Wikipedia under fire for publishing Rorschach “cheat sheet”

Psychologists are getting their panties all knotted up because Wikipedia has ostensibly ruined their Rorschach Ink Blot party. The controversy came to light yesterday with a New York Times article regarding the well-known and oft-mocked “ink blot” test. Proponents of Wikipedia are opposed to suppression of freely available knowledge, and this includes the 90-year-old diagnostic tool.

The debate raged on a small scale for months due to the publication of one of the ten Rorschach plates, but in June, all Wikipedian hell broke loose. James Heilman, a doctor from Canada, posted all ten plates and common responses to each. Dr. Heilman explained his motivation to the Times:

“I just wanted to raise the bar — whether one should keep a single image on Wikipedia seemed absurd to me, so I put all 10 up,” Dr. Heilman said in an interview. “The debate has exploded from there.”

Dr. Heilman further illustrates the impetus behind his actions:

“Restricting information for theoretical concerns is not what we are here to do,” Dr. Heilman said, adding that he was not impressed by the predictions of harm from those who sought to keep the Rorschach plates secret. “Show me the evidence,” he said. “I don’t care what a group of experts says.”

To illustrate his point, Dr. Heilman used the Snellen eye chart, which begins with a big letter E and is readily available on the Wikipedia site.

“If someone had previous knowledge of the eye chart,” he said, “you can go to the car people, and you could recount the chart from memory. You could get into an accident. Should we take it down from Wikipedia?”

Indeed, the most vocal of Wikipedia’s critics in this debate seem to be those who stand to lose money over the publication of the plates. At 90 years old and having been ingrained in pop-psychology for years, the test has to be of limited value as it stands. While doctors have had nearly a century of responses to study, it has to be taken into account that Wikipedia is not the only place a determined test-cracker can get the lowdown on Rorschach results. Instead of blaming Wikipedia for being a platform for mass-distribution of information again, the complaining parties need to accept that we live in a time where this kind of thing is not only possible, but highly likely.

Is it not the responsibility of those to which we entrust our medical care to be aware of and proactive about concerns such as the corroded value of certain diagnostic tools? Rather than bemoaning the inevitable, shouldn’t they be hard at work finding a new way to gain insight into humanity’s supressed urges?

[Image courtesy of two gay Darth Vaders being dusted simultaneously by blue crabs as seahorses laugh at their predicament.]