Barry Ritzler, PhD

As the title indicates, this article is a critical review of the manual for the Rorschach Performance Assessment System (R-PAS). I have recently been able to review this manual, the first published information on the R-PAS. The system is being marketed as a better, quicker, and more valid system for Rorschach administration and interpretation. I have read the manual, which is a real project, since it contains over 500 pages, and give some of my reactions to this first reading as follows.

The manual is organized into seven sections: Administration and Coding, Advanced Coding and Clarification, Form Quality Tables, Coding Practice, Interpretation, Technical Manual, and Appendices. I will comment on many of them. The manual does not solve the problems inherent in R-PAS, that is, concerns about the integrity of the International Reference Samples, the exclusion of Rorschach studies prior to 1974, the exclusion of studies (mainly by Exner) which were not peer-reviewed, and the lack of basic research pertaining to this new system. Also, the manual certainly does not seem to make Rorschach interpretation easier or more effective.

Let’s start with administration. The authors define their issues regarding administration and offer guidelines. This material has been presented before in Exner’s Comprehensive System Workbook and in our Little Book on Comprehensive System Administration. Actually, much of the discussion of the purpose and nature of the Rorschach which appears in the manual is a re-phrasing of ideas presented by Rorschach experts from Hermann Rorschach himself to John Exner.

The authors present their modification of Rorschach administration, the “push for two, pull after four” approach. They fail to mention anywhere that this is much more a “push for two” than a “pull after four” approach. With the new R-PAS method, their examiners have much more often “pushed for two” rather than “pulled after four.” Even in the examples cited in the R-PAS manual “pushes” occur much more frequently than “pulls.” Also, it is no surprise that most of the “pulls” come on Card X due to the complexity of that card.

Additionally, nowhere do the authors deal with the incredibly important issue that this is now a new test, because of the new administration rules. This means a whole new set of research needs to be conducted to establish the appropriateness of these changes. As indicated below, this is a frequent problem with the R-PAS. The authors try to short cut basic research and instead statistically manipulate Comprehensive System data to support their system.
In the section titled Administration, the authors indicate laptops can be used to record the responses. When this issue arose on the Internet Rorschach ListServ, I wondered how R-PAS could suggest such a procedure without research to determine if a laptop yielded different results from handwritten notes. Bob Erard responded by saying that a (single, unpublished) dissertation had been done on the topic showing that a laptop made no difference. It is an unusual claim from a group that does not accept research which is not peer-reviewed. It appears that this is another system change that has not withstood the rigors of research and peer review.

As Carl-Erik Mattlar indicated in a paper appearing on our website, the R-PAS coding has eliminated variables from the Comprehensive System treatment of the Rorschach and added others. To give just a few examples, the content codes of Clouds (Cl), Nature (Na), Landscape (Ls), Geography (Ge), and Botany (Bt) have been eliminated. This makes the calculation of the Isolation Index impossible. The Reflection variable is coded differently, Autistic Logic becomes ‘Peculiar’ (without the inclusion of the imperative statement); the v/+ code is eliminated; the Mutuality of Autonomy and Oral Dependency Scales have been added. I am intrigued by the addition of White Space Reversal (SR) and White Space Integration (SI). It would be good to see some supportive research, including interpretative meaning.

The Basic Coding section in the manual is 24 pages long. The Advanced Coding section is 121 pages long and reads very much like Don Viglione’s Coding Solutions for the Comprehensive System. Strangely, this occurs in a manual that is supposed to make using the Rorschach easier.

The Form Quality Tables have been cleverly devised, and they are different from the Comprehensive System Form Quality Tables. FQu is no longer as accurate as FQo. It is less frequent (as in the CS), but also less accurate (different from the CS). The interpretive step of estimating the distortion level of minus responses no longer exists in the R-PAS. Again, there is no body of research evidence to support these changes and the interpretation that would accompany them.

The Coding Practice section includes well-administered protocols that make coding relatively easy. It would be helpful to see how R-PAS coding does with more difficult protocols.

In reading the Interpretation Section, it became immediately apparent that it was not as easy to follow or understand as Exner’s Interpretation Primer for the Comprehensive System. This again, in a manual trying to make the Rorschach easier.

Of course, the most glaring problem for the manual is the use of the International Reference Sample. Our paper, published on the RTP website, expresses our concerns about these samples. The biggest problem seems to be that R-PAS is using these protocols and reference samples to guide their interpretations even though the International Samples used the CS method of administration rather than the “push for two, pull after four” R-PAS administration. Shouldn’t so-called “normative” samples have the same methods as the system for which they are supposed to be norms? Also, R-PAS has never addressed the problem of high Lambda and a low frequency of color responses in nearly every international sample.

In conclusion, the R-PAS is but another system for using the Rorschach. The major questions remain – WHERE is the basic supportive research using ONLY the R-PAS technique and DOES IT truly give a better understanding of the person being tested?


We are happy to announce that the 2012 Training Programs are now posted on the RTP website and available for registration. We already have a number of people who have registered, and, of course, this early in the year there are still plenty of slots available.

Beginning Programs
Wednesday, February 22 -Sunday, February 26, 2012, San Francisco, California

Monday, June 11 – Friday, June 15, Hartford, CT (exact site will soon be posted)

Advanced Programs
Friday, February 17 – Sunday, February 19, 2012, Tampa, Florida

Friday, March 30 – Sunday, April 1, 2012, Dallas, Texas


We apologize for any inconvenience concerning Car-Erik Mattlar’s article on R-PAS.

Unfortunately, there were a number of software formatting problems in posting his article which have taken some time to resolve. All articles on the website are now downloadable.

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