Blots and all: A history of the Rorschach Ink Blot test in Britain

British people are more likely to see Hermann Rorschach’s symmetrical ink blots in an advertising campaign for a film, a smoothie or a deoderant than when meeting a clinical psychologist.  Given that the Rorschach test was once the most commonly used test in clinical psychology this situation takes some explaining. Katherine Hubbard has set herself this task and the first paper from her project has just been accepted at the Journal for the History of the Behavioral Sciences.  The paper “Blots and all: A history of the Rorschach Ink Blot test in Britain” takes a comparative approach to the question of why inkblot tests became intrinsic to clinical psychology in the USA so much more than in Britain. Answering this question lead Katherine and her supervisor Peter Hegarty to research the history of differences between the impact of psychoanalysis, military engagement with testing, the education of clinical psychologists, and psychologists’ engagement with cold war social anxieties and de-colonization in the two countries. Katherine’s ongoing work focuses in depth on the lives of the women psychologists who made up much of the small British Rorschach network, and on what historians of psychology can learn from the vigilante character of  ‘Rorschach’ in Allan Moore and David Gibbons comic Watchmen, who is now better known than the original Dr Hermann Rorschach himself.

Katherine Hubbard is a PhD student at the University of Surrey. If you have any questions about her research, you can email her on k.a.hubbard@surrey.ac.uk.