Applying Procedural Analysis Theory
A special feature on this important topic
An effect of the widening political divide, especially conspicuous today in America, has been to enlighten many to projection:
Projection takes place when an individual assumes that another shares his traits or perceptions and will perceive or act as he does.
A person attributes others with his own perceptions, attitudes, or tendencies, whether those features are good or bad. It is his propensity to believe that others think, see and feel the same as he.
Projection is probably the single most important psychological mechanism, accounting for a great deal of human behaviour. Hence it certainly qualifies for examination on its own.
Statements made and the actual behaviour of “leftist” individuals and groups has demonstrated projection very clearly. The tendency of “anti-fascists” and their allies to project their own propensities and behaviour onto their political opponents has become obvious.
Prior to the election of Trump, the American “left” and its allies in the media vividly imagined that Trump supporters would take to violence and insurgency if they felt that the election had been stolen from them. The fact is that no such unrest occurred on the election of Obama, when many regarded the elevation of a Negro to the highest office in the land as a profound insult to traditional, White America.
What transpired was that it was the “left” that attempted to violently suppress their opponents, both during the election campaign and after. Rioting took place. They had brazenly accused their opponents of their own actions: what they were doing, or about to do, themselves. (It has been said that this tactic is straight out of Saul Alinsky’s playbook but I can find no trace of it, certainly in Rules for Radicals.)
So in this widening political polarisation we have a situation where people who profess open-minded liberalism cannot conceive, even in small part, the standpoint of others. Differing convictions cannot be reconciled. They are incapable of comprehending another perspective, and are adamant that “all right-thinking people” should adhere to the beliefs they do.
As stated, projection can be of positive or negative features, it is only that the egregious projection of malevolent or criminal traits is more striking. The swindler who is always on the lookout for someone to con is wary of being swindled himself. The habitual liar questions everything told to him.
Similarly an honest man is easy to deceive, because he assumes that those with whom he interacts are also honest. At least for a while that is; until he has been exploited a couple of times. Darwin was a ruthlessly honest observer and famously believed everything he was told, with the result that some rather implausible antics of snails found their way into one of his books.
Freud’s defective, obfuscatory definition of projection is rejected here but he does provide a telling example of it. Freud projected his own Jewish nature onto everyone else, attributing to them Jewish traits. The influence Freud exerted was enormous, and very harmful, though thankfully it is now receding.
Formalised instances of projection took place at the Nuremberg trials, when representatives of nations who had committed crimes a hundred times worse than those of the accused sat in judgement of them. Perhaps this accounts in part for the severity of the punishments handed down. A notorious, specific instance was the Katyn Forest massacre, when upwards of 10,000 Polish officers and academics were executed by the Soviet NKWD. At Nuremberg this was laid at the Germans’ door, while the real culprits, the Russians, sat on the bench.
Examining the mechanism more generally, projection features strongly in females’ employment of the Tit For Tat strategy. Females apply TFT routinely, if not invariably. TFT is “You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.” (See this page for a summary of the TFT and GTFT strategies.)
Most men will be able to relate to the situation when he has attempted to do some service for a female, but it was refused. Perhaps he was merely attempting to place a marker, and not particularly expecting anything in return, applying the male strategy of Generous Tit For Tat. GTFT is appropriate if a player wishes to try the game with several different players but really only needs a successful game with one. Starting several businesses, hoping that at least one will be profitable, is an expression of GTFT.
When the male in this example offers some amenity to the female, she refuses it because she fears, projecting her own TFT policy onto the male, that something will be expected, perhaps even demanded, in return. That something is of course usually sex, or some activity associated with it.
By extension she may further come to believe that she is doing the male a favour by accepting the amenity – this is transforming a marker. The female can believe that she is doing the male a favour by her acceptance (‘I deign to accept a drink from you’; ‘You are honoured that I trust you not to demand something in return’). This has the effect of making an inferior and backward strategy, TFT, into a highly advantageous one. For if everyone adopted TFT there would hardly be any cooperation at all and feuds would continue for generations.
During my investigations I noted a particular reinforcing cycle concerning females, as follows:
The more latitude the female is allowed, the more her capricious nature will be expressed, the more she will project that nature onto the male and the more insecure of his intentions she will become.
This was the cause of the quite absurd fears that were voiced: fear of being raped in a crowded city centre, or in a cafe, or that the vacuum flask of coffee I carried was drugged. Then the question arose, how long would it be before a male, repeatedly exposed to such irrational fears, seriously began to entertain such thoughts?
The apparent tendency of Jews and women particularly to project their natures onto others gives pause to reflect on the possible origins of this ubiquitous mechanism. Doing so would help determine whether it is masculine or feminine in nature.
Incidentally, another group in which projection is strong is children. Up to a certain age a child is incapable of imagining how another would see a landscape when viewed from a different direction: “The child always considers his own perspective as absolute” (Piaget, 1955). Children also attribute animals with human characteristics: anthropomorphic animal stories are a regular staple of children’s books.
Identifying the evolutionary origin of projection has been a long-standing problem. Particularly, the quest for an archetype (by which I mean, the earliest or purest instance of the mechanism, to serve as a model). It seems evident that females have a greater tendency to project than males, but this, little more than an opinion, is unsatisfactory. Though an archetype remains elusive, the following scenario may be instructive.
Suppose a man and a woman are in conversation. The two are unfamiliar with each others’ political views. Whether this meeting constitutes an interview for a relationship is by-the-by, but if it is, it may well amplify the effect.
Somehow the subject of the “migrant crisis” comes up. The woman expresses the feminine perspective, expecting him to agree: “We should open our borders and give those poor refugees asylum.” Taking the extremes of the pure feminine and pure masculine standpoints, the male can react in two ways:
Now, taking extremes again, the male could be eager to win the female’s approval and give FR. Or, he could be completely uncaring what she thinks of him, and give MR.
The likelihood of course is that the male’s response will lie on a spectrum, at some point on a line between FR and MR, especially with the prevalence of epicene males. Females have been preferentially selecting males with female characteristics as mates for generations (e.g. monogamous males).
More pertinently, recall that the female has projected her perspective onto the male, and expects agreement from him. In practice her projection is likely to shift his response leftward, toward FR. He will move some way towards meeting that expectation. The male may well rationalise his change in attitude to dispel his inner conflict, his neurosis about the matter.
Thus projection seems to be primarily, and perhaps originally, a mechanism of exerting influence. It is a subtle, non-physical means of controlling attitudes and behaviour. This places it firmly into the female realm.