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.

Surprising Answers for 15 Questions About Your Dog

Seregraff/iStock via Getty Images
Seregraff/iStock via Getty Images

You probably think of your dog as part of the family, but sometimes your canine companion does the most peculiar things. Here are the answers to some of the questions you’ve been pondering about your pet.

1. Why do dogs lick people?

Dogs lick people and other dogs for a whole variety of reasons. Puppies will lick their mothers or owners as a sign of affection or when asking for food. Once they’re adults, licking becomes a sign of submission to an authority figure. When your dog licks you, they probably want something, like food or attention. Doggy kisses are also a way for your pet to feel better: Licking releases endorphins that calm and relieve stress.

2. Why is my dog’s nose always wet?

A common misconception is that your dog’s wet nose is a sign of good health. In reality, the moisture on Fido’s nose is no indication of their overall well-being. The reason for a dog’s wet nose is a little murkier. One explanation is that dogs repeatedly lick their nose throughout the day to keep it clean. Another is that the moisture helps them cool off. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do, so they pant and let off extra heat through their noses. A special gland in the nose produces a clear fluid that helps them cool down faster.

3. How much better is a dog’s sense of smell than our own?

A dog can smell anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times better than the average human. Canines have 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to our measly six million. Moreover, the part of the brain dedicated to smell is 40 times larger in dogs than in humans.

A dog’s nose also works differently than the human nose. While people breathe in and out the same way, canines breathe in through their nostrils and out through the slits found on the sides of the nose. This system circulates air so that the animal is always bringing in new smells. Breeds like the bloodhound also have the advantage of floppy ears that push up new smells.

4. Why do dog feet smell like corn chips?

If you think your dog’s feet smell like popcorn or corn chips, you’re not alone! Dogs have a lot of bacteria and yeast that grow on their paws as a result of moisture that gets caught in the many folds and pockets between their toes. These microorganisms create a variety of smells. The bacteria Proteus or Pseudomonas are the likely parties guilty of giving your hound’s feet that distinct tortilla smell. There’s no need to go wash your pet’s paws just yet, though—a subtle smell is completely normal.

5. Is my dog’s mouth really that clean?

A common myth is that a dog’s mouth is a magically clean place. This is not the case: A canine mouth is brimming with bacteria. Fortunately, a lot of those germs are specific to the species so you don’t have to worry when your pup goes in for a wet kiss. That said, there are some similar bacteria, so make sure your pet has up-to-date shots.

6. Are pit bulls actually dangerous?

Like people, dangerous dogs are on a case-by-case basis. It’s not fair or accurate to condemn a whole breed as hostile or aggressive. Despite bans on the dogs, pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other large breed. The negative connotation is likely a result of the increase in illegal dog fighting in the 1980s. Pit bulls were not always seen as vicious, though. In the early 20th century, the dogs were an American family favorite. The breed made appearances on television, in movies, and in war propaganda—some pits even became celebrated war heroes in World War I.

7. Do dogs get jealous?

Anyone with two dogs will probably tell you that dogs definitely feel jealousy—and it’s true! A 2014 study confirmed that your pet gets a little miffed when you start petting other dogs on the side.

Subjects in the study were asked to give love and attention to objects while filming their dog’s reactions. The items were a stuffed dog, a jack-o-lantern, and a pop-up book. The participants would give attention to the plush and pumpkin, and then read from the book. Scientists recorded the reactions of the dogs and looked for jealous signs such as pushing the owner or snapping. The study found that dogs displayed many jealous tendencies and made attempts to break the owner away from the rival. They were most threatened by the stuffed dog and least threatened by the book.

8. Who cleans up after guide dogs?

Guide dogs are extremely well trained and only go to the bathroom on command. Usually the owner will have a specific spot for the hound and use a command word like, “go time” or, “do your business,” so they’ll know when to clean up.

9. What are the most common dog names?

For 2019, the most popular dog names are Luna, Bella, Charlie, Bailey, Lucy, and Cooper. If you’re curious about how much dog name trends change, here are some popular ones from Medieval times: Blawnche, Nosewise, Smylfeste, Bragge, Holdfast, Zaphyro, Zalbot, Mopsus, and Mopsulus.

10. Does a dog’s wagging tail really mean it’s happy?

A dog’s tail can tell you a lot about how they are feeling. A loose wag from side to side means the dog feels relaxed and content. More fervent wagging with hip movements means the dog is happy or saying hello to a loved one. If the tail is straight up, it is a sign of confidence or aggression; down and curled between the legs usually means fear or submission.

11. Can my dog be left-pawed?

Just like humans, dogs have a preferred paw. There is an equal chance your pup can be a lefty or righty, so the best way to find out is to perform a series of tests. Watch what paw your dog uses to shake, scratch at the door, or pull toys out from under the couch. Usually a dominant paw will emerge with enough observation.

12. Why do dogs walk in a circle before lying down?

Dogs get this behavior from their wild ancestors, who didn’t have access to doggy beds. Walking in tight circles would push down tall grass and shape it into a bed. The motion would also scare off any bugs and snakes hiding in the vegetation.

13. Why is a frankfurter called a hot dog?

The deli product was originally known as a dachshund sausage because it resembled the short-legged hound. How the name switched is up for debate, but some believe the name was shortened to “hot dog” when a befuddled cartoonist could not spell the original name.

14. Why do dogs sniff each other's rears?

Dogs sniff rear ends as their way of asking, “Who are you and how have you been?” Canines can find out a whole slew of information from just a whiff. The secretions released by glands in the rump tell other animals things like the dog’s gender, diet, and mood. It’s sort of like talking with chemicals.

15. Can my dog feel guilty?

Possibly, but dogs are great actors. A study asked dog owners to place a treat in front of their dogs, tell them not to eat it, and then walk away. In some trials, the dogs were scolded regardless of whether they had eaten the treat or not; in other trials, they were not scolded at all. The results showed that the dogs always looked guilty when scolded, but dogs that weren’t reprimanded for bad behavior made no face at all. The expression seemed to be a way to appease their owners. So when your pet flashes you those big puppy eyes, they may just be faking it to get out of trouble.

This story has been updated for 2019.

12 Back-to-School Products to Add to Your Shopping List

Kritchanut/iStock via Getty Images
Kritchanut/iStock via Getty Images

Before you know it, your long days (and often longer nights) will be booked with group projects, research papers, and probably some social events, too. It can be difficult to adjust to the sudden onslaught of new responsibilities that come during back-to-school season, but it can help if you feel prepared. Take a look at our 2019 must-have school supplies list to ensure that you’re well-equipped for whatever the fall semester throws at you.

1. Rocketbook Everlast Fusion; $35-$37

Rocketbook everlast fusion
Amazon

Do yourself and the environment a favor and check out the Rocketbook Everlast Fusion, a notebook with 42 reusable pages that will prevent you from ever having to buy another sheet of paper. With seven different page templates for planning, listing, goal-setting, note-taking, sketching, scheduling, and sharing big ideas, the Rocketbook is perfect for students of all ages and disciplines. It comes with one erasable Pilot FriXion pen, and you can also use any other Pilot FriXion utensils on it, markers and highlighters included. What happens when you’ve written on all 42 pages and you’d like to save your work? Simply scan your pages with the free Rocketbook app and upload them to the cloud service of your choice—Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Slack, iCloud, and more. You can get the executive-sized, 6-inch-by-8.8-inch Rocketbook for $35, or the regular letter-sized, 8.5-inch-by-11-inch version for $37.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Bob Ross Agenda; $16

Bob Ross agenda
Amazon

Because Bob Ross understands the importance of going with the flow, this calendar agenda lists only the days of the week, but no dates. Don’t feel like writing anything down in October? Skip it completely without the guilt of seeing blank pages in your planner. Each two-page spread pairs the days of the week on one side with a picturesque, tranquil Bob Ross painting on the other. You can also personalize your calendar entries with Bob Ross-themed stickers included in the back of the agenda, featuring catchphrases like “Be a gentle whisper,” “Just relax and watch it happen,” and “Let’s get crazy!”

Buy it: Amazon

3. Wild Rose Large Planner; $37

papersource wild rose large planner
Paper Source

For those happy to adhere to a date-specific planner, here’s a lovely gold-accented floral option from Paper Source. The 7-inch-by-8.5-inch agenda includes both monthly and weekly calendar pages, so you can see the big-picture overview of your month as well as your day-by-day tasks. There are pages for notes, important dates, and contacts, plus a pocket folder, ruler, and quotes to inspire you. And, because we all love a bit of decoration, there are sticker sheets in the back that feature dainty doodles of flowers, champagne glasses, and more.

Buy it: Paper Source

4. Bluetooth Portable Keyboard; $45-$55

Bluetooth plugable portable foldable keyboard
Amazon

Unburden yourself (and your possibly overstuffed tote bag) from the need to carry around both your tablet and laptop by investing in this portable Bluetooth keyboard that folds into a package smaller than a paperback book and has separate compatibility modes for Android, iOS, and Windows. You only have to charge it once every few weeks, but don’t worry about forgetting—you can always plug it right into your device with the included USB cord. The handy gadget also comes with a case, which doubles as a stand for your electronic device. Though the 11.5-inch-long standard-sized keyboard might be the first choice for those with standard-sized fingers, there’s also a 10-inch compact option for fans of especially miniature things.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Park Foundation Water Bottle; $40

National Parks Foundation water bottle
DICK'S Sporting Goods

These hip Hydro Flask water bottles are each decorated with a design of one of America’s most cherished national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Joshua Tree, and Olympic National Parks. The 21-ounce, stainless-steel bottles feature double-walled vacuum insulation that will not only keep your beverage hot for up to 12 hours or cold for 24, but will also prevent condensation from forming on the bottle and soaking whatever park pamphlets you’ve got tucked inside your backpack.

Buy it: DICK’S Sporting Goods

6. Herschel Backpack; $56-$80

herschel navy backpack
Amazon

Herschel backpacks have become a standard for students, professionals, and practically all other people, in part because there’s a color or pattern to match every unique personality. In addition to representing your individuality, they’ll also last you many years, keep your shoulders comfortable with padded straps, and provide you with the perfect amount of space to store your laptop, schoolbooks, case files, overnight toiletries, and snacks. Peruse Amazon’s extensive collection to find out which one best fits you.

Buy it: Amazon

7. PacSafe Anti-Theft Backpack; $130

pacsafe anti-theft backpack
Luggage Designers

If you’ve ever decided to crank out an essay or project in a café, you’re probably familiar with the quandary of needing a bathroom break but not wanting to lose your seat or leave your belongings unattended. Instead of asking a potentially untrustworthy stranger if they can watch your stuff, try PacSafe’s anti-theft backpack, which boasts lockable zippers and straps, so you can fasten your backpack right to your table; the fabric and straps contain wire mesh, so nobody will be able to cut them (without some serious tools, that is). The Nylon backpack can fit a 15-inch laptop and includes several inside pockets to help you stay organized; you can also detach the straps and carry it like a small briefcase using the handle on the side.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Syver Wireless Speaker and Earbuds; $100

wicked audio syver bluetooth speaker and earbuds
Wicked Audio

Music-streaming services like Spotify make it possible for you to create an epic soundtrack for your life virtually everywhere you go, whether it’s a simple walk between classes or a backyard barbecue with your roommates and 50 of your closest friends. Check out Wicked Audio’s Syver, a two-in-one device that includes a Bluetooth speaker and wireless earbuds so you can toggle seamlessly between personal listening and party listening. Enhanced bass and noise isolation ensure you’re hearing the music exactly as the artists intended it, and the devices are also waterproof, so they’re safe from spilled drinks, pools, inclement weather, and the toilet.

Buy it: Wicked Audio

9. Fineliner Pens; $9

taotree fineliner pens
Amazon

Taotree’s Fineliner pens are a bullet journaler’s best friend, but you don’t have to be a master of organization to take advantage of these 24 brightly colored, versatile utensils. You could use them to color-code your class notes, pair them with a coloring book for the ultimate de-stressing session, or design your own fine-ink drawings. They dry quickly, won’t bleed through your paper, and have a soft-edged triangular shape for easy gripping. With an average 4.5-star review on Amazon, these pens will add color and character to all of your written projects.

Buy it: Amazon

10. PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag; $20

packit freezable lunch bag
Amazon

With PackIt’s freezable lunch bag, you’ll never again have to jam ice packs around your meal-prepped containers—as long as you remember to pop the bag in the freezer the night before you’re planning to use it. The walls are insulated with a freezing gel that will refrigerate your food until you’re ready for lunch. It zips closed to keep the cold in, collapses for easy storage, and includes a plastic buckle on the top so you can easily clip it to your backpack or bag. It also comes in a lively assortment of designs like cartoon cats, unicorns, mermaids, and cherries (and, of course, many more traditional patterns like polka dots, stripes, and camouflage).

Buy it: Amazon

11. Magnetic Dry-Erase Board; $15-$54

magnetic dry-erase board
Amazon

Whether you need to leave chore-related messages on the fridge for your roommates or homework-related messages for yourself in your locker, Yuc has a magnetic dry-erase board in every size for every situation. The smallest is 12 inches by 8 inches, the largest is 29 inches by 21 inches, and there are even weekly and monthly options so you can see your schedule at eye level. The boards are stain- and wrinkle-resistant, and each comes with a rectangular magnetic eraser, plus five different-colored fine-tipped markers whose caps also double as magnetic erasers.

Buy it: Amazon

12. SnackSack Subscription Box; $25/month

SnackSack Subscription
Amazon

Since getting back into the swing of school is always busy and exhausting, it’s easy to forgo a commitment to healthy eating and instead reach for the nearest bag of Doritos to keep you going. The SnackSack subscription box will help you make sure that doesn’t happen (too often). Each month, you’ll receive a package with 11 to 14 carefully curated, deliciously satisfying healthy snacks like bars, cookies, chips, nuts, seeds, sweets, and popcorn to support you through every all-nighter and last-minute group project—and there are vegan and gluten-free options, too.

Buy it: Amazon

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