By and large, survey research has come to mean asking people questions about their lives or attitudes in a fixed-alternative format. To introduce projective methods into survey research would appear to be an improper marriage of methods. This paper focuses on studies that fostered such marriages. Two in particular (Veroff, Atkinson, Feld, & Gurin, 1960; Veroff, Depner, Kulka, & Douvan, 1980) have yielded exciting information about the nature of motives in the American population – information unavailable through other methods. I review these studies in the hope of generating interest among other researchers in doing similar studies in the future, or helping researchers already interested in doing such studies to meet the challenges unique to the survey setting.
In a certain sense the use of the projective method of assessing motives in survey research is merely an extension of a technique that has long been used in survey research. In order to get spontaneous revelations from respondents, researchers have often asked respondents to talk about issues with regard to an unknown third person rather than directly about themselves. Examples of such measures can be found for the following: psychological defense (D. R. Miller & Swanson, 1960); attitudes toward mental illness (Star, 1955); orientations toward marriage (Gurin, Veroff, & Feld, 1960); and adolescent feelings about peer pressure versus adult authority (Douvan & Adelson, 1966).