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Psychological Projection

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"To the selfish, all are selfish."
Aesop of "The Fox and the Bramble"


Psychological Projection is a common behavioral phenomenon in which a character projects their own character traits/emotions/desires to another character by presuming they feel/are the same as they. Most often, the character denies some aspect of their own thoughts or behavior while simultaneously assuming or accusing other people of doing or thinking those same things (e.g. The Bully says, "I'm not a bully; that guy [that I'm picking on] is just a big Jerkass!"). They are using themselves as a basis for understanding others and through their perception see their own flaws and virtues in other people. This is usually done unconsciously and never explicitly stated by the character, which can make it hard to notice. But if a character presumes something about another without having any reasons to think so and the presumption has something in common with themselves, they are probably projecting.


Often (though not always) a Sub-Trope of Hypocrite. Clone by Conversion is the literal version of this. This trope can sometimes be a manifestation of The Golden Rule, because people will by nature project themselves on to others and expect them to act the same as themselves. Often overlaps with Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, Good Cannot Comprehend Evil, Straw Hypocrite, Boomerang Bigot, and Protagonist-Centered Morality. Related to All Psychology Is Freudian, Darwinist Desire, and The Golden Rule. The Shadow Archetype is essentially this trope given a tangible form.

Contrast Hypocrite Has a Point, where the character's accusations have merit, despite the accuser not living up to them themselves. Not to be confused with Astral Projection or Enemy Without, which are rather more fantastic.




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    Anime & Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index: Kakeru Kamisato absolutely hates suddenly gaining a superpower and being compelled to use it to save people. He believes it to be a curse and tries to become normal again by attacking the beings he believes are responsible for empowering him. When he learns of Touma Kamijou and his similar ability, he automatically assumes Touma feels the same way and tries to get him to join forces in his goal, and is thrown for a loop when Touma explains that powers or no powers, he's all about saving and protecting people.
  • Domestic Girlfriend: Subverted in the first chapter. When Natsuo looks at Rui, he sees Hina, his teacher he has a crush on. He acknowledges that he's projecting and ignores it. The truth is that Rui is Hina's little sister, and they genuinely look very similar. Natsuo finds this out after his father remarries to Rui and Hina's mother, making them his step-sisters. This is after he had sex with Rui and confessed his love to Hina.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • During the Cell Saga, Goku ends up doing this to Gohan, automatically assuming that Gohan, in addition to his potential as a fighter, wants a good and challenging fight with Cell purely because it's what he would do in such a situation, going so far as to give Cell a Senzu Bean before the fight. It takes getting a major What the Hell, Hero? from Piccolo (who by this point understands Gohan more than his own father), and seeing the danger he's put Gohan in firsthand, for Goku to realize that this is not the case.
    • When you think about it, this is at least partially what Frieza's obsession with fear is all about. Frieza enjoys taking the time to install fear and horror in others, but when we see his actions, such as blowing up Planet Vegeta to make sure no one opposes him, he shows that deep inside, Frieza is nothing but a coward utterly terrified of the possibility someone would grow strong enough to face him on even terms, and in his fight with Super Saiyan Goku, where he blows up Namek in desperation to kill Goku, combined with his frantic attempts to kill him and shamelessly begging for his life when he’s bifurcated by his own attack, it’s all the more obvious.
    • Dragon Ball Super: Throughout the Future Trunks Saga, Zamasu constantly condemns mortals for being warlike, destructive, all about conflict, and sinful with disrespect to everything the gods stand for; when it comes down to it, the only one who's as twisted as Zamasu claims the mortals are is Zamasu himself, considering the fact that, among other things, he cut down an inhabitant of Planet Babari when he could have simply walked away, murdered his own master and stole his Time Rings and Potaras for his plan, and went so far as to kill all of the other gods in The Multiverse of Future Trunks' Alternate Timeline to prevent them from interfering. It's especially jarring since, as a Supreme Kai, Zamasu is supposed to be a Big Good who protects and watches over mortals.
    • Goku Black partakes in this just as much as Zamasu, his former and future selves, prattling on about how mortals are violent, destructive creatures who cannot learn from their mistakes and are inflexible in their ways. All of this coming from the person who is fanatically and unbendingly obsessed with annihilating all mortal-kind, completely and utterly insane and a danger to everyone around him barring literally himself, and whose first actions upon taking Goku’s body to fulfill his mad quest for power being to gruesomely murder him, his wife and youngest son, just as a final insult to the man for bruising his ego.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Akito Sohma treats other women like her worst enemy because she's projecting her demented Abusive Mom onto them. This is especially evident in her cruelty towards poor Rin because the latter's black Rapunzel Hair heavily reminds Akito of Ren, to the point Akito first gave her the nickname "Rin" because it sounds like Ren.
    • Yuki's mother says she must decide everything for Yuki because she thinks he's self-centered, selfish, and unreasonable. Those three words are a better description for her than they ever will be for Yuki.
  • In One Piece, during the Water 7 arc, the crew learned that the Going Merry, the Straw Hats' first ship, had been damaged beyond repair in their previous adventure and Luffy reluctantly decided to replace it. Usopp, who had been in the crew as long as the Merry and had recently gotten curbstomped by a group of bounty hunters whom the rest of the crew managed to beat with ease, started projecting himself onto the ship, desperately and angrily insisting that the Merry could be fixed and that Luffy getting a new ship was akin to abandoning a crew mate for being weak.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero:
    • One bad experience after another with the royal family members, King Aultcray and Princess Malty, leads the titular hero, Naofumi, initially projecting his feelings of animosity onto the second princess Melty, immediately thinking she was untrustworthy and was secretly planning to set him up, due to being related to Aultcray and Malty, the two who placed a False Rape Accusation on him and continued to dog his steps. This is despite Melty presenting herself as a genuinely kind hearted princess when they first met, and even personally intervening to prevent Malty and Motoyasu from forcing Naofumi to fight a duel with the latter in the middle of a public area just moments prior. Naofumi does eventually realize his mistake and now sees her as trusted ally and friend.
    • Aultcray himself projects his Irrational Hatred of the Shield Hero in general and his hatred of demi-humans onto Naofumi, which led to him to try and ruin the latter's life and reputation as much as possible. Not helping was the King's eldest daughter manipulating him into continuously making life hard for the new Shield Hero. This, as well as his incompetence in watching over Melromarc, catch up to him when his wife Queen Mirelia strips him and Malty of their royal status and allows Naofumi to legally change their names to "Trash" and "Bitch" respectively.
  • This is part of the reason Kazuki becomes The Kindnapper in Snow White with the Red Hair. Having previously been made a slave and bought as "decoration" by nobles, similar to what Prince Raj initially had attempted with Shirayuki in the beginning of the manga, Kazuki assumes she'd appreciate being taken as far away from nobles as possible and goes about doing so by attacking Obi and drugging her to get her away without even trying to talk to her first.
  • In Sword Art Online, Kyouji Shinkawa admired his older brother for his ability to kill while he was trapped in SAO. He projects his adulation onto his crush Shino Asada, due to her own past as a killer, despite knowing the fact that she hates being labeled as a killer. When she was younger, she had to kill a bank robber in self-defense, and has regretted it ever since.
  • In Vampire Knight, Yuuki thought she and Zero were struggling with the same pain and fears, but when Zero denies it, she says, "I guess I was only seeing myself".
  • A variant happens in Zoids: Chaotic Century. One episode has Reese trying to screw with Fiine, by showing her visions of Van getting shot and killed protecting her, and telling her that Van will die if she stays close to him. Fiine quickly realizes that those visions are actually Reese's own memories, of when she was a child and a boy she befriended was killed trying to protect her, and she blames herself for that.

    Comic Books 
  • Several Batman villains project their own origins and insecurities onto Batman.
    • This is what Joker is ultimately trying to prove in The Killing Joke that everyone is really like him deep down — justifying his murderous madness by trying to demonstrate people being strained by worries and neuroses until they have a particularly bad day, and snap just like he did. He fails in the general sense, but in the end he still has a kindred spirit in Batman himself.
    • Hugo Strange thinks that Batman does what he does because he enjoys being powerful and feared, since that is what Strange wants to be (and for extra irony, he's a psychologist).
    • Tommy Elliot/Hush knows Batman's true identity, but thinks that Bruce Wayne is happy that his parents were killed, because Elliot's parents were abusive and he celebrated when they died.
  • In the story The Black Ring, Lex Luthor claims Superman doesn't empathize with humanity at all, but it's pretty clear he's projecting this trait onto his archnemesis.
    • In general, it's sometimes implied that the reason why Lex often accuses Superman of using his powers to lord over humanity is because, if their positions were reversed, that's exactly what Lex would do.
    • Stories by Grant Morrison in Justice League and 52 show that Lex believes that Superman is as obsessed with him as he is with Superman, and truly thinks that everything Superman does—even just saving some random people's lives—is somehow an attempt to show him up.
  • Iron Man came to think during Secret Invasion that Captain America had been replaced by a Skrull before the events of Civil War because Cap is a reasonable person and would have agreed the Superhero Registration Act was the right thing to do if it were really him... right? Meanwhile, every other hero is trying to get at Tony to prove he was replaced by a Skrull for the opposite reasons. No one important was actually replaced by skrulls, so their actions are their own. For better or worse.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics). Invoked in Sonic Universe #63 when Espio accuses Knuckles of projecting fear of ghosts on to him.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Harry Osborn, shortly before his original death in the comics, claimed that Spider-Man only tried to 'destroy' the Osborn family because he resented their 'stable' family dynamic while he had been a burden on relatives who never wanted him, Harry's mind now so twisted that he was incapable of recognizing Norman's flaws as a parent.
    • J. Jonah Jameson's distrust of Spider-Man is often portrayed as him projecting his own cynicism and selfishness onto Spider-Man, concluding he has some sort of secret self-serving agenda.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Circe believes everyone, including Wonder Woman, is as cynical and cruel as she is and tries to prove it by getting Diana to murder her on live television. Diana not only refuses to kill Circe, but she retorts that Circe is merely angry that she has spent a lifetime being angry over a lifetime of loneliness and rejection.

    Fan Works 
  • All's Fair in Love and War (And Turnabout's Fair Play): Lila firmly believes that there's no such thing as friendship — instead, all relationships boil down to people trying to manipulate each other for their own gain. She also believes that the only real difference between her and Marinette is that her rival is a bit too cautious, and simply lacks the wherewithal to make the kind of bold moves she does.
  • Children of Remnant: Emerald constantly talks about how much Jaune likes Cinder, and how they're obviously going to announce their engagement any day now. The truth is that Emerald is so deep in the closet that projecting her own feelings for Cinder onto Jaune is the only way she knows how to deal with them. Jaune does have some feelings for Cinder (he's a little offended with how quickly she denies being in a relationship with him), but certainly not to the extent that Emerald pretends.
  • In Chloe's Lament, Chloe accuses Marinette of being Secretly Selfish, only protecting Paris as Ladybug for admiration and praise while looking down upon the rabble as beneath her. Adrien calls her out on it — while she only cared about being a Nominal Hero in order to feed her ego, that doesn't mean Marinette shares her motivations. This directly leads to her downfall, as she Wishes to trade places with her, expecting to become Ladybug in the new reality while Marinette abuses her position as the Mayor's daughter and is just as despised as she was... only to find that no, Marinette is just as kind as ever, and she's still built up a reputation for being a bully. Except now she's in a world where her father's connections aren't good enough to protect her from the consequences of her actions.
  • Fate/Black Dawn:
    • Shirou spends quite a lot of time worried about how much he might be projecting his feelings for Arturia onto Morgan. Even Morgan notices that he looks at them in a similar way.
    • He also compares Morgan to Rin quite a bit, though that's a less positive association because Rin had become bitter and angry by the time he cast his final ritual.
  • Fragmentation points this out as being the dirty secret behind ComStar.
    Historically, men judge others by their own acts. If a man is willing to steal from others, he lives in fear that others will steal from him. Murderers fear being murdered themselves. ComStar's greatest fear was that the technological advances that Kerensky had taken with him would one day return in the hands of others, making ComStar itself obsolete. So when rumors of new weapons of types never before seen had surfaced, weapons that even the Star League hadn't possessed, ComStar felt an understandable tremor of fear work its way down the backs of the persons responsible for maintaining that edge.
  • In A Game of Cat and Cat, Kazuya gets upset when Soma tells him that he left his friend Mina behind in Castlevania, until Soma specifies that she stayed in a safe room while he explored dangerous territory. Soma thinks that Kazuya is suffering from Survivor Guilt because he wasn’t there when a loved one died, the same way his past life was away on a Crusade when his wife died. However, it's implied that Kazuya is bitter because he was abandoned; in his game, the Chaos Hero left him and the Law Hero to fend for themselves after fusing with a demon.
  • This is one of Alya's Fatal Flaws in LadyBugOut: While she's quick to believe the worst of Ladybug and Marinette — that they've betrayed her by setting up the titular blog — she fails to recognize how her own actions set things into motion. This results in her unintentionally describing herself while trying to convince Marinette that she needs to make amends:
    Alya: "I can't be friends with someone who won't apologize and can't even see what she did."
    Marinette: "I can't be friends with someone like that either. So I guess we're not friends anymore."
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act IV: Hokuto constantly condemns other living things, human and monster alike, for being evil, destructive beings who only care about themselves and will destroy everything around them and attack anything different. Considering the fact that Hokuto's idea of "true peace" amounts to reviving Alucard to destroy the world, as well as the fact that he set Kuyou loose on Yokai Academy, let Jovian and Jacqueline rape Felucia to near-insanity, and specifically ordered them to kill as many people and destroy as much as Tsukune's hometown as possible in an effort to prove to Moka that his nihilism is justified and humans and monsters can never co-exist, when it comes down to it, the only one who's as destructive and evil as Hokuto claims all living things are is Hokuto himself.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live Action 
  • In 12 Angry Men, Juror 3 is extremely insistent on the defendant being guilty and gets almost violently angry when this is questioned. He keeps insisting that the boy has to be guilty and compares the situation to his strained relationship with his own son. Soon it becomes clear that the real reason he's so sure the defendant is guilty is because he's projecting his feelings about his son onto the case. When 3 realizes what he's doing, he breaks down into tears and changes his verdict to not guilty.
  • In Boyhood, Olivia tends to project her own flaws onto her daughter Samantha, angrily lecturing her for having a "bullshit attitude" and her selfishness, two things that apply to Olivia herself and she tends to ignore the fact that she consistently shows more preference to Mason Jr. Samantha even calls her out on it.
  • In The Frighteners, Agent Dammers claims that Frank's efforts are all based around his own pathetic need for self-gratification, Dammers' mental issues and Wrong Genre Savvy leaving him incapable of acknowledging that Frank is genuinely trying to stop a killer ghost, as opposed to Dammers' belief that Frank is a killer psychic.
  • In Irreconcilable Differences, Lucy tells Casey at her emancipation trial, "I know why you want to divorce your father. I know you never got over his abandoning us." Casey replies, "No, Mom, you never got over his abandoning us."
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers: Loki's default mode in the film.
      • He gives the crowd of Germans a lecture on how the mad scramble for power and identity diminishes their life's joy, something he is reluctant to admit about himself.
      • He refers to Bruce Banner/Hulk as a "mindless beast" that "makes play he's still a man," asks how desperate Nick Fury is to summon "such lost creatures" to defend him and constantly taunts Banner with looks. When Black Widow calls Loki a monster he just replies "No, you've brought the monster." In Thor, Loki called himself a monster after finding out his true parentage, and in Thor: The Dark World he says that Thor must be truly desperate to come to him for help.
      • During his speech to Black Widow, he's as much talking about himself as he's talking about her. Bonus points for showing his own reflection in the glass that separates them:
        Loki: Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red. [...] You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away!
    • And again in Thor: The Dark World, where he warns Thor about potentially losing Jane, while he himself is still mourning their mother's death:
      Loki: You'll never be ready! The only woman whose love you prized will be snatched from you!
  • In What About Bob?, Dr. Marvin tells Dr. Tomsky, "You've been duped by a textbook narcissist, a brilliant sociopath!", right after trying to get Bob admitted to a mental hospital on false pretenses.

  • Everything I Never Told You deals with this trope via how the Lee family treat each other. They all constantly project their own issues onto each other instead of communicating about their feelings. For instance, Lydia is the favorite child because James and Marilyn project their hopes and dreams onto her - popularity for James and academic success for Marilyn and remain oblivious to the fact that Lydia is only trying to live up to their expectations to make her parents happy, not because she wants to herself. Meanwhile James and Nath have a very tense relationship because James sees himself as a boy in Nath and resents him for being weak and nerdy like he was. Only Hannah is exempt from this and that's only because her family never pay any attention to her. Outside the family, Nath's animosity towards Jack is that he perceives Jack's behavior towards him as being mockery when it's actually his own insecurity leading him to jump to assume the worst in his classmate and he's totally unaware Jack had a crush on him for a very long time and used his friendship with Lydia as an excuse to get closer to Nath.
  • Harry Potter: Snape's attitude towards Harry is part this, part Sins of the Father, as he and Harry's father James hated each other from day one. Thing is, from what we see of Snape's past it's easy to spot that the two were no different from each other while at school, and arguably Snape was the worse of the two given that he loved to dabble with The Dark Arts while James firmly refused them, even saving Snape from a prank from Sirius that could have killed him. The fact that Snape loved Lily but she ultimately married James because he eventually cleaned up his act leads credence to Snape not only projecting James' bad traits on Harry, but also his own, given that James eventually grew out of them while Snape didn't.
  • Katniss tends to do this a lot in The Hunger Games. For example, in Catching Fire, she insists that the other Tributes are out to get her and Peeta and that they cannot be trusted...but the first thing Katniss does upon entering the Arena is try to kill the other Tributes and she plots about backstabbing them several times, with the justification that it's to save Peeta.
  • Hurog: The villainous characters are very prone to this. Ward's father regularly beat him, so violently that Ward took some brain damage (he still speaks very slowly) and decided to exaggerate it by Obfuscating Stupidity. There was no sensible reason to attack Ward, but the father had offed his own father for Klingon Promotion, and was now afraid Ward would do the same. Then there is king Jakoven, who is a chronic murderer of innocent people, which is, hilariously enough, caused by his paranoia about others planning things against him. (In part. It's safe to assume he's a jerk, too) Each and every villain assumes that Ward would kill his whole family to inherit castle Hurog. While Ward does want to inherit Hurog very much, he would never kill his family over it, but as the villains themselves would, of course, do it, it is "obvious" to them that, of course, that must be what he is planning.
  • Judge Dee: The father of a newly-married woman comes barging into the tribunal to vociferously accuse the father of the groom of having abducted his daughter for his own obscene ends. It's a clue that the man has... issues... with his daughter, and his status as the Big Bad is not much of a surprise.
  • Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn of Safehold tends to project his own Evil Can Not Comprehend Good mentality on others. His second in command, Wyllym Rayno, even lampshades the act as projection when Clyntahn describes the Church's Captain-General as a weak-willed coward, jumping at shadows and wanting to pull his troops back to safety immediately after Rayno recognizes that Clyntahn, at least subconsciously, fears the Church will lose the war. Church Treasurer Rhobair Duchairn notes much the same when Clyntahn proclaims, without irony, that "men who've sold their souls have every reason to murder true servants of God and then lie about their victims to justify their bloody actions."
  • The Stormlight Archive: Sadeas assumes that everyone is secretly as bloodthirsty and manipulative as he is, just that they try to hide it because he's better at the game than they are. This leads to him getting blindsided several times; at the end of the second book, he tells Adolin about his plans to kill Adolin's father, assuming that they'll wage a bloody civil war for a few years and eventually become staunch allies. But they're alone with no witnesses at the time, so Adolin just kills him on the spot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Khofit, a contestant on the second season of the Israeli Beauty and the Geek had a pet pug she would obviously project her negative emotions on. In a particular low point, when the local satire show Eretz Nehederet featured an impression of her and her dog in one of their skits, she said she wasn't insulted, but her pug was insulted because the pug used in the skit was fat.
  • Tiger King: Jeff Lowe describes his first meeting with Joe Exotic as the latter sizing up "his next victim". While Joe did value his association with Jeff simply for what he assumed Jeff was worth financially, given Jeff's own status as a very skilled Con Man who later took over the zoo entirely, this was probably going through his own mind at the time as well.
  • In Loki (2021), this is Loki's default psychological defence, just like in The Avengers:
    • He states that for most people "choice breeds shame and uncertainty and regret", because others always take wrong paths. When Mobius asks if Loki is an exemption from this rule, Loki insults Mobius to avoid answering the question.
    • When he watches a video of his supposed death in Avengers: Infinity War, it looks like his future self is saying "you will never be a god" to the Variant Loki rather than to Thanos. The worst insult Loki tossed at Thanos when he died was the thing he himself feared the most.
    • He initially accuses the TVA of being a fraud, the weak who claim divinity and who've conjured a cruel elaborate trick to control others through fear. After seeing the recording of the future events of his life and his eventual death, the disillusioned and broken Loki repeats this diatribe word for word, but now he is refering to himself.

  • Could be the point of these lines in Voltaire's "Future Ex Girlfriend":
    "And no-one cares that you love Keanu
    Oh, what's the difference anyway,
    Everybody knows he's gay
    Oh, all right, I don't really know that,
    But let's face it, he's too hot to be straight."

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Benedict has internalized all of his father's abuse under layers and layers of lies, and as a result doesn't believe that anyone else is truthful either.

  • This is what the viewer is supposed to do when watching Hello Kitty. Without a mouth, the viewer can project their own feelings upon Kitty.

    Video Games 
  • Asura's Wrath: Augus projects his own Blood Knight nature on Asura. Asura, who is fighting to save his daughter and not for fun, is not amused and keeps telling Augus to shut up whenever he tries to claim they aren't so different during their boss battle. In the end, Asura's desire to protect his daughter gives him the strength to defeat Augus. As Augus lays dying, he finally acknowledges that he was wrong about Asura and encourages him to walk his own path.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Boudica really hates the Romans because in life they invaded Britain, had her whipped, and her daughters raped. Her problem is that she tends to assume the other British Servants hate the Romans just as much as she does. In the "Dead Heat Summer Race", Altria Alter defends Nero from her. Boudica asks why; since Altria fought the Romans in life, she must hate them too. She is thrown for a loop when Altria says she doesn't hate the Romans.
  • God of War: Kratos has a tendency to blame pretty much all of his problems on the gods or on others, when it's perfectly clear to everyone and especially himself that his own actions are largely to blame for why his life has been as awful as it is. Naturally, he can't forgive himself for the things he's done, because that would actually mean facing his failures head-on, so he ends up causing way more trouble to others than he's worth.
  • Infamous 2: Joseph Bertrand III views all Conduits as monsters and demons, deeming them not part of the "divine plan." In reality, he's a Conduit himself, and was more than happy to be one until he discovered his powers were Lovecraftian Superpowers in the form of transforming into an Eldritch Abomination and converting other people into the Corrupted. In Bertrand's mindset, since he became a monster by activating his powers, then that means all Conduits, active or otherwise, are monsters.
  • In The Magic Circle, this is perhaps the crux of a character's "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed at the player. Ishmael angrily declares that gamers are obsessed with control because they feel they have none in their real lives. He himself is an unquenchable Control Freak driven by inadequacy and overwhelming fear of failure provoked by his personal issues.
  • Mugen Souls Z:
    • The tired and relaxed Syrma assumes everyone will take the relocation of their planet calmly and Nao lampshades her projection: "You seriously think everyone is as dopey as you? You are in for a big surprise!".
    • Ryuto assumes everyone loves lady Chou Chou, but the others are quick to point out that is only him.
  • Persona 4: The Investigation Team project all of their feelings of grief and guilt over Nanako's death onto to Namatame, who they assume to be the killer throwing victims into the TV World at that point. Depending on the player's choices, they could either kill him by throwing him back into the TV World, or they can calm down and realize their mistake, which leads to Nanako miraculously coming back to life, and leading them on the right track to finding the true killer.
  • Persona 5: When she finds out that Makoto had suspected Kamoshida's abuse of his female students for some time, but never said or did anything about it, Ann furiously lashes out at her and chews her out for it. When Makoto later apologizes and acknowledges it was most likely her fault that Kamoshida got away with his actions for as long as he did, Ann acknowledges that the same could be said of herself and confesses she'd been projecting her own feelings of guilt onto Makoto.
  • Shadowrun Returns: The Dragon of the main campaign projected her Sanity Slippage onto her step-brother, who cut up his mother to sell her organs for booze money (and a new liver), by claiming he was a ruthless junkie who infested everything he touched, and that the organ donors he helped were diseased and had to be erased. When she starts ranting about her newfound addiction to the all-consuming hive, you can call her out for having the same self-destructive tendencies as her brother but to an extreme, claiming that she used her brother and the organ donors as scapegoats to blame for her own repulsive behavior, and then ordered their assassinations to vindicate herself. This gives her a single moment of clarity to realize what a monster she has become, but she shrugs it off.
  • Undertale: When you fight Papyrus on a route that you've tried to befriend him, he'll open up to you in his pre-battle speech, talking about the complex feelings you must be having — the joy of finding another pasta-lover, admiration for a Worthy Opponent in solving puzzles, the desire to have a cool, smart person think you're cool... He then quickly says how much he pities you for that sort of loneliness.
  • Illidan Stormrage and Maiev Shadowsong in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft The Burning Crusade. They hate each other precisely because they are so similar: they are both self-centered, self-aggrandizing, obsessive Knight Templars. Although they spent 10,000 years literally locked up together, neither seems to realize how hypocritical they are. Their relationship is quite mutually destructive, as both of them end up hurting people they care about and absolutely bring out the worst in each other. Illidan manages to estrange his twin brother AND his crush, while Maiev almost kills her younger brother Jared when he had the temerity to point out that The Extremist Was Right. Only because Jared refuses to fight her does she realize that she almost crossed the line. Maiev does become less hypocritical, to the point where she grudgingly releases Illidan from prison during Legion. She still despises him, but realizes that he is in fact well-intentioned. Illidan though, is just as hypocritical as ever when he's released: killing the Prime Naaru X'era for basically the same reasons he always hated Maiev.
  • In Red Dead Redemption 2:
    • Dutch calls the gang members who left traitors, ignoring that he himself willingly abandoned John and Arthur multiple times in their time of need.
    • In the finale, he accuses John of shooting at him, betraying him and only looking after himself. John did none of those things and was looking after his family while Dutch did everything he was accusing John of doing.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Locus tends to assume that people he feels are similar to him have a similar 'Just Following Orders' thought process. Agent Washington regrets that period of his life, Sigma (and by extension, the Meta) wanted to Become a Real Boy instead of becoming a weapon, and Agent Maine before Sigma drove him mad followed orders because he believed they served the greater good; he felt that following orders blindly would make him a slave instead of a soldier. Wash eventually catches on and bluntly spells out that Locus's projection is just an excuse to not confront the guilt for everything he's done.
  • RWBY: Adam Taurus projects quite a few of his own character flaws onto Blake. He accuses her of cowardice, but he abandoned his own men at Haven Academy to be arrested while he escaped; the White Fang turned on him for doing that. He also calls her selfish, but he is the one determined to stalk her across the continent just to drag her back to his side regardless of what he wants. Blake calls him delusional.

  • In Ask Frisk and Company, when the AFAC version of Chara meets the Chara from Ask Drunk Chara, they immediately accuse their counterpart of trying to run away from their problems. Drunk Chara is actually The Atoner who is trying to make up for his actions by being a better person than he was during the Genocide Run, while AFAC!Chara is trying to destroy the world largely because they don't want to confront the fact that their Genocide Run was entirely their own fault (and can't be blamed on humanity being inherently evil or something else like that). When askers point this fact out, AFAC!Chara has a Villainous Breakdown, which culminates in a Despair Event Horizon.
  • Projection very strongly colours how Magus of El Goonish Shive views Ellen. Ellen is an Opposite-Sex Clone of Elliot who shares all of his memories up to the point of her creation. Magus is an alternate universe version of Ellen who happens to be a trans-man. As such, Magus assumes incorrectly that Ellen must identify as male.
  • In Shifty Look's Katamari, Ace constantly accuses the Prince of taking all the credit and being a total glory hound who can't stand not being the center of attention. In reality, Ace is the one who's completely desperate for attention, and is so self-centered that his response to finding out that one of his cousins needs his help is "What's in it for me?"
  • Nebula: Mercury immediately jumps to the conclusion that Sun's as angry as he is at the idiocy of the other planets as soon as Sun mentions feeling weird around them, and starts to rant about their faults until Sun cuts him off and says that no, that's really not what he was going to say.
  • Paranatural: Forge goes on a long rant to Spender about how Spender's Well-Intentioned Extremist tendencies will cause nothing but pain for everyone around him. While Spender is a Well-Intentioned Extremist, it's blatantly obvious that Forge is projecting; he's yelling at Spender for Spender leaving his kids in danger—even though the only reason they're in danger is because Forge damaged their vehicle without considering the consequences.
    Spender: Maybe some forethought then would have prevented the problem you're so keen to make my responsibility.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Gwynn thinks Torg is out to get her and can't be trusted not to do and say nasty things behind her back. That only describes herself in respect to him — really he thinks highly of her and would never be intentionally malicious (unintentionally is another matter). On the other side of the coin, Torg thinks their fighting is not serious — which would only be true if she could take it as well as he can.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (2017): Negaduck (AKA Jim Starling, the actor who portrayed Darkwing Duck in the in-universe TV series) seems to think that the actor hired to be Darkwing in the film reboot, Drake Mallard, is a selfish gloryhound who only cares for the limelight just like himself, ignoring that the new actor is clearly an Ascended Fanboy who wants to live up to the original show, and that Starling's attempt to upstage Mallard was what caused the accident that turned him into Negaduck.
  • In Gargoyles, this is one of Demona's many, many, many problems. She tends to assume that all other Gargoyles want to Kill All Humans (untrue), and that, given the opportunity, anyone she allies with is itching to betray her- when in reality, she's usually the first and only person in any given situation to think of treachery. Demona's inability to understand motives more altruistic than her own is one of the biggest reasons she spends the series desperately, wretchedly alone, having caused the deaths of basically everyone she ever really cared about because she couldn't stop mistrusting others.
  • Harley Quinn (2019) : In season 2, Harley and crew have to deal with Mr. Freeze. When Harley finds out that his wife, Nora, is sick, she projects her Mad Love issues with The Joker onto the two of them. She assumes that he is a misogynistic Control Freak like Joker and that Nora’s not really sick. She thinks that he doesn’t really love her and that he just keeps her as a Human Popsicle to control her. It's quite telling that most of everyone around her, including fellow villains, think she's nuts. Of course, the truth is that Mr. Freeze loves Nora more than anything else in the world and respects her as an equal. When Harley's involvement jeopardizes her health and he has to give his life to cure Nora, Harley realizes she was projecting her own failures onto them before a distaught Nora tells them to Get Out!.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Twilight's Kingdom" (parts 1 and 2). Discord ends up assuming Tirek appreciates their "friendship" as much as he does, but it turns out Tirek only wanted to use Discord for his own benefit.
  • Rick and Morty: Some of the stuff Rick Sanchez accuses his opponents of doing (while valid) could equally be said of his own actions and behaviour:
    • In "Something Ricked This Way Comes", he mocks Mr. Needful (The Devil) for his Faustian Jackass Genie shtick but most of Rick's own devices and contraptions work in similar ironic fashion. Such as giving a device that can make Snuffles understands humans while knowing that it would eventually lead the dogs to be Turned Against Their Masters. The Mr. Meeseeks box meanwhile does create a friendly fellow to help you out, though Rick warns it only does simple errands (it only became problematic because Jerry was not that good at golf though one could assert that he was too specific for his request while Summer and Beth's were more open-ended.) Most of the times his simple contraptions to help the family only complicates their lives. However, the big difference is that while Mr. Needful does it out of a sense of pleasure for ironic punishments, Rick's contraptions seem to be more his carelessness.
    • In "Vindicators 3", he mocks the superhero group for keeping a sidekick as a Tagalong Kid just to make themselves look cooler in the eyes of the gullible, but that applies to his dynamic with Morty, where he drags Morty against his will into crazy adventures mostly to prove how awesome he is and prevent his grandson from idolizing anyone but himself. Toxic Rick proves this to Toxic Morty by openly invoking A God Am I and insisting how dumb Morty is in comparison to him. To be fair, unlike the Vindicators, Rick actually needs Morty in his adventures, due to the fact that Morty's brain waves block Rick's thus making Rick impossible to be tracked down, and Morty Took a Level in Badass from partaking in Rick's adventures. Though the reasons why Rick drags Morty along are mostly selfish.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: When Adora defects from the Horde and Catra decides to stay behind, this perceived betrayal hits Catra hard, and she uses any opportunity she can to justify her assumptions about it. She thinks that Scorpia was shunned by the other princesses for looking different, is quick to believe Adora abandoned Entrapta, and calls Adora out for treating her as a sidekick. There are some elements of truth in all those, but it's clear she's jumping on whatever allows her to think the worst of Adora and princesses in general.
  • South Park: Cartman has a habit of perpetuating his narcissism by pinning the blame onto others, most commonly Kyle, who he accuses of being sneaky, greedy, and selfish on the basis of being Jewish despite those traits fitting Cartman much better. This is most blatant in Season 21, where Cartman frequently mocks and emotionally abuses his girlfriend Heidi, but convinces himself that because she wants to talk about her feelings, that makes her the abuser. In "Put it Down," he claims that he only stayed in a relationship with her because she threatened suicide, but it soon comes out that Cartman was the one who threatened suicide because Heidi wanted to dump him.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Deal No Deal" makes it clear that Rafa Martez, who constantly gets herself and her sister Trace embroiled in shady business out of self-interest, engages in this. She accuses Ahsoka of befriending Trace out of some ulterior motive, incapable of believing someone could act selflessly for someone they only just met. Meanwhile, Rafa is pressuring Trace into a mission of dubious legality while keeping her in the dark about the details.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • It quickly becomes apparent that Darth Maul is projecting his relationship with his deceased brother/apprentice Savage onto Ezra, constantly assuming that Ezra will think and act like Savage, while repeatedly slipping into calling Ezra "brother".
    • "Steps Into Shadow": When the Bendu tells Kanan that he brings conflict with him, Kanan immediately assumes he's talking about the Sith holocron, even though the Bendu made clear that it's Kanan causing imbalance in the Force. Later, Kanan pins the fear he's feeling on the krykna, then Ezra, before realizing it's his own.
  • In Steven Universe, Pearl has done this, particularly in "Sworn to the Sword", where she ended up (temporarily) indoctrinating Connie into the mindset that she was "nothing" compared to her liege, Steven, and that to protect him she needed to be willing to put herself into hopelessly dangerous situations and even die for him without hesitation. It is revealed that during the war, Pearl "took great pride" in giving her life for Rose Quartz, using herself as a shield and getting needlessly "killed" numerous times despite Rose being much stronger than her and fervently objecting to Pearl senselessly putting herself in danger.

    Real Life 
  • There's a Spanish proverb, "cree el ladrón que todos son de su condición", that translates to "the thief believes everyone is like him".
  • Hell, the whole point of the Audience Surrogate is this trope.
  • Fandom Rivalry often takes form in this, especially when particularly toxic parts of a fandom get involved and Fan Hater is invoked. It's not uncommon for people to complain and accuse the fans of the rival work of the very same things they themselves do, even in the same breath.
  • Common romantic advice: 9 times out of 10, the partner who's overly concerned with your faithfulness to the relationship is the one cheating on you.
  • If one has interacted with people with extreme bigotry, it's easy to notice this as a means used to morally justifying their views. To them, their bigotry is justified because the people they're bigoted against (IE, another race, gender, sexual identity, etc.) are the real bigoted ones, so it's completely OK to vote against them having rights and hate them. They also assume that moderates and people in their group who aren't bigoted are just lying and secretly, everyone hates the other side and are just being too polite/cowardly to admit it. The idea of not being racist/sexist/homophobic/etc is completely alien to them, so they simply don't believe that there are people who genuinely believe in equality.


Video Example(s):


Who's the Panty Thief?

A panty pervert accuse Kira of stealing panties, assuming he's there for the same reason he is. Unfortunately for him, Kira isn't a panty thief, he's a super powered serial killer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / PsychologicalProjection

Media sources:

Main / PsychologicalProjection