Selective Perception

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Selective perception is a cognitive bias.

Selective perception is “the tendency for expectations to affect perception.” This can manifest as a tendency to ignore stimuli which contradict convictions and cause discomfort. This can be seen when a person is presented with a body of new information and they only select the parts which confirm their previously held beliefs, while also ignoring the parts which may contradict the previously generated convictions.

This bias is closely related to the hostile media effect. Allegedly a study found that viewers of a violent football game were being affected by selective perception while viewing what was happening in the game. This resulted in one group of fans accusing the opposing team of numerous game violations of which the fans that supported that team did not see.

Here is what Seymour Smith, a recognized advertising researcher who located evidence for selective perception in the 1960s, has to say about it; it is “a procedure by which people let in, or screen out, advertising material they have an opportunity to see or hear. They do so because of their attitudes, beliefs, usage preferences and habits, conditioning, etc.”

How do we avoid giving into the cognitive bias of selective perception? How do we avoid seeing more errors than there really are in people we don’t care much for? How do we avoid overlooking errors in people we support?

I suggest familiarizing yourself with as much information as possible. Gain an understanding that people are people, nobody here is perfect. Develop ways to think beyond distorted images. Grasp the facts.

This applies to places and events as well. To highlight the good parts while blocking out the bad. Eliminating selective perception from your biases helps when examining people, places, and events.

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