How does the Projective Differential™ work?


Our brains are capable of perceiving and processing far more information at a far greater rate than our conscious minds can track. By presenting pairs of abstract images very quickly, the PD taps into this capability. This quick, forced-choice situation requires an intuitive decision, engaging the right-brain processing of imagery, symbolism, patterns and holistic understanding and perception. The displaying of the image pairs is brief enough that the left-brain, analytical and judgment processes are bypassed.

A complete PD session generates epitomizing and antithetical pictures for the topics being assessed. The PD pictures, abstract and evocative as they are, act as an alogical amplifier, amplifying the sometimes ineffable perceptions that transcend logical thought and evaluation processes.

A PD Session

A typical Projective Differential administration has three essential components and two optional components.

The essential components are:

  • a PD stimuls set
  • PD topics
  • PD choices
The optional components are:
  • picture naming
  • L-Mode ratings

Essential Components of PD Administration

PD Stimulus Set

There are several different sets of images available for use in PD administrations. The set chosen for any given administration depends upon the context, as each set has different particular strengths.

PD Topics:

Topics are the focus of attention when participants are making PD image choices and are denoted by a word or short phrase and may refer to objects, entities, qualities, actions, concepts, etc. The careful selections of Topics comprises a major aspect of designing any PD session. There are two kinds of topic, “working” and “anchor”. Working topics deal with the issue at hand (e.g., a company, product, person, decision), and anchor topics deal with the aspects of primary interest (e.g., attitudes, identification, qualities).

Working topics are carefully chosen to elicit the information that is being sought. In some cases, the initial working topics chosen may be relatively broad and require multiple sessions to drill down to develop an understanding of what’s really crucial to the situation at hand.

PD Choices:

The PD response consists of rapidly made and intuitively based selections of pictures from the set, presented in a particular way. Before beginning the round for each topic, participants are guided to relax and focus on the topic. They may think of the topic word or phrase, hold a feeling, remember a sound that represents that topic to them, or whatever else works for them to remain in a state of relaxed focus on the topic at hand. The images are then presented such that participants make their choices in a way that bypasses the logic of the left-brain processing – tapping into a deeper, intuitive perception of the topic.


Warm ups are very useful for training participants in the PD choice procedure’s rapid and attention demanding protocol. We use PD pairings and topics for the warm-up that won’t interfere with the session at hand. Warm-up stimuli do not include any pictures from the operative stimulus set (in order to preclude response spill-over effects due to exposure to operative pictures). Usually, a single round with a warm-up topic will be sufficient to prepare participants for the experience with the “real” topics. Warm-up Topics can be objects such as the city you are in, the season of the year, favorite meal, etc., but should be something with which all participants will have some direct experience or knowledge.

Optional Components of PD Administration

Picture Naming:

This optional part of PD JOG administration is done before any scoring is undertaken. It figures dramatically in later maintaining a positive climate in the room via “Ice Breaker” and in creating “AHAs” after the scoring phase that seem often to jolt many participants into more easily accepting their R-Mode products.

Picture naming is also an important component of the PD JOG administration for some uses, particularly those where the creative process is being augmented, or when the qualitative aspects of the perceptions uncovered are likely to contribute important and actionable information.

L-Mode rating, Semantic Differential or adjective check list:

If an INcongruence measure is important to the study, some kind of verbal (SD or adjective check list) or well considered numerical (L-Mode 0-10) rating is necessarily included in the administration. This is best done before any tally scoring is undertaken.

INcongruence is the difference between the implicit perceptions and attitudes uncovered by the PD, and those that are expressed verbally by the participants. Measures of INcongruence provide information regarding the degree of organizational pressure (response bias) or denial present in the culture, or degree of self-awareness around the topics in an individual. Depending on the direction (i.e., verbal/explicit more positive than implicit vs. implicit more positive than verbal/explicit), high levels of INcongruence may be a signal of hidden dangers or untapped potential.