I picked up a copy of THE INKBLOTS: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls because of my background in psychology. Whilst we studied the Rorschach tests briefly at university, we didn’t come to terms with them in any meaningful way. The appeal in the images used has, for me, always been their artistic nature. This book outlines both the life of Hermann Rorschach and his iconic test at a deeper level than I anticipated. An understanding and passion for psychology would, to me, be an essential to reading this one. I found it, in parts, too detailed and rather long-winded but overall am grateful to have read it. I appreciate the balanced and intelligent approach taken by the author.

Most interesting to me was the artistic talent of Rorschach and the way in which that spilled over into his psychological work. The history of the last century, as seen from the perspective of the Rorschach test, reframes major happenings such as World War 1 and 2, life in Russia, the Great Depression and the medical enlightenment of the 1950s and 1960s. It also tracks the development of anthropology, sociology, psychology and psychiatry.

Favourite lines:
“The retina actually picking up light or not is only 8 percent of what happens, so to speak. Perception is a mainly psychological, not physical process.”

“In perception, there are three processes: sensation, memory, and association.”

“Finally, empathy is a healing element in its own right: compassion can heal…”

From the back cover:
The captivating, untold story of Hermann Rorschach and his famous inkblot test, which has shaped our view of human personality and become a fixture in popular culture.

In 1917, working alone in a remote Swiss asylum, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach devised an experiment to probe the human mind. He had come to believe that who we are is less a matter of what we say, as Freud thought, than what we see. Rorschach himself was a talented illustrator, and his test, a set of ten carefully designed inkblots, quickly made its way to America, where it took on a life of its own.
Co-opted by the military after Pearl Harbor, Rorschach’s test was a fixture at the Nuremberg trials and in the jungles of Vietnam. It became an advertising staple, a cliché in Hollywood and journalism, and an inspiration to everyone from Andy Warhol to Jay-Z. The test was also taken by millions of defendants, job applicants, parents in custody battles and people suffering from mental illness – or simply trying to understand themselves better. And it is still used today.

Damion Searls draws on untranslated letters and diaries, and a cache of previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends and colleagues, to tell the unlikely story of the test’s creation, its controversial reinvention, and its remarkable endurance. Elegant and original, The Inkblots shines a light on the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. For more information from the author: Damion Searls


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