There are many ways to assess personality. Most often, personality is measured with different types of tests. One such test is called a projective test. This type of test is heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic theory proposed by Freud. When we attempt to find shapes in the clouds or on sheets of wood, we are essentially doing the same thing done in a projective test. A projective test measures a person's personality by having the individual interpret ambiguous stimuli.
One of the most popular projective tests is the Rorschach Inkblot Test, created by Hermann Rorschach in the 1920s. It is the most widely distributed and the most popular of the different personality measures. People who participate in this test are asked to examine a series of inkblots and to say what they think the inkblot most resembles. The test distributor analyzes the responses and makes conclusions based on what the individual said and which parts of the inkblot the individual focused on.
Even though this test is very widely used, the test's abilities to accurately and consistently measure personality is controversial. There has been trouble duplication this test and there is little evidence to say that it can detect mental disorders. Another problem with the test is that it takes a long time to administer and interpret. Despite its drawbacks, there are situations where it has proved useful.
After WWII, the Nazis were tried for the war crimes they committed. One such who was convicted was Heinrich Himmler. While trying to assess his personality, they used many different tests, but his results showed he had a normal personality. However, once they gave the Rorschach test to Himmler, they found he was a very anxious and paranoid man. The reason the Rorschach test was helpful was because Himmler knew how to "cheat" on all the other tests because he knew what the acceptable answers were, but with the Rorschach test, there was no way to tell what was an acceptable answer.
Even though the Rorschach test has little validity and reliability in most cases, there are times when the test has proven to be useful. The Rorschach test should not be relied upon, but should not be completely thrown out either.