Research Applications of Projective Methods

  • Jerome L. Singer


In addressing oneself to a review of the research applications of the projective methods one must confront a curious dilemma of cultural lag and the sociology of professional practice. The widespread practical application of projective techniques continues almost unabated in mental hospitals and clinics. Indeed Sundberg’s (1961) survey indicated that the Rorschach, Thematic Apperception Test, Draw-a-Person and Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test (often used projectively) head the list of frequently used assessment techniques in 185 hospitals, counseling centers and clinics. Even today the situation seems relatively unchanged despite increasing doubts about the validity and practical utility of many of these procedures (Zubin et al, 1965). If the research literature on projective techniques tells us anything (and I think it tells a great deal) it clearly suggests that the current clinical uses of those war horses like the Rorschach, TAT, and Figure-Drawing are old-fashioned and unsophisticated either psychometrically or in relation to personality theory. Indeed, the literature on research with the projective methods provides ample evidence that many ingenious modifications and variations of these methods exist and could be better applied in dealing with specific questions such as the prediction of aggressive behavior. Nevertheless, faced with a live patient across the desk, we clinicians cling to our battered original set of inkblots like a three-year-old to his tattered old blanket. Did not Rorschach himself claim he had alternate series of blots? Are we oblivious still to the existence of alternate forms such as the Behn or Holtzman or Harrower series and of the many experimental uses of alternate series for special purposes such as Siipola and Taylor’s (1952) or Barron’s (1955) blots, to mention just a few? The present chapter represents an effort by one who has long loved his fingerprint-bedecked, somewhat battered old “bat” blots and that pathetic “boy with the violin” picture (will he or won’t he pick it up and practice?) to urge upon the reader a serious reexamination of the projective tools. I hope to encourage more imaginative directions in the clinical as well as research applications of these fascinating instruments. Our highest allegiance is to psychology which can best be served not by rash rejection of the projective techniques when the literature is replete with fascinating results or on the other hand by a loyal but naive faith in any given instrument, but by a serious examination of the ways in which a variety of difficult practical and research problems can be solved. An attitude of enlightened curiosity may well lead to experimentation with a host of “projective” or “non-projective” assessment techniques yielding rewards in research knowledge or human welfare.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1968

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  • Jerome L. Singer

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