Table of Contents


Christopher John Jackson: Assessing Important and Observable Personal

Qualities in the General Selection Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

Gregory J. Coram: A Rorschach Analysis of Violent Murderers and

Nonviolent Offenders 81

Peter F. de Jong: Assessment of Attention: Further Validation of the Star

Counting Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 89

Albert Maydeu-Olivares and Thomas J. D'Zurilla: A Factor Analysis of

the Social Problem-Solving Inventory using Polychoric Correlations. . . . . . . ., 98

Jari-Erik Nurmi, Katariina Salmela-Aro and Tarja Haavisto: The Strategy

and Attribution Questionnaire: Psychometric Properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108


Tatiana Czeschlik and Hans-Christoph Nurk: Shyness and Sociability:

Factor Structure in a German Sample 122


Jean Cardinet: Prehistory of the International Test Commission 128

Juan Fernandez, Miguel A. Mateo and Jose Muniz: Evaluation of the

Academic Setting in Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133


24th International Congress of Applied Psychology 138

European Journal of Psychological Assessment, Vol. 11, Issue 2, pp. 81-88

© 1995 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers

A Rorschach Analysis of Violent Murderers and Nonviolent Offenders

Gregory J. Coram

Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA

Keywords: Rorschach, severe offenders, assessment

The study was designed to compare the Rorschach protocols of violent murderers with nonviolent offenders. A total of 46 convicted male felons, that is, 23 violent murderers and 23 nonviolent offenders with a mean age of 34.43 and 32.48, respectively, participated in the study. Each subject was administered a Rorschach utilizing the Exner Comprehensive System for administration, scoring, and interpretation. The two groups differed at a .01 level of significance on 7 of the 22 variables that were subjected to a one-way analysis of variance. The violent murderers had a greater distortion of perceptual accuracy and cognitive mediation. In addition, they demonstrated a higher potential for impulsivity and vulnerability to stress. Both groups had a high frequency of ambitents, T-Iess protocols, and difficulty with emotional modulation. Although these findings should be viewed as tentative, they provide some initial information on the differences between the groups. Further study will be needed to replicate and extend the results.


The criminal justice system continues to rely on psychologists to conduct evaluations for competency and insanity for sentencing decisions. In addition, police agencies request psychological profiling and assistance in understanding the personality dynamics of violent offenders. The need for these services will continue to grow in light of the violent crime rate and prison overcrowding (U.S. Department of Justice, 1991). Because the current prison situation has resulted in a reduction of diagnostic programs, the criminal justice system requires studies to develop an increased understanding of behavioral, emotional, and psychological indices related to violent inmates and ultimately to identify inmates at risk for violent behavior.

Clinicians have relied on objective and projective techniques to arrive at their opinions and predictions of behavior. As a result, numerous attempts have been made to use the MMPI to classify offenders (Gibbons, 1975; Holcomb, Adams, and Ponder, 1985; Kalichman, 1988; Megargee and Bohn, 1979). The WAIS has also been used to assist in developing a criminal type (Wagner and Klein, 1977) with limited success. Projective techniques, such as the Rorschach, have been employed to assist in the understanding and classifying of criminals by utilizing content (Lewis and Arsenian, 1982), color shading

(Lester and Perdue, 1972), Egocentricity Index (Simon, 1985), and movement (Lester and Perdue, 1973). However, the difficulty with any attempt to compare or arrive at any conclusion from previous Rorschach studies is directly related to various scoring methods. Exner and Exner (1972) found that clinical psychologists use many standardized scoring systems for the Rorschach, resulting in various outcomes.

Limited consensus exists regarding the pathogenesis of violent behavior; thus, an exploratory study appeared appropriate to identify particular personality variables currently associated with these type of violent inmates. Such information would have implications for future study and may provide some basis for the understanding of violence. Violent crime has been described as uncontrollable, explosive, and irrational (President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, 1967). There is substantial evidence to indicate that the criminal population has an increased level of impulsivity and difficulty with frustration tolerance (Quay, 1965, Mischel, 1961 and Stumphauzer, 1973); and there appears to be elements of stimulation seeking and emotionality to criminal behaviors (Quay, 1965, Whitehill, DeMyer-Gapin and Scott, 1976, Eysenck, 1977). There are also indications that the cognitive development of criminals may be different and possibly contribute to criminal activity (Warren, 1983, Morash, 1983). Therefore, since


crimes appear to involve elements of impulsivity, emotionality, and differences in cognitive mediation, it appears appropriate to select an instrument and system to provide information on these variables.

There does not appear to be one specific instrument that provides comprehensive information on the emotional and psychological characteristics of an individual. However, the Rorschach was selected as the instrument of choice for this study because it provides specific information on impulsivity, emotionality and cognitive mediation. The Rorschach can also provide information on the style and approach to problem solving (Exner, 1993). The Comprehensive System was selected over other methods

Table 1. Theoretically relevant variables.

for scoring and interpreting because it is more empirically based and its psychometric properties have been established (Exner, 1993).

The purpose of the present study was to compare the Rorschach protocols of a sample of incarcerated violent murderers with a sample of incarcerated offenders with no violence in their history, to then obtain findings that may be potentially useful Rorschach indicators to identify and understand violent murders. Tables 1 and 2 list the apriori theoretically relevant and theoretically irrelevant variables selected by the author for the violent murderers.

There were four apriori hypotheses proposed in this study:

- Hypothesis I: The two groups would differ on reality testing and ability to accurately translate and interpret events (F+%, X+%,X-%).

- Hypothesis II: The two groups would differ on pure C with the violent group having a higher frequency of pure C and possess a reduced capacity for emotional modulation .

- Hypothesis III: The two groups would differ on greater vulnerability for disorganization and difficulty with stress tolerance (D, adj D, EA, es).

- Hypothesis rv.. The non-violent offenders group would differ with the violent group providing a higher aggression score and lower Egocentricity Index. Both groups would provide a low pure human content when compared to Exner norms.


Exner Norms N=700


F+%: x+%: x-%:





Adj. D:

EA: es:


Pure C:

Sum Shading:


H: 3r+(2)1R:



Conventional Form Distorted Form Unusual Form Organizational Activity ZFrequency

Common Detail Response

Adjusted D Score Experience Actual Experienced Stimulation Affective Ratio

Pure Color

Total Shading Responses Reflection Responses Human Content Egocentricity Index Aggression Responses

.71 .79 .07 .14 .72

11.81 .04

.20 8.82 8.21 .69

.08 3.39 .08 3.39 .39 1.18

Table 2. Theoretically irrelevant variables.


Exner Norms N=700

















Response Lambda

Whole Response Common Detail Response Unusual Detail Response Human Movement Animal Movement

Form Dimension


Multiple Determinant Morbid


Weighted Sum Color Food Content Populars


.58 8.55 2.89 1.23 4.30 3.71 1.16 1.03 5.16

.70 1.47 3.28 .23 6.89

Gregory J. Coram


.17 .08 . 05 .07

3.06 2.59 1.09

.88 2.18 3.00 .16 .28 2.15

.35 1.80 .07 1.18




.26 1.94 3.54 1.70 1.92 1.19

.87 .58 1.93 .82 1.21 2.89 .50


A total of 46 convicted felons, 23 violent murderers and 23 nonviolent offenders, from 2 northeastern prisons participated in the study. The violent-murder group was male with a mean age of 34.43 (SD = 7.40); the nonviolent offender group was also male with a mean age of 32.48 (SD = 6.65). The groups were 76% white, 20% African American and 4 % Hispanic American all from a predominately low socioeconomic status with no significant difference related to race or type of incarceration between the groups. Both

Table 3. Theoretically relevant variables for violent murderers.
Violent murderers Nonviolent offenders
N=23 N=23
Variable M SD M SD
F+%: Form .58 .14 .53 .15
x+%: Conventional Form .53 .13 .55 .13
x-%: Distorted Form .39 .15 .20 .12
XU%: Unusual Form .07 .09 .20 .09
ZD: Organizational Activity - .95 4.70 -1.75 4.52
ZF: ZFrequency 11.26 4.62 7.83 3.34
D: Common Detail Response -1.73 2.19 - .73 1.32
Adj. Adjusted D Score - .73 1.28 - .39
D: 1.34
EA: Experience Actual 4.83 2.58 3.56 2.86
es: Experienced Stimulation 9.83 5.85 6.26 2.94
Afr: Affective Ratio .54 .18 .49 .12
FCCFC: Sum Color 3.61 2.15 1.78 1.65
PureC: Pure Color .09 .29 .43 .79
Sum Shading: Total Shading 6.00 4.36 3.13 2.51
FrrF: Reflection Responses .39 .89 .17 .49
H: Human Content 2.13 1.42 1.43 1.50
3r+(2)/R: Egocentricity Index .38 .17 .25 .13
AG: Aggression Responses .39 .72 .13 .46
* P<.05, ** P<.01 Rorschach Analysis of Offenders

groups had access to the community, none was on death row, and all had access to recreational areas and equipment. The difference was observed in the type of job assignment. The violent murderers had more structured and supervised jobs when compared with the nonviolent group. The criterion for inclusion in the violent murderer group was a homicide that involved mutilation, removal of body parts, or repeated knife wounds to the victim. Nonviolent offenders met criterion by having no arrests for personal crimes, e. g., robbery or assault on their past or current records. Furthermore, none of the subjects had a documented psychiatric history.


Subjects were randomly selected from a list generated by the records department of each institution. Criteria for departmental selection were supplied well in advance of the testing. These criteria included selection of inmates, based on their specific type of crime; no documented psychiatric history; and a complete criminal history. Each subject participated in a single session lasting about 2.5 hours, and was advised that the study was designed to assist policymakers in developing more effective inmate programs. The subjects were asked to complete a Draw-A-Person, a Rorschach, and to verbally report two of their earliest memories from childhood. Rorschach protocols were administered and scored utilizing the Comprehensive System (Exner, 1985).


Each protocol was independently scored twice, once by a graduate student trained in the Exner System and again by the author with scoring discrepancies referred to a colleague for resolution. The protocols were randomly distributed to the raters so they were unaware of the type of subject assessed in each protocol. Interrater agreement for all categories was at least 90%, except for special scores that resulted in an 88% interrater agreement. The data were organized using the Computerized Rorschach Interpretation Assistance Program (Exner, McGuire, & Cohen, 1985), and statistical analyses were undertaken with the assistance of Rorschach Workshops.

Results and Discussion

Descriptive statistics were calculated for the Rorschach variables as well as for the ratios contained in the Structural Summary (Exner, 1986 a) and served as the basis for subsequent chi-square and one-way ANOVA analyses. Between group differences,p<.01, were found on seven of the twenty-two variables subjected to a one-way analyses, and no group difference reached p<.01 for variables subjected to Chi-square analyses (see Tables 3 & 4). Rorschach Workshops assisted in the statistical analyses of these data and included three variables (Isolation Index, Intellectualization Index, and Weighted Sum C) in their statistical package that

F "J:
8.18** 2.51*
2.28 84 Gregory J. Coram
Table 4. Theoretically irrelevant variables for violent murderers.
Violent murderers Nonviolent offenders
N=23 N=23
Variable M SD M SD F 'X.z
R: Response 22.56 5.28 19.04 4.15 5.20*
L: Lambda 1.00 .66 1.57 1.32 3.44
W: Whole Response 9.52 4.24 6.26 2.67 3.72
D: Common Detail Response 10.22 4.33 9.61 3.66 .28
Dd: Unusual Detail Response 2.52 1.62 3.17 1.27 .06
M: Human Movement 2.26 1.86 2.00 1.76 1.00
FM: Animal Movement 2.56 2.04 2.30 1.69 .22
FD: Form Dimension .43 .66 .48 .66 .82
To Texture .91 1.12 .56 .90 .80
Blends: Multiple Determinant 3.74 2.93 1.74 1.54 8.40**
Mor: Morbid .43 .73 .65 1.07 .65
S: Space 2.22 1.62 1.65 1.23 1.78
WSum6: Weighted Sum Color 7.17 7.60 3.09 2.8 5.82
Food: Food Content .13 0.00 .09 .29 .26
P: Populars 3.78 1.88 3.70 1.4 .02 * P<.05, ** P<.Ol

were not part of the apriori hypothesis and not specifically requested for analysis. Therefore, only the 18 requested variables that were subjected to a oneway ANOVA will be discussed in this study. The three additional variables do not appear in any tables of the apriori theoretically relevant and theoretically irrelevant variable list. Tables 3 and 4 contain means, standard deviation, and significance levels for the two groups, and Tables 1 and 2 contain means and standard deviations for Exner norms presented for purpose of comparisons. Table 5 contains frequencies and percentages for the structural variables for Exner norms, and Table 6 contains frequencies and percentages for the structural variables for violent murderers and nonviolent offenders.

Exner's norms were comprised of volunteer subjects who predominately from middle-class and lower-class groups. Since Exner's data were not based on a criminal population, the discussion of results is tentative and the study requires replication and extension of the findings. Given this premise, however, there were eighteen variables hypothesized to be theoretically relevant to the differentiation of the violent homicide offenders from the nonviolent offenders (see Table 3); and fifteen variables considered irrelevant to the differentiation of the two groups (see Table 4). However, two of the irrelevant variables did differentiate the two groups: blends (p<.OI); responses (p<.05). Because these were not part of the hypothesized relative variables, they should be considered with extreme caution.

The two groups differed in regard to the frequency ofresponses (R) given, F(I,44) == 5.28,p<.05 (see

Table 4); however, Exner (1992) reported that statistically significant response differences between groups do not mean that R should be partialed, or normalized, for all variables. He further stated, "In most instances, the results will probably lead to the conclusion that controlling for R is not necessary for most or all of the variables that are to be included in an analysis" (Exner, 1992, p.248). Both groups had F+% mean scores that averaged fourteen points below Exner's norms for nonpatients and X+% mean scores that averaged 24 points below Exner norms for nonpatients (Exner, 1990). The nonviolent offenders had a high Xu% when compared to the violent groups F(l,44) == 22.63,p<.Ol; whereas the violent offenders had a higher X-%, F(l,44)::: 20.96,p<.01;and both groups had an X-% mean of .23 above Exner's normative sample.

The finding of a low F% in both groups indicated a disturbance with reality testing. However, the violent group demonstrated a more pervasive deficit in perceptual inaccuracy and a disturbance in their ability to translate and interpret events in the same manner as most people. The possibility of a thought disturbance within this group is further supported by the finding that the violent murderers had a significantly higher frequency of weighted special scores (WSum6), a measure of distorted thinking, when compared to the nonviolent offenders. In addition,43% of the violent offenders had a Schizophrenic Index of 4 when compared with a normative sample ofO.

The nonviolent offenders scored significantly lower on ZF, F(I,44) ::: 8.18,p<.01, when compared to the violent criminals. The ZF is a measure of a

Rorschach Analysis of Offenders
Table 5. Frequencies and percentages for structured vari-
ables for Exner norms.
Exner Norms
Variable Frequency %
Introversive 251 36
Ambitent 143 20
Extratensive 306 44
D<O 89 13
D<-1 30 4
EA-ES (Adjusted)
D<O 66 9
D<-1 27 4
>+3.0 127 18
(Over Incorporator) 37 5
(Under Incorporator) 106 15
(FM+M) <Sum Shading
Sum Texture (T) = 0 80 11
Shading (Y) = 127 18
Achromatic (C') = 262 37
Color Schizophrenia Index
SCZ=5 0 0
SCZ=4 2 0
Depression 3 0
Dept 5 21 3
PureH<2 69 10
Constellation 0 0
Coping Deficit Index (CDI) 3 0
CDI=4 18 3
Aggressive Movement (AG) 234 33
AG=>2 95 14 individual's ability to organize and process information. This finding may indicate an intellectual limitation, a reflection of an immature psychological development, or an approach of avoiding the complexity of a situation (Exner,1986 b).

Both groups had a Lambda (L) that was higher than Exner's norms (Exner,1990). Lambda provides some information regarding the individual's willingness to be involved in a situation. It indicates the subjects tendency to minimize the importance of a situation or to ignore some of the elements. It is also reflective of a style of oversimplifying a complex situation or of resistance to the testing situation (Exner,1991). The nonviolent offenders had a higher mean score when compared to the violent murderers, 1.57 and 1.00, respectively. However, it is necessary to observe in both groups the frequency and variability of high Lambda scores prior to any interpretation. In fact, although the mean differentiated


the two groups, the nonviolent offenders had a more skewed distribution with three protocols above 3.0 and the remaining similar to the violent group of offenders. Therefore, it does not appear appropriate to make any interpretations of these finding.

The Egocentricity Index (3r+(2)/R) also differed between the two groups, F(1,44) = 9.35, p<.01, with the violent murderers obtaining a significantly higher score. The violent murderers had a mean that corresponded to the normative mean (Exner, 1990); however, the nonviolent offenders had an index that was two standard deviations below the normative mean. The Egocentricity Index is a measure of psychological self-focusing or concerns for self (Exner, 1986 a), and may reflect issues regarding low self-esteem or overvaluation of the self at the expense of others. Although the violent murderers have apparently adequate measures of self-esteem, the nonviolent offenders had a lower score, indicating negative self-esteem, lower personal worth and a proneness to depressive feelings (Exner, 1986a). The apriori prediction of a low egocentricity index for both groups with the violent offenders having a significantly lower score was not found.

Both groups had low color responses (FCCFC), with the violent murderers displaying significantly lower results, F(1,44) = 10.45, p<.01, when compared to the nonviolent group. Table 3 shows that the violent-murder group had a significantly higher frequency of color responses when compared with the nonviolent offenders but less when compared with the normative sample. A surprising finding was that neither group had a significant increase in pure C's. Both groups also demonstrated a higher percentage of emotional distress (FM+M < sum shading). Table 6 shows that 61 % of the violent offenders and 39% of the nonviolent offenders had a higher shading response when compared to Exner's nonpatient adults of 15%; however, the sum shading results differentiated the two groups with violent murderers delivering more shading responses,F(1,44) = 9.35,p<.01. These appear to be more situational (Y) than chronic (C') and may reflect the length of incarceration.

Table 6 displays frequencies and percentages on several structural variables for the two groups. Both groups had a higher frequency of underincorporators (ZD) when compared to Exner's nonpatient sample (30% versus 5%), (see Table 5). This score may indicate a style of quickly scanning the environment, and possibly coming to hasty conclusions, faulty decision-making, and inappropriate or false conclusions about a situation. There were also differences

duced capacity to deal with stress, possessed fewer internal Nonviolent offenders resources, and felt overwhelmed. N = 23 It is interesting to note that ES, ___________________ F._'_e_qu_e_n_cy __ %__ the measure of impending stress

and feelings of being overwhelmed, did not substantially differ from Exner norms, but the ability to effectively deal with these situations was different. The violent murderers also demonstrated a greater vulnerability for disorganization and difficulty with stress tolerance when compared with the nonviolent offenders. It is interesting to note that during the biographical inquiry, many offenders reported the commission of their crimes during periods of unemployment or other stress conditions.

Violent offenders also differed from nonviolent offenders and Exner Norms on the variable of D that provides information about the relationship between organized and unorganized resources available to the individual. D also supplies a measure of impulsivity and the degree of vulnerability to stimulus overload (Exner, 1986 a). When compared to both the

nonviolent (17%) and normative sample (4%), 30% of the

violent offenders had a De-L A greater percentage of violent murderers demonstrated a higher degree of impulsivity, when compared with the nonviolent offenders. This may be an important variable in the degree of criminal behavior and the more primitive quality of their crimes. The adjusted D score factors out the situational variables contributing to the calculated D and provides more of a trait measure. Table 6 shows the difference between offenders for D and adjusted D with both groups also having a high percentage of offenders with an adjusted D<O.

In terms of intimacy and interpersonal relationships, the two groups had a low texture response compared with the normative sample. When compared to 11 % of the normative sample, 52% of the violent offenders and 65% of the nonviolent offenders had a T-Iess protocol (Exner, 1990). Pure human content (H) also showed differences with 65% of


Gregory J. Coram

Table 6. Frequencies and percentages for structured variables for violent murderers and nonviolent offenders.

4 16 3

17 70 13

13 6

57 26

11 4

48 17






15 1.43 1.00

39 65 6 4

o 2

o 9

1 3 15

4 13 65



6 9

26 39

20 o

91 o

in terms of their problem-solving style (EB) of the groups. The majority of violent offenders (70%) and nonviolent offenders (70%) demonstrated an ambitent style of approaching situations. This is substantially different from the normative sample of 20% (Exner, 1990). These inmates may be more vulnerable to difficulty, less efficient, require more time to complete tasks, and are inconsistent in their use of emotions and thinking during problem-solving. In one situation, the process of decision-making and problem-solving are strongly influenced by feelings, and at other times, emotions playa small role.

There were also differences found on the organized psychological resources available to effectively deal with stress (EA). The violent murderers and the nonviolent group had a mean EA score of 4.83 and 3.56, respectively, compared with Exner's norm of 8 (Exner, 1990). It appears that both groups had a re-

Rorschach Analysis of Offenders

the nonviolent offenders and 43% of the violent offenders having a pure H less than 2, with a group mean of H content being 1.43 and 2.13, respectively, when compared to the norm of H content less than 2 being 10% with a mean of 3.39 (Exner, 1990). The low pure human content (H) indicated an apparent lack of interest in others and a perception of people that was based more on imagination rather than real interpersonal experiences. In addition, there was a high frequency of protocols without texture (T) responses in both groups. Texture is related to an expectation of intimacy and attachment, with T-Iess protocols, indicating a reduced interest in nurturing relationships and a need for more personal space (Exner, 1986). Although both groups had a low pure human content, the predicted finding of an increase in the aggression score and reduced human content was not found in the violent murder group.


These data provide some information on the cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal style of two different types of offenders. Both groups had an inconsistent problem solving style that increases the probability of difficulty with decision making, a tendency to change their minds and a susceptibility to poor judgements. Although both groups evidenced distortions in perceptual accuracy, the violent murderers had a higher frequency of distortions and appeared to have more difficulty with ideational problems. Hypothesis I had mix support with no significant differences in reality testing, but a positive finding for the violent group with a difference in perceptual inaccuracy and distortion in translating and interpreting events. They also showed a lower degree of conventionality and had a tendency to behave in an unexpected fashion. Both groups demonstrated a less complex psychological functioning, with the nonviolent offenders attempting to simplify or narrow the complexity or ambiguity of a situation.

There were also unexpected findings related to emotional modulation and control. The expectation in hypothesis II was an increased frequency of pure C in the violent group; however, there were no increases in pure C in either group, and the violent murderers had more emotional modulation when compared to the nonviolent offenders, but differed from the normative sample in their ability to modulate and control emotions. In addition, emotions will have a more inconsistent influence on their deci-


sions and problem solving. The two groups also demonstrated some difficulty with impulsivity; however, the violent homicide group appeared to be more prone to impulsivity and had more difficulty coping with the everyday stresses of living. This appears to support hypothesis III regarding vulnerability to disorganization and tolerance for stress. The violent offenders also showed a higher degree of emotional distress and discomfort than the nonviolent offenders. In addition, the violent offenders demonstrated less interest in others and had a higher concern for personal space. There were no increases in the aggression score as postulated in hypothesis IV and the lower Egocentricity Index for the violent offenders was not found. However, the low pure human content for both groups was found.

The results of this study may have implications for the understanding of violent behavior. Although both groups indicated some degree of disordered thinking, the violent murderers had more perceptual distortions, indicated more difficulty with cognitive mediation, and had more difficulty with impulsivity and stress. A question arises regarding the possibility of neurological involvement. Additional research may include a measure of such impairment to determine possible differentiation between these groups. Future research may also involve additional personality measures and the inclusion of convergent and discriminant analysis on some key variables. The finding that no subject had a psychiatric diagnosis raises a question regarding the possible lack of vigorous DSM-III-R diagnosis in the criminal justice system.

Although these findings should be viewed as tentative, this study appears to provide some initial information on the differences related to these two offender groups. The finding of different cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal styles requires replication and extension to determine the value of these data.

Author's Address:

Monmouth University Department of Criminal Justice West Long Branch, NJ 07764 USA



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