Situational and Projective Personality

Cite this article as: Praveen Shrestha, "Situational and Projective Personality," in Psychestudy, November 17, 2017,

In psychology, projective test refers to personality test in which a person’s responses to different situations are analyzed. Thus, it is referred as Situational and Projective Personality test. Projective tests are assessment measures developed by psychoanalytic personality theorists.

This is sometimes confused with objective or self-report test, in which, responses are analyzed based on a certain universal standard. Projective tests make a person or subject respond to a certain ambiguous stimuli, such as pictures of people, things, scenarios, cards with symbols, inkblots and so on. The response or answers given by the subject are then analyzed for their meaning.

The origin of projective personality tests occurred from psychoanalytic psychology, which tells us that humans have unconscious and conscious motivations and attitudes that are hidden. The major objective of projective tests is to reveal these hidden emotions and internal conflicts of a person.

How these tests work? (Theory)

The theory here is that people “project” their own personality, their needs, their wishes, their desires and their unconscious fears on other people and things such as ink blots, pictures sometimes vague and sometimes structured.  Hidden motivations and implicit attitudes are often unrecognized by the respondents, and they may even fail to present them verbally in the form expected or demanded by the questioner.

The major reason these tests are popular is because the subjects often let their guard down, and it’s their interpretation that leads the questioners to gain proper insight on the respondents mind, feelings, thoughts, emotions and motivations.

Why these tests are successful?

It’s an indirect method of knowing respondent’s state of mind. Subjects are always consistent to respond to ambiguous situations according to their own unconscious and conscious needs.

  • Subjects lower their guard; hence, they are less tempted to fake.
  • Analyzing the test scores is not solely dependent on the verbal abilities of the respondent.
  • Both conscious and unconscious traits are administered.

Popular Projective Tests

  • Rorschach Ink Blot Test (RT)
    Rorschach Inkblot Test is the is the most commonly used projective psychological test, which was first introduced in 1921 by a Swiss psychiatrist called Hermann Rorschach. It is based on the use of inkblots, which is where it acquired the name RT. At the simpler level, Rorschach is merely a problem solving task that portrays the psychological analysis of the subject.
  • Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT)
    Thematic Apperception Test, also known as TAT, was first developed by the American psychologist Henry A. Murray and lay psychoanalyst Christiana D. Morgan in 1930s. This projective test is also regarded as a picture interpretation technique as it consists of a series of drawings that give a picture of human figures in various ambiguous situation
  • House Tree Person (HTP)
    It is another projective test designed to measure different aspects of a person’s personality. The test was first designed by John Buck in 1948 and updated in 1969. It’s a diagnostic tool where the subject is made to draw a house, a tree, and the figure of a person. The general idea is that the person projects his inner world through his drawings.
  • Rotter’s Incomplete Sentence blank (RISB)
    The projective personality test developed by Julian Rotter is available in three forms, which focuses on different age groups. The test consists of 40 incomplete sentences to be4 completed in 20 minutes. The subject is asked to complete the sentences. His responses are believed to project his inner personality.

Assumptions of Projective Tests

  • Examinees or respondents are known to reveal more about their personality, when the stimuli they are presented with are unstructured.
  • Stimuli similar to the examinee tend to generate higher projection.
  • Each and every response is meaningful during such analysis.
  • Subjects are unaware about their reactions.

Situation Variables

  • Examiner’s age
  • Instructions provided to the examinee
  • Subtle reinforcement cues
  • Privacy setting for the test


Apart from the use of these tests to analyze a person, it is also found useful in preparing business and marketing strategies. Along with those, it is used in multiple other fields.

  • Projective tests, like TAT, are used in qualitative marketing research. For instance, market research like figuring out potential associations between people’s emotions and brand images are done via these tests.
  • In sociology and anthropology, projective tests are effectively used to study adoption of innovations and cultural meanings.
  • In business, people assessment is done by conducting projective tests, by figuring out motive patterns and implicit thought processes.
Cite this article as: Praveen Shrestha, "Situational and Projective Personality," in Psychestudy, November 17, 2017,