Selective perception

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To selective perception ( English selective perception ) is in psychology when the perception by limited, different or unilateral attention in terms of the offered information or stimuli is limited.


The selection of information , the selective perception, individual interpretation and the degree of activity in the acquisition of sensory impressions are characteristic of the perception process . The perception of humans is necessarily selective, because from the multitude of objects and situations certain ones are chosen which correspond to the needs and experiences of the individual. In addition, the thalamus in the diencephalon ensures that the information and stimuli are filtered , especially in the event of information overload or overstimulation . The image that someone makes of the reality surrounding them is therefore always an individual variant of reality. Selective perception is therefore all information actually perceived from the wealth of available information.

Selective perception is also based on the ability to recognize patterns , a fundamental function of the human brain . The brain is constantly on the lookout for patterns in order to better classify new information into existing information. Selective perception is the - mostly unconscious - search for a specific pattern. This is necessary in order to be able to cope with the wealth of information at all. Arguments that support one's own position are perceived more strongly than those that damage it.

Factors influencing perception

In mathematical terms, the amount of information or stimuli available is greater than that registered through selective perception:


From the point of view of communication science , selective perception occurs when the messages sent by a sender are less than 100% perceived by the recipient . Selective perception means that only a small fraction of the stimuli that people are exposed to receive their attention. It is not selective perception when the sender withholds information. The organic restrictions that, for example, human auditory perception can only register frequencies between 16 and 20,000 Hertz, are not selective perception either.

A “perception filter” ensures that the information actually perceived is always less than what is offered. In particular, needs , confirmation errors , attitudes , experiences , the law of attraction , interests , knowledge , stimulus filtering , self-fulfilling prophecy or the self-reference effect play a major role.

  • Needs : For example, those who are hungry are more likely to perceive food than other people. If you want to send a letter , you suddenly see a mailbox on the way that you hadn't noticed before.
  • Verification errors are the tendency to select, determine, and interpret information in such a way that it meets (affirms) one's own expectations . Views and opinions solidify more and more, opposing perceptions are faded out.
  • Attitudes such as optimism or pessimism : the optimist is more likely to recognize situations that reinforce his positive attitude, the pessimist tends to notice situations that confirm his negative attitude. Those who particularly value cleanliness are more likely to notice a small stain on their own or someone else's clothing.
  • Experiences influence perception by the fact that new perceptions that can be associated with positive past experiences are processed more quickly than those associated with negative experiences.
  • The law of attraction is based on the assumption that like associates with like. People only see what they know and what fits into their self-image . Whether it is about working relationships , acquaintances or friendships , everyone only perceives that and attracts exactly what they send out.
  • Interests ( personal goals , company goals ): Anyone who has a professional problem and is studying specialist literature about it, for example , will simply “skim over” them and focus their attention on key words that are related to the solution to their problem.
  • Knowledge : A detective observes random criminal incidents in his private life with greater attention than other citizens. He observes the perpetrator , the victim , the course of events and the means of the crime more closely because his professional knowledge suggests that he take a closer look.
  • Stimulus filtering causes focused attention. People with hypersensitivities and undersensitivities find it difficult to focus their attention appropriately.
  • Self-fulfilling Prophecy : Confirmation errors can lead to someone unconsciously helping to make their expectations come true.
  • The self-reference effect makes it easier for people to remember those events that are related to their own self-concept . In this way, the self-concept can influence selective perception.

As a result of these criteria, the same information or the same stimulus is perceived very differently by several people.

Selective perception can also facilitation ( English priming ) or framing ( German  "framing" ) are caused.


The tendency to perceive selectively is present in all people, but not uniformly pronounced. The more closed types ( English closed minded ) feel dissonance basically as bad and are always looking for consonance . You run the risk of clinging to wrong previous decisions through one-sided selection of information or of behaving incorrectly in new situations. The open-minded ( English open minded ) likewise strive for consonance, however, they are quite willing to work with dissonant cognitions deal.

In everyday life

Selective perception plays a role in purchasing decisions , risk perception and advertising , among other things .

Due to the transparency of the market , an economic subject has a lot of information and stimuli available for purchase decisions, which are more or less taken into account depending on the degree of mental control and psychological activation from spontaneous purchases (mostly cheap goods ) to extensive purchase decisions ( luxury goods ). Risk perception is influenced by risk attitudes . The risk aversion increases potential risks rather than the true risk-lovers , the risk exists only at greater risk; this is selective perception. Among other things, advertising uses selective perception by offering only those stimuli that grab the consumer's attention. This is particularly successful through suggestive advertising in order to attract the consumer's attention.

It is also possible that the phenomenon of gaze guidance in traffic can be traced back to selective perception.


Deviating from the psychological phenomenon described , one often speaks of "selective perception" in the vernacular when a person is fixated on a certain topic, his life priorities are shifted, he only filters out certain information and statements on this topic - for him a stimulating topic - perceives more intensely and no longer recognizes other information with the same priority at all or only sparsely noticed it, as if he had on glasses that only let certain spectral colors through, here the aspects of his "stimulus topic". He only perceives what he thinks he sees in it, while everything else is faded out.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

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