Latife Yazigi. Rorschachiana. Volume 22, Issue 1. 1997.
Interest in asymmetries in cerebral hemispheric functions increased greatly after the split-brain operations of the 1960s. These surgical interventions encouraged an intense growth and expansion of research seeking to characterize the differences between the two halves of the brain and to study their implications for human behavior. Sperry (1966) observed that, in the split-brain patient, each hemisphere has its own private sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and ideas, all of which are cut off from the corresponding experiences of the opposite hemisphere. Therefore, each hemisphere has its own private chain of memories and learning experiences that are inaccessible to the other hemisphere. In many respects each disconnected hemisphere appears to have separate a separate “mind of its own” (Sperry, 1968).
Investigations into the specialized functions of the two hemispheres have suggested new ways of conceptualizing hemispheric differences. Because human cognition is a reflection of cortical activity, and if the left and the right cortices differ in the nature of their integrative processes, then, according to Levy (1980), all aspects of human thinking will reflect their asymmetrical neurological substrates.
According to this approach, the left hemisphere is specialized for language functions. It is greatly superior and dominant to the right hemisphere in linguistic processing. It thinks logically, deductively, analytically, and sequentially, and its linguistic superiority derives from fundamental differences in the way it processes, decodes, encodes, and arranges information. However, these specializations are a consequence of the superior analytic skills of the left hemisphere, of which language is one manifestation. Therefore, the left hemisphere is skilled at sequential processing in general and is the more analytic of the two hemispheres. This analytic mode of information processing is thought to apply to all incoming information, not just speech. Visual information, for example, would be treated in an analytic manner by being broken up and reorganized in terms of features (Levy, 1980).
The right hemisphere is holistic and synthetic, because some of its areas evolved ways of representing abstractly the two- and three-dimensional relationships of the external world, grasped through vision, touch, and movement. In addition to its visual tasks, the ability to visualize a complex route or to find a path through a maze seems to depend on the right hemisphere. Therefore, the right hemisphere is specialized to comprehend relationships between objects in space and the meaning of complex non-linguistic patterns. Besides its visual ability, the right hemisphere has its own motor skills, that is, the ability to manipulate spatial patterns and relationships. Although it is visually characterized as more spatial than the left, the right hemisphere is probably more accurately described as more manipulo-spatial, that is, processing another kind of motor skill-the ability to manipulate spatial patterns and relationships. According to Springler and Deutsch (1981), our capacity to generate mental maps, rotate images, and conceptualize mechanical contraptions could be an abstract, internalized right-hemisphere counterpart of the motor skill of the left hemisphere. The processing strategies of this hemisphere depend on imagistic constructions closely connected to sensory experience (Levy, 1983).
The processing strategies of the left hemisphere rely on language or language-related functions, whereas those of the right hemisphere depend on image constructions closely representing sensory experience. Accordingly, the major tasks of the left hemisphere are the logical representation of reality and communication with the external world. Thinking, reading, writing, counting, and worrying about time are also attributes to the left hemisphere.
The right hemisphere, in contrast, is said to understand patterns and complex relationships that cannot be precisely defined and may not be logical. The qualities of the right hemisphere are essential for creative insight, and for intuitive processes independent of analytic reasoning or verbal argument. Several investigators have also suggested that dreaming and fantasy belong to the realm of this hemisphere (Levy, 1980).
Galin (1974) believes that the cerebral asymmetry approach provides a neurological validation of Freud’s notion of the unconscious mind. Galin points out that the mode of thought of the right hemisphere is similar to Freud’s description of the unconscious, and he notes a parallel between the functioning of the isolated right hemisphere and mental processes that are repressed, unconscious, and incapable of directly controlling behavior. To him, certain aspects of the right hemisphere function are congruent with the mode of cognition that psychoanalysts have termed primary process. These include the extensive use of images, lesser involvement in the perception of time and sequence, and a limited language of the sort that appears in dreams and slips of the tongue. Based on this idea, Galin (1974) suggested that the two hemispheres may be differentially involved in defense mechanisms, and this led to the idea that, if the non-verbal right hemisphere were more involved in unconscious behavior, one might expect to see a higher incidence of psychosomatic disorders or conversion symptoms on the left side of the body.
Several studies provide evidence that symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with left hemisphere dysfunctions, whereas symptoms of affective disorders are associated with the right hemisphere. Flor-Henry (1983 a) observed overactivity in the left hemisphere in schizophrenics and in the right hemisphere in manic-depressives, as compared to normals. Gur (1979) noticed behavioral evidence of left hemisphere over-arousal in schizophrenics, as well as indications that the over aroused hemisphere dominated behavioral control and was defective in processing and in employing adaptive strategies. Flor-Henry (1983 b) found depression, dysphoria, anxiety, and sadness were related to functional alterations in the fronto-temporal regions of the right hemisphere, while paranoia, anger, and euphoria were related to alterations in the fronto-temporal regions of the left hemisphere.
A series of investigations has shown that the right hemisphere has a special role in the experience, expression, and discrimination of all kinds of emotions, including euphoria and dysphoria. The left side of the face (right hemisphere) plays a particularly important role in the intensity of emotional expression, the discrimination of facial expressions, and the emotional discrimination of human emotional tones, such as laughing and crying (Heller, 1990, 1993 b). Thus, the right hemisphere is involved in the control of emotion, in the processing of emotional information, and in the production of emotional expressions. Stimuli such as musical chords and melodies are processed by the right hemisphere, which is also responsible for the recognition of emotional tones of musical passages (Witelson, 1985). The cognitive properties of the right hemisphere are also considered as well adapted to the elaboration of emotion (Tucker, 1981).
Dominance and activation of the right hemisphere lead to low anxiety, lack of depression, and non-critical, confident, and more optimistic self-evaluation, whereas lower right-hemisphere activity is associated with introversion, suspiciousness, dispositional pessimism, and negative self-report. Negative mood states influence the functioning of the right-hemisphere, and physiological indices of activity suggest that normal individuals in sad mood states exhibit decreased right-hemisphere activity. Actors asked to generate emotions of depression exhibit greater alpha suppression over the left hemisphere than over the right (Tucker & Dawson, 1984). Sad mood states diminish the performance of the right, but not the left hemisphere, and depressed mood states in normal subjects are associated with disruption of right-hemisphere functioning (Heller, 1992). Regard (1991), using the Szondi test to evaluate emotion through tachistoscopic presentation, found pleasant choices in the right visual field (left hemisphere) and unpleasant choices in the left visual field (right hemisphere). Besides the cognitive deficits, some depressed patients are hypoaroused and show decreased autonomic responses when compared to left brain damaged patients and normal people. Such hyporesponsiveness can also be detected in reaction time tasks (Heller 1993 b).
According to Levy (personal communication), the right hemisphere is responsible for the biological preservation program of species through empathy, health, and behavior, whereas the left hemisphere is responsible for self-preservation because it is more egocentric and a self-protector. Therefore, the left side of the brain tends to contribute relatively positive, optimistic, and happy responses, whereas the right hemisphere contributes relatively dysphoric, pessimistic, and sad responses.
In summary, Ornstein (1984) proposed an interesting dichotomy to discriminate two modes of consciousness stemming from different sources, contrasting the following left versus right hemispheres: verbal versus spatial; intellectual versus intuitive; day versus night; intellect versus sensuous (according to Blackburn); time and history versus eternity and timelessness (according to Oppenheimer); active versus receptive (according to Deikmman); explicit versus tacit (according to Polanyi); analytic versus Gestalt (according to Levy, Sperry); propositional versus appositional (according to Bogen); lineal versus non-lineal (according to Lee); sequential versus simultaneous (according to Luria); focal versus diffuse (according to Semmes); creative, heaven, masculine, and Yang versus receptive, earth, feminine, and Yin (according to I Ching); light versus dark (according to I Ching); time versus space (according to I Ching); causal versus acausal (according to Jung); and argument versus experience (according to Bacon). In addition, Springler and Deutsch (1981) pointed to a progression of labels that can be used to describe the two cognitive styles of each hemisphere according to its skills. Thus, the left hemisphere is verbal, sequential, temporal, digital, logical, analytic, and rational, whereas the right hemisphere is non-verbal, visuo-spatial, simultaneous, analogic, Gestalt, holistic, synthetic, and intuitive.
In correspondence to this neuropsychological approach, the Rorschach components can be conceived as being processed primarily by one of the two hemispheres. According to Bash, Regard, and Landis (1984), “in a tachistoscopic hemifield pilot experiment with unilaterally projected Rorschach plates at different exposure durations,” they were able to verify that left visual field (right hemisphere) responsiveness was involved in non-formal determinants, such as color, movement, and shading, showed an ambiequal experience type, and was associated with simultaneously combined detail responses: “It is the more holistic hemisphere which is apter at simultaneous combination.” While right visual field (left hemisphere) responsiveness was associated more with F and F- and a “slightly but significantly introversive experience type,” together with a preponderance of space responses “indicated that here the ‘censor’ sits.” Preservation displays a slight tendency toward association with the right hemisphere, and original or O- responses with the left: “The weighted sum of the shading responses is in good harmony with Binder’s theory that they reflect basic mood rather than emotion, central whole rather than peripheral special feelings, i. e., feelings that are reaction to discrete stimuli” (pp. 3, 4). These authors proposed a psychogram for each hemisphere that included the following features:
The LVF, left visual field or right hemisphere, is better able [than the RVF] to combine and synthesize, though sometimes at the price of missing a comprehensive view of the whole. It grasps better what is near and immediately given when the “given” is not a whole. Nevertheless, it evaluates the remaining formal portion somewhat more sharply. Since the percepts are better in spite of less form, one may infer more intuitive than purely intellectual capabilities. This subject has also more fantasy, more effectively toned responses. Despite the relatively good affective adjustment, this subject is sometimes at risk due to its heightened emotional responsiveness, which may stand for creativeness but also for vulnerability. The RVF, right visual field or left hemisphere, grasps the essentials of a situation, however with little combinatory sense. Its Gestalt formation is rather poor. Little seems to spontaneously occur to it with predominantly formal responses, but is also less vulnerable. The productions of this “subject” alone appear tedious, somewhat dry, unstimulating, although fairly well adjusted (Regard, 1991, pp. 13 & 14).
Regard and Landis (1988) acknowledged that in their experiment interpretations differed when the same card was presented tachistoscopically to the left or to the right visual field; for example, on Card IV the responses “dark evil man with big feet” and “frog” or “black giant” illustrated respectively that responses derived from the right hemisphere are more charged with emotion and those derived from the left hemisphere are more neutral or impersonal.
Proceeding on the basis of these observations, we have been using the Rorschach to study patients with intractable epilepsy who underwent neurosurgery for the control of the seizures. Twenty five patients were evaluated, of whom seven received left temporal lobectomy, and nine right temporal lobectomy and nine commissurotomy. The Rorschach was administered to these patients before the operation and at follow-up intervals of 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, and up to 7 years. An intergroup study was developed involving a correlation of Rorschach components with specific characteristics of each cerebral hemisphere, that is, the laterality of the psychological functions. A statistical comparison of the Rorschach components between patients with left and right hemisphere surgery at the various follow-up evaluations was performed (Student t and analysis of variance at a level of significance of 5% and 10% respectively), and we arrived at the same conclusions as Bash, Regard, and Landis (1984), Regard and Landis (1988), and Regard (1991) concerning the laterality of the Rorschach components.
The statistical correlation between the right and left hemisphere groups shows that the right hemisphere exhibits the following characteristics:
- Longer reaction time
- More whole responses
- More unusual detail responses
- More organized responses
- More non-form determinants
- A higher percentage of good form responses
- A higher percentage of popular responses
- More animal content
- More movement responses
- More of Piotrowski’s shading responses, which include achromatic color and light shades such as texture, surface, linear perspective, and three-dimensional perspective or vista
- A tendency to introversion
- A higher Affective Ratio
- More responses to the achromatic than the chromatic cards
On the other hand, our data showed that left hemisphere responding is associated with (a) a greater number of responses, (b) more attention to usual details, (c) more space responses, (d) a higher predominance of pure form responses, (e) more inaccurately perceived (minus) responses, (f) more chromatic responses, (g) tendencies to coarctation and extroversion, and (h) more responses to the chromatic than the chromatic cards.
The Right Hemisphere
Our data confirm that the right hemisphere is the holistic one, but can also pay attention to small or less evident details. It has a three-dimensional visuo-spatial ability, organizational and integrative capacity, imagistic and creative ability to fantasize, and emotional and sensory tendencies. It has an objective approach to reality and good reality testing and is sensitive to affective influence despite being introverted. Nevertheless, when it relates to and gets involved with the outer world, it does so in a personal way and makes use of inner resources. However, these inner resources are of an immature nature, which indicates that the more developed aspects of personality need the collaboration of both hemispheres.
The right-hemisphere decrease in the number of responses and the elevation of the reaction time support Heller’s (1993 b) findings of the right hemisphere’s dysfunction in relation to depression, that is, a lesser activation leading to hypoarousal, motor slowness, hyporesponsiveness, and a decrease in autonomic responses. The prevalence of a whole or holistic approach together with the greater number of shading responses (both before and after surgery) and the greater responsiveness to the achromatic cards in this hemisphere group suggest the following formulation:
Shading responses and the achromatic cards in the Rorschach are known to be related to the emotional aspects of personality. We will focus on Binder’s (Bohm, 1977) conception of chiaroscuro reactions and on the experiences underlying them. According to Binder’s theory, the chiaroscuro (shading) determinant is related to central feeling-tones or moods, divided into (a) central and reactive total-feelings and (b) endogenous vitality-feelings.
The central total feelings are of a reactive nature and are of two kinds, sensory and dispositional. A sensory total-feeling arises when an entire sensory area is experienced as a total impression. Then, a diffuse multiplicity is experienced and merges into a whole. A dispositional total-feeling arises when a circumstance of broad implications combines a wide area of objects and events into a total situation. Both sensory and dispositional experiences may give rise to “feeling resonance” in the deeper layers of the personality, which will then diffuse into a broad total-feeling. Total-feelings reverberate for such a long time that they lose their directional character and intentionality; in them the subjective feeling component is preponderant. Two different total-feelings cannot exist at the same time in consciousness (Bohm, 1977).
On the other hand, the vitality- or life-feelings are the deepest central emotional background of all experiences. They are not reactive, but endogenous; they are purely subjective and not directed. Binder describes them as “tied to the totality of the indistinct … organic sensations and fused with these into a uniform experience.” The endogenous vitality-feelings blend with the reactive total-feelings and form together the moods, in which an endogenous and a reactive part can be distinguished (Bohm, 1977). Such are the phenomenological descriptions of the profound emotional feelings of anguish, anxiety, uneasiness, helplessness, distress, and discomfort as revealed by the chiaroscuro or shading answers.
Binder’s descriptions of the central total-feelings, reactive and endogenous, are in accord with our data concerning whole responses, shading determinants, and achromatic cards, and also with the data supplied by neuropsychological research concerning the right hemisphere. The feelings of anxiety, anguish, fear, and panic correspond to the central total-feelings and confirm the above-mentioned dysfunction of the right hemisphere and the presence of psychosomatic symptoms in some cases, such as those found in panic attack or anxiety crises.
Binder (Bohm, 1977) also relates emotion to overt behavior. He postulates a mediating function between the incoming sensory and outgoing motor behavior, called “sophropsyche,” which is a set of cognitive-conative systems, culminating in an “integrative organ” (the ego according to Bohm). This regulating function has considerable plasticity, since it mediates between peripheral and central emotions and strivings, in the sense of control. Rorschach (1942) had also noted this motor component of the chiaroscuro determinants, in addition to its emotional meaning: “Responses determined by light and shadow nuances indicated timid, cautious, and restrained sort of affective adaptability, as well as self-control and a tendency toward depressive disposition. This type of response is related with cautious and measured affectivity with depressive nuances, and with feelings of insufficiency, loss of solidity, and instability” (p. 195).
Piotrowski (1965) also associated shading responses with the two ways of handling and alleviating anxiety and fear, namely, the fight or flight attitudes commonly mentioned in psychosomatic theories in reference to an increase or decrease in overt activity. The person with prominent c’R responses has a deep-seated need for alleviating fears and anxiety by an increase in overt activity, particularly in those spheres of life that cause the fears and anxiety. People with prominent cR responses tend to assume an attitude of restraint and watchfulness; when they feel anxious, they delay actions they consider important. The more numerous the c’R, the stronger the impulse to do something overt and definite in order to remove or change the anxiety-producing situation. The stronger the cR, the greater the degree of prudence, caution, and reaction formation.
Therefore, this motor element, present in all emotional feelings, is translated in the Rorschach by the shading responses and achromatic cards and is in agreement with the neuropsychological research concerning the right hemisphere and its motor or behavioral specialization.
Binder also connected empathy to emotion: “Empathy is rather the projecting of one’s own emotions and strivings, and of accompanying kinesthetic experience, into an external object. With sensory and dispositional total-feelings empathy is a frequent phenomenon, thus when the observer is in a sad mood, the landscape seems to be full of sadness, it acquires an ‘emotional character’” (Bohm, 1977, p. 312). This statement is in accord with Levy, to whom the right hemisphere is responsible for the biological preservation of the species through empathy, health, and behavior. In addition, in our right-hemisphere protocols the emotionally anxious and anguished tones are also present in the content of the answer; for example on Card IV, “It looks like a furious butterfly, sort of black, strange,” or on Card VI, “I don’t know this animal here, it gives the impression of something bad, a harmful insect, dark, a haunted look … lugubrious, wicked, a disagreeable color.” These examples are very similar to those given by Regard and Landis (1988) concerning the right hemisphere, in which heavy impressions and connotations are markedly present. The higher organizational capacity found in our right-hemisphere group is also consistent with the cognitive properties of the right hemisphere that are considered by Tucker (1981) as being well adapted to the elaboration of emotion.
The right hemisphere three-dimensional perspective responses give support to its visuo-spatial abilities of building up perceptions involving intellectual capacity for synthesis. Rorschach (1942) took into account the elaboration of chiaroscuro interpretations in a perspective that emphasizes the depth of the picture as a dimensional quality:
According to my experience, this indicates that a peculiar type of psychological correlation is functioning here. There is a special talent for the appreciation of spatial relationships, of depth and distance … the subject possesses a marked ability to visualize objects in space and has a talent for construction… this talent frequently, perhaps always, is correlated with feelings of insufficiency … which appears to be correlated with the cautious and measured affectivity with depressive nuances (pp. 200 & 201).
In these perspective elaborations Rorschach (1942) recognized introversive tendencies and a trend toward depression and cautious affectivity. These characteristics are akin to the neuropsychological research findings that lower right-hemisphere activity is associated with introversion, suspiciousness, dispositional pessimism, and negative self-report.
For Piotrowski (1965) perspective responses imply a well-developed habit of judging distance and of measuring the distance between the self and others. He recognizes in these elaborations indications of intelligence but also ways of alleviating anxiety: “Perspective ShR individuals have a well-developed imagination and can easily voice or otherwise express their anxieties indirectly through an active or passive interest in aesthetics without appearing to talk about or manifest their personal anxieties … and relieve their anxiety vicariously.” The emotionally cautious attitude concealed by the perspective response is translated by the “keeping at a distance” from the situation that mobilizes any emotional reverberation.
The right hemisphere’s imagistic and creative capacities, along with its contribution to fantasizing, are confirmed by the higher frequency of movement responses. In the Rorschach literature, the relation between inner creation, imagination, and kinesthetic perception is acknowledged and accepted. Schachtel (1969) commented as follows:
In kinesthetic perception induced by visual perception of movement and leading to kinesthetic empathy, one ceases to remain a mere outside observer registering, like a camera, what goes on. Instead one experiences in himself the actual sensation of the movement, tension, or posture seen in the other person. While to the perceiver’s mind the kinesthetic perception is part and parcel of the global experience of seeing the other person move, the empathic, kinesthetic element in this perception is, nevertheless, the feeling of movement or rather of initial motor impulses in his own body. Thus the perception of his own body in the kinesthetic sensation is inextricably fused with the object perception through visual data received by the eye. Because in this case the kinesthetic experience is felt together with another person actually performing the movement, one can speak of kinesthetic empathy (p. 197).
Therefore, motor and empathic components can be recognized in all the movement responses, which are also in consonance with the right hemisphere characteristics. Additionally, the creative experience of kinesthetic perceptions together with the sensitivity of shading elaborations along with whole organizations give rise to insight and intuition.
The right hemisphere’s capacity to discerning good-form percepts derives from its capacity for spatial attention, as Heller (1993 b) pointed out: “If emotions ready the body for action in response to environmental conditions, and if the right hemisphere is indeed uniquely suited to evaluate the emotional or personal relevance of environmental conditions, it seems highly adaptive for the right hemisphere to have a conjoint system specialized to direct attention to the relevant portions of the environment. Indeed, the role of the right hemisphere in spatial attention is well-documented” (p. 480). This statement makes sense with respect to the Rorschach cards, because the inkblots are presented in a spatial disposition, characterizing them predominantly as visuo-spatial stimuli. As Schachtel (1966) reminds us,
Rorschach points out that the inkblots must have a picture-like quality without which many testees would reject them as ‘just an inkblot.’ While Rorschach does not mention the size of the inkblots, he points out two other requirements that are essential for the required picturel-like quality: they should be relatively simple, and their arrangement in the space of the card should meet certain conditions of spatial rhythm of which their symmetry is a major one. Beyond the role of the spatial rhythm of the blots in contributing to their ‘picturel-like’ quality, the testee’s individual experience of the spatial dynamics and structure of the various inkblots often reveals significant aspects of his individual, experiential life-space (p. 27). Therefore, a good-form Rorschach response evaluates the attentional control mechanisms related to right hemisphere visuo-spatial motor abilities, since the Rorschach test seems to involve more of a visuo-spatial than verbal task.
Furthermore, the assumption that “the right hemisphere can represent abstractly two or three-dimensional relationships of the external world grasped through vision, touch, and movement” (Levy, 1980) fully agrees with our data about the predominance of shading (e. g., the relationship between touch and texture and three-dimension and perspective) and movement perceptions in the Rorschach as presented above. The predominance of small detail or unusual details in the right hemisphere group is completely consonant with its abilities to apprehend the literal properties of the physical world pointed out by the neuropsychological literature.
Finally, subsequent to all that has been discussed, the right hemisphere is the more affective-emotional one, which explains why symptoms of affective disorders have been associated with dysfunction of the right hemisphere, with depression, dysphoria, anxiety, and sadness related to functional alterations in fronto-temporal regions of this hemisphere (Flor-Henry, 1983 a).
The Left Hemisphere
Our data confirm that the left hemisphere is more productive than the right, associated with more responses and an analytic perception based on direct, concrete, and empirical observation of usual details. It is also more critical and oppositional, as reflected in a shifting attitude from the positive to the negative aspects of situations and reversal of the focus of attention. It displays a predominantly formal and concrete attitude with a mostly rational, impersonal, and detached style, along with some subjectivity as well, indicating insufficiency of intellectual discipline and difficulty in attentional stability and the control of thought process. Furthermore, it is relatively responsive to affective stimuli, but in an immature manner accompanied as often by coarctation as by extraversive tendencies.
Usual detail responses on the Rorschach are known to be associated with concrete perception and practical intelligence of an immediate quality. This immediate apprehension facilitates the left hemisphere processing of present time, or the “here and now,” as opposed to the past-future dimension of the right hemisphere’s whole responses. Its concrete and practical character accords with the analytic-inductive method of reasoning, based on a sequence of particular data, and hence shows a causal and linear approach. This perceptual style of our left-hemisphere group is congruent with the recognized left-hemisphere characteristics of being analytic, linear, sequential, causal, and logical. These modes of procedure allow it to process time and consequently historical dimensions by means of a linear sequence of particular causal events, that is, through an inductive approach. It is this tendency to give more attention to details that directs the left-hemisphere group to give more responses to the chromatic cards, which are less compact and more fragmented than the achromatic ones.
The left-hemisphere preference for the production of pure form responses identifies it as the one in charge of structuring and ordering stimuli and, consequently, the visible world, because, as Schachtel (1996) succinctly stated, “Out of Chaos form creates Kosmos” (p. 87). According to this author, when form becomes rigid and immutable it paralyzes rather than structures, which means that the form determinant can be constructive or destructive. Pure form is constructive when it gives order and structure to the unfamiliar inkblots, but destructive when it becomes too predominant, rigid, schematic, or stereotyped and prevents flexibility, fluctuation, and openness to the richness, fascination, diversity, and novelty of the outer world.
Pure form perception, continues Schachtel (1966), “is a construct which does not usually occur in the perception of our natural environment; it does occur in man’s conceptualizations of spatial relationships in geometry and trigonometry, in the world of signs such as letters or numerals, and in some designs, especially in diagrams” (p. 8). Consequently, pure form is associated with schematic, outlined, and impersonal perception that grasps the basic characteristics of the stimuli and thereby extracts its main attributes. Hence, form perception and the left hemisphere comprise a more concrete than abstract approach and a more inductive than deductive way of reasoning that culminates in concept-formation. This involves a longer process than the right-hemisphere holistic-Gestalt-abstract apprehension, which is predominantly insightful in type.
Form-perception thus involves an active perceptual attitude that recognizes the distinctive features of an object. Its mode of functioning is allocentric and consists of “taking hold” of certain salient aspects of the visual context. This perceptual attitude requires focusing on something rather than being passively struck by something, such as a strong light or color. In looking at an object the eyes have to focus on it. This requires an active organization of the visual field in which the eye and mind must pursue the dominant lines, form, and structure of the object, which are its distinctive features. This operation of taking hold of the features allows the establishment of a firm perceptual grasp of the object, so that it can be found, seen, and recognized again, and also recalled at will. The activity in form perception can comprise a recognition of something familiar or, in a more prolonged and attentive attitude, an attempt to take something new, in orientating oneself in unfamiliar surroundings, in exploring attentively something of interest (Schachtel, 1966).
These formal aspects lead to a more rational, ideal, theoretical, and intellectually active mental process, which is consonant with left-hemisphere attributes of being verbal, due to its ability to deal with word signs; active and explicit; focal and propositional. However, the strong predominance of form and rationality can culminate in a repressive attitude, associated with constriction and coarctativeness of the personality, which is what was seen in part of our left-hemisphere group.
The predominance of space responses associated with the left hemisphere seems to be related to critical and negative attitudes, which Bash (1984) calls the “censor.” This “habitual oppositional tendency,” says Rorschach (1942), reflects considerable energy, since it “enables the person to maintain an energetic opposition which at times leads to the discovery of facets and implications overlooked by others” (Piotrowski, 1965), which means curiosity and scrutiny. Also, the change of focus, from the figure to the ground, requires perceptual flexibility. This feature corroborates the so-called “argument disposition” of the left hemisphere mentioned in the neuropsychological literature, and which is related to investment of energy, action, will-power, tenacity, and obstinacy.
The prevalence of color responses, together with the presence of extroversion and control of responses to the achromatic cards, reinforces the higher productivity seen in the left-hemisphere group. This tendency toward extroversion in the left hemisphere has also been described in the neuropsychological literature. However, the production of color responses in the left-hemisphere group agrees partially with the report of Regard (1991), who found FC responses to RVF stimulations (left hemisphere), whereas CF+C predominated on LVF stimulations (right hemisphere). This controversy was explained by Levy and Trevarthen (1981), who investigated hemispheric asymmetries in color-naming, color matching, and memory for colors in split-brain patients. According to these authors, “there was a strong bias for naming colors of stimuli projected to the left hemisphere … in color-matching tasks patients varied in the direction and degree of asymmetric control of responses … with symmetry of hemispheric control increasing as task complexity increased. Both hemispheres performed well above chance in memory for colors of objects in line-drawings, and the right hemisphere appeared to perform somewhat better than the left” (p. 523). As one can see, both hemispheres are involved in color processing, but according to the study one can conjecture that the more complex tasks or perceptions such as FC will be accomplished by the right hemisphere and the more simple ones such a CF and C, similar to a color naming task, by the left hemisphere. However, this point requires more investigation in order to be more fully clarified. We hope to shed light on this and other questions with our current research into the “chimeric Rorschach.”
In conclusion, the left-hemisphere Rorschach group revealed characteristics very similar to those reported in neuropsychological investigations, including psychopathological aspects related to its dysfunction, such as being more schizo-rational (form responses), angry (color responses), paranoid (space responses), and euphoric (color responses). We hope to confirm these findings in further investigations using the “chimeric Rorschach.”