The origins of inkblots

Following recent articles in The Psychologist on the Rorschach test, John T. E. Richardson looks at its prehistory.
From at least the time of Leonardo da Vinci, artists and scholars have described the imaginative interpretation of naturally occurring phenomena such as rocks or cloud formations. Many early psychologists devised their own materials to investigate these processes in the form of inkblots. The use of inkblots is often associated with the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, but its origins lie in children’s games, experiments on visual perception, studies of the effects of hashish, the testing of immigrants at Ellis Island and the work of Frederic Bartlett.

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