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Closing the Gap: How Desire Affects Perceptions of Distance -
September 11, 2010
We often assume we see our physical surroundings as they actually are. But new research suggests that how we see the world depends on what we want from it. People see desirable objects as physically closer than less desirable ones, according to a study. When psychologists Emily Balcetis asked people to estimate how far away a bottle of water was, those who were thirsty guessed it was closer than nonthirsty people did. This difference in perception showed up in a physical challenge, too. As the brain evolved, people who saw distances to goals as shorter might have gone after what they wanted more often. This error in perception was actually an advantage, leading people to get what they needed—and, perhaps, survive more often than their more accurate counterparts. “Seeing water as closer when you’re thirsty might make it a little more likely you’ll try to go get it,” Balcetis says -
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