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Empathy-Based Research: The Projection Play

This article is part of our series on Empathy- based Research.
You can view the full series or download the report.

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This week we highlight the 4th play from our brand-new Empathy Playbook, the Projection Play.

As a reminder, as innovation and research become increasingly dominated by quantitative data analytics and algorithms, we believe market researchers need empathy more than ever to see the humans behind the numbers. Empathy is our ability to see and feel things from someone else’s perspective, and the key benefit is that it generates emotional insight into the feelings, motivations and needs that drive behaviour.

As a result, we’ve put together this playbook of practical empathy-based activities to help you research and innovate better from a consumer perspective.

Play 4: The Projection Play

When you need the play:

The projection play is an easy and effective way to make research more authentic, meaningful and emotionally insightful. It involves the researcher deliberately projecting themselves into the shoes of a consumer and imagining what it feels like to be
that person in the situation they are researching.

The projection play works because perspective-taking sits at the heart of empathy. In scientific tests, deliberate perspective-taking has been shown to improve empathic understanding. Of course, if you are a market researcher, you may be familiar with using projective techniques. But in the projection play, the difference is that it’s the researcher who’s doing the projecting.

The projection play can be run throughout the insight, innovation or creative process, whenever emotional insight is needed. Whether it’s using projective imagination to put yourself in consumer shoes, client shoes or colleague shoes, the projection play is a proven way to enhance your powers of empathy.

How it works:

If you want to understand how someone else is feeling, simply use your imagination to project yourself into their shoes and imagine how you might feel in their situation.

Running the projection play is simple. Before you facilitate research, run an ideation session, analyse results, write a debrief or even present to a client, take a moment for some imaginative projection:
■ First, visualise this person in the situation you are exploring
■ Now imagine yourself as that person in this situation
■ Finally, imagine the mood and emotions you might be experiencing

Whether understanding football culture in Nigeria or parent-child dynamics in Brazil, empathy and the projection play are vital parts of our methodology here at Brand Genetics. Whilst empathy operates automatically below the threshold of conscious control, we can activate and use our empathic ability deliberately. Perspective-taking through imaginative projection is a simple and effective way to do this. The question is, whose shoes do you need to step into?

If you want to be a more empathic business and introduce human-first insight and innovation – Brand Genetics can help. Get in touch today to find out more!

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