Eye movement patterns during the Rorschach test: Implications for EMDR


It is hypothesized that eye movements used in EMDR practice influence both memory and emotional state, some laboratory studies provide evidence for such influence (Christman et al, 2003, Neurobiology; Barrowcliff et al., J. Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 2004). From a neurophysiological point of view, it is also interesting to examine to what extent some eye movement parameters may be modulated by memory and emotions. For instance, it is well established that memory driven saccades in simplified laboratory tests, present different characteristics (longer preparation time, lower accuracy, lower velocity) than visually guided movement. During EMDR the eye movements (mostly pursuit) are elicited externally by the therapist, yet at the same time the patient is in touch mentally with the traumatic image and related negative emotions. The physiology of such movements might be different and this could be explored with specific studies. Another important issue is to what extent movements of the eyes are helpful in coding and retrieving visual images. Accordingly to scanpath theory, eye movements are cognitively driven by sensory and motor representation; repetitive eye movements to the same area of an image are attributed to checking if the image corresponds to what the observer imagines (Noton & Stack, 1971; Brandt & Stark, 1997). Future laboratory research could bring together such theories and EMDR psychotherapy, e.g., by examining spontaneous eye movements related to negative image.

In this conference, we will present preliminary data from a laboratory study on eye movement patterns during the Roschach test. Eight healthy students conducted the experiment. Seated in front of a computer screen, subjects were equipped with a binocular video eye tracker (Chronos) sampling eye position images from each eye every 4 msec. Instantaneous eye position data were stored on a computer and analyzed afterwards with laboratory software. Each are of the Roschach test was presented for 30 sec., after which, the experimenter (a psychologist) recorded the response given by the subject.

Analysis of eye movement patterns were examined in relation to subjective verbal reports.

Results: The first question asked was to what extent the eye movement pattern reflected the imaged projected by the subject or by the visual properties of the Rorschach image itself. To gain some insight, we concentrated on the cards for which our subjected gave no standard responses, thus very different from one subject to the other (e.g., card IX). Eye movement exploration (the surface of the image explored, its patiaol composition e.g. the resprctive proportion of horizontal versus vertical movements) was correlated with the verbal report and the specific mental imagery (larger surface, multiple focusing points when several personages or objects were imaged). This provides evident for top-down influence; the eyes are exploring the projective interpretative image; repetitive movements back and forth to same points which help in turn consolidate this mental imagery.

Psychological analysis of eye movements (saccades and fixation) was also made. Saccades are found to be as fast as when looking reflexively to single visual targets; during fixations, however, between saccades, the eyes were more instable, particularly the visual uses were crossing at different depths from one fixation to another. Further ongoing analysis will correlate fixation duration and depth instability to spatial and emotional content of the subjective report.






Zou Kapoula
P. Misset
S. Poncet
S. Bruneau
M. P. Bucci

Original Work Citation

Kapoula, Z., Misset, P., Poncet, S., Bruneau, S., & Bucci, M. P. (2007, June). Eye movement patterns during the Rorschach test: Implications for EMDR. Poster presented at the 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“Eye movement patterns during the Rorschach test: Implications for EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 20, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19365.

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