Third-Person Technique

The third-person technique, more than any other projective technique, is used to elicit deep seated feelings and opinions held by respondents, that might be perceived as reflecting negatively upon the individual. People will often attribute "virtues" to themselves where they see "vices" in others. For instance, when asked why they might choose to go on an Alaskan cruise, the response might be because of the quality of the scenery, the opportunity to meet interesting people and learn about a different culture. But when the same question is asked as to why a neighbour might go on such a cruise, the response could very well be because of "brag appeal" or to show off.

By providing respondents with the opportunity to talk about someone else, such as a neighbour, a relative or a friend, they can talk freely about attitudes that they would not necessarily admit to holding themselves.

The third-person technique can be rendered more dynamic by incorporating role playing or rehearsal. In this case, the respondent is asked to act out the behaviour or express the feelings of the third person. Particularly when conducting research with children, this approach can prove to be very helpful since they "know" how others would act but cannot necessarily express it in words.

Related Readings (Kumar, V., Aaker, D.A. & Day, G.S. (1999). Essentials of Marketing Research. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; Zikmund, W.G. (1997). Exploring Marketing Research, 6th edition. Orlando: The Dryden Press)