 10 images are still the ones in circulation today.

8. THERE'S STILL DISAGREEMENT OVER WHETHER THE TEST ACTUALLY WORKS.

Over the years, the Rorschach test has been shuffled between the shared file drawers of psychology, supported by some therapists and derided by others. Critics say the scoring system and parsing answers is as subjective to the psychologist as it is to the patient and that it’s pseudoscience. A 2000 meta-analysis of available data demonstrated that “the substantial majority of [Rorschach] indexes are not empirically supported.” Other professionals find objective evidence in a more polished scoring system for answers first used in the 1970s and see the test as having value in learning how people express their impressions—while not diagnostic, it can be informative.

9. THEY'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PUBLISHED ONLINE.

Like virtually everything else, the Rorschach test is readily available for online viewing—but the psychologists who still put stock in the test would prefer you didn't look at it. The test is intended to be administered to people who have no prior familiarity with the images, ensuring they don’t create preconceived answers or get a sense of what a "right" answer might be. When the images (and the most commonly-recorded responses) were uploaded to Wikipedia by emergency room physician James Heilman in 2009, the move sparked raging debate in psychology circles. Heilman was unmoved, saying that it was no different from posting an eye exam chart.

If you'd like to occupy your time with a multiple-choice version of the test, there's one available online.

16 Unforgettable Facts About Dumbo

The Walt Disney Co.
The Walt Disney Co.

Even though Dumbo is Disney's shortest feature-length movie, there are still plenty of secrets to share about this little elephant and his escapades. 

1. Like many Disney movies, this one started as a book.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, started out as a 36-page "Roll-A-Book." The "book" was a series of illustrations on a scroll, and readers would turn a little wheel at the top of the "book" to read the next panel.

2. Dumbo originally had a different sidekick.

Edward Brophy in Dumbo
The Walt Disney Co.

In the original book, Timothy Q. Mouse didn't exist. Instead, Dumbo’s sidekick was Red Robin. By the end of the book, Red and Dumbo have signed a film contract and are headed to Hollywood.

3. The studio had to keep production cheap.

Due to the war efforts, the studio had instructions to keep Dumbo as inexpensive as possible. As a result, backgrounds are noticeably less detailed than in other Disney movies, and the characters are much simpler. By the end of production, Dumbo had cost just $812,000 to make.

4. Dumbo almost landed the cover of Time.

TIME magazine had plans to honor Dumbo as “Mammal of the Year.” But then Pearl Harbor happened and they opted for a more serious cover, though they still called the animated elephant “Mammal of the Year” in an inside feature.

5. An animator’s strike was parodied in the movie.

There was an extremely heated animator’s strike during production. It's said that Disney mocked his striking workers by putting a scene in where a group of clowns decide to "hit the big boss for a raise." See for yourself:

6. The movie is only 64 minutes long.

At just over an hour, Dumbo is the shortest feature-length Disney movie. Walt was advised to extend the storyline, but he resisted, saying, "You can stretch a story just so far and after that it won't hold together."

7. Harry Truman refused to try the Dumbo ride at Disneyland.

When Harry S. Truman visited Disneyland in 1957, he refused to ride the popular attraction based on the Dumbo movie. It wasn't a fear of heights that stopped him, though; Truman, a Democrat, didn't want to be seen riding in a symbol of the Republican party.

8. Dumbo was Walt Disney’s personal favorite movie.

A scene from 'Dumbo' (1941)
The Walt Disney Co.

When the movie later aired on the Disneyland TV show, Disney admitted to the audience that Dumbo held a special place in his heart. “From the very start, Dumbo was a happy picture," he said. "We weren’t restricted by any set storyline so we could give our imaginations full play. In other words, if a good idea came to us, we’d put it in the story. It was really a happy picture from beginning to end.”

9. Dumbo II almost happened.

After being named chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios in 2006, one of John Lasseter’s first acts was to quash a proposed sequel that was in the works. The premise: Dumbo and his circus buddies have to figure their way out of the big city after the circus train accidentally leaves them there.

10. A live-action remake is in the works.

Though it was originally announced in 2015, bringing a live-action version of Dumbo to the big screen took a little longer than anticipated. The Tim Burton-directed movie won't be out until later this month, and film execs have hinted that the story will take viewers beyond the original tale. 

11. Cels from Dumbo are extremely valuable.

Not knowing that original animation cels would someday be worth a lot of money, artists weren’t too careful with preserving their art. In fact, it was just the opposite: while animators were working on movies like Fantasia and Dumbo, they’d take the finished slippery cels and use them to skate down hallways. Between that and the fact that the earth-toned paints used in the Dumbo color palette were particularly prone to flaking, any remaining cels from the film are among the most valuable of any Disney movie.

12. The song “Baby Mine” was nominated for an Academy Award.

Get your hankies out! The heartbreaking tune, sung while Jumbo the elephant uses her trunk to rock baby Dumbo through the bars of her cage, was nominated for an Oscar but lost to “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from Lady Be Good. The film did win an Oscar for Best Score, however.

13. The “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment is a bit controversial.

Of course it is! It features candy-colored pachyderm hallucinations that are the result of an underage drinker imbibing too much champagne. Though the scene passed muster in 1941, it doesn’t always today. When Dumbo is reformatted for publication, the “Pink Elephant” scene is often replaced with Dumbo dreaming of flying.

14. Dumbo has an octopus named after him.

Thanks to the ear-like fins that protrude from the sides of their heads, these Grimpoteuthis octopods have been dubbed the “Dumbo” octopus. The fins help them swim, of course, not fly.

15. Dumbo did speak—eventually.

Dumbo didn’t utter a single word during the 1941 movie, but by the 1980s the little elephant had grown up and found his voice. When the live-action show Dumbo’s Circus debuted on The Disney Channel more than 40 years after the original movie, Dumbo was suddenly pretty chatty.

16. A tune called "Sing a Song of Cheese" was cut from the film.

Timothy Q. Mouse was once slated to sing an ode to his favorite dairy product. It was axed from the final film, presumably because it didn't actually have anything to do with the plot of the movie.

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2015.

The 10 Most Popular Puppy Names of 2019

iStock.com/Lakshmi3
iStock.com/Lakshmi3

If you brought home a new dog or puppy recently and named it Luna, you’re far from the only one. The name, which means moon in Latin, is the most popular puppy name for 2019.

This analysis of cute canine monikers comes from Trupanion, a provider of medical insurance for pets. The company looked at its database of 500,000 dogs and crunched the numbers to identify the names that are currently having a moment. (Although some of the names that cracked the top 10 list, like Daisy and Max, have been around for quite some time.)

Interestingly, Luna wasn’t always popular. As Trupanion points out, “Looking back 10 years, Luna was barely a blip on the name game chart … not even cracking the list of top 20 names.” Nor did it appear on ​Banfield Pet Hospital's list of the 10 most popular dog names of 2018.

Often, there's some overlap between popular pet names and baby names. Luna was the 31st most popular baby name for girls in 2018. This is perhaps linked to the popularity of the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood, as well as the publicity the name has received in recent years from celebrities like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, as both couples named their daughters Luna.

Second on the list of popular puppy names is Bella (its longer form, Isabella, was the fifth most popular baby name for girls last year). Check out the top 10 list below to see if your pooch’s name is trending right now.

1. Luna
2. Bella
3. Charlie
4. Bailey
5. Lucy
6. Cooper
7. Max
8. Daisy
9. Bear
10. Oliver

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