The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

Crown. Feb. 2017. 416p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780804136549. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780804136556. PSYCH
OrangeReviewStarWriter and translator Searls's book describes and analyzes a major tool in psychology, "probably the ten most interpreted and analyzed paintings of the twentieth century." Now out of copyright (they were created in 1917), these images are widely available, but the parlor game is not the test, and vice versa. Medical insurance covers testing and, besides its clinical importance, the Rorschach (as it is known) is widely used by employers. Not a pass-or-fail examination, the Rorschach aims to measure imagination and personality. Its creator, Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922) at 12 lost his mother to diabetes; soon his father married one of his wife's half-sisters, then died in 1903 when Hermann was 18, with three younger siblings. Reader-friendly, this book has 24 chapters, including "The Queen of Tests" and "Iconic as a Stethoscope." A key player involved is John Exner (1928–2006), credited with resurrecting this "most powerful psychometric instrument."
VERDICT An important book that reminds us of the benefits and costs of generalizing about the most complicated matter on Earth: the human mind. [See Prepub Alert, 8/22/16.]
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