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It's All in Your Mind. Really, All of It.



Amazon Book Review: PsychobookEveryone knows the inkblot test: You stare at amorphous blobs and what emerges from them determines which demons lurk in the dank cellar of your skull, driving all of your actions and moods. But the history of cognitive testing goes much deeper, and often weirder, than that. Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories opens the archives on psychological testing--past and present, credible and ludicrous--revealing the secrets behind the devices, their creators, and their interpretations. If you're interested in braving a little bit of self-discovery without professional help, try its collection of questionnaires and answer keys.

Start with these excerpts from the book, and learn more at the companion site for additional tests, exercises, and questionnaires (this site is for the UK edition of the book; the US edition will be published September 6, 2016).

Excerpts from  Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories (click on the pictures for larger images).


The Szondi Test

Invented by the Hungarian psychiatrist Leopold Szondi in 1935, this highly dubious test is based on the reactions of patients to six tests of photographic portraits of mental patients or "psychopaths," each set containing pictures of eight psychotic personality types: homosexual, sadist, epileptic, hysteric, catatonic, paranoid, depressive, and maniac! Given the absurdity of these classifications, no more need be said about this test, itself based on an elaborate and utterly ridiculous theory of elective fate.

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Make a Story Picture Test (MAPS)

Invented by American psychologist E.S. Schneidman in 1942, the test requires its subjects to place one or more of the given figures within a familiar setting (a bedroom, a street, a bridge, etc.) and then, with certain leads, to elaborate a story from the created scene. This is a projective test, not unlike the Thematic Apperception Test (see page 71). The story provides the psychologist with imagined projections for analysis of personality and pathological disorders. The sixty-seven figures certainly furnish plenty of suggestive material; merely looking at them, the inventive mind boggles.

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The Ghosts of My Friends

First published in London in 1905, The Ghosts of my Friends was a popular variation on the autograph album, in which friends were invited to write their signature "with a pen full of ink" along the fold of the page, then close the book to create a symmetrical blot. The results are poetic, comic, and, sometimes, slightly sinister.

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The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

It is not so much I read a book as that the book reads me.
—W. H. Auden

Psychiatrists and therapists have long used patients' or clients' responses to images or pictures as the starting point for the discovery and analysis of their inner thoughts, hidden feelings, private fantasies, and unacknowledged hopes and fears. The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is a projective test of this kind. In this context projection is defined as perceiving in an external object (a picture, a story) or a figure or character, aspects of an internal emotional or psycho- logical condition that are often hidden in ordinary discourse. Images used in the TAT are always ambiguous and fraught with implication, and therefore open to imaginative interpretation.

The examples from the original 1930s TAT (which were cut out of contemporary magazines), shown here on pages 75–77 [just page 75 here--ed.], are followed by a series of images by the photographer Sarah Ainslie that were specially commissioned for this book. What do you think is happening with the situations shown in these pictures?

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The Feeling Test

Psychotherapists and counselors often present their clients with an image, asking them to identify, at the moment of asking, which one or another of the figures whose various attitudes may seem to represent prevailing moods or dispositions. This test may provide some indication of your present condition of self-awareness or self-esteem, and even if treated with a degree of wry and self-reflexive irony it may stimulate thoughtful reflection and commentary useful to the therapy.


This test is still widely used.

The drawing on the facing page, by an unknown psychologist, is a version popular among therapists.

All other versions [not pictured here--ed.] are by the artist Adam Dant.

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Excerpt from Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories edited by Julian Rothenstein with an Introduction by Lionel Shriver published by Princeton Architectural Press (2016)



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