Looking Anew at the Rorschach

Barry Dauphin, Ph.D., Ph.D. Harold Greene, M.A. Mary Ellen Dettloff, B.A. Victoria Burnett, and M.A. Mindee Juve

Problem or Major Purpose: The Rorschach Inkblot Method (RIM) involves processes of perception, attention, memory, decision-making, and logical analysis (Weiner, 2003).  Thus, many tools of cognitive neuroscience could prove useful for a comprehensive understanding of the RIM.  Although it takes several seconds to produce a spoken response to a card, eye movement monitoring reveals that participants actively scan cards before uttering spoken responses (Exner, 1980). Many studies show a sensitivity of eye movement behavior to mental processing of visual stimuli (e.g. Greene & Rayner, 2001; Spivey & Geng, 2001; Spivey & Marian, 1999; see also Rayner, 2009 for a review).  By studying eye movements, researchers obtain a window into information processing that is not captured by spoken response content. Indeed, participants tend to perceive more than they reveal in their spoken responses (Exner, 1991) and eye movement data can provide a broad picture of an individual’s uncensored nonverbal behaviors prior to a spoken response.  This project is the beginning of an attempt to consider how eye movements might be a useful response to add to the Rorschach.  

Procedure: Eye movement responses of 13 adult participants were monitored as they were administered the Rorschach. The 10 Rorschach blots were scanned into bitmap files for presentation on a color display CRT. Eye movements were recorded by an Eyelink head-mounted tracker. Participants received standard Rorschach instructions (Exner, 2005) with minor modifications to account for viewing on the CRT. Following practice trials with geometric shapes, participants received two successive presentations of the Rorschach stimuli, for a total of 20 trials (10 cards X 2 presentations per card). We maintained a written record of the participants' spoken responses. Multiple indices were measured, and data were analyzed by repeated measures ANOVAs (2 presentations x 10 cards).

Results. Results indicate differences among the cards for some eye movement indices and a difference in fixation duration for a 2nd viewing. Since eye movements are uncensored behavior, the authors consider the possibility of eye movements as a response to the Rorschach.

Conclusions. Eye movement indices offer potentially significant assistance in understanding the stimulus properties of the cards and the effects of sequence during the RIM.