Standard Article

Projective Identification

  1. Paul Williams1,
  2. Steven Seligman2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0713

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Williams, P. and Seligman, S. 2010. Projective Identification. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland

  2. 2

    University of California, San Francisco

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The term projective identification is the best known of Melanie Klein's (1946) concepts. Klein's view was that it refers to an unconscious belief (fantasy) that a part of the self or inner world, usually unwanted, may be disposed of by relocating it into the mental representation of another object. This is usually regarded as a primitive form of the mental mechanism of projection, but it is different in that it may involve actual behavior by people toward an object in a way that will allow them to confirm their omnipotent suppositions. This projectively identifying mechanism can be used for a variety of psychological purposes, including denial (disposing of undesirable elements) or controlling in fantasy the object. Or it may be a form of communication, as in the expression of disavowed anger or other unmetabolized affects.


  • projective identification;
  • fantasy;
  • countertransference