Psychological projection

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We assume of others what we know of ourselves.
—Winston Rowntree[1]

Projection (also known as Freudian Projection) is the psychological phenomenon where someone denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes and assumes instead that others are doing or thinking so. It is usually seen as the externalisation of a person's negative traits, placing blame on an outside force such as the environment, a government, a society or other people.

Projection can also extend to philosophy and knowledge. This occurs when a person or small group of people assume that everyone else is working with the same ideas and/or information that they are. When this fails to happen, however, it can lead to pluralistic ignorance.

A telltale sign of this is when a speaker says that "everybody knows" something about a certain course of action, so society should avoid an impending catastrophe by following the course of action that the speaker proposes.

Another common forum for projection is in internet arguments, where it is usually pathetically obvious to everyone except the projector.[2] In that context, the phenomenon may be called mirror-imaging. Even when the two sides realize they are in a polarized argument, they might still blame each other for the lack of relation. This is one example of why internet arguments are often not productive.


  • An adulterous spouse may think the other spouse is sleeping around.
  • Creationists assert that supporters of evolution are religious zealots, and religious (especially Christian) fanatics assert that atheism is a religion (while sometimes going so far as to say "Christianity isn't a religion; it's a personal relationship with Jesus").
  • Self-proclaimed "ex-homosexuals" may state that all gays are empty, sinful shells of human beings that need repairing so they can be good, God-fearing straights.
  • The Media Research Center and any other media watchdog that complains about the liberal media and partisanship while being extremely biased and partisan themselves.
  • Racists who claim that anyone who criticises them must also be racially prejudiced.
  • Denunciation of "liberal smugness" by people showing extreme overconfidence and open disdain for minorities, scientists and intellectuals.
  • Rare, but can actually happen if someone becomes sufficiently unhinged: a mother yelling at a childless friend about what a horrible mother the childless friend is. And, of course, the much more common case of a narcissistic parent yelling at their children about how horrible the children are.
  • Lyle Rossiter arguably holds a world record for this.
  • Bryan Fischer, who has a sufficiently severe enough case of this that Ed Brayton has named an award after him.
  • Republican commercial organizations encourage rampant consumerism surrounding Christmas, overwhelming other aspects of the festival. Then Republicans accuse American liberals of a War on Christmas.[3]
  • Pathological liars
  • Genocidal governments will accuse their victims of being brutal, vile, verminous animals. Of course, there is nothing more brutish, vile, or verminous than the act of committing genocide.[citation NOT needed]
  • Conspiratorial thinkers may assume that what they think people should be doing is not being done due to a lack of “self”-control, but have controlled themselves to think of these theories of why what they think people should be doing is not being done rather than modeling it.
  • Sexual harasser and predator Jeremy Durham pushed "bathroom bills" portraying transgender women as sexual predators, back when he still served in the Tennessee state legislature.[4]
  • Mitch McConnell, a supporter of voter ID and other methods of voter suppression, claimed that Democrats did not care about "securing citizens' rights," but just "about expanding politicians' power."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. Winston Rowntree, Subnormality #186, Virus Comix
  2. The problem is recognized in intelligence analysis, in the form of cognitive traps for intelligence analysis.
  3. Steven W Thrasher (11 December 2015). "Conservatives should blame capitalism for the 'war on Christmas'". 
  4. Amanda Marcotte (April 13, 2016). "Republican creeps: The year the GOP war on women reached the subway flasher level". 
  5. Amanda Marcotte (January 20, 2022). "Media messes up coverage of voting rights, blames Biden for GOP's racism".