Social projection increases for positive targets: Ascertaining the effect and exploring its antecedents

M. Machunsky, C. Toma, V. Yzerbyt, O. Corneille

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Social projection denotes the attribution of characteristics of the self to others and, therefore, increases perceived self–other similarity. The present research tests the assumption that positive but not negative targets elicit social projection. Earlier research has attributed an effect of target valence to mere consistency principles of judgment and has, thus, questioned projection processes to be the origin of self–other similarity. Building on more recent evidence, we suggest that target valence influences self–other similarity above and beyond a consistent response behavior. The results of three experiments in which target valence was manipulated through evaluative conditioning and by smiling versus neutral facial expression support our hypothesis. We discuss how cognitive versus motivated processes can account for these findings and suggest a new conceptualization of social projection whereby projection is a means to regulate social distance.
Keywords: social projection, approach/avoidance, target valence, evaluative conditioning, distance regulation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1388
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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