How we filter external events that determine our decisions

When looking at our pre-programming as humans, most of us live by "internally pre-programmed" rules set by other people! Our parents, teachers, influencers when young and many other factors.

When we make decisions in business, these are based on external factors and events that come in and are then channeled through our pre-set filters.

External event comes in throughout sensory input channels and it is filtered and we process the event. As we process the event, we delete, distort, and generalise the information that comes in, according to any number of several elements that filter our perception.


Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience and not others. We then overlook or omit others. Without deletion, we would be faced with much too much information to handle with our conscious mind.


Distortion occurs when we make shifts in our experience of sensory data by making misrepresentations of reality. In Eastern philosophy there is a well-known story of distortion in the rope versus snake analogy. A man walking along the road sees what he believes to be a snake and yells “SNAKE.” However, upon arriving at that place he is relieved as he discovers that what he sees is really only a piece of rope.

Distortion also helps us in the process of motivating ourselves. The process of motivation occurs when we actually distort the material that has come into us that has been changed by one of our filtering systems.


The third process is generalization, where we draw global conclusions based on one or two experiences. At its best, generalization is one of the ways that we learn, by taking the information we have and drawing broad conclusions about the meaning of the effect of those conclusions.

Normally, the conscious mind can only handle 7 (plus or minus 2) items of information at any given time. Of course, many people can’t even handle this number, and I know people who are a “1 (Plus or minus 2).” How about you? Try this: Can you name more than 7 products in a given product category, say cigarettes? Most people will be able to name 2, maybe 3 products in a category of low interest and usually no more than 9 in a category of high interest. There is a reason for this. If we didn’t actively delete information all the time, we’d end up with much too much information coming in. In fact, you may have even heard that psychologists say that if we were simultaneously aware of all of the sensory information that was coming in, we’d go crazy. That’s why we filter the information.

So, the question is, when two people have the same stimulus, why don’t they have the same response? The answer is, because we delete, distort, and generalize the information from the outside.