What is Selective Perception: Definition, Types & Examples

Last Update on May 25, 2023 : Published on June 12, 2022

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you were completely right, when you simply ignored all the red flags that were telling you otherwise? If yes, that’s selective perception. Selective perception is a cognitive distortion which makes you ignore information around you and shifts your attention to things your mind tells you to.

What does the mind tell you? Our mind is indeed very cunning. In case of selective perception, your kind will pull strings from your preconceived thoughts, expectations, past experiences, values, desires, etc. and will divert your attention to specifically these things and not of the information available to you at ground.

Selective perception, just like selective mutism, stops you from a free and unbiased comprehension and use of your perception. Selective mutism is governed by your anxiety and selective perception is governed by a distortion in your cognitive abilities.

Let’s explore a little more about selective perception

Selective Perception: Definition

Selective perception is a mental process which makes you pay attention to things you feel are right, completely ignoring the indicators of you being wrong. You very conveniently ignore things that aren’t in favor of what you feel is right.

Selective perception can also take place in case of the presence of stimulus that triggers emotional discomfort. You choose to ignore or easily forget about the things that are capable of causing you emotional pain or discomfort.

For example, you completely ignore the fact that you had an argument with your partner only because you are scared of an emotionally draining confrontation.

Selective Perception Theory


The selective perception theory states that we select, categorize and analyze the various stimuli around us, to add meaning to things happening around us. While we are in the process of forming meaningful experiences, through selective perception we ignore all the stimuli that do not fit in or contradict our beliefs, values, desires or expectations.

The selective perception theory basically states that we have the ability to consciously or unconsciously ignore certain stimuli while we perceive things around us. Conscious selective perception looks like ignoring certain colors or photographs or even sound for that matter. Whereas unconscious selective perception is when your brain blocks information based on your past experiences, beliefs and desires.

Selective perception: Psychology

The psychology behind selective perception is that you have a tendency to perceive only those things that excite you and don’t pay attention to any information that is pointing out the opposite. Selective perception psychology tells us that the process of optimizing our resources (cognitive) and shifting focus only to those things that we expect to happen is called selective perception.

Selective perception psychology also answers, “Why would someone engage in selective perception?” you engage in selective perception (consciously or unconsciously) only when certain stimuli are disturbing and difficult to handle and have the ability to because you pain, disappointment or discomfort.

Selective perception is also one of the guiding forces that make you ignore your disturbing feelings and thoughts. It stops you from confronting your own feelings and emotions which lead you to developing various mental health related illnesses and issues like anxiety, depression, unresolved trauma, etc.


Selective Perception Types

There are two types of selective perception, namely, perceptual vigilance and perceptual defense. Let’s give them a quick look;

1. Perceptual vigilance: this selective perception type is when your selective perception is not very high in degree. Perceptual vigilance is referred to the process of identifying or recognizing all those stimuli that in some way or the other are significant to you.

2. Perceptual defense: this type of selective perception is a process of ignoring or creating barriers in between you and certain stimuli that you think are potential threats to you. You do this to protect yourself by alienating yourself from certain information or stimuli.

Also read: What Is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder? Is It Curable

Selective Perception Examples

If you have read this far, I’m sure you must have completely understood what selective. Here are a few examples of selective perception which will clear all remaining doubts you may have about this concept.

Examples 1. you are left in charge of selecting a team for a soccer game coming up next week which you need to win by all means. The team can be a combination of both boys and girls and you end up selecting more boys than girls only because you expect boys to be better than girls in soccer. That’s selective perception based on your expectations, beliefs or even bias

Examples 2. The placebo effect is one of the best examples of selective perception. Do you recollect a time when you were ill and even having a meeting with the doctor made you feel better? It’s because you expect to heal or to be cured in a hospital. That’s again selective perception.

Examples 3. For example you have had cough or fever for a week now and you put it on the weather or say that you can taste and smell things just to avoid getting yourself tested for Covid and having the report to be positive. This is also selective perception, to be specific it is a type of selective perception, perceptual defense.

Examples 4. For example, in order to avoid completing your assignment you keep yourself busy in doing other things by telling yourself that they are more important than your assignments. This is again a very simple example of selective perception.

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about selective perceptions interesting and informative. Do share this blog with your friends and family so that we can all keep a check on our selective perceptions and don’t let this cognitive distortion make us take the road to declining mental health.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

Next Read:

9 Daily Habits You Should Adopt To Make Better Decisions In Life

Analysis Paralysis: Is It A Barrier In Making Decisions?

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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