a few weeks ago, i posted some musings about how fractals might be used in psychological research. how could we use fractals to literally illustrate – turn into a picture – some of our mental and emotional patterns?
some of the commenters interpreted this as a type of rorschach test. that was actually not what i had intended – but i completely understand why it was interpreted that way, and always like going with what my readers suggest anyway, so let’s look at this for a moment.
using a fractal to illustrate mental and emotional patterns would be similar to taking an MRI – or perhaps to taking a snapshot of someone in motion. it’s an image of an already existing, intrinsically meaningful process. we preserve it for posterity – to record, to remember, to instruct, to illustrate, and perhaps simply to provide enjoyment through the beauty of it.
the purpose of a rorschach test is different. in a rorschach test, someone is presented with a meaningless blotch of something – an inkblot – and is then invited to talk about what this inkblot might be about. the image is not intrinsically meaningful. the meaning is added by the person who views it. the purpose of using these inkblots is to gain insight into the mental and emotional processes of the person looking at it – how they perceive “the world” (which is typically a reflection of their inner world).
these types of tests are called projective tests and are somewhat controversial. there are quite a few of them. i personally quite like the house-tree-person test, which involves a person taking a short period of time to make a simple drawing of a house, a tree and a person. this drawing is then interpreted; in my preferred version it is interpreted by the person drawing it, perhaps with a bit of assistance by the therapist who suggested the test.
some people, and i include myself here, would even say that using tarot cards is often a type of projective measure. the image on the card inspires us to reflect on the image of our life as we carry it inside of us.
of course the word “test” in connection with this is a bit ambiguous. using projective tools such as the rorschach, house-tree-person, the tarot or the TAT (thematic apperception test) to actually determine someone’s mental and emotional state would be irresponsible in my opinion.
one of the reasons is that just like a fractal, it really is just a snapshot. a snapshot can be suggestive of someone’s true nature but there is absolutely no assurance that it actually does reflect that nature. (insofar that there is even a thing such as “true nature” – but that’s material for another post).
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