How great would the harm be if nearly everyone on earth could get free access to all of the figures from the famous Rorschach ink blot test, along with examples of the answers that would be expected? This is the topic of a new article by Noam Cohen of the New York Times.
Images of the ten ink blots have been posted to the Wikipedia entry about the test, first published by its inventor Hermann Rorschach in 1921, along with an account of the popular Exner scoring system. Although the plates are long out of copyright in the US, the outcry from some psychologists has been fervent. One has accused Wikipedia of “harming scientific research.” The president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods has said the entry will allow people to “game” the test. The German company that licenses the test material is exploring the possibility of legal action against the foundation that owns Wikipedia. Wikipedia and its advocates, by contrast, believe in the open access of all information that can be legally distributed.
What is not contained in Cohen’s article is the possibility that no scientific harm can be caused by exposing a test that many believe to have little scientific credibility in the first place. Lilienfeld, Wood, & Garb published an extensive analysis of projective tests like the Rorschach in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2000. They concluded that “the substantial majority of Rorschach and TAT indexes are not empirically supported.”
Acknowledgment: Stephen Black alerted me to the Lilienfeld et al. article in a posting on the TIPS e-mail list.
Disclaimer: Noam Cohen contacted me prior to publishing the article to ask for historical background on the Rorschach test. I told him I didn’t know much about it and suggested another person for him to consult with.