Wishful Seeing: How Preferences Shape Visual Perception

David Dunning, Emily Balcetis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


People assume that they perceive the world as it really is. In this article, we review research that questions this assumption and instead suggests that people see what they want to see. We discuss classic and current research demonstrating wishful seeing across two perceptual tasks, showing that people categorize ambiguous visual information and represent their environments in ways that align with their desires. Further, we outline when and how wishful seeing occurs. We suggest directions for future research in light of historical trends and contemporary revisions of the study of wishful seeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-37
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • categorization
  • distance perception
  • motivation
  • visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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