25 Fast Facts About Ink Blot Tests You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted by , Updated on November 5, 2022

Have you ever heard of an ink blot test? No? Well, let us introduce you. Basically, it involves looking at blobs of ink and saying what you think you see. Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than that. Today, we’re going to explore how some blobs of ink changed the world of psychology. These are 25 Fast Facts About Ink Blot Tests You Probably Didn’t Know.


An ink blot test is a personality test that has participants evaluate ambiguous looking blobs of ink. It's like cloud watching, but with a psychological twist.


The first ink blot test was the Rorschach Test. It was developed by Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist.

Hermann Rorschach

During the 40's and 50's, the ink blot test was quite popular, but then fell out of favor due to its subjective nature.


There are at least two other popular ink blot tests that have since been developed in order to address the shortcomings of the Rorschach Test.

technical issues

The idea of using ambiguous designs to assess an individual's personality goes all the way back to Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.

Leonardo da Vinci

Klecksography, pioneered by a man named Justinus Kerner, took the idea of making ink blots and turned it into a sort of "game." Basically, you were supposed to drop paint on a paper, fold it, and the symmetrical result would give you the ink blot. Justinus wrote about its potential applications.

Justinus Kerner

One of those applications was picked up by psychologists. It's called apophenia, or the human tendency to see patterns in nature.


Growing up in Switzerland, Hermann Rorschach was so intrigued with ink blots that his friends called him "Klecks," which means "inkblot" (hence klecksography).

ink blot

Hermann eventually selected a series of 10 ink blots that would constitute his famous test. These ink blots haven't changed since the test was developed.

ink blot

Unfortunately for Hermann, he died the year after he released his 10 ink blot test.


Since the test's development, it has been used widely as a projective personality test.


Rorschach originally intended his test to be a tool for diagnosing schizophrenia. He didn't agree with the ink blots being used to draw conclusions about peoples' personalities.


Rita Signer, the curator for the Rorschach Archives in Bern, Switzerland, maintains that each of Rorschach's ten ink blots was deliberately and meticulously designed to be as ambiguous as possible.


While administering the test, the examiner sits slightly behind the subject in order to prevent the examiner from influencing the subject's responses. This is quite contrary to what you might have seen on TV.


The ink blots are all symmetrical. 5 of them are black, 2 are black and red, and 3 are multicolored.

rorschach test

The test consists of two phases. The first phase is the Free Association Phase. In this phase, the subject is simply shown and asked to respond to each of the ink blots.


The second phase is the Inquiry Phase. In this phase, the subject is shown the cards again and asked to confirm what they saw.


Things as trivial as whether or not the subject rotated the card are all recorded for later scoring and interpretation.


Various scoring systems are used and which system is the "best" is still controversial.


Rorschach originally toyed with using both symmetric and asymmetric blots. He went with the symmetric blots partially because he thought that both left and right handed people would have more similar responses.

ink blot

There have been various differences noted in the way that people from different cultural backgrounds answer the questions. (This usually involves the images they see or the way they describe the blots.)


The Rorschach test was administered to 22 Nazi officers during the Nuremberg trials. Nothing was definitively learned, but those tested saw a variety of things, from people dancing to dissected insects.

nuremberg trialsSource: newsweek.com

The test has found its greatest level of popularity in Japan. When one of the country's leading psychiatrists read about the test in a secondhand book store, it took off and hasn't slowed down.


In the US and UK, it has been called pseudoscience by many skeptics. There was even a call for a moratorium on the test in 1999.


Even courts have passed rulings on the dubiousness of the ink blot test (Jones v Apfel in 1997 for example). The battle, however, continues to rage.


Photos: All photos under the public domain unless otherwise noted. Feature Image: pixabay, 25. pixabay, 24. wikimedia commons, 23-21. pixabay, 20. wikimedia commons, 19-18. pixabay, 17. wikimedia commons, 16-12. pixabay, 11. wikimedia commons, 10-7. pixabay, 6. wikimedia commons, 5-3. pixabay, 2. shutterstock, (not part of public domain) 1. pixabay

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