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Selective perception

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(Expert) Selective perception may refer to any number of cognitive biases in psychology related to the way expectations affect perception.

For instance, several studies have shown that students who were told they were consuming alcoholic beverages (which in fact were non-alcoholic) perceived themselves as being "drunk", exhibited fewer physiological symptoms of social stress, and drove a simulated car similarly to other subjects who had actually consumed alcohol. The result is somewhat similar to the placebo effect.

In one classic study on this subject related to the hostile media effect (which is itself an excellent example of selective perception), viewers watched a filmstrip of a particularly violent Princeton-Dartmouth College American football game. Princeton viewers reported seeing nearly twice as many rule infractions committed by the Dartmouth team than did Dartmouth viewers. One Dartmouth alumnus did not see any infractions committed by the Dartmouth side and erroneously assumed he had been sent only part of the film, sending word requesting the rest.

Selective perception is of two types:


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  • Hastorf, A. H. & Cantril, H. (1954). They saw a game: A case study. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49, 129-134.

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de:Selektive Wahrnehmung
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