Using Projective Tests have become quite common in Forensic Psychology. This paper reflects upon the role of Projective Tests within Forensics Psychology as a tool to decode criminal behaviour.


Forensic Psychology is the branch of science that provides a clear meeting point between law and human behaviour (Ioannou, Canter, Youngs, & Synnott, 2015). It entails measuring critical legal practices, especially the one pertaining to professional witness and testimony within the context of the investigation. The most significant and interesting issue within Forensic Psychology is the ability of witness to provide a clear and error-free testimony in the courtroom concerning the incidence, information that can be verified to be legally correct. In order to have a non-doubtful testimony, the Forensic Psychologist must possess a deeper know-how about rules and regulations regarding the legal system and be able to comprehend them inside out. In other words, they must comprehend the entire judicial system.

A trained Forensic Psychologist is confident in providing quality testimony that avoids confusion in the courtrooms. Costanzo (2013) points out that Forensic Psychologists are specialists in human behaviour. Neuropsychologists, specialists in the structure and function of the brain as they relate to specific psychological processes and behaviours, are required by courtrooms to discuss issues relating to the brain and human behaviour. They may further be used to discern whether an individual is proficient in the trial.

Neal (2016) indicates that most of the queries asked by Forensic Psychologists are connected to the legal system and the answers are in a language that can be understood by everyone in the court. It is always advisable for any Forensic Psychologist to ensure that he or she is able to translate the information from a psychological perspective to a courtroom perspective. This will ensure that the case gets the treatment it deserves.

According to Costanzo (2013), Forensic Psychologists are resourceful personnel who uphold dignity in their practices. They are called upon to train other people in the various fields of the profession. They work with police departments to ensure criminal issues are dealt with in a manner that is legally clear. Interestingly, they help in the judicial selection of personnel in the United States of America.

In addition, Forensic Psychologists aid in enacting laws. They are trained to ensure they can fully handle behaviours of the victims of crisis and suicidal practices. They also offer counselling to affected families (Ioannou, Canter, Youngs, & Synnott, 2015).


A Projective Test is a personality test aimed at letting individuals respond to unclear stimuli, internal conflicts and presumably examining in-depth emotions displayed by the individual (Bornstein, 2007). It is in contrary to a self-report test or an objective test that is linked to a structured method as responses are evaluated about presumed common standards, for instance, an exam with multiple choices. Similarly, they are restricted to the exam details. The answers to the predicted test are detailed for a reason as opposed to the basis of presumptions on the meaning, for instance, in the objective analysis. Projective Tests originate from psychoanalysis, which states that people have unconscious motivations as well as attitudes that are beyond their conscious awareness.

The Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, is known as the founder of psychoanalysis, which is based on a dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Freud was also well known for his analysis on psychosexual development of an individual (Patel, 2013). Freudian psychology emphasized the importance of understanding unconscious information as a predictor of our everyday behaviour. He came up with the concept projecting one’s own unconscious onto a person or object (AllPsych, 2018).

According to Miller (2015), the essential theoretical basis in Projective Test relates to given questions raised; the responses will be consciously stipulated as well as socially tested. The answers are not linked to the unconsciousness of the respondent or the implicit motivations or views. The respondent’s in-depth motives are not necessarily recognized as conscious by the respondent, or he/ she may be unable to express themselves verbally or in an appropriate structure as guided by the interviewer. Advocates of the Projective Test emphasize that the uncertainty of provocations given in the test enables subjects to give out their hidden thoughts that fail to be captured by other tests. From the 1980s to the 1990s, research conducted has shown that implicit motivation is reflected in the increased use of tools linked to the research.

Rorschach Inkblot is a widely known Projective Test established in 1921 to aid diagnosis of schizophrenia (Hatano, Yamada, Nakagawa, Nanri, Kawase, & Kenji, 2014). The subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and analysed using psychological interpretation or even algorithms. The reactions are then evaluated in many ways by considering not only the information given but also the duration it took before a response is made. Other variables considered are – how the given response compares to other people’s perceptions for similar drawing, and lastly, the aspect of the picture and how it was focused. Experts are consulted to conduct Projective Test like Rorschach Test in coming up with consistent and valid outcomes.

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) is identified as a critical Projective Test in which a person evaluates unclear events of others, and he or she is interviewed to narrate some aspects of the scene, for instance, what caused the scene, what are the feelings of the people and what are the possible outcomes. The above process assesses the subject’s descriptions while discovering their motivations, conflicts, as well as outlooks. Researchers may employ scoring systems aimed to establish a reliable methodology of expressed thoughts in addition to behaviours.

The Szondi test is a nonverbal projective personality test developed by Léopold Szondi. Szondi lists eight human drive needs that are linked to action. A Szondi test involves showing facial photographs to a person, the photographs are displayed in six groups of eight each. The subject is asked to select the most appealing and most repulsive photos in each group. The selection provides an indication of the satisfied and unsatisfied needs of the subject’s personality (Zaffaroni & Oliveir, 2013).

To sum up, Projective Test relates to the respondent’s perceptions, answers, motivations and unconsciousness attitudes (Cariola, 2014).


According to Sloane (1992), behavioural analysis is the science that relates to the way a person or animal conducts oneself, to his surroundings and to others. Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer (1991) defined it as an organized study of variables influencing the behavioural patterns of the organisms. Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (2017) on the other hand, said that behavioural analysis is a scientific study focusing on the principles of learning and behaviour.

The study aims to provide understanding, give explanation, classification and prediction on the behaviour. This science of behavioural analysis is not similar to other areas of psychological studies or fields that attempts to dissect behaviour (Sloane, 1992). The science of behavioural analysis is commonly used in detecting mental aptitude, undertaking behavioural assessments, determining appropriate treatment plans for mental patients, training practitioners and as well as in crime investigations (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2017).

In the study of behavioural analysis, there were two primary and distinct fields of study that came into existence and these are the experimental analysis of behaviour and applied behaviour analysis. The experimental analysis of behavioural analysis is the scientific foundation of the discipline in which various empirical studies, research, literatures and data on behavioural analysis had been accumulated over the years in the furtherance of the understanding of this science. It is where the applied behavioural analysis came about. (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2017)

Applied behavioural analysis is a methodical approach that aims to influence the established vital social behaviour by identifying relevant and similar environmental variables thereby producing a significant behavioural change as a result of the usage of such findings (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2017). The latter aspect of behavioural analysis comes into play when it is conducted in a real-world setting with raw and unadulterated subject study rather that conducting it in laboratories (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968).


Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as a concept was first introduced by Salovey and Mayer (1990) as a kind of social intelligence, distinct from general intelligence. It refers to the capacity to track one’s personal emotions and that of others, distinguish between them and make use of this information as a reference for one’s behaviour, actions or views. EQ was soon extended to include an individual’s capacity to accurately perceive, assess and express emotions; the capacity to understand and appreciate emotions; and the capacity to regulate these emotions in order to spur emotional, as well as intellectual, development (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). From this, one can see that the concept had evolved through time to encompass many emotional facets, as well as their relationship with other forms of human intelligence. Given this extensive definition, there is no question that EQ can play a pivotal role in the behaviour, perceptions and dispositions of individuals within organisations and as professionals and employees. There are many measures to assess a person’s EQ reflecting the differences among academics and experts on how EQ is treated and analysed. Among these tests are Emotional Quotient Inventory or the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test and the Mayer-Salovey- Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (Harms & Crede, 2010).

The novelty of the idea behind EQ made it an interesting subject of inquiry in the field of management and organisational studies. Due to the far reaching coverage and implications of EQ for organisations across industries and nature of work, many scholars and researchers had attempted to study EQ in an attempt to better understand its dynamics and how it can be harnessed by organisations to their advantage. Goleman (1998) popularised the concept of EQ initially espoused by Salovey and Mayer (1990). He came to define the concept as the ability to recognise one’s feelings and that of others to motivate one’s self and to manage these emotions personally and in the course of one’s interaction with others. He formulated a theory on EQ that is directly tied to performance since he believes that EQ has direct bearing in work and organisational effectiveness, in particular in forecasting performance in different activities from sales to top leadership (Goleman, 1998).

Bar-On (1997) defined EQ as an umbrella concept comprising non-cognitive abilities and competencies which aid one in overcoming environmental pressures and demands. He advanced a model of non-cognitive intelligences made up of five broad areas from the personality domain, including intra-personal and inter-personal capacities, ability to adapt, stress management and general mood, such as happiness and optimism. On the part of companies, this illustrates relevance of managing and tapping the EQ of their personnel. Because these domains have a bearing on the outlook of employees and how they will respond to the demands of work, as well as changes within organisations, interest in EQ heightened.

While there are people who have a higher innate emotional quotient than others, EQ skills can be learned and honed through steady commitment, dedication and practice. For this to happen, one must have a sustained drive to learn, obtain relevant feedback and continuously buttress their EQ abilities (Serrat, 2009). Indeed, EQ is becoming a new benchmark or yardstick by which employees and prospective candidates for new posts are assessed. People are not just rated for their intelligence, training, work experience, and industry expertise, but also for their ability to handle and manage their emotions within themselves and in the course of their interaction with their co-workers (Serrat, 2009).

While studies on the implications of EQ in various sectors, such as health, education and clinical psychology, had been made, EQ’s applications on the workplace generated the greatest amount of inquiry (Jordan, Ashkanasy, & Ascough, 2007). This can be attributed to the desire on the part of organisations to search for new ways to enhance performance, as well as the growing desire of managers to be able to forecast or assess the behaviour of their subordinates in the actual work setting (Jordan, et al, 2007). The promising benefits and advantages offered by EQ, therefore, attracted the attention of many companies and organisations.

It would be in the great interest of organisations to tap into their employees’ EQ and marshal this tremendous force to advance their company’s well being. Improved sales, enhanced recruitment and retention of highly qualified and competent staff and more effective leadership are among the promises of EQ (Serrat, 2009). Therefore, possessing a great degree of EQ proves to be a great advantage. Weisinger (1998) pointed out that people with high EQ levels are said to enjoy more success in their chosen careers. In turn, this idea of self-fulfilment, happiness and contentment with one’s work is a great motivating factor for employees to excel in their work. Jordan et al (2002) noted that such people also experience less job insecurity compared to those with lower EQ levels. This job insecurity would then act as a de-motivator, contributing to the subpar performance of affected personnel. Jordan et al (2002) also found out that an employee’s commitment to an organisation is moderated by his or her emotional intelligence; hence those with high EQ are more likely to have high affective commitment even at times of extreme work pressure or stress. EQ was also revealed to be positively connected with altruism, job commitment and satisfaction and affective organisational commitment (Carmeli, 2003). Carmeli (2003) also maintained that EQ can improve contextual performance and reduce distress allowing employees to think and act in a more emotionally intelligent manner. Wong and Law (2002) supported the claim of a positive linkage between EQ and organisational commitment and added that EQ can mitigate turnover intention of subordinates. EQ aids in organisational effectiveness not only through enhanced work commitment, but also through boosting morale, teamwork and improved health (Cherniss, 2001). Thus, it makes sense to say that people with high EQ constitute a pool of worthy and much coveted labour force.

Aside from reinforcing commitment to the profession and the company, EQ also had an effect on inter-personal relationships. It was said that people with greater EQ are more likely to develop harmonious relations with their peers in the workplace (Maslow, 1943). This is because such individuals can recognise, understand and manage their emotions and that of others, enabling them to interact with their colleagues well (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). According to Lopes et al (2005), EQ was positively related to interpersonal sensitivity and pro-social inclinations. The connection between EQ and positive peer nomination, as well as identification of reciprocal friendships, was also established was also established by this study. From this, it can be said that there is a strong case for a linkage between EQ and interpersonal skills and relationship management.

In addition, Slaski and Cartwright (2002) also argued that higher EQ enable individuals to easily adjust to stress, because of their better coping mechanisms (Bar-On, Brown, Kirkcaldy, & Thome, 2000). EQ training was also found to contribute in more positive perceptions of work life quality and reduced distress, aside from increasing morale (Slaski & Cartwright, 2003). This is very important as the demands of work may really exact a toll on employees. Getting people with greater resilience and tolerance to such pressures and demands, as well as having a clear perspective on what is expected of them, is definitely a key strategy in cornering the right human assets for the organisation. Finally, Van Rooy and Viswesvaran (2004), in a meta-analysis study, revealed a positive association between EQ and performance in the workplace, as well as in the school. In terms of team performance, high EQ teams were found to perform at a high level even without training, while teams with low EQ have to undergo specific trainings to attain the same performance level of their high EQ counterparts (Jordan & Troth, 2002). Such an edge can be attributed to the emotional element present in team decision making putting teams with high EQ in a clear advantage (Jordan & Troth, 2004). In another study, it was stated that EQ constitutes a crucial element in customer interaction, especially among service-oriented employees, thus EQ also has bearing on enhancing customer satisfaction experience (Rozell, Pettijohn, & Parker, 2002). Given this, there is no question that the attention EQ is getting from organisations scholars is valid and very much warranted.

Studies also show that people with higher EQ have good conflict resolution competencies. This can partly stem from the assertion that all conflicts are emotional in nature since they involve views of threats or risks to individual or organisational objectives (Jordan & Troth, 2004). Weisinger (1998) pointed out that conflict management and improving relations within organisations require adept emotional management strengths. This makes it imperative for companies to train their managers on EQ so that they will be more equipped in handling tensions or differences among their employees in the workplace. Higher EQ confers on employees a greater capacity to deal with pesky superiors at work through better conflict resolution capabilities (Lubit, 2004). This makes it sensible to develop the EQ not only of managers, but also of employees so that they can better deal with differences they may have with their bosses and so that such conflicts may not stand in the way of them fulfilling their designated duties and responsibilities. When faced by conflict, people with greater EQ are more inclined to adopt collaborative solutions and select not to avoid the issue as collaboration attests to their capacity to appreciate and control their emotions (Jordan & Troth, 2002). In his EQ model, Goleman (2001) included conflict management as one critical competency. This underpins the connection between EQ and conflict resolution. Similarly, in terms of negotiations, people with higher EQ were also found to lay down better positive affective tone from the onset paving the way for integrative resolutions (Foo, Anger Elfenbein, Tan, & Aik, 2004).

While there is much literature on the definition and underpinnings of EQ, as well as its benefits and advantages when applied in the workplace, there are not many studies available on EQ’s impact on Cybercriminal investigation. However, the fact that most of the studies have the general office setup as context may lend credence to the applicability of these researches in Cybercriminal investigation. Besides, the investigation task is packed with demands and pressures and is also emotionally laden given its sensitivity and intricacies, the number of stakeholders involved and the importance of forensic investigation.

Crime scene investigation is a gruelling task that entails a lot of considerations. As such, investigators are exposed to a lot of pressure, intimidation, opposition in their daily lives in the office. This highlights the importance of having a tough EQ on the part of those involved in this delicate job. Competency is not enough as it is essential for investigators to work with people and enjoy the respect of others. The environments where investigators operate are full of emotions from helpful to uncooperative clients to colleagues who may send out negative or positive emotional responses. Emotions are known to affect judgment (Chung, Cohen, & Monroe, 2012). Because investigators perform a very crucial task of identifying and analysing evidence, efforts must be extended to ensure that their work is not compromised, as this would have serious legal, business and regulatory repercussions.


Psychological profiling is mostly used in solving murder cases (Reyes & Wiles, 2007). However, according to Lickiewicz (2011), psychological profiling is also applicable to Cybercrimes. He added that profiling, although not meant to specifically identity the perpetrator, can help narrow down the search area, improve the law enforcement’s future investigation, create better approach or measures in detection and provide familiarity of the perpetrator based on his modus operandi (Lickiewicz, 2011). Gierowski & Najda (2010) pointed out that being able to experience and gather knowledge about such illegal activities would help interpret and analyse the evidence collected. From this, analysis of evidence will enable the authorities in profiling the offender. The analysis of evidence and the modus operandi is an inference on the psychological mind frame, motivation and behaviour of the perpetrator (Grance, Chevalier, & Kent, 2005).

According to Rogers (2006), the offenders of cybercrimes depend on the internet’s capability to cover their identities, thus their actions highly hinge on Anonymity. However, there is no causal connection with their anonymity in the conduct of crimes, modus operandi, motivation or the traces they leave in the scene of the crime (Rogers, 2006). McQuade (2009) added that offenders have their own way of breaking in and committing cybercrime through their own techniques or using applications or software. But because cybercrimes are frequently committed in sequence, there is a high likelihood of identifying the profile of the offender (Arkin, 2001).

Erbschloe (2001) asserted that there is a need to establish profiles of offenders of cybercrimes especially those that are considered to be terrorist attacks in the internet world because these individuals are becoming a serious threat to the security and privacy in the internet. Casey (1999) distinguished the types of investigation in cybercrime cases into two scenarios. One scenario is where the identity of the offender is unknown. The second scenario is where both the crime and offender is identifiable such as the case of child pornography, where the mere possession of such files is considered a crime (Casey, 1999).

According to Rogers (2001), the creation of a profile must first have data analysis in order to synthesize the possible persons to be identified as main suspects. Schell and Martin (2006) posited that the person investigating must be able to define the scale of ability of the offender, his skills and his motive in doing such crime. It is important that in making a profile, it must contain data indicating the possible sites where the offender can be found such as discussion groups, social media or Internet Relay Chat channels. In addition to this, there must be a careful analysis of the victim’s behaviour displayed in the internet and correlate his actions to his attack on the victim. One should also thoroughly analyse a victim’s actions on the Internet and find the reason for the attack on the victim. This way, a more detailed and specific profile is made in order that the offender’s future offense can be predicted and a trap can be set up (Schell & Martin, 2006). Pleskonjić et al (2006) also added that in building up a profile, it would be of immense value to estimate the age of the offender because it will be able to assert his motives, cultural behaviour and goals. Cultural behaviour is a vital element that can be influencing his/ her behaviour and with that, through psycholinguistic methods, his/ her future attacks can be predicted.

Casey (1999) emphasized the importance of profiling the offender and identifying his/ her behaviour and motivations. Doing so could give possible signs and clues of the place where the offender might be. Shaw (2006) suggested that in doing such profiling, there must be a group of experts specializing in security, laws and information technology. Shaw (2006) did not state the need for the participation of psychologists but he stressed that law enforcement agencies must not be involved in the profiling for such profile to be useful.


Despite all the developments in Forensic Psychology, it is still a fairly new area of psychology. The application of psychology in criminal proceedings involves various risks. Forensic Psychologists are therefore required to consider effective tools in identifying known and hidden behavioural characteristics. This has led to the move towards various Projective Psychological Tests described in this paper. Forensic and legal psychology is incomplete without delving into the unknown space of unconscious behaviour.

While forensic departments in certain countries have started using Projective Psychological Tests, there is an inherent risk of subjective interpretations. This is one reason why it has not gained worldwide acceptance. With so little of the unknown human drivers for action known, it is argued that additional information revealed through Projective Tests could prove valuable in certain cases. Forensic Psychology could, therefore, embrace Projective Tests as part of behavioural assessment.

The status of forensic psychology can be increased by quality research and realizing that there are areas in which the contribution of forensic psychologists is questionable (Louw, 2001). There is a huge gap in terms of competence building and knowledge transfer related to the application of Projective Testing in different scenarios. Perhaps relevant authorities could consider training programs and sharing lessons learnt from various investigations.


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