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The unexpected things I learned from taking an inkblot test

Crazy things are hidden in those coffee stains

<p>Tom Pollard is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.&nbsp;</p>

Tom Pollard is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

People are different. We are born different and raised differently by different parents into different lives and different cultures. In college especially, it seems people are always trying to amplify their differences to stand out — or hide them to fit in. With so many floating types of people, I often struggle gauging someone’s personality. I find myself wondering if people have hidden motives — and wishing there was some simple test to determine who someone really was.

Enter my “Introduction to Clinical Psychology” class and the miraculous invention of the Rorschach test. Invented by Hermann Rorschach in the 1960s, it uses a series of weird-looking inkblots to gauge someone’s behavior and personality. Depending on what shapes and images people see in the shadowy patterns, the inner workings of their mind could be determined. When I first learned we would be taking inkblot tests in class, my imagination ran wild. What would my classmates see in those swirling blotches? What would I see? Would someone in the class be revealed as a secret psychopath? I felt curious to say the least.

I ended up somewhat disappointed when we started the lecture last week, and my professor revealed they don’t actually work. As extensive testing had proven, what someone sees in an inkblot test reveals nothing about their personality — at all. Still, as the first image was projected in front of the lecture hall, I found myself shifting in my seat. Surely something would be revealed from what I saw in the inky depths.


My answer to the first image hit me right away. “Bat,” I scribbled down on my paper. Then, frowning, I also wrote “Butterfly” for good measure. We then passed our paper five seats forwards and compared our answers with a stranger. My slip of paper came neatly folded with the handwriting inside written in looping, adorable cursive. Then, I saw what was written.

“Man Screaming.”

I looked back up at the image and back down at the paper. Had I accidentally stumbled across a secret psychopath? No, I told myself, there’s nothing to this test. It’s fine. The next image appeared on the projector.

Huh, I thought, that one kind of looks like a bat or a butterfly too. I felt like I was missing something. Was I just unimaginative? It really looked similar to me. Feeling like I was missing something, I wrote down “Bat/Butterfly” and passed it forwards. When my partner’s next neatly folded paper reached me, I took my time opening the message, my fears of another bizarre description hindering my movements. The same pink, looping script greeted me.


I stared in shock as the next card came on the board.


The red stains pulled my distracted brain away from my fears I was communicating with a psychopath. Something about this image seemed particularly … macabre. The splattering of crimson against dark, dilapidated shapes reminded me of a scene from a crime show. I scribbled “Dying People” in my notebook before rethinking my choice. My answer seemed unusually disturbed, like something the mysterious stranger would write. No, this image was different — I told myself — it was disturbing. How else could it be interpreted? I passed my card forwards and opened the next fearful message, already guessing what I was going to find.


Huh. I looked back up at the image in confusion, but the next inkblot had already appeared. The final image.

I didn’t like it.

It called to mind images of a looming, threatening figure. The swirls coming off the top reminded me of demonic horns. Looking back on it now, it honestly looks like random stains, but at the time, I felt genuine evil coming from the projector. With a nervous hand, I wrote my answer: “Demon.” After the usual exchange of notes, a new worry crept over me — if I saw some scary things in that image, what kinds of monstrous images had the stranger seen? Mind racing, I opened the last sheet of paper.


Didn’t the teacher say these didn’t matter? Right. Yeah. People are different, and it would be great if you could figure out who someone really was just by having them look at inkblots. Unsurprisingly, however, people are a bit more complicated than that. After the last image, our teacher discussed what we were “supposed” to see — keeping in mind none of Rorschach’s findings were based on evidence. The “demon” is supposed to represent your father (I feel like most dads don’t look like evil coffee stains but whatever), and the one with red blots is supposed to be a “cave opening” (I really can’t see it).

And the first two? Well, according to Rorschach, most people saw butterflies, although he actually saw bats.

I take more pride in that than I probably should.

Tom Pollard is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at


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