Wikipedia blots its copybook

Online repository of questionable facts, Wikipedia, is in trouble with psychologists after publishing the ‘answers’ to the Rorschach inkblot tests.

Because the series of ink splodges was created by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach back in 1921, their US copyright has expired and Wikipedia published the full set. Psychologists claim this is tantamount to publishing the answers to school examinations on the web.

Initially Wikipedia had just one inkblot online, but last month, a Canadian doctor posted all ten blots into the Wikipedia article, together with the most popular responses for them. Now psychologists argue that the site is jeopardising one of the oldest continuously used psychological assessment tests.

“The more test materials are promulgated widely, the more possibility there is to game it,” said Bruce Smith, a psychologist and president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, adding that it was unlikely anyone could fool the doctor conducting the test into making the wrong diagnosis, but it could render the results meaningless.

The shrinks argue that the Rorschach test is most valuable when patients describe the first thing that comes into their head on seeing the blots and that publishing details of common reactions means patients are likely to be familiar with the test and give considered, rather than spontaneous, answers.

One contributor to the Wikipedia discussion commented: “This Wikipedia article is slowly reaching the level of misinformation that other grossly inaccurate websites have reached that have made extremely misguided and inaccurate recommendations to potential test-takers (such as an infamous website directed toward parents involved in a custody evaluation – if the advice of that website is followed, the test-taker will give a more pathological Rorschach).

“I’m sure that those on this talk page who really have only a superficial understanding of the Rorschach will scoff at my comments here with the usual refrain that if I don’t agree with something then I should fix it. But I don’t intend to get into the endless edit warring and absurd discussions, the net result of which will be absolutely no improvement because the experts here are far outnumbered. So the misinformation, quite sadly, will remain in the article.”

Mike Drayton, a consultant clinical psychologist at Opus Psychology in Birmingham, England, told The Guardian: “It completely compromises the validity of the test.”