Projective Tests

Projective Tests

Projective tests call for the respondents to decide what the other person would do in a certain situation. People may be reluctant to admit certain weaknesses or desires but when they are asked to describe a neighbor or another person, they usually respond without hesitation. Thus projective techniques are based on the assumption that respondents express their own attributes or motives as they infer the attitudes or motives of someone else.

A classic motivation research study regarding consumer attitudes towards instant coffee was based on this theory and was conducted in 1950 by Mason Haire. Direct question interviews revealed dislike of instant coffee because of the taste, but this was believed to be a stereo typed response rather than the true reason. In an effort to discover other reasons for this negative attitude an indirect approach was used. Respondents were shown one of the two identical grocery shopping lists, varying only in the brand and type of coffee. One list contained Nescafe instant Coffee and the other Maxwell house coffee (drip ground). They were then asked to characterize the woman who purchased the groceries. Descriptions indicated that compared to the drip ground buyer the instant coffee purchaser was thought to be lazy, a spendthrift not a good wife, and one who failed to plan household purchases and schedules well. Although these findings are probably not true today they were initially useful in better understanding consumer motivations. They indicated that respondents were not really dissatisfied with the taste of instant coffee, but rather the idea of using it was unacceptable. Respondents were projecting their own feelings about instant coffee onto the descriptions of the women who purchased it.

Another form of projective test makes use of picture as stimuli. One example is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in which respondents are shown ambiguous pictures concerning the product or topic under study and asked to describe what is happening in the picture. Because the pictures are so vague it is believed that the respondents will actually reveal their own personalities, motivation and inner feelings about the situation.

Depth Interviews:

As is the focus of group interviews, depth interviews are unstructured and informal. General questions are usually asked, followed by more specific questions that probe for needs, desires, motives and emotions of the consumer. Also, the questioning is sometimes indirect such as ‘Why do you think your friend smokes Marlboros?’ as opposed to the direct question. ‘Why do you prefer Marlboro cigarettes?’ Again this method attempts to circumvent inhibitions that the respondent may have about revealing inner feelings. By carefully following cues given by the respondent an interviewer can ask a series of questions that probe for underlying motivations.

The key factor with depth interviewing (as well as focus group interviewing) is the interviewer’s skill, which calls for imagination and thoroughness in probing consumer leads while not influencing the respondent’s answers. Because of their very nature interview results are interpreted subjectively rather than quantitatively. Thus, there is a great possibility for bias. An additional source of error from depth and focus group interviews may arise with the use of small samples, which may not be representatives of the entire population.

Attitude Measurement Scales:

Significant strides have been made in the area of measuring consumer’s attitudes. This has resulted in the development of various self reporting attitude rating scales. The scales are termed self reporting because consumers express their own evaluation of their attitudes by responding to the scale in the way they think most appropriate.

The many scales available differ mainly in their structure and in the degree to which they actually measure attitudes.

Source: Consumer Behavior