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In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the person into the test. The responses to projective tests are content analyzed for meaning rather than being based on presuppositions about meaning, as is the case with objective tests. Projective tests have their origins in psychoanalytic psychology, which argues that humans have conscious and unconscious attitudes and motivations that are beyond or hidden from conscious awareness. The general theoretical position behind projective tests is that whenever a specific question is asked, the response will be consciously-formulated and socially determined.
These responses do not reflect the respondent’s unconscious or implicit attitudes or motivations. The respondent’s deep-seated motivations may not be consciously recognized by the respondent or the respondent may not be able to verbally express them in the form demanded by the questioner. Advocates of projective tests stress that the ambiguity of the stimuli presented within the tests allow subjects to express thoughts that originate on a deeper level than tapped by explicit questions, and provide content that may not be captured by responsive tools that may lack appropriate items.
After some decrease in interest in the 1980s and 1990s, newer research suggesting that implicit motivation is best captured in this way has increased the research and use of these tools. This holds that an individual puts structure on an ambiguous situation in a way that is consistent with their own conscious and unconscious needs. It is an indirect method- testee is talking about something that comes spontaneously from the self without conscious awareness or editing.