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      A peer-reviewed international annual journal devoted to the history of psychology, and especially to the interconnection between historiographic survey and problems of epistemology. To submit to this journal, click here

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      Inkblots before Rorschach: A Historical and Critical Account

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      European Yearbook of the History of Psychology
      Brepols Publishers

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          Abstract

          In Psychodiagnostics (1921), Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach described his form interpretation test as a “psychological experiment which, despite its simplicity, has proved to be of value in research and in general testing”. The experiment, based on the idea of the relationship between visual stimulus and fantastic or hallucinatory projection, relied on the technique of free interpretation of the inkblots. This technique had actually important antecedents, often overlooked in the specialist literature. Yet, a specific psychological, philosophical, artistic, and literary research path has developed this practice in studying the cognitive, affective, and imaginative functions in human beings, and predated Rorschach’s contribution by many years. This paper focuses only on these antecedents. After a brief presentation of Rorschach’s work in the context of early twentieth century psychiatry, it will draw the reader’s attention to the empirical and non-experimental approaches to the inkblots in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Immanuel Kant, Justinus Kerner, and in the McEnery Stuart and Paine’s board game Gobolinks (1896). Then, it will focus on the experimental studies with inkblots carried out by some American, British, and Russian psychologists of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries (e.g., George Van Ness Dearborn, Stella Sharp, Edwin Kirkpatrick, Guy Montrose Whipple, Frederic Bartlett, and Fyodor Rybakov). In this historical perspective, Rorschach’s work will appear as a specific, systematic, and statistically supported development of a predated scientific heritage of psychometric studies, materials, and methods already known and used in psychological and experimental fields.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          EYHP
          eyhp
          European Yearbook of the History of Psychology
          Brepols Publishers
          2295-5267
          2507-0304
          January 2022
          : 8
          : 147-195
          Article
          10.1484/J.EYHP.5.132224
          e9618da8-21ab-4c2d-a828-134e4b932609
          History

          Psychology,Anthropology,Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
          Psychology, Anthropology, Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry

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