It has long been assumed that people perceive in others qualities that they wish to deny in themselves, but empirical evidence for defensive projection is limited and controversial. A new model of projection is presented in this article. People might try to actively suppress thoughts about the possibility that they have undesirable personality traits, but it was hypothesized that this response to threat ultimately causes thoughts about the unwanted traits to become chronically accessible. As a result, those trait concepts will be used to interpret others' behavior. Studies 1-4 showed that those people who both avoid thinking about having threatening personality traits and deny possessing them (repressors) also readily infer those traits from others' behavior. Studies 5-6 provided experimental support for the model. Unfavorable traits were attributed to participants, who, when they were asked or predisposed to not think about the traits, subsequently projected them onto someone else.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science