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UToledo professors are bringing the Rorschach into the 21st century

Two University of Toledo professors are changing the way the psychology community views the highly controversial Rorschach inkblot test.

Drs. Gregory Meyer and Joni Mihura, psychology professors at The University of Toledo, are known internationally for their work on the well-known Rorschach inkblot test. The Rorschach is a psychological test in which a person’s perceptions of the inkblots are recorded, scored, and interpreted. The test has seen major advances since it was published, which includes the publication of thousands of research studies. However, some skeptics continue to view the Rorschach as pseudoscience and question the test’s validity.

“The current reputation of the Rorschach is based on a sort of folklore,” Mihura said. “A fascinating social phenomenon is the number of people who, when I mention I study the Rorschach, react with a derogatory remark or simply proclaim that the Rorschach is ‘invalid.’ This has happened with psychologists but also people from all walks of life who have simply heard something about the test. And since this is usually someone I’ve just met, it’s a socially jarring experience.”

“It’s important to know that even the test’s main critics do not believe the Rorschach as a whole is invalid. If you are even somewhat familiar with the literature, you know that research supports the Rorschach as a valid measure of psychosis. The critics’ main criticism of the test has been that there are a large number of scales, and we don’t know which ones are valid and which are not,” she said. “To answer this question, we reviewed the validity literature for the main 65 Rorschach variables, a task that required several years and thousands of hours of work. We summarized this literature using a method called ‘meta-analysis,’ and our findings were published in the top journal in psychology.”

“The Validity of Individual Rorschach Variables: Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of the Comprehensive System”—researched and written by Mihura and Meyer along with their former students and UToledo alumni Dr. George Bombel of The Menninger Clinic and Dr. Nicolae Dumitrascu of Boston University—was published in Psychological Bulletin, the top scientific review journal in the field of psychology.

Mihura and Meyer are the first UToledo professors to have a study published in this prestigious journal.

“Psychological Bulletin is the ultimate source for the current state of the research in psychology. The journal also gives other researchers the opportunity to state their opposing case, which is particularly valuable for controversial topics like the Rorschach,” Mihura said.

The main critics of the Rorschach published a response to Mihura and Meyer’s study earlier this year; they concluded that the study conducted was “an unbiased and trustworthy summary of the published literature.” The critics attempted to find bias in the published literature itself, but Mihura and colleagues found far too many errors in the critics’ work to rely on their results. Ultimately, the critics lifted their recommendation for a moratorium on the clinical and forensic use of the Rorschach, which they initially proposed in 1999.

The meta-analyses have long been a work in progress for Mihura. “When I started the literature review, Greg [Meyer] and I were on Exner’s Research Council for the Rorschach Comprehensive System—the standard in the field. I felt a huge responsibility. Given the controversy surrounding the Rorschach, I wanted to make sure I was teaching my students the right thing. As psychologists, their decisions would affect many people’s lives. Our meta-analyses in Psychological Bulletin were born out of that search for truth,” Mihura said.

Unanticipated by Mihura, what started off as a literature review for her class became the backbone of a new Rorschach system: the Rorschach Performance Assessment System (R-PAS). After the developer of the Comprehensive System, John Exner, Jr., passed away, his family decided not to continue developing his business. Subsequently, the R-PAS was developed—spearheaded by Meyer and Mihura. Since some of the test’s developers had served on Exner’s Research Council, they knew the system’s weaknesses and dedicated themselves to creating a better test.

“We’ve received an overwhelming amount of support from our assessment colleagues. Some of our colleagues are nevertheless hesitant to learn our new system and prefer to continue using the Comprehensive System. I understand the desire to gather more information before making a change. But our new Rorschach system can continue to evolve with the research and the Comprehensive System cannot,” Mihura said. “Over time, I think psychologists who continue with the Comprehensive System will be hard-pressed to defend that decision.”

Meyer and Mihura have received many invitations to teach their new Rorschach system in the U.S. and internationally. So far, the R-PAS test manual has been translated into Japanese and Italian; the French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Czech translations are underway. The R-PAS scoring program has already been translated into multiple languages. Mihura and Meyer are currently working on an R-PAS casebook, slated to be published by Guilford in 2016.

For more information about the R-PAS, visit


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