American schools

The first important American developments in the Rorschach technique were due to Klopfer and Beck.

Bruno Klopfer was a German psychologist, who stayed in Zurich during the year of 1934 and then moved to USA to escape Nazism. He was influenced by Jung and by psychoanalysis and his general approach has been described as "phenomenological" and "qualitative". The American psychologist Samuel Beck, on the contrary, had a more behaviourist training and put more emphasis on quantitative and "objective" data. Beck had also been trained in Rorschach methodology in Switzerland (with Oberholzer).

A long conflict between Beck´s and Klopfer´s Rorschach systems started around 1940. The debate included the scoring of localisation and of the movement and chiaroscuro responses, but also fundamental questions of how to introduce and administrate the test. Beck´s Rorschach was summarised in Rorschach´s Test 1944) and Klopfer´s system in The Rorschach Technique (with Kelley, 1942).

During the 1930´s the American psychologist Marguerite Hertz and the Polish-American Zygmund Piotrowski had also begun work with their own versions of the Rorschach. Hertz tried to find a viable compromise between Beck´s and Klopfer´s teachings. The basis of Piotrowski´s system (summarised in his book Percept Analysis 1957) was, among other things, his studies of the test in patients with organic mental syndromes.

Finally, the psychoanalytically oriented Rorschach studies by Rapaport and Schafer must be mentioned. They differ from the other schools by their strong emphasis on a depth-psychological interpretation of the content of the Rorschach responses (in contradistinction to the formal response categories).

In the 60´s, John E. Exner assumed the task to try to tie together all these different threads, which also meant trying to evaluate what is valid and what must be rejected among all the ideas, theories and results presented within the different schools. The first visible result of this gigantic project was Exner´s book The Rorschach Systems (1969). Then followed Exner´s own multi-volume synthesis, The Rorschach. A Comprehensive System, (CS) in several editions (the fourth edition of Volume 1, which is the basic textbook in Exner´s Rorschach, was published in 2002).

John Exner has succeeded in recruiting a great number of competent researchers who have among other things collected a large amount of statistical Rorschach data from different populations. Thanks to the research of the Exner school, the practical use of the Rorschach method also has become much more common than before, especially in the USA but in the last years also for example in the Scandinavian countries.

The above text was written in 2004 and underwent some minor corrections in 2010. The following has been added in 2020:

After the death of John E. Exner in 2006, his family decided that the system must not be updated further. This requirement was later loosened a little. The CS is still the dominating Rorschach school in most parts of the world, including Europe. But it now has a challenger, the R-PAS – see the page after the next!

For a lot more information about the history of the Rorschach in the U.S.A. see Searls (2017).

Now go here!

References (to be completed):

Exner, J.E., The Rorschach Systems. (Grune & Stratton, New York 1969.)

Exner, J.E., The Rorschach. A Comprehensive System. 4th ed., vol. I: Basic Foundations (Wiley, New York etc 2002.)

Exner, J.E., A Rorschach Workbook for the Comprehensive System. 4th ed. (Rorschach Workshops, Asheville, NC 1995. A useful supplement to the above book when learning to practice the method.)

Exner, J.E. (ed), Issues and Methods in Rorschach Research. (Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ 1995. Illuminates a number of methodological problems.) 

Searls, D. (2017),  The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing. Crown.

Last updated 15 March 2020

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