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I'm looking for a word or short expression that might be used in place of projecting.

By projecting I'm talking about the phenomenon of how a person might misinterpret a person or situation by placing their own experience/emotion/motive into it. This is a loosened version of the original concept from psychology, which requires that they are also denying this property in themselves. Would it be invalid to use the word projecting in this way (even colloquially)?

So, one might say that an especially cynical/idealistic person projects their own attitudes by believing most other people are equally cynical/idealistic. Or someone might feel provoked by reading another's text message and project by mistakenly believe them to be very agitated as well.

If this is me going too far away from what the word was originally meant to be, is there an alternative? In fact, I wish I could go even further away: I want to describe a misinterpretation of emotions/motive/etc. caused by the influence of one's own emotions, experiences, or point of view.

So, is there a word for when someone is failing to empathize, while alluding that something is clouding the interpretation, the same way projecting does?

Here are some more examples where I wish I had a word such as projecting to use as a descriptor:

  1. A dog's resting face might look like a human smile, causing many to say that it is happy, even if the dog is not displaying any real happiness.
  2. Carl overhears a group of friends passionately arguing a topic with loud voices. While the group is actually enjoying their discussion, Carl is only able to recognize it as hostility and thinks they are fighting.
  3. (This one might be reaching a little:) Mia is convinced nobody playing cricket is doing it for fun; it bored her half to death when she tried it herself!
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    Welcome to the site! Projecting sounds fine to me. I do feel it needs to be followed by an object, the thing you project, such as attitude or emotions, lest it sound colloquial or wishy-washy. So I think you have already suggested what terms I would use myself: misinterpret, misread, project. Some more specific terms are anthropocentrism (regarding the dog's face), ethnocentrism, any other kind of -centrism you can think of. – Cerberus Aug 5 '17 at 3:03
  • @Cerberus: I don't think the object is required (but usually included). If you're referring to the act of projecting, without specifying what is being projected, then you can simple say "you're projecting". Similarly, it makes logical sense that you always eat an object, yet you can still say "I am eating" if you're communicating the act of eating without specifying the food you're eating (e.g. when it's not relevant to the conversation). While it is commonly added, there is no requirement for "to eat" to have an object. The same is true of "to project". – Flater Nov 3 '17 at 15:50
  • @Flater: I agree with you that project is often used in this sense without an object. But the difference with eating is that, in the latter case, it is not important what the object is: "I'm eating" makes sense regardless; its default meaning is clear. This is not the case with "You are projecting": there is no such default meaning, also because the nature of the act of projecting varies a great deal depending on what you are projecting, and on what. ... – Cerberus Nov 3 '17 at 22:45
  • The assumption that the object is "your own emotions/(or what?)" and the thing on which you project is some other person is, in my, oh, so humble opinion, not at all the default, except perhaps in a certain colloquial mode of speaking. That's why I would call it "colloquial". – Cerberus Nov 3 '17 at 22:45
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Attribution

1.2 The action of regarding a quality or feature as characteristic of or possessed by a person or thing. ‘the attribution of human emotions to inanimate objects’

Coincidentally enough, the example used in the OED is exactly what you're focusing on.

The difference between projection and attribution.

  • Projection refers to attributing your own qualities on someone/something else.
  • Attribution can also refer to attributing other qualities (not your own) on someone/something else.

In essence, projection is always a form of attribution, but attribution is not always a form of projection.


All your current examples focus on mistakes, i.e. wrong attributions. If you are solely focusing on mistakes, then you can use misattribution.


Your examples

  1. A dog's resting face might look like a human smile, causing many to say that it is happy, even if the dog is not displaying any real happiness.

That's a case of anthropomorphisation. Humans attributing human behavior to non-human beings or objects. The OED lists anthropomorphism as:

The attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object.

Similarly, the laugh of a hyena is actually a sign of submission to an alpha male, but we call it a laugh because it sounds like a human laugh. There are also different forms of anthropomorphisation, e.g. why cartoon animals like Mickey Mouse have predominantly human characteristics (his mouseness is secondary to his humanity, even though he is described as a mouse), but also why most people see a smiling face in this chair.

  1. Carl overhears a group of friends passionately arguing a topic with loud voices. While the group is actually enjoying their discussion, Carl is only able to recognize it as hostility and thinks they are fighting.

This is indeed not a projection. Carl is not attributing his own qualities to the others, he's interpreting common human behavior (and misreading it, in this case).

But it would still be correct to say that Carl misattributed anger to why the group is speaking loudly.

  1. Mia is convinced nobody playing cricket is doing it for fun; it bored her half to death when she tried it herself!

I would call this projection, because that's what it is. Mia assumes that her opinion must invariably be shared by everyone else.

This fits with the OED listing of projection:

The unconscious transfer of one's desires or emotions to another person.

As noted above, every projection (in this sense) is a form of attribution, so it would also be correct to call it a (mis)attribution.

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A concept that may help is "egocentric predicament." This term has some epistemological context with which there may be disagreement, but the essential idea is that we see things from our own point of view and have trouble understanding what goes on in other people's minds--we're likely to err on the side of thinking that they think as we do.

The Wikipedia article article is not very informative, but may give you some leads.

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