Projective Approaches

Projective approaches are useful for investigating sensitive topics and unofficial practices in the workplace.

They involve asking respondents to act as if they were someone else, such as a dishonest employee.

They can be used with most elicitation techniques; e.g. a think-aloud or a card sorts session from the viewpoint of another person.

Example: A pair of visual analogue scales, intended for an intern. The first question is asked normally, and the second is a projective version.

In this example, the intern has self-rated high on compliance (blue line near ‘Completely’) but rated a typical intern much lower (blue line nearer to ‘Not at all’).

Projective approaches often produce unexpected and useful results, and can provide insights into people’s actual thinking, rather than what they want to tell you. However, they need to be treated with caution, because they might be tapping into inaccurate stereotypes rather than into actual knowledge.

Other methods that fit well with this approach:

Upward laddering, to find the goals and values driving a particular behaviour

Indirect observation, to check the results from the projective approach against reality