Wishful seeing: More desired objects are seen as closer

Emily Balcetis, David Dunning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although people assume that they see the surrounding environment as it truly is, we suggest that perception of the natural environment is dependent upon the internal goal states of perceivers. Five experiments demonstrated that perceivers tend to see desirable objects (i.e., those that can fulfill immediate goals-a water bottle to assuage their thirst, money they can win, a personality test providing favorable feedback) as physically closer to them than less desirable objects. Biased distance perception was revealed through verbal reports and through actions toward the object (e.g., underthrowing a beanbag at a desirable object). We suggest that seeing desirable objects as closer than less desirable objects serves the self-regulatory function of energizing the perceiver to approach objects that fulfill needs and goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Distance perception
  • Motivation
  • New look
  • Perception
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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