The suitability of administering psychological tests that are standardized on nonminority, different social classes, and English-speaking populations to individuals who are non-English speakers or are culturally or demographically different has been a controversial topic for over five decades now. Initially, the controversy was around the intelligence tests used to test the African-American because of the huge bias of the test (Dana, 2015). Similar allegations have emerged surrounding bias of psychological tests against Hispanics. This paper is an evaluation of a Rorschach inkblot test for cultural test bias. After a critical review is conducted, the paper will propose different remedies to the cultural bias factors identified. The remedies proposed in this paper will be from different perspectives which will include the clinician point of view, service delivery, and test/techniques that would solve the cultural bias of the test. Finally, the paper will address how the Rorschach inkblot test affects a specific culture.
Rorschach inkblot test Evaluation
The Rorschach Inkblot test is a psychological test where subjects' perceptions of the inkblot are recorded and analyzed using complex algorithms, psychological interpretation, and in some instances, both. The test is commonly used by psychologists to examine a person's emotional functioning and personality traits. Additionally, the Rorschach test is used to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in patients who appear hesitant to discuss their thinking process openly. The test was created by a Swiss psychologist, Hermann Rorschach, the person it is named after. The Rorschach test was mostly used as a projective test in the 1960s. Like most psychological tests, Rorschach faces criticism from researchers who raise questions about the objectivity of the testers especially regarding cultural backgrounds of the examinees. Another area of dispute for the test is the bias of the test's pathology scales towards a greater number of responses as well as its inert-rater reliability. In the 1960s, the Exner Scoring System was developed to address these concerns. Unfortunately, critiques still maintain that not only the number of psychological conditions that the test accurately diagnoses limited but also its verifiability and inability to replicate the test's norm generally invalidates the test. For instance, Rorschach would prove to be an invalid test if the examinees are exposed to the ten inkblot images or the court-ordered evaluations it uses (Meyer, 2002).
Test bias is usually defined as a systematic measurement error affecting different types of examinees differently because of underlying factors (Dana, 2015). As such, psychological test bias exists where irrelevant factors such as cultural background affect the outcome of the tests which is reflected by the scores. As a result, the test scores will be less valid to some groups of people than they are to other groups of individual. In the context of ethnicity, psychological test bias results to a less accurate or less valid score for a minority group when compared to a majority group. Hunsley, & Bailey, (1999) found out that Hispanics, Blacks, White Americans, and non-Americans score differently on Rorschach test using the Comprehensive System and other techniques. However, the researchers failed to give specific data to show the causes of the differences in the test score among the different groups, especially for Comprehensive System scores. Nonetheless, they concluded that "Due to the important cross-cultural differences, and lack of appropriate norms, it is doubtful whether the Comprehensive System should be used as a suitable psychological test to evaluate the American minority groups." Similar opinions are held by Dimmick (1935) as it is revealed in their research which suggests that the system use by Rorschach may not be appropriate for use in evaluating minority groups.
In another study, Meyer (2002) used 11 studies to conclude the invalidity of Rorschach test for the minority groups. Only six reviews out of the 11 used Comprehensive System for the test scores. For instance, the research by Sangro (1997), which is exhaustively studied by Meyer used a sample of Hispanic outpatients to form quality, generate location, and create data tables that were nonstatistically compared with Rorschach's Exner tables. The remaining five studies used in the research used samples of targeted minority groups in a similar manner. While such studied where data was collected from targeted minority groups is criticized to be highly flawed, they all rendered Rorschach an inadequate psychological test for American minority groups. Critiques of these studies argue that data from both majority and minority groups should be collected simultaneously by the researchers so that they are compared on the same level rather than comparing with Exner tables.
According to, Dimmick, (1935) Rorschach Inkblot test is biased against the American minority groups. This conclusion was made after the researcher compared 47 Alaskan Native persons from different ethnic groups within Alaska. Two correctional facilities were used for this study where volunteers collected the samples without any ethnic information of the participants from the facilities. This study was particularly important because unlike the earlier studies because it delineated the explicit hypotheses for cultural differences in Rorschach test scores. Thirteen hypotheses were supported from a total of 16 hypotheses despite the occurrence of unexpected group differences. The authors maintained that the conclusion of the research was valid because they used small samples. However, the implication of the unanticipated differences in future research was unclear. In a final analysis, Lieb, (2008), exclusively researched native Alaska Natives. As expected, there were differences in Comprehensive System scores across levels of acculturation.
Clinician Viewpoint on Rorschach Inkblot Test's Bias
Rorschach test is not an ideal personality test especially for making a specific clinical diagnosis. Instead, it reveals the more basic and deeper affective, cognitive, and interpersonal affinities of the people being tested. Nonetheless, Rorschach procedure is valuable as an alternative approach to the problem of personality evaluation. However, it is important to note that a personality is made up of a summation of elements such as cultural background and surrounding our immediate environment. As such, clinicians require a guided investigation into the modes of the approach of the test that will involve the isolation and measurement of specific traits which take into account differences of elements that make up the personality such as cultural background (Dana, 2015). As mentioned above, Mexican-Americans are likely to score higher on Comprehensive System than White-Americans. This is because of Mexicans spiritual beliefs which should not be regarded as unhealthy. Having a bias-free Rorschach test is quite challenging because there are no wrong answers for the test, but rather, unusual responses.
Cultural bias occurs when the clinicians lack awareness about the different cultures or experience with people with different cultural backgrounds resulting in unreliable service delivery etiquette. For effective service delivery, the clinicians' behavior must be able to meet the clients' expectations. Rorschach Inkblot cultural bias could potentially break this client-clinician understanding leading to loss of interest or attention on the client side. This could result to the alteration of the results of the service as well. Therefore, the clinicians must always strive to understand the appropriate social etiquette for different people according to their cultural backgrounds. Such a strategy would require the clinicians to keep their personal beliefs and understandings separate from the psychological assessments but also simultaneously remain professional. This would result to smooth service delivery process. As expected, the only effective remedy for the culture biases of the Rorschach Inkblot technique is delivering each clinical service as guided by the culture specific-style expected by the clients (Meyer, 2002).
Effect on a Specific Group of People
A study to show the role of culture and gender in Rorschach test scores was conducted on 9-year old Iranian children and compared to non-Iranian children of the same age-group was done by Delavari, Shairi, & AsghariMoghadam (2013). The research included responses of the children to the Rorschach cards. The results of the study indicated that boy and girl subjects responded to the test according to their gender. For instance, the aggressive behavior common among boys resulted in a high average of the content Ex (Explosion).
In contrast, female subjects displayed a higher average on art responses. The explanation for this difference is the pressure on Iranian women to behave according to socially accepted values while there is less pressure for men to do so. When the Rorschach scores of the Iranian 9-year olds was compared to non-Iranian 9-year olds, there were considerable differences in the determinant, location, and popular replies variables. The main reason for these differences as the researchers said is the difference in cognitive schemas that have great value in our perception about the world like some cultural lenses.
Recent research on Rorschach Inkblot tests has not resulted in new evidence that would make the conclusions of the earlier research invalid. In any case, recent studies only seem to support the claim of the earlier findings that as a clinical instrument, Rorschach too many inadequate reliabilities and its validity is questionable even when being used by experts. Therefore, its practical usefulness may be questioned by many psychological researchers and practitioners. The strong bias towards culture by the tests as indicated above can lead to harmful consequences in different social settings such as schools and health care industry responses for different cultures. In other cases, where harm is not necessarily an outcome, one must weigh the inadequate validity of the tests against the fact that of all psychological tests, Rorschach Inkblot technique is the most time-consuming approach and in most cases requires the most extensive training of the practitioners. Furthermore, as pointed pit above, most psychologists who are familiar with this approach agree that the over 40 years' effort to improve the technique have all proven to be unrewarding. As a result, the development of a bias-free Rorschach test is a concern for modern psychologists.
Until the proponents of the Rorschach test provide undisputed evidence which indicates, without a doubt of its validity by eliminating the possibility of cultural bias, it appears to be unreasonable recommending clinical psychologists to continue using the technique. Unfortunately, so far, such evidence to contradict to earlier conclusions conspicuously lacks even in the Rorschach textbooks and studies. As such, not only the practitioners who should be discouraged from using the approach but also clinical psychology students should be spared the time wasted on learning about the technique. Another problem is the number of devotees of the Rorschach test and its continued use. Future psychological research should focus on addressing this interesting phenomenon.
Dana, R. H. (2015). Multicultural assessment: Principles, applications, and examples. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Delavari, M., Shairi, M., & AsghariMoghadam, M. (2013). Role of Culture and Gender in Rorschach Findings in 9 Year Old Iranian Children. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences,...
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