Projective techniques

Projective techniques are sometimes incorporated in depth interviews. The origins of projective techniques lie in the field of clinical psychology. In essence, the objective of any projective test is to delve below the surface responses in order to obtain true feelings, meanings or motivations. The rationale behind projective tests comes from knowledge that people are often reluctant to, or cannot, reveal their deepest feelings. In other instances they are unaware of those feelings because of psychological defence mechanisms.

Projective tests are techniques for penetrating a person's defence mechanisms and allowing their true feelings and attitudes to emerge. A subject is usually presented with an unstructured, nebulous situation and asked to respond. Because the situation is ill-defined and has no true meaning, the respondent must use their own frame of reference to answer the question. In theory, the respondent projects their feelings into the unstructured stimulus. Because the subjects are not talking directly about themselves, defence mechanisms are purportedly bypassed. The interviewee is talking about something else or someone else, yet revealing their own inner feelings in the process.

The most commonly applied projective tests used in marketing research are word association tests, sentence and story completion, cartoon tests, third-person techniques and analogies.

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