Differences and controversies  

The below was written in 2004 and revised in 2013. I have chosen (March 2020) to let it remain, although it does not mention the R-PAS and in spite of its *somewhat* overoptimistic prediction for 2021... Most of what is said here about the Exner system holds for R-PAS too. For a closer look at the differences between the latter system and the classical one go here. There I have also stated my recent hopes about the future of the Rorschach method.

The author of this page believes that the future for the Rorschach method lies in an integration of the best of the European and the American systems. Why can't we rest content with the Exner system? Well, first and foremost because this system is after all only a synthesis of the four pre-existing major American systems, and there is a lot of good stuff which can now be found only in the classical European tradition but which could rather easily be integrated into the Exner system without changing the spirit of the latter. Secondly, one cannot take for granted that if, one some point, the classical European way of thinking contradicts Exner's way, the latter must be correct since it is newer or more "scientific". I do not want to say that systematic empirical research and statistics are not important — of course they are quite necessary. But it is also important to use fruitful concepts and reasonable theories in one's empirical research, and I and many of my European collegues are not quite satisfied with all of the Exnerian concepts and theories. Besides, there are other forms of valuable empirical research than large-scale, controlled statistical studies using operationalised concepts, and it is definitely ill-advised to disregard completely all studies done with other methods just because they do not fit this paradigm. But this is exactly what you do, if you disregard the classical European tradition altogether.

So, this page is intended as a help for those of you who would like to participate in what I figure can become the main Rorschach research task for the beginning of the next century — the first Grand Synthesis! Perhaps we should aim at its completion in the year of 2021?

Because this is a public page it cannot go into details; these must be kept within the printed literature and the closed electronic discussions. But, as a beginning, here are some very general guidelines to understanding the relations between Bohm's and Exner's systems. A fairly comprehensive treatment of these issues can be found in HyperHermann.

Differences between Bohm and Exner

Generally it can be said that if one disregards the issue of operationalism, the spirit of Bohm’s and Exner’s systems is the same. Although Exner thinks more in terms of operational definitions and criteria with strict cut-off points, while Bohm stresses the importance of a global intuitive judgement, the two authors do understand the Rorschach method in essentially the same way. So, it is not hard to learn Exner when you know Bohm, or vice versa! But (regrettably) the differences when it comes to the details are so big and so many that one cannot just pick a protocol which has been administered and scored according to the one system and then confidently interpret it according to the other.

Some differences between Bohm and Exner are founded on deep theoretical differences, while others are only surface phenomena which one can easily get around. It can be useful to classify the differences in the following way, going from the trivial and innocent to the more serious ones:

1. Purely terminological differences. If you know Bohm you must be careful when reading Exner, and vice versa, so that you do not misunderstand because of some trivial equivocation (perhaps even as trivial as “M” standing for Mensch in Bohm but for Movement with Exner, but less trivial when it comes to the definitions of F+ and F+%).

2. Seeming contradictions between the two methodologies, for example, when a basic scoring category in Exner’s system is a “special phenomenon” in Bohm — like the C' category. Then the phenomenon is protocolled in quite different ways, but the very same information is still at hand in both systems.

3. Operationalisations and precise definitions of terms and procedures in Exner’s system, which are in themselves compatible with Bohm’s system but are exact and detailed on points where Bohm is a little more vague. To this category belong, for example, some of Exner’s detailed advises on the testing procedure, such as how to sit, and so on.

4. Other additions by Exner (or his predecessors) to Rorschach’s original method, which cannot be found in Bohm but can be integrated with Bohm’s system. Certain novel scores, e.g. the b responses and the Z score, belong here.

5. Features in Bohm’s system which are not to be found in Exner, but which can easily be integrated with Exner’s system. (This is the reverse of the previous category.) These features are not so few — for example, most of Bohm’s (over 70) special scores can be added to Exner’s system without any incompatibility. The same holds for certain important aspects of Bohm's administration procedure such as noting the latency and reaction times.

6. Real contradictions — for example, conflicting rules for scoring movement, and (even worse) incompatible administration routines.

The last-mentioned kind of differences of course constitutes the main source of problems when one tries to integrate Bohm’s and Exner’s system, and I am certain that it will take quite some time to resolve the contradictions... But in the meantime, a lot of work can be done with the easier task of integrating the systems with respect to 1-5, where there are no real incompatibilities.

Main page          Previous page          Next page 

Page updated 2020–03–15 by Helge Malmgren