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This question occured to me as I was walking along the street today. I saw two fashionable-looking women on the street ahead of me. One of them pointed to something outside of my field of view, and said "Oh look, Katy's Boutique!" When I turned to look, I saw no boutique, but I did see a branch of the bank HSBC, which made me realize that the woman must have said "Oh look, HSBC!"

Now, maybe I'm wrong here, but I can't imagine that I would have heard "Katy's Boutique" if I had seen two men rather than two women. It seems that my preconceptions caused me to interpret the same stimuli differently.

Have any studies been done on this? How well known is the effect, and can we say anything quantitative about it?

share|improve this question
The subject of filling in for missing information is definitely well studied. This is part of constructive perception. Contextual influence upon perception is called the contextual effect. Each of these subjects is mentioned in the other's Wikipedia article. So, they seem be connected, and I would assume that they have been well studied, if you search for these terms. – John Yetter Mar 15 '14 at 7:38
You may also want to look into implicit bias, which is generally defined as the propensity of the human system to make different assumptions about other people's actions, intentions, etc., based on stable and irrelevant attributes such as race, gender, appearance, etc. – Krysta Mar 20 '15 at 12:05

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