B.F. Skinner and the auditory inkblot: The rise and fall of the verbal summator as a projective technique

Hist Psychol. 2003 Nov;6(4):362-78. doi: 10.1037/1093-4510.6.4.362.


Behaviorist B.F. Skinner is not typically associated with the fields of personality assessment or projective testing. However, early in his career Skinner developed an instrument he named the verbal summator, which, at one point, he referred to as a device for "snaring out complexes," much like an auditory analogue of the Rorschach inkblots. Skinner's interest in the projective potential of his technique was relatively short lived, but whereas he used the verbal summator to generate experimental data for his theory of verbal behavior, several other clinicians and researchers exploited this potential and adapted the verbal summator technique for both research and applied purposes. The idea of an auditory inkblot struck many as a useful innovation, and the verbal summator spawned the tautophone test, the auditory apperception test, and the Azzageddi test, among others. This article traces the origin, development, and eventual demise of the verbal summator as an auditory projective technique.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Equipment and Supplies / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Psychology / history*
  • Psychology / instrumentation*
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • B F Skinner