Justinis to Justice

Justinis Kerner (1786 – 1862) was a German physician and poet. When he began losing his eyesight, he focused solely on composing poems. When he dripped blobs of ink onto his paper, he chose to use the “blots” as creative inspiration instead of throwing the paper away. His published works of inkblot poetry inspired the Kleksographie game Blotto, which requires players to compete in generating the most (and most interesting) creative associations to what the blots resembled.

 

Hermann Rorschach (1884 – 1922) played Blotto so often that his friends in adolescence nicknamed him “Kleks” (blot). While studying patients with schizophrenia in medical school, Rorschach observed that his patients gave responses much different from those of his childhood friends. This observation prompted Rorschach to investigate whether the inkblots could be used to create profiles of different types of mental disorders. 

Rorschach began studying 405 subjects, 117 of whom were not psychiatric patients.  Each person was presented with a card and asked, “What might this be?”  This was repeated with as many as 15 different cards per subject. Rorschach didn’t analyze what the subjects saw, but rather the characteristics of what they reported, including if they focused on the image as a whole or on a smaller detail, or if they took a long time to provide an answer. For example, one card shows an image often interpreted as depicting two people. If the subject took a long time to respond, he or she might be revealing problems with social interactions. After four years of research, Rorschach believed that his test could help diagnose mental illness and interpret a patient’s behavior.

In 1920, Rorschach published his findings and ten standard inkblot cards. The popularity of the test grew, reaching its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s as the preeminent projective technique. 

When the American Psychiatric Association removed “homosexuality” as a diagnosable disease from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973, it was in large part due to Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s groundbreaking study “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual” published in the Journal of Projective Techniques, Volume 21, 1957.

Dr. Hooker implemented the Rorschach Test with 30 men who identified as homosexual and 30 men who identified as heterosexual. Two judges participated in blind analysis of the projective study, including Rorschach expert Bruno Klopfer. You definitely want to hear the voice of Dr. Hooker discussing the impetus for her study and how she understood the impact and significance of her work. 

LISTEN to Eric Marcus’s interview with Dr. Hooker on Making Gay History – The Podcast or LISTEN to HUE’s truncated version for high school classrooms.

READ Dr. Hooker’s article in the Journal of Projective Techniques.

Dr. Evelyn Hooker: Science and Morality inquiry kit explores how moral responsibility inspires scientific research, as well as how institutional and social understandings of scientific research influence concepts of morality and health. 

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