Evidence that projection of a feared trait can serve a defensive function

Jeff Schimel, Jeff Greenberg, Andy Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Two experiments tested the notion that allowing people to project a feared trait onto another individual would facilitate denial of the trait. In Study 1, participants were given feedback that they were high or low in repressed anger and were allowed to rate an ambiguous target on anger or not. Participants who received high (vs. low) anger feedback rated the target especially high on anger. In addition, participants who received high anger feedback and who were allowed to project their anger had the lowest anger accessibility on a word completion exercise. Study 2 replicated these basic findings using a different trait dimension (dishonesty) and a direct measure of denial (self-attributions of dishonesty). Specifically, in Study 2, participants who received high dishonesty feedback and who were allowed to project dishonesty reported having an especially low level of dishonesty. Discussion focused on the relationship between classic projection and other forms of psychological defense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-979
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2003


  • Accessibility
  • Defenses
  • Projection
  • Repression
  • Self-esteem
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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