The complete Exner system: what is it and what parts it has

The Rorschach test is probably the most famous projective test of all. The black or colored ink spots that compose it can seem arbitrary and of totally subjective interpretation, and in fact it is indeed a test which without adequate training is very complex to be able to evaluate, but the truth is that it is an evaluation instrument which can reflect information of great interest in relation to the subject being evaluated.

The interpretation is as we have said complex, and although in the beginning there was a variety of ways of doing it today, there is a very elaborate systematization which allows us to obtain unified criteria for evaluating and interpret the results. This is the complete Exner system, Which we will talk about throughout this article.

    What is the Complete Exner System?

    It is called the Complete Exner System an interpretation model and methodology of the Rorschach test, Which is currently used as the main system to interpret this projective test and which makes this process a bit subjective, to the point that it practically eliminates its subjectivity.

    The system in question focuses on a quantitative and operational interpretation of the information reflected by the test in question, and a part in addition to the criteria obtained empirically and on the basis of research generated from the application of Rorschach by both patients than by systematizers.

    The complete Exner system appeared in the 1980s, at a time when the Rorschach test he had multiple possible interpretations which, while not always opposites, often did not match each other, freeing up inconsistent data depending on who interpreted it.

    Faced with this problem, which caused great concern at the Rorschach Research Foundation (founded in 1968), John Exner and other professionals conducted extensive research into the various interpretations of the Rorschach test existing at the time, making comparisons between the five main methodologies used at the time in North America: those of Klopfer, Beck, Piotrowski, Rapaport and Hertz.

    Exner generated from all this a complete system that can be used codify and interpret the results obtained by the Rorschach test, Born its complete Exner system. Although the system was born to help interpret this test, the truth is that some authors have ended up validating doing the same with other projective tests, such as the Zulliger test.

      What aspects to promote?

      The Exner system can come into play after the test in question has been applied, and first provides a common framework in which to configure large categories of items to be valued (Which will be interpreted later).

      In this sense, Exner incorporates the elements that Rorschach himself and some of the subsequent interpretation systems generated to propose that before passing this test, the professional should pay attention to the following.

      1. Location

      One of the factors to assess is which parts of the spot make up the subject’s response. That is to say, if the element that the subject says he sees finds it in the entire spot, in a detail that others also find frequently, in parts of the spots that are infrequent in the majority of cases identified as such or even if the subject’s interpretation is based on or partly uses the blanks of the sheet (i.e. outside the spot.

      2. Determinants

      It is the type of elements or aspects of the stain that determined the response emitted. One of these determinants to evaluate is the shape, which is the most relevant determinant and what the subject usually explains when he explains what he sees.

      Another of them is movement, Understood as an action that the subject imagines taking place (whether it is a person, an animal or an object and is an active or passive movement). Color should also be valued, whether chromatic (in color plates they are often used alongside shape to identify what is seen) or achromatic (it is in black and white plates).

      Another determinant is shading (Which can give an idea of ​​texture, insubstantiality or depth). In addition to this, we can find the dimension of the form, according to which something is identified because in a specific position in space it has that form. Also pairs and reflexes, which occur when a person sees two equal elements or when existence is interpreted as one reflecting the other.

      3. Content

      This aspect, fundamental in valuation, is based on identifying the type of content the subject claims to see on the spot. The most common responses or types of content are generally considered to include human figures, plants, animals, parts of anatomy or parts of people or animals, objects, organs or sexual elements or artistic elements, among others.

      4. Scalable quality

      This aspect may seem difficult to determine, but it relies on the evaluation of the level of concretion and use of the different parts of the spot to form a stimulus during the response.

      5. Formal quality

      value the precise formal quality of the use of concrete tables in which we can check whether the patient’s responses are justifiable from the elements and shapes of the stain.

      6. Organizational activity

      Mainly, this aspect to be evaluated refers to the question of whether all of the elements that the subject could see in the stain they are related to each other.

      7. Frequency

      Finally, it is necessary to assess whether the patient’s responses are relatively frequent in the reference population or, on the contrary, are original and unusual.

      8. Special phenomena

      In addition to this, it is also necessary to assess whether the so-called special phenomena exist, i.e. strange elements that make the answers unusual.

      These phenomena include failures (when the subject does not respond), the existence of abnormal behavioral shocks or alterations of a stimulus, perseverance, self-reference, conspiracies, criticisms or contaminations (various interpretations of the stain are combined).

      It must also be valued if there are customizations or if they observe aggressive movements (For example, he sees a stabbing), morbid (corpses, injured …) or cooperative (a hug), or even if they say they see an abstract concept. This aspect is not always valued, but is usually added in case of unusual changes.

      Interpret with the system

      We have discussed the main elements to take into account when evaluating the patient’s responses to the application of Rorschach blades. But knowing what to watch is not enough once corrected to be able to interpret it. To achieve this, the complete Exner system proposes to evaluate the data globally, And the isolated data is not interpretable.

      All the preceding information has a meaning: the time, the number of responses, the places, the contents (for example human figures are generally linked to this type of relationship, anatomy to preoccupations and narcissisms, sexual to repressions. .. but also it depends on the proportion and frequency of occurrence), determinants such as the movement or the frequency level of the responses.

      But in order to be able to summarize or summarize the subject’s personality structure, the complete Exner system configures a series of groupings or sets of data which, when they relate to each other, theoretically they give an idea of ​​the type of functioning of this part of the subject’s personality.

      These groupings make it possible to make a structural summary of the subject’s personality. In this sense, there are a total of seven groups.

      1. Main core or controls

      All of the variables that make up this grouping are all those that make it possible to analyze whether the assessed person is able to organize and stay focused, so as to control his thinking and his emotional processes. It is the most relevant part of the structure as it establishes the capacity to make decisions and act.

      One of the most relevant clues in this regard is Lambda, Through which we look at the type of response in emotional situations and which can be valued based on the relationship between the responses in a pure way and the total number of responses given.

      You can also rate the type of experience (whether we are introversive, extratensive, ambiguous, alibi, or dilated), accessible experience (resources), core experience (internal elements that activate without control) or stimuli. suffered.

      2. Affects

      This set of variables allows us assess the subject’s emotional and affective sphere, Give information on the regulation of emotional discharges, the presence of emotional constriction, the interest and value placed on the emotional domain and the proportion of emotional and mental resources to deal with complex situations or the presence of superficiality or oppositionism This also allows us to see the existence of depressive tendencies.

      The form / color ratio, the affective ratio, the responses in the empty spaces or the multiple determinants can be calculated.

      3. Information processing

      In this case, we value the existence of an organizational effort on the part of the subject, as well as the way in which he processes and integrates the information. It is also related to cognitive (specifically the presence or absence of resources) and motivation. It is appreciated if they pay attention to detail or if they try to process the information. In this sense, the number of organizational activities or the frequency of locations used are evaluated.

      4. Mediation

      Medicines can be more complex to understand than other facets to assess, but they mainly refer to how the subject perceives reality appropriately and attributes to conventional responses.

      The interpretation of this point must take into account, for example, the percentage of answers of original and conventional formal qualities, the degree of popularity of the answers or the use of strange places, such as the use of blank areas.

      5. Ideation

      At this point, it explores the way the person thinks and knows. The cognitive and intellectual part.

      In this case, aspects such as intellectualization, the presence of Snow White syndrome (avoidance of responsibilities), rigidity, clarity of thought, orientation and rationality can be assessed.

      It can be seen through various clues, and aspects such as the use of abstract / artistic content, pollution, inconsistencies or passive and active human movements (and their proportion) among others are used.

      6. Interpersonal

      This domain obviously refers to the way in which the subject relates to others, valuing his interpersonal interest on the basis of self-image, the tendency to visualize cooperative or aggressive scenes. It can also be interpreted as a function of determinants such as textures, which can indicate a need for proximity, or the use or non-use of certain content in the responses.

      7. Self-perception

      In this case, the subject’s perception of himself is valued, based on the index of egocentrism (high would imply high self-esteem, low could indicate low self-esteem) and can be seen in the presence of reflexes, morbid, anatomical content or uses of dimension-dependent shape.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Exner, J. (1994) The Rorschach. A complete system. Vol 1: Basics. Rorschach workshops. Mediums. Madrid, Spain.
      • Exner, J. (1996) Rorschach Coding Manual. Edit. Mediums.
      • Sanz, LJ, Álvarez, C. (2012). Assessment in clinical psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 05. CEDE: Madrid.
      • Zdunic, A. (2002). The coding model of the complete system in the Zulliger test. Essay for the use of the test as an evaluation tool in the selection of personnel: the influence of the administrative context by Angélica Zdunic. Doctoral thesis. University of Palermo. Argentina.

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