I MMA C U L ATA MA G A Z I N E * F A L L 2 0 1 3
You’ve probably heard of the Rorschach test. Psychologists ask
their clients to look at an inkblot and describe what they see. The
clients subconsciously project their own feelings, desires, and anxi-
eties onto the image, and their description of what they see reflects
what is going on inside them.
Typically, Rorschach tests don’t evaluate the superego—the
inner critic we all have that imposes certain behavioral standards
on us, evaluates our performance, and offers praise or punish-
ment. But Jed Yalof, Psy.D., chair of the Department of Graduate
Psychology, and his colleague Diana Rosenstein, Ph.D., of the
Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, have developed an innova-
tive methodology for using the Rorschach test to examine this
component of a person’s psychological makeup. Yalof has chaired
his department since 1990, bringing to it a wealth of expertise in
psychological assessment and a keen diagnostic eye.
If clients don’t give enough responses to the Rorschach test
the first time, clinical protocol dictates that psychoanalysts are to
discard those initial responses and use a carefully worded script to
ask clients to do it over: “Now you know how it’s done. But there’s
a problem. You didn’t give enough answers for us to get anything
out of the test. So we will go through them again and this time I
want you to make sure you give me more answers.”
“While the intent is to be supportive and encouraging,” Yalof
said, “and certainly some people may hear it that way, many
clients are more likely to be drawn to the fact that they didn’t do
a good enough job.” Their histories of being judged might come to
the forefront when asked to retake a test on which they feel that
they’ve given their best effort already.
“You have to be very sensitive,” Yalof said. “Any demand im-
posed on them is likely to lead them to feel this way.” And unfor-
tunately, clinical protocol doesn’t allow psychologists any latitude
to say, “Don’t take this personally; you did fine the first time.”
Because clients can interpret the request for a re-take as a nega-
tive reflection on themselves, Yalof and Rosenstein contend that
the first set of responses should be used in conjunction with the
second set to look for “superego indicators.” Based on the content
and structure of the responses, a psychologist can make inferences
about the workings of a client’s superego, gauging the person’s
sensitivity to feeling judged, angry, resistant, or defeated.
This allows psychologists to gather additional information
about clients, which can be a helpful resource for providing treat-
ment and addressing underlying feelings. Yalof and Rosenstein
have written a paper, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the
Journal of Personality Assessment
, about using this methodology with
Ann (a pseudonym).
Continued on page 79
JED YALOF, PSY.D. , A.B.P.P.