Seeing Only What We Want to See: How Selective Perception Impacts Buying Homes, Furniture and More
I hate to say it, but I’ve had selective perception to some degree with every home I’ve bought over the decades and definitely some furniture purchase. I went into these buying situations knowing all about it but yet, it keeps on happening.
Even though it’s almost impossible to avoid with big purchases, it’s worth being aware of it.
The thing is when you’re shopping for a big purchase like a house or furniture, it’s easy to fall in love at first sight. You walk into a home with polished wood floors and tall ceilings filled with natural light. Or sit on a plush velvet sofa you can practically sink into. Everything looks beautiful – it’s like a staged photo shoot from a magazine!
Let’s not forget these days some homes are staged to the nines looking fabulous… clean, no clutter and immaculate.
In the moment, it can feel like you’ve found the perfect piece. But our brains have a sneaky way of showing us only what we want to see at first. It’s called selective perception and it happens more than we realize when house hunting or furniture shopping.
What is Selective Perception?
Selective perception refers to a subconscious process where we focus on certain details while ignoring others. It causes us to form judgments based on limited or biased information. When our minds are set on a decision, we highlight details that confirm it while dismissing conflicting data.
For example, say you find a house with an inviting front porch and spacious kitchen – features high on your wish list. You may selectively focus on these aspects and tune out flaws like the outdated bathroom or worn carpet. In a furniture store, you zero in on a plush couch but overlook flaws in the fabric or wobbly legs.
Selective Perception in House Hunting
House hunting is an emotional rollercoaster. You’re not just buying a property; you’re investing in a dream. Selective perception often kicks in, painting a rosy picture that overshadows potential issues. You might overlook the busy road noise in favor of the enchanting fireplace or ignore the outdated plumbing due to the home’s charming exterior.
This effect is compounded by the “halo effect,” where one outstanding feature can cast a positive light over the entire property, masking issues that you might only notice after settling in.
The Furniture Fallacy
Furniture shopping is another arena where selective perception plays a significant role. In a showroom, a sofa might look perfect, but once it’s in your living room, it’s suddenly too large, too stiff, or clashes with your decor. The ambiance of a well-staged showroom can enhance our perception, making us commit to pieces that might not suit our long-term needs.
The Causes Behind Selective Perception
There are a few key factors that contribute to selective perception when making big purchases:
- Emotional attachment – If you feel excited about a house or piece of furniture, you’re likely to overlook imperfections and see it through rose-colored glasses. We subconsciously highlight details that confirm our positive feelings.
- Confirmation bias – When assessing options, we favor information that reinforces our existing beliefs. If you think you’ve found “the one,” you’ll selectively focus on evidence that proves you right.
- Information overload – When faced with too many options and details, our brains simplify things by organizing information into patterns based on our expectations. We cling to details that fit the narrative we’ve created.
- Time constraints – Pressured to make a quick decision, we take mental shortcuts. Instead of weighing all factors, we latch onto a few convincing details that help us make up our minds.
Why It Matters?
Selective perception causes us to overlook important details when buying major items. If you’re focused on a few standout features, you may miss problems that come up later like:
- Hidden repairs needed on a home’s roof, foundation, or electrical and plumbing systems
- Poor quality materials and craftsmanship on furniture that leads to early wear and tear
- Design flaws in floor plans or furniture layout that become inconvenient over time
These issues often don’t reveal themselves right away. So, if you buy based on selective perception, you risk making an expensive mistake.
Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to Selective Perception
While we can’t totally switch off our biased brains, there are things we can do to counter selective perception when shopping:
- Take your time – Don’t rush into a purchase. Give your brain space to weigh all factors, not just the eye-catching ones.
- Bring someone objective – A friend or expert who isn’t emotionally invested can spot details you overlook.
- Ask targeted questions – Dig for info on potential downsides like insulation, roof age, return policies, etc.
- Watch for red flags – Train your eye to spot flaws as well as features. Pay attention if multiple issues cluster in one area.
- Review the fine print – Look for clauses about conditions, warranties, exclusions, delivery fees, etc.
- Sleep on it – Step back from major purchases for a day or two to gain perspective. The initial excitement often fades.
- Focus on facts over feelings – Stick to tangible evidence like inspection reports instead of how you feel when imagining the purchase.
With big-ticket items, it pays to slow down and broaden your view. Looking past the initial wow factor can reveal issues that selective perception causes us to miss at first glance. But if you stay objective and do your due diligence, you’ll avoid buyer’s remorse down the road.