I just finished reading “The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test and the Power of Seeing” by Damion Searls. It is a book all assessment psychologists should read; it does a good job of chronicling the life of Hermann Rorschach and the development of the Test.

It is not particularly well-written. The writing could be more provocative. (It is not a page-turner.) Ironically, the appendix (a eulogy of Hermann Rorschach by his wife, Olga) is more scholarly. I say “ironically” because an appendix killed Rorschach (a joke).

The author also leaves out some information. For instance, although he says that Rorschach made considerable effort to select the best inkblots, he does not say that there were many more than 10 blots to begin with. He does not cover the considerable controversy between Rorschach and his publisher that resulted in only 10 cards being published. Furthermore, Searls does not say that Rorschach drew the 10 cards—they are not really inkblots, but drawings based on inkblots. Rorschach took care to assure that there was at least one Popular response per card and that the main areas of the card were more definitely formed (not vague like they were on the original inkblots). Also, while Searles puts a lot of emphasis on color, he does not say why there is color on only half the cards and why the full color cards come at the end of the series.

Also, although Searls devotes an entire chapter to the Nazi Rorschachs, he does not mention our book on “The Quest for the Nazi Personality” that details the conflict between Kelley and Gilbert and presents the results of a study of nearly 200 rank-and-file Nazis.

Searls gets rather carried away with R-PAS. He makes Joni Mahura’s meta-analysis (an excellent study) seem like the only counter to the Wood et al criticisms. He fails to mention the published rebuttals of many Rorschach scholars that preceded Mahura’s meta-analysis.

Furthermore, Searls connects R-PAS to Steven Finn’s collaborative assessment (a wonderful use of the Rorschach and other assessment methods), even though collaborative assessment began well before R-PAS. In actuality, the relationship between R-PAS and collaborative assessment is not necessarily a policy connection, but may have more to do with the personal relationship between Steven Finn and Greg Meyer.

All in all, I think “The Inkblots” is an important work that needs to be known by assessment psychologists. I only wish someone would write a biography of John Exner (covered to some extent by Searls).

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