Hans Zulliger, Child Psychoanalyst

Hans Zulliger was a Swiss teacher, writer, and psychoanalyst. He was mainly interested in applying psychoanalytic knowledge to pedagogy. He was also the creator of the Z-test.
Hans Zulliger, Child Psychoanalyst

Last update: 10 January, 2021

If you aren’t familiar with pedagogy and psychology, the name Hans Zulliger probably won’t mean anything to you. However, he’s still an important figure in the areas of teaching and psychoanalysis. This article details a small part of his life and work, including his contributions and research in this particular field.

More than anything, Hans Zulliger was an extraordinary teacher. In fact, he taught peasant children for more than 40 years with the help of his wife, who was also a teacher. Without a doubt, Zulliger contributed a lot to the fields of pedagogy and psychoanalysis.

Zulliger also created the famous Z-test, which was named after him. This is still one of the most effective projective testing instruments in the field of psychology. In fact, it was used in many parts of the world until the 70s.

Hans Zulliger worked alongside great figures in the field of psychoanalysis and pedagogy. He worked with both Ernst Schneider and, more often, Hermann Rorschach. In addition, he practiced psychoanalysis with Oskar Pfister. Indeed, Pfister was a remarkable influence on his life and ideas.

A head with cogs showing the working of the mind.

Hans Zulliger’s humble beginnings

Hans Zulliger was born in Bern, Switzerland on February 21, 1893. He came from a very modest and happy family who worked on a small farm in the countryside. His father was a watchmaker.

Zulliger went to elementary school in his hometown. He later moved to Biel to attend high school. When he finished his compulsory education, he decided to study medicine or the arts. However, he had to give up his dreams due to financial reasons. He then decided it was best to train as a teacher. In 1908, he enrolled in Hofwil’s State Institute for Teacher Training. He subsequently focused all his attention on becoming a teacher.

During his training, Zulliger first encountered psychoanalysis. This was due to the fact that the director of the institute was Ernest Schneider, who was a great admirer of Sigmund Freud. Indeed, Freud’s ideas were extremely popular at the time. In the spring of 1912, Hans Zulliger became a teacher in the small town of Ittingen. He worked there for nearly 50 years.


Ernest Schneider greatly influenced Hans Zulliger, who was also interested in the psychoanalytic field. This led to Zulliger undergoing analysis with Oskar Pfister. After this, Zulliger developed what he named “small child psychotherapies”.

Zulliger wasn’t only interested in passing on his knowledge to children. In addition, he wanted to learn about their personal and learning difficulties. For this reason, he initially applied his psychoanalytic knowledge to children with problems such as stuttering, bedwetting, and kleptomania.

Hans Zulliger visited Sigmund Freud twice. In 1921, he was invited to join the Swiss Society for Psychoanalysis, which he accepted. Between 1927 and 1937, he initiated psychoanalytic pedagogy in the school, influenced by Anna Freud’s ideas.

The enduring work of Hans Zulliger

Hans Zulliger was also a writer. In fact, he wrote more than 20 books and 100 essays. Almost all of them are related to child psychoanalysis and the application of analysis to educational programs. His works have been translated into thirteen languages. Indeed, at the time, he was considered an extremely prestigious author.

In 1926, Hans Zulliger met Hermann Rorschach at the Swiss Society for Psychoanalysis. This meeting great impacted Zulliger. In fact, before long, he became Rorschach’s disciple and friend. At the time, Rorschach was developing his famous test and Zulliger enthusiastically collaborated with him on this task.

In 1932, Zulliger published his book Experiment with the Rorschach Test in Educational Counseling. Later, in 1941, he published Introduction to the Behn-Rorschach Test. Zulliger was extremely interested in Rorschach’s diagnostic tool. In fact, he tried to apply it to his own field. Furthermore, he approached the study of it in his own works.

A child being held by a woman.

His own test

While collaborating with Rorschach, Zulliger developed his own test, which eventually became known as the Z-test. It was first published in 1948, even though it was originally developed in 1942. Initially, it was applied in psychological tests for the Swiss army.

The Z-test is similar to the Rorschach test. To prove its validity, it was first used with 8,000 Swiss men and women, both military and civilian. It was then later used with 5,000 Frenchmen and 1,000 Americans. The results were consistent, which is why the tool began to be used to determine skills.

Zulliger’s test is apparently easier to apply than the Rorschach test. In fact, it’s less time consuming, yet just as effective.

Zulliger worked with children until his death. Indeed, he devoted his entire life to teaching and research. He died on October 18, 1965 in the same town in which he taught for nearly half a century.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.