In Search of the American Personality: Warnings from the Nuremberg Trial Rohrschach Inkblot Tests

By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Last week as I waited for nearly two hours to see the doctor, I picked up a magazine called Monitor on Psychology.  This publication is issued by American Psychological Association and I was intrigued by a the title of one of the stories inside — “In Search of the Nazi Personality.”

I took a lot of notes, figuring that the article wouldn’t be online. But, to my surprise, it was.

It’s a fascinating overview of how psychologists and psychiatrists have attempted to analyze the minds of the Nazis who took inkblot tests while in Nuremberg prison during their trials.

From Monitor on Psychology – Time capsule (the bolding is mine):

In search of the Nazi personality

The Nazi Rorschach responses have captured psychologists’ imaginations for decades.

By Nick Joyce
Print version: page 18

It’s true: Hermann Goering, among others, took inkblot tests in Nuremberg prison. What’s less certain is what the results of these tests mean.

In the aftermath of World War II, Allied forces captured and detained many of the remaining Nazi leaders, including Goering, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Rudolf Hess and Albert Speer. The Allied leaders in charge of the Nuremberg trials sought psychological profiles of the Nazis and asked psychologist Gustave Gilbert, PhD, and psychiatrist Douglas Kelley, MD, both Americans, to collect the data using psychological tools such as the Thematic Apperception Test, Rorschach Inkblot Test and the German translation of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Test. Even though the tests played little role in the trials, the scientists were searching for answers to a question that still lingers today: Were the Nazis evil men or merely ordinary people who did horrific deeds because they were ordered to do so?

Both examiners found all of these men legally sane, but had different views on how to interpret the data.

…Gilbert was attuned to the socio-cultural context of the Nazi leadership. He claimed that the Nazis were raised in a culture that had a primary value of deference to authority to which all other reason and intelligence took a backseat. He concluded that democratic leaders should be trained as critical thinkers to prevent that same kind of blind obedience.

In his 1947 book, “Twenty-two Cells in Nuremberg” (unknown publisher), Kelley wrote that although some of the Nazi prisoners showed some pathology of personality during the examinations, he did not believe they were mentally ill. Kelley cautioned that a Nazi-style government would be possible even in America because it was a “socio-cultural disease” and not a product of insane leaders…

At the time Gilbert and Kelley were publishing their analyses, Molly Harrower, PhD, a Rorschach authority, tried to gather a panel of 10 experts to add their insights, but none agreed to do so because at the time, there was little chance that the world wanted to see these men as anything but pathological.

Thirty years later, Harrower believed the political environment had changed enough to allow for an objective evaluation of the results. She used a double-blind procedure to have 10 Rorschach experts interpret the Nazis’ results and matched control responses from clergy and hospital patients. Harrower arranged four groups of reports, two with all Nazis, one with clergy and the last with patients. The responses of the experts noted no similarities in the Nazi protocols nor signs of mental disturbance, indicating that Nazi leaders were seemingly no different from average Americans.

Harrower’s findings are not definitive and there has been discussion about methodological problems and other factors. But, she published her final work, as part of a book called  “The Quest for the Nazi Personality” in 1995, more than 60 years after VE-Day.

The interest in the personality of Nazi leaders continues unabated.  One has to wonder what psychologists will be saying about the “Obama culture” — followers and leaders — that we’ve seen take over America over the last year…



How time change!  Compared to the GOP, Obama looks like a saint….

24 Responses

  1. Interesting, but the reality is that we have understood this for over a year now.

    This country is not in danger because of people like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, it is in trouble because people think American Idol is a template for modern society and that history is I Love Lucy reruns.

    • “(Gilbert) concluded that democratic leaders should be trained as critical thinkers to prevent that same kind of blind obedience.

      It is precisely because we are NOT doing this that we are in the mess we’re in. Critical thinking these days subjects you to charges of everything from “racism” to “tinfoil hattery”.

      We are a nation of sheeple…unmindful of what is happening to our country because we are discouraged from learning.

  2. A culture of instant gratification , no responsibility for our own actions, the world owes me because I was born and a few other things that are now the norm in this nation might be a cause of many problems.
    Self respect and respect for others is now treated like a joke.

    I commented on this at the open ramblings site but thought you might like the site if you have not seen it before.
    I go there when I need beauty in my life



  3. Fascinating subject, though my first question would be, how honest would we expect their responses to be?

    As for how these evil deeds got done — look at how torture got done in Gitmo, and which leaders approved it.

    • I wouldn’t expect them to lie at all. These men were egomaniacs that thrived on attention, so I’m sure they would want those studying their responses to get the full impact of the glory that was the Third Reich.

      I think we’ve proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that evil knows no party, race or nationality.

  4. why am I in moderation for hours?. I did not make any comments that were wrong.



    • Because I had to go out this morning and didn’t put the computer on until I came home!! I got an oil change and did 4 other errands before 10 AM…

      • A very busy lady.
        Thank you for posting my comments.



  5. Ve-e-r-r-r-y interestinkh!

    Just had to do that.

  6. “One has to wonder what psychologists will be saying about the “Obama culture” — followers and leaders — that we’ve seen take over America over the last year…”

    Look no further than Charles Krauthammer:
    Born in New York, Krauthammer was raised in Montreal, where he attended McGill University and majored in political science and economics. He later attended Oxford University and Harvard Medical School, and worked as a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1975 to 1978.

  7. Well, he soft-soaped Obama during the election campaign.

    He’ll go wherever it’s “safe” to go and which will help keep his TV and columnist job!

    • Everyone at the WaPo wants to keep a job. Somehow, I cannot visualize psychologists and psychiatrists getting worked up over this as much as the rest of us. They do afterall work in another dimension.
      I have a few friends in the field and I am sure that they think I’m the one with the panties all bunched into knots. LOL

  8. “One has to wonder what psychologists will be saying about the “Obama culture” — followers and leaders — that we’ve seen take over America over the last year…”

    The psychologists and psychiatrists I work with (at least 50 of ’em) were all Obama supporters. HUGE Obama supporters. Most of the social workers and nurses I work with – also for Obama. When I even said the name Hillary, I was quickly shut up by the braying of the masses here. So I think you’ll have to get decades away from this mass manipulationg for any truth to be spoken.

    As for Gitmo, I know one psychologist who worked there, and I can’t even speak to him anymore I am so disgusted. (and please don’t ask me to think about what might have happened had he not been present.)

  9. With the scores on the sub-tests of the Wechsler test I could do a personality assessment — but I expect that they would all be highly “regulated” personalities with a excellent ability to memorize and follow directions.

    Interesting reading — and yes this Nation is at risk — because of the propaganda machine called the media. As long as the majority of people stay plugged into the boob tube — and let the talking heads do their thinking — then this Nation will be screwed.

    • I was nearly despondent today….

    • Northwest rain,
      From time to time I “visit” a site I used to (practically) live at during BushCo. Every time I visit (the number of visits is decreasing) I see the same mentality, those “highly regulated” personalities who can memorize and follow directions. These people cannot and will not allow one even minor criticism of That One. Even before the election, I made a comment and was d*mn near crucified by the bots on board. With no support from the owner of the blog (and I had been there for years) I left. Those people were/are crazed
      I keep thinking how close we are to being, as you say, screwed. It is really worrisome.

    • The Wechsler is an intelligence test – how would you do a personality assessment from its subscores? I would never make a personality assessment without a battery of tests, never from just one, especially one that’s not a personality test in the first place. Just curious….

  10. A deficiency of the soul. The exchange of one’s eternal Self for the expedience of a short term solution. Study of the leaders reveals only a small part, A close enquiry into the follower, who willing empower those on high reveals the deficiency.

    Is this deficiency here in the USA today? [ 05 2009 ]
    Place yourself in the observer box:

    Please watch this Bill Moyer clip: [ it is short ]

    More Moyer’s [ It is lengthy, but well worth the view ]


    Erich Fromm’s, “Escape From Freedom”

    Now contrast the above to: [ it is short ]


    May God Help us.

  11. These are interesting videos. Moyers got on the Obama bandwagon but I’ve read that he’s showing a bit of new skepticism.

    Anybody who is honest in watching Obama et al at work should have even more than skepticism at this point…they should start to be admitting they were hoodwinked and start pointing out the truth.

  12. The reality check is Tom that the radical right and the radical left are two sides of the same coin. Just as the radio hosts featured above get people riled up to the point of violence by spewing trash talk, the current crew in power uses Cloward-Piven methods to the same end.

    Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama are basically the same; they just use different methods to manipulate us and destroy this nation. David Axelrod is no better or worse than Karl Rove; Michael Savage is no worse or better than Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers; Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann are twins in my mind; Michael Reagan and Adrianna Huffington – no different. Not. One. Bit.

    May God help us, indeed!

  13. Nothing to do with the point of your post, but just fyi, the Rorschach has absolutely no empirical evidence behind it – no validity or reliability has ever been able to be established. In other words, in all these years, it has never moved beyond the theory stage – it’s all interpretation, based on a theory.

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