Psychologists see red over inkblot test posting
Published Friday, July 31, 2009 9:53AM EDT
A Saskatchewan doctor says his decision to post the famous Rorschach ink blot tests on the Wikipedia website was done as a public service. But many in the psychology world are livid, saying the move will destroy the integrity of the test.
Earlier this month, Dr. James Heilman, an emergency ward physician in Moose Jaw, decided to post images of the Rorschach ink blots on the Wikipedia encyclopedia website. Shortly after, a poster from Italy added to the Rorschach Test page by also providing the common answers people give when taking the test.
Critics in the psychological community were outraged, saying that posting the images and "answers" to the test now makes it easier for people to "cheat."
"When they're out in the public domain, it influences how people respond to tests and the tests end up no longer measuring what they purport to measure," Karen Cohen, executive director of the Canadian Psychological Association explained to Canada AM on Friday.
"Also, when they're out in the public domain, people might try to use them without the sufficient training that goes along with properly administer the test, interpret them and ensure that they're accurate results," she added.
Heilman maintains he has done nothing wrong, since the inkblot images are hardly a secret; they can be found in any psychology textbook or elsewhere on the web.
Heilman says he simply noticed that the webpage discussing the Rorschach Inkblot Test didn't include the actual images of the inkblots. He says he was just trying to make the Wikipedia entry complete.
"Wikipedia has an incredible goal. Its purpose is to share the depth and breadth of human knowledge, free of charge," Heilman told Canada AM. "This information is encyclopedic. This is what people expect to see when they see this page."
The Rorschach Inkblot Test was developed in the 1920s as a way of analyzing certain aspects of the subject's personality. The thinking behind the test is that the way a subject interprets an image can reveal whether that patient suffers from various psychological disorders.
The tests have been controversial almost from the start, with many saying its results are meaningless.
Cohen concedes the test has been controversial but says the test is still used today, albeit as part of a battery of other analysis.
"There are many different psychological tests; each has its own indications and uses for particular problems. Rorschach is one of them. There are others and they form part of an assessment. A diagnosis doesn't rely solely on the results of any one particular test," she notes.
She says she is not against having the public understand more about the test, saying it's legitimate to provide information about what the test does, what it is meant to accomplish, what its history is and what fuels the debate about the test's reliability and validity.
"But that's different from publishing questions and answers," she said. "Once you see the actual test items, once you see the array of answers that are possible, that can't help but impact the answers you give. And the test no longer measures what occurs to you or what you believe, but it measures what you think you should or shouldn't say or what others think a particular answer means."