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Selective Perception

 

Explanations > Theories > Selective Perception

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

We will tend to perceive things according to our beliefs more than as they really are, and react accordingly.

This is how placebos work. We will also ‘become’ drunk when we drink what we believe is alcohol.

Research

Hastorf and Cantril (1954) surveyed opposing sides of a particularly rough Princeton vs. Dartmouth football match to find perceived cause. Unsurprisingly, people took partisan views, strongly believing that the other team was the cause of the violence.

Wilson and Abrams (1977) found that people’s heart rate changed in the same way as when drunk when talking to an attractive member of the opposite sex after taking what they had been told was alcohol (but was not).

Example

Any book which is published will have been read possibly hundreds of times, including by professional proof readers. And yet grammatical and other errors still get into print. Why? Because the mind is very kind and corrects the errors that our eyes see.

So what?

Using it

Beware of showing people 'compelling evidence' when their beliefs will still turn them away. Keep the evidence for when they are wavering.

Defending

Believe what you see. Beware of your beliefs getting in the way of truth.

See also

Automatic Believing, Schema, Personal Validation Fallacy

References

Hastorf and Cantril (1954), Wilson and Abrams (1977)

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