Deutsch: Selektivität / Español: Selectividad / Português: Seletividade / Français: Sélectivité / Italiano: Selettività

Selectivity in the psychology context refers to the process or capacity of focusing attention or cognitive resources on specific stimuli, information, or tasks while ignoring others. This concept is fundamental in various areas of psychological research and theory, particularly in studies of attention, memory, and decision-making. Selectivity allows individuals to prioritize and process relevant information in the face of numerous stimuli and information in their environment, which is crucial for effective cognitive functioning and adaptation.


Selectivity involves mechanisms such as selective attention, selective perception, and selective memory, which enable individuals to filter out irrelevant or distracting information. This process helps in optimizing cognitive resources, enhancing learning, and improving decision-making. It also plays a critical role in emotional regulation by allowing individuals to focus on positive aspects or coping strategies in challenging situations.

Application Areas

  • Cognitive Psychology: Studies how selectivity influences attention, perception, and memory processes.
  • Social Psychology: Examines how selectivity in perception and memory affects interpersonal interactions, stereotypes, and attitudes.
  • Clinical Psychology: Investigates the role of selectivity in disorders such as ADHD, where there is a deficit in selective attention, or in anxiety and depression, where there may be a bias towards negative information.

Well-Known Examples

A well-known example of selectivity in psychology is the "Cocktail Party Effect," which describes the ability to focus one's auditory attention on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli, much like when a person can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room.

Treatment and Risks

Issues with selectivity, such as difficulties in filtering out distractions, can impact learning, productivity, and social interactions. In clinical settings, strategies to improve selective attention and cognitive control are often part of treatment for conditions like ADHD. Conversely, an overemphasis on negative information, a phenomenon known as "negative bias," can contribute to anxiety and depression, where therapeutic interventions may aim to modify these selective attention patterns.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Selective attention
  • Cognitive selectivity


Selectivity in psychology refers to the process of focusing cognitive resources on specific aspects of the environment while ignoring others. It is a crucial mechanism in attention, perception, and memory that enables individuals to navigate their complex environments efficiently. Understanding selectivity has significant implications for cognitive and social psychology, as well as for clinical practices aimed at addressing disorders related to attention and information processing biases.


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