This may explain, for example, why people on different sides of an argument remember wildly different aspects of the confrontation.
Without realizing it, people will perceive things according to how they want to see them, a new study suggests.
“There is an age old hypothesis in psychology that a person’s wishes, hopes and desires can influence what they see,” said David Dunning, Cornell University psychologist and co-author of the study. “This theory had lay dormant for about 40 years, though, without any supporting evidence. We wanted to test the murky waters again.”
In five separate tests conducted by Dunning and a graduate student, Emily Balcetis, 412 volunteers from Cornell were presented with an ambiguous picture that could be interpreted as two distinct figures—either a horse’s head or the body of a seal, for example. They were told they would be assigned to a taste test of either fresh-squeezed orange juice or a gelatinous, clumpy and rather unappealing veggie smoothie, depending on whether they saw a farm animal or sea creature.
More often than not the participants chose the figure that would lead them to the juice.