Projective techniques

The interviewing techniques discussed so far rely on the basic assumption that, if you want to know what people do or think and why this is so, you should go out and ask them. In some cases, however, this basic assumption is unjustified. People may not tell you what they do or why they do it, either because they do not wish to do so (they may feel the information is too personal, or reflects on them badly) or because they are unable to do so (the information you require may be difficult to articulate, or if it is to do with motives for action it may be impossible to verbalize the subconscious). To overcome the difficulties in articulating complex or subconscious motivations, researchers have 'borrowed' some approaches and techniques originated by clinical psychologists in their studies of mentally disturbed individuals, who have similar problems in explaining their behaviour to others. These techniques are often called 'projective techniques'. They set up a situation in which the individual is required to bring his or her own point of view to interpret or complete an ambiguous stimulus provided by the researcher. In these situations respondents draw on their own attitudes, opinions and motivations and 'project' them in their reaction to the stimulus. Thus, although they may not be talking about themselves consciously, respondents reveal to researchers what their own views are. Some of the techniques used are briefly described to illustrate the way in which the approach works.

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