What do you see? And no, Rorschach
is not the answer.
"He said pepul see things in the ink. I said show me where. He said think. I told him I think a inkblot but that wasnt rite eather. He said what does it remind you—pretend something. I closd my eyes for a long time to pretend. I told him I pretned a fowntan pen with ink leeking all over a table cloth."
Whenever someone in fiction gives or receives a Rorschach test, the one where the patient looks at a blot of ink and says what he sees, the test is misrepresented. Instead of finding a reason for the patient to see something, the psychiatrist focuses more on what
the patient sees. If the patient sees a butterfly, he's innocent, if he sees a corpse, he's guilty. Also, obsessed characters are always shown to see the same thing, no matter what the blot looks like.
In some comedic situations, inkblots sometimes will be created spontaneously with a sheet of folded paper and whatever ink or inklike substance might be handy. In very
comedic situations, such a blot will spontaneously form a perfectly clear image of whatever the plot requires the character to be diagnosed as obsessed with.
Incidentally, most psychiatrists don't value the Rorschach test very highly; it requires that the person administering the test provide too much of his own judgment on the patient's answers.
It should be noted, however, that there are many scoring (and administration) methods. The Exner scoring system is statistically validated and, as such, presents very little "interpretation" issues. Psychiatrists still tend to dismiss it, though, based on how it struggles to consistently be more than about 66% accurate. (Incidentally, some of the factors scored are: how long it takes to come up with an interpretation, how novel or common the interpretation is, how much the interpretation actually resembles the blot, bias towards color vs shape, whether the patient is deliberately being difficult, etcetera.)
Note that any inkblot seen in a movie and TV show will not
be one of the actual Rorschach blots, but a blot made up for that production. The American Psychological Association has attempted to keep them reasonably secret
so that when the test is actually administered, the patient's reactions will be spontaneous. However, at this point the test has been widely distributed on the internet and is now considered defunct. Also, fictional blots are almost universally simple black ink on white paper — but in the actual test, two of the ten blots are black and red, and three are multicolored.
Anime and Manga
- Used, appropriately, with the character Rorschach in Watchmen; once he is imprisoned, the doctor assigned to him gives him this test. He lies about his answers initially (on seeing one picture that reminds him of his abusive mother, he calls it "Some pretty flowers"), but once the psychiatrist realizes that and retests him, he weaves his reply into his Hannibal Lecture.
- At least in the movie, once Rorschach breaks out of his cell and gets his
mask face (which frequently shifts into inkblot patterns) back he asks the doctor: "What do you see?"
- In Grant Morrison's graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, the Joker grabs a set of inkblot cards from a psychiatrist and proceeds to mock the test itself by facetiously claiming to see such things as two angels having sex and a Jewish ventriloquist act. He then attempts to test Batman who, although he sees a bat as in the below example, claims to see nothing. The Joker retorts, "Not even a cute little long-legged boy in swimming trunks?", an unsubtle reference to Robin.
- In Kid Eternity, Kid is on the receiving end of this by his Evil Counterpart Dr. Pathos after being interned in the mental hospital he works at. Dr. Pathos grows increasingly frustrated when it becomes clear that Kid is just going to keep saying he sees "a man being swallowed by a giant vagina."
- There was an issue of Legion of Super-Heroes wherein Brainiac 5 administered an Inkblot Test to Jo Nah. Jo described every inkblot as a picture of him strangling or otherwise committing violence on the person of Brainy. When Brainy became frustrated with this, Jo replied that it wasn't his fault, Brainy was the one with all the pictures of himself being abused.
- In a Dilbert Story Arc, the Pointy-Haired Boss put Alice in the company's drug rehab program, despite her not having a drug problem, so that he would look productive. The doctor gives her an inkblot test at one point, the image on the first card clearly being a profile of the Pointy Haired Boss.
- Gary Larson did a The Far Side cartoon in which a hulking individual is being given the test, and all the blots look like a silhouette of him strangling the tester.
- A Gahan Wilson cartoon has the patient addressing a weird blobby shape— "No, doctor, the resemblance is amazing!"
- A cartoon in Reader's Digest had an insect interpreting a big splotch: "Windshield."
- Parodied in Armageddon: one of the drillers is subjected to this as part of his astronaut training.
Rockhound: Woman with big breasts... woman with medium breasts... oh, this is like you (points to psychiatrist, who is male), but with breasts.
AJ Frost: This is Harry giving me a hard time. This is Harry telling me it's not good enough. This is Harry telling me I can't marry his daughter. Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.
- Subverted in Short Circuit, where the male lead makes a quick inkblot test and tries it on Johnny 5. However, he's not actually trying to psychoanalyze Johnny - he just wants to know if Johnny's sufficiently sentient that he can perceive it as something besides a stain. It kinda works; at first, Johnny 5 does just see a stain, and breaks it down into its individual components (mainly tomato soup on a piece of paper), convincing the lead that the robot wasn't sentient enough. Then, it begins to describe what the stain resembles (like a maple leaf and butterfly), causing this little bit of dialog to ensue:
Newton Crosby, PhD: Where? Holy shit!
Johnny 5: No shit. Where see shit?
- In Batman Forever, with Bruce trying to regain his social footing with Dr. Meridian, he turns to the various psychiatric tools in her office and tries to put her on the defensive with them, or otherwise change the subject. Given that he broke into her room assuming she was being beaten up when she was just boxing with a training dummy, this is understandable. He asks if she has a thing for bats. The doctor says it's a Rorschach, and explains what it is, then says that the question is if he has a thing for bats.
- This troper found it strange that somebody as smart as Batman would be dumb enough to actually mention that he sees bats in any painting, and wouldn't know he was looking at a Rorschach.
- It is incredibly difficult to see the 'inkblot' as being something other than a bat.
- Oddly, one of the standard Rorschach inkblots used in Real Life looks almost exactly like a bat. It's nearly impossible to not see it as one.
- According to William Poundstone's Big Secrets, that's by intent, to effectively act as a "control group" ? anyone who doesn't say they see the bat (or similar interpretation) is probably doing it on purpose.
- Actually it looks kinda like a weird bird to me...
- In Problem Child, the prison psychiatrist is giving a Rorschach test to the Bow Tie Killer, only the "inkblots" are actually bloodstains left by his victims. While the warden is in the room he lies, saying he sees things like butterflies and bunnies hopping across fields. This enrages the warden, and the psychiatrist forces him to leave. Once the warden leaves, the psychiatrist continues the test, and the Bow Tie Killer says he sees blood, and kills the psychiatrist, puts on his clothes and drives out of prison. Why no one was watching what was going on from behind a two-way mirror is anyone's guess.
- In Take The Money And Run, Woody Allen's character's troubled youth is highlighted when he interprets an inkblot drawing as "Two ostriches making love to a glee club."
- Parodied in Blank Man, which injects a upper chest into the set of blots.
- Even better, Damon Wayans character has no idea what the obvious breasts are, even when the man administering the test holds the card against his own chest as visual reference.
- In Robert Pirsig's novel Lila, Phaedrus claims that the true purpose of the Rorschach test is to gauge the subject's imaginative ability, such that if the person says "I don't see anything," or "I see an inkblot," that's allegedly a potential sign of severe mental illness. It should be noted that there is no evidence to support this claim. At most, such responses would indicate a lack of creativity.
- Played dead straight in Alex Rider, when Alex is being assessed for suitability as an assassin. Most applicants saw a man lying in a pool of blood. Alex saw a guy with a bookbag.
- In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie is given a Rorschach early on, and to highlight his severe mental retardation, he's unable to understand the concept, thinking that he's supposed to find some sort of hidden picture. A few weeks later, he's given the test again, and gets angry because he thinks they changed the test on him.
- Big Secrets by William Poundstone had black-and-white illustrations of each blot, with full descriptions, including colors. Published 1985.
- A very old joke involves a man being shown a set of inkblots, and interpreting them all as pictures of people having sex. When the tester announces that he's clearly obsessed with sex, he says, "Me? You're the one with the collection of dirty pictures."
Live Action TV
- A classic Emo Philips routine:
Doctor: What do you see?
Patient: I see a horrible, ugly blob of pure evil that sucks the souls of men into a vortex of sin and degradation.
Doctor: No, the inkblot's over here; that's a picture of my wife you're looking at.
Patient: Was I far off?
Doctor: No, that's the sad part.
- One episode of The Addams Family had Cousin It administer inkblots as part of an intelligence test. He gives a series of odd answers (like a sunset over Phoenix), and the tester is astonished that It "got them all correct". Can't tell if the writers just didn't know or They Just Didn't Care.
- Then again, it could just be a joke or an inside reference, as viewers at that time likely wouldn't be too familiar with the Rorschach test.
- The titular character in Sledge Hammer! received one, where he identified each picture as some violent scene... except for the last, which he claims is, "A duck handcuffing a naked woman". The psychologist remarks, "Funny, I've never seen the duck."
- To be more accurate, he saw two images of gun violence, "a field of pussy willows," "a [machine gun] blowing away the pussy willows," and "a duck handcuffing a naked woman."
- On The Golden Girls, Sophia is taking an inkblot test in an attempt to become a nun. She identifies all the blots as increasingly elaborate religious imagery: an angel, a dove perched upon the throne of God, the Blessed Virgin smiling as she pours love upon the hearts of the righteous, until Dorothy interrupts exasperatedly that the blot is obviously "John Forsythe lying naked in a pool of honey." The nun administering the test agrees.
- During TNA's Paparazzi Championship Series, when the X-division guys were made to jump through all sorts of comedic hoops, Kevin Nash administered an inkblot test, browbeating Sonjay Dutt by suggesting the images reminded him of steroids, and reacting with incredulity when resident obsessed martial artist Senshi saw ever blot as being a warrior.
- A doctor attempts to give Vala one on Stargate SG-1, but abandons it when she keeps claiming to see abstract concepts like courage in the blots.
- On Empty Nest the Lothario Charley finds Carol's inkblots and asks why she has pictures of naked women, (before putting them in his pocket for later.)
- Stephen Colbert blames his therapist for giving him inkblots that all look like the same thing - either a butterfly in bondage, or a mushroom cloud. He sees the same things in the outlines of countries (except for Italy, which doesn't look like anything at all, and Canada, which is Shaped Like Itself).
- In one Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank invent "erotic Rorschach blots": they look just as indistinct as regular inkblots, but they suggest Filth. Things get awkward when one of them reminds Frank of his mom.
- Parodied and then some in Scrubs where Turk asks his marriage counselor if the image hanging above him is one of those psychological inkblot things, because if it is, then Turk sees a duck. Cut to a view of the image, and it's actually a perfectly normal portrait of a duck.
- The Drew Carey Show: Drew sees a psychologist ("Bring out the inkblots but I can tell you right now, they're all gonna be vaginas.") who tells him that he has low self-esteem.
I don't have any self-esteem issues...[sees an inkblot] hey, where'd you get this picture of my mom making fun of me?
- Parodied in Spaced; as part of his psychological evaluation to re-enter the Territorial Army, Mike is administered an inkblot test... and identifies everything (including a card that clearly represents two people having sex) as being related to war, killing, guts and / or guns. Except for the last one, which he associates with a butterfly, until the disapproving look he gets from the panel inspires him to amend it to "Butterfly with a bomb!" Needless to say, this demonstration of psychological maladjustment makes him perfect material for the TA, and he is re-admitted.
- Big Wolf on Campus had this rather humorous example-
Merton: (Looking at the ink blot tests) Bat....bat....A lonely boy who failed to please his father at every turn...
Giger: Oh, sorry, that one was upside down.
- Parodied in an episode of The Detectives
Dave: Well, it's upside down... but that's Greater Manchester, that is.
- An episode of F Troop had an Indian acting as a psychiatrist give Corporal Agarn the "Roaring Chicken" or "Roar-Chick" test.
Agarn: I see a beautiful Indian girl in a short skirt bending over a campfire.
Roaring Chicken: (grabbing the paper and staring at it) Where?! Where?!
Agarn: (who'd looked past the paper, points) Right over there.
Roaring Chicken: I like your ink blot better than my ink blot.
- In Peep Show, Mark is subjected to an inkblot test after being sent to therapy for pissing on his employer's desk.
Doctor: What do you see?
Mark (thinking): A hairy twat. A hungry, devouring twat.
Mark: A kitten.
- Parodied in Drawn Together, where a test of this kind is applied to Xandir. All the things he says he sees are homosexual innuendo, but all the "blots" of ink are also figurative representations of those Double Entendres.
- Parodied on the 101 Dalmatians cartoon, where a dog "actor" is given such a test. His response is "The destructive power of all mankind" (or something similar); the ink blot looks almost exactly like a daisy.
- Used in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command several times: a villainous robot sees several types of explosives (including a fluffy bunny- holding a ticking bomb); his mildly sex-crazed brother sees various types of exotic dancers, including his only female teammate as an exotic dancer.
- Animaniacs pokes fun at the inkblot test often enough given that Dr. Scrathensniff fits into the role of the stereotypical psychologist.
- Dot's Test
- Yakko's Test
- Later in the series, Dr. Scratchensniff again gives the test to Yakko, to whom every picture looks like "girls." ("Well, you're the one with all the sexy pictures!")
- Captain Black of Jackie Chan Adventures is given this test after being exposed to the supernatural. All sees are "Demon. Demon. Demon. Socks...worn by a really big demon."
- This happens on The Simpsons, where Homer is believed to be insane at one point. His first few answers are somewhat normal ("The devil with his fly open... uh, a spill on the floor with bugs going after it, they're gonna eat it...") before seeing one that looks very much like Bart, making him act hostile.
- In the Veggie Tales silly song "I Love My Lips", Dr Archibald applies the inkblot test to Larry. The first two slides are pictures of lips. Then every slide after that is an obvious picture of something completely unrelated (a flower, an airplane, Avogadro's Number, a photo of Sonny Bono, etc) yet Larry invariably identifies these as lips as well.
- In an episode of Duckman, the titular detective accidentally gets a Rorschach-like stain on his chest:
"A picture of me and Vanna White frolicking naked with a tribe of pygmies!"
"..Synchronized swimmers crocheting mittens in a pool filled with truffles.."
"..A drag queen on a Shetland pony licking a flaming banjo.."
"..Me, a rabbi, and six drunken longshoreman rolling around on a rubber bed.."
- One episode of 2 Stupid Dogs has the two dogs doing one. The first few blots are are consistently identified as a ball (Little Dog) and food (Big Dog). The final image of a ball and food stumped them.
Psychiatrist: YOU ARE BOTH ENTIRELY TOO STUPID TO QUALIFY! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!
- Parodied/Lampshaded on Invader Zim:
What does identifying ink blotches have to do with determining our future careers?
Ms. Bitters: Oh you poor, doomed child.
- And naturally Dib puts everything down as a supernatural creature, and Zim puts everything down as "Human slave." Though for some reason the last blob stymies him for a while.
- In the pilot episode of Daria, she is given a test on her first day of school where she's shown a picture of two people and asked what they're discussing. First she tells the school psychologist that she sees "A herd of beautiful ponies, running across the plains." Then she says that the two people are discussing "A herd of beautiful ponies running across the plains."
- An episode of Beavis And Butthead had the boys looking at some inkblots and constantly hinting that it looked like a guy masturbating. When shown a photo of a male singer holding a microphone in a suggestive manner, Butt-Head says "Uh...that's like, just a bunch of shapes."
- ReBoot Phong gives Bob one of these and asks him what he sees. Bob sees Dot with the haircut she used to have when they first met and she's smiling. Then Phong takes another look at it and says "Oh now I see."
- Used briefly in Hey Arnold during Helga's session with a child psychologist in Helga On The Couch. After seeing Arnold in three inkblots, she grabs all the papers and frantically throws them out a window. Admittedly the ones she sees as Arnold are pretty hard not to see as Arnold.
- Used in an episode of Doug where Skeeter is given one after scoring very high on one of those Myers-Briggs type tests. He is given the option to skip ahead to college, but chooses not to, because he doesn't fit in with the college crowd, who smoke and aren't fond of his air guitar.