If two individuals, say person A and person B, are asked to decipher an image and then create a story on it, their stories tend to be completely different based on their own experiences. For instance, if they are asked to interpret the image of a small child standing outside a children's park, Person A might decipher it as the child yearning to play, but not being able to due to their tight schedule and academic pressure. On the other hand, Person B might decipher it as the child looking at other children playing alongside their parents and the child yearning for parental support they may not be receiving. These two different stories give an insight into the past experiences of the two individuals. It can be interpreted that Person A grew up in a competitive environment where their interpersonal and social needs were neglected in exchange for their academic or career developments. In the case of Person B, it can be concluded that they did not have a healthy attachment with their parent/s.
As a result, two people trying to decipher the same image may give completely different analysis reports.
The conclusions that two different individuals give about the same image can be completely different. This contrast in meaning can be attributed to the kind of experiences these individuals went through and the kind of emotional states they are in while taking the test. For instance, if one is undergoing a loss while taking a projective personality test, they might impose their feelings of loss on the test. As a result, a projective test, which contains vague images with no concrete meanings, gives an individual the freedom to formulate an answer based on their own projections, giving significance to the meaning that they derive from the test.
Projective tests may or may not reveal anything depending upon the aspect they are testing. For instance, the Thematic Apperception Test focuses on interpersonal relationships and may reveal certain aspects of an individual's relationship that the therapist is already aware of. However, it may also give insights into the kinds of feelings the individual holds in their respective relationship that they might find difficult to accept, and consequently may be unable to bring to the surface of their conscious level.
Projective tests are based on the theory that if an individual is asked to decode the meaning of a vague image, they base their analysis on their own psychological states. For instance, if an individual is asked to create a story on the basis of an image of a mother and a child, the kind of story they come up with is an imposition of their own ideas of what a maternal relationship is supposed to look like or what their relationship with their mother or maternal figure is like. Thus, a single image can have more than one meaning and differs based on the kind of occurrences the test-taker has undergone.
The way one elucidates an image in a projective test provides an insight into the kind of psychological state that they are in and the kind of experiences that they have had. This defines the reasons behind the behavioral pattern of an individual. As a result, the kind of answer a person gives in relation to a particular image differs from the kind of answer another person gives.
Projective tests sometimes tend to reveal certain aspects of an individual's psychological state that they may not be confronting. Some of these issues may already be known to the therapist, while some may not have been consciously revealed by the individual. As a result, sometimes the revelations may be new, but at other times, it may be something already known.