The Rorschach test is a hallowed tradition in psychology, and nobody is supposed to have access to those smudges that patients project their psyches onto. But a Saskatchewan surgeon has flouted tradition, by posting all ten inkblot images to Wikipedia.

According to the New York Times, there was a debate on Wikipedia over whether one of the ten traditional inkblot images should remain on the site. So Moose Jaw emergency room doctor James Heilman decided to take matters into his own hands:

I just wanted to raise the bar - whether one should keep a single image on Wikipedia seemed absurd to me, so I put all 10 up. The debate has exploded from there.

Heilman didn't just post all ten images — he also added research data on the most typical responses to them. So if you're taking a Rorschach test and want to appear normal at all costs, you can read up beforehand. And apparently, the inkblots were created 90 years ago, so they're no longer in copyright in the United States.

And now, according to a second New York Times article, Heilman is facing some complaints, and maybe even disciplinary action:

Andrea Kowaz of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia, complained that by including the inkblots on Wikipedia, Dr. Heilman was violating the test's secrecy and that if he were a psychologist his behavior would be "viewed as serious misconduct."

The other letter, from Laurene J. Wilson, a psychologist at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, echoed the concern about the test's security but added that Dr. Heilman "shows disrespect to his professional colleagues in psychology and disparages them in the eyes of the public."

Dr. Wilson said she had read interviews with Dr. Heilman in which he "refers to psychologists as undertaking practices akin to a magic show with smoke and mirrors."

In light of those complaints, an official from the Saskatchewan organization wrote, there was "a responsibility to investigate the matter."


I'm actually somewhat surprised to learn that there are only ten Rorschach tests and they're standard all over the place. Somehow, I'd pictured psychologists getting up in the morning, carefully smearing ink on a page, and making the day's fresh inkblots for another batch of patients. It's fascinating how the mysteroius science of one era is colliding with the fanatically open technological bent of another. In a way, the controversy is like a moth-shaped blur, that you can look into and see something that reveals your inner nature.