The Four Types of Perceptual Distortion

Table of Content

Perceptual distortions are based on an observer’s prior expectations that affect his perceptual inference.(Nour, M. & Nour, J. ,2017) Following are the four types of perceptual distortions

Stereotyping: Stereotyping depends on the way an embodiment of group was processed perceptually. The observer’s perception of treating certain female faces in a way or contextually, a black face triggering guns only response in comparison to the face primes for other race. Implicit stereotyping on the basis of gender, race may depend on existence of other enabling circumstances.(Ito & Tomelleri, 2017). The entailment of information processing by an individual as per his perception leads to unfortunate by-product in forms of stereotyping and prejudiced thinking. (Dixon, 2017).

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Halo effects: There are perceptual distortions which occur due to moods, attitudes and feelings of individuals. It affects the choices made by an individual as they are obscured by the role of perceptions. Consumer researchers have used the analysis of these halo effects to identify the subject’s tendency to maintain impartial consistency while considering a brand.(Holbrook,1983)

Selective Perception: Selective perception is bias towards particular individuals, or culture of people due to inherent ‘favoritism’ perception. There can be ethnocentric bias whose basis is racism, directed to minimize or marginalize actions of certain groups (Mills,1997). Discrimination or racial bias came under strict scrutiny when US Supreme Court ruled in 1989, that legitimacy of government policies would undergo judicial test if they were based on any kind of racial bias towards any group of people (Noue, 1995). Even though the ruling laid foundation of rooting out selective perception, inherent bias and racial bias still exists in the current generation of individuals.

Projection: This kind of bias is also called “false-consensus” effect where individuals who engage in particular attitude, perceive or assume the prevalence of same kind of attitude in others (Rebellon & Modecki, 2013). Projection bias is also observed amongst financial advisors. They perceive risk tolerance of clients to be consistent and stable over time and situations. This practice is essentially projectile bias and this assumption is still widely held even today although risk tolerance needs to be measured on an on-going basis (Grable, Lytton & Oneill, 2004).


  1. Nour, M. M., & Nour, J. M. (2017). Perceptual distortions and deceptions: What computers can teach us. BJPsych Bulletin, 41(1), 37-40. doi:10.1192/pb.bp.115.052142
  2. Ito, T. A., & Tomelleri, S. (2017). Seeing is not stereotyping: The functional independence of categorization and stereotype activation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(5), 758-764. doi:10.1093/scan/nsx009
  3. Dixon, J. (2017). ‘Thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant?’ Transcending the accuracy-inaccuracy dualism in prejudice and stereotyping research. British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(1), 4-27. doi:10.1111/bjso.12181
  4. Holbrook, M. B. (1983). Using a Structural Model of Halo Effect to Assess Perceptual Distortion Due to Affective Overtones. Journal of Consumer Research, 10(2), 247. doi:10.1086/208963
  5. Mills, G. Y. (1997). Is it is or is it Aint: The Impact of Selective Perception on the Image Making of Traditional African Dance. Journal of Black Studies, 28(2), 139-156. doi:10.1177/002193479702800201
  6. Noue, G. R. (1995). Selective Perception: The Role of History in the Disparity Study Industry. The Public Historian, 17(2), 13-20. doi:10.2307/3378123
  7. Rebellon, C. J., & Modecki, K. L. (2013). Accounting for Projection Bias in Models of Delinquent Peer Influence: The Utility and Limits of Latent Variable Approaches. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 30(2), 163-186. doi:10.1007/s10940-013-9199-9
  8. Grable, J., Lytton, R., & Oneill, B. (2004). Projection Bias and Financial Risk Tolerance. Journal of Behavioral Finance, 5(3), 142-147. doi:10.1207/s15427579jpfm0503_2

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