The relationship between projection and anti-Soviet attitudes

Christopher Brooks Peters, Fordham University


This study was concerned with understanding the way enemy images, particularly of the then-preeminent national antagonist, the Soviet Union, are formed and maintained. The focus was on ascertaining the extent to which psychodynamic elements, as opposed to cognitive and social factors, contribute to enmification. While there is a long history of invoking projection as a vital element in understanding the formation of anti-Soviet attitudes, no adequate empirical study of this relationship was located. The primary purpose of this study thus was to investigate the extent to which anti-Soviet attitudes relate to projection. It was also of interest to examine other significant psychological, social, and attitudinal factors contributing to anti-Soviet ideation. These included: other defense mechanisms, nationalistic feeling, and conformity to social expectations. Two hundred six Fordham University undergraduates were administered a demographic sheet, the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, the Defense Mechanisms Inventory, the Patriotism and Nationalism Scale, and an anti-Soviet attitude scale developed by the author. Significant sex differences emerged regarding the relationships between anti-Soviet attitudes and other variables. For both sexes, nationalism was the factor that correlated most highly with anti-Soviet attitudes. For the men, however, there were no significant correlations between projection, or any other defense clustering, and anti-Soviet attitudes. The women produced very different results, where relatively low level, but nevertheless significant positive correlations were found between anti-Soviet attitudes and four of the five defense categories, including projection, that comprise the Defense Mechanisms Inventory. It thus appears that projection does affect anti-Soviet attitudes, but only for women. Men who scored low on nationalism showed a strong negative correlation between projection and anti-Soviet attitudes. This was not true for female subjects and may reflect a tendency on the part of non-nationalistic men to eschew hostility toward the putative national enemy. The study could not examine the full impact of cognitive and social factors; these must be considered alongside the psychodynamic ones in the future in order to produce a fuller picture of the functioning of enemy images. While the Soviet Union may no longer be perceived as the primary threat to the United States, the need to understand the sources of antagonism toward remote enemies remains.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Peters, Christopher Brooks, "The relationship between projection and anti-Soviet attitudes" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9215353.