Skip to main content

Projection (Defense Mechanism)

  • Living reference work entry
  • First Online:
Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences


Projection is the defense mechanism by which unacceptable psychological impulses and traits in oneself are attributed to others.


When projection occurs, psychological conflict caused by undesired impulses is coped with by attributing (projecting) these same impulses to someone else. In this process, there is no conscious awareness that the impulses in question have their origin in one’s self nor that by projecting them individuals are coping with acute anxiety resulting from psychological conflict. An example is one’s own aggression disappearing from conscious awareness and simultaneously someone else being erroneously perceived as having these same feelings. Another example is sexual attraction for someone other than the current partner being removed from consciousness, and being erroneously attributed to the partner, thus engendering persistent jealousy without objective basis.

Freud theorized on projection as a defense mechanism (Freud 1911/1958). In his...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions


  • Baumeister, R. F., Dale, K., & Sommer, K. L. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation, and denial. Journal of Personality, 66, 1081–1124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berman, S. M., & McCann, J. T. (1995). Defense mechanisms and personality disorders: An empirical test of Millon’s theory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 64, 132–144.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bond, M. (2004). Empirical studies of defense style. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12, 263–278.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cramer, P. (1991). Anger and the use of defense mechanisms in college students. Journal of Personality, 59, 39–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cramer, P. (2008). Identification and the development of competence: A 44-year longitudinal study from late adolescence to late middle age. Psychology and Aging, 23, 410–421.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cramer, P. (2015). Change in children’s externalizing and internalizing behavior problems: The role of defense mechanisms. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 203, 215–221.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Freud, S. (1911/1958). Psycho-analytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (dementia paranoides). In J. Strachey (Ed.), Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 12, pp. 9–82). London: The Hogarth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Govoron, O., Fuegen, K., & Payne, B. K. (2006). Stereotypes focus defensive projection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 781–793.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newman, K. S., Duff, K., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). A new look at defensive projection: Suppression, accessibility, and biased person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 980–1001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rubino, I. A., Pezzarossa, B., & Ciani, N. (1991). A study of schizophrenic outpatients with the Defense Mechanism Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 73, 515–530.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schimel, J., Greenberg, J., & Martens, A. (2003). Evidence that projection of a feared trait can serve a defensive function. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 969–979.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rui Miguel Costa .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 Springer International Publishing AG

About this entry

Cite this entry

Costa, R.M. (2017). Projection (Defense Mechanism). In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-28099-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-28099-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social SciencesReference Module Business, Economics and Social Sciences

Publish with us

Policies and ethics