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Damion Searls’s The Inkblots

Card VIII of Hermann Rorschach’s test, 1921.

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, by Damion Searls. New York: Crown, 2017. 416 pages.

IT’S IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZABLE: a black-and-white inkblot, symmetrical across the vertical axis, depicting nothing in particular and thus anything at all. Or maybe not quite anything. Because even though it’s silly, we can’t help thinking about genitals. Or rather, we think we probably should be thinking about genitals, that that’s what the image wants from us, but we also feel like we probably shouldn’t, because this can’t actually be serious, can it? Funny thing, the unconscious.

A Rorschach test consists of ten of these inkblots, each printed on a card: five black-and-white, two black-and-red, and three vaguely pastel. In the first part of the test, subjects are shown the cards one by one and asked to describe what they see. In the second part, subjects

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