Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wikipedia and Cliff Notes for Psychological Assesment Tools

Interesting story from the NYT: A Rorschach Cheat Sheet on Wikipedia

The gist: Rorschach created a set of 10 inkblot plates in 1921. Since then, they have been a carefully guarded product, not publicly available, but passed amongst professional psychologists, who have been using them in conjunction with other means of assessment. Over time, a large database of interpretations of these 10 images has been collected, and correlated with known mental disorders of patients. 88 years worth of data mind you. Result, a pretty handy diagnostic tool. Hey, if your patient sees plate #3 as a flying bird of some sort, chances are he's OCD. You can corroborate with further assessments, and treat once your confidence level is high enough.

This is a great example of the long-term cooperative nature of the scientific enterprise. A shining example of humanity's better angels at work. Yea for science, Yea for psychologists, and Yea to those patients for contributing. Wow. It's wonderful to be a part of the human race.

But, as one can imagine, the Rorschach test might cease to be an effective diagnostic tool if the well were poisoned. If the 10 inkblots became publicly available, along with typical results conveniently correlated with various mental disorders then it would at least become possible for would-be ink-blot interpreters to peruse the interpretations of past interpreters.

So, these potential patients will have been prejudiced by having those past results already in mind. This may skew the value of any diagnoses based on use of the blots.

But it could get worse than that:

What's worse, is the potential for abuse. Say Pavlov wants to be diagnosed as mentally ill for some reason, oh, I don't know, because he is soon to be on trial for murder. No doubt, if he is the crafty sort, it might dawn on him to plan ahead.

Say, Pavlov knows that he will be examined by a court appointed psychologist. It sure would be handy for him if he knew that anyone who interpreted slides 4, 5, and 6 had mental disorders that tended to bring with them serious misgivings about mental competence to stand trial. Hey, if it's a choice between either death by execution, life in a maximum security pen next to Charlie Manson, or life in a minimum security joint with supervised off site visits, I think Pav will opt for the latter.

So, Pav might, just might, become very well versed in the Rorschach material, just for this nefarious purpose.

But, surely this is just the stuff of some 1940 era Film-Noir? Fantasy and speculation.

No it aint.

Someone, a psychologist no less, published the blots and correlations on the inter-tubes' first draft for reference material, the much maligned Wikipedia.

Jeez. It's hard being part of the human race sometimes isn't it?

This Doc's name appears in the article linked above, along with further details, and an account of the back-and-forth argument over the ethics of this wiki-posting.

Some claim all information is public property, that copyrights have expired, so the collective human community should have access to the material.

Others claim that it will be difficult if not impossible to replicate the 88 years worth of correlative data with new inkblots, and the impact on effective psychological assessment will be felt by patients. They are baffled the former group hasn't more concern for patient welfare.

Yet others voice concern that untrained folk will make use of the tests now.

The article closes with the 'poster doctor' relating this little gem:

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?”
And, Dr. Heilman added, “My dad fooled the doctor that way.”

Well. Aint that interesting. Pops "passed" his DMV sight test by fooling his doctor. This obviously raises heavy ethical questions for his son that he has apparently not considered. Here's the obvious one: Should he turn in pops for driving with impaired vision, given that this is a risk for others on the road?"


Euthyphro could have only hoped for such a dilemma!

Well, since it is dear-old-dad after all, maybe Doc could consider alternatives:

Option 1: Guilt Pops into being a permanent passenger, rather than actually driving. Hey he did it to you right? Doc to Pop: "How is this any different than your drinking while driving speech to me when I was a kid? You shouldn't be doing this. You would be endangering others on the road!"

Turnabout is fair play.

(This guilt option is known to work on mothers to a much greater degree, according to my Wiki sources. According to those same sources Jewish and Catholic mothers are especially effected.)

Option 2: Hide the keys.

(This is a temporary solution at best. Pops will get another pair made. Crafty old codger.)

Option 3: Put sugar in the gas tank

(This is undoubtedly a longer term solution. But no clash for clunkers value. Not that there would have been with his "Streets of San Francisco" ride)

Option 4: Do nothing and hope Pops doesn't end up killing himself or someone else.

(Doc should be sure loved ones are not passengers at any time Pops is driving. Make extra efforts to invite enemies for one of Pop's friendly drives.)

Option 5: Tell Pops he doesn't have enough carbon credits to drive his 70s era caddy anyway.

(Tell him the green police will give him increased fines for 'driving while non-carbon neutral.')

Cliff Notes for Eye Exams?

Cliff Notes for Rorschach Ink Blots?

What's next, Cliff Notes for Word Association?