What is the term for perceiving issues which don't exist having been informed of a problem.

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When people are aware of a problem they're more likely to report that they're experiencing that issue; e.g. hypochondriacs will assume they have bird flu if there are announcements about it in the news.

We recently reported to users that we were temporarily running on our disaster recovery servers, and were told that some users had complained of performance problems, though our monitoring shows that performance has actually (slightly) improved, and the reports relate to a part of the system which wasn't affected. As such we're pretty confident it's just perception rather than reality.

I think there's a term for this. It's similar to a "false memory", "confirmation bias" and "hypochondria"; though none of those terms is exactly suitable.


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    I can only think of "self-fulfilling prophecy," but this seems less suitable than the three expressions you exclude. – cobaltduck Mar 31 '16 at 17:02
  • OK, so the idea is that they expect fail-over servers NOT to work as well, right? I would call that: misplaced negative expectation. They expect the fail-over NOT to work, in fact, it works better. – Lambie Mar 31 '16 at 17:05
  • the term DISASTER RECOVERY certainly doesn't help, although it is clearly standard parlance. Maybe "backup" servers would have been better. – Brad Mar 31 '16 at 17:26
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    It's not "autosuggestion" either, but it seems like it's headed that direction. – Dɑvïd Mar 31 '16 at 19:23
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    I'd say "false perception" is closer than "false memory", but it still doesn't carry any association with a trigger. – PellMel Mar 31 '16 at 21:30

Selective Perception seemed the most appropriate; though the more general term Cognitive Bias would also be appropriate.

Selective Perception: The tendency for expectations to affect perception.

Full list of Cognitive Biases can be found here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

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I'd like to suggest that you're attempting to delve too far into psychology for what you truly understand just from your own description. I can offer an alternative explanation for observing this behavior that contradicts any of the ones you deemed related:

Users reported performance problems when told we were running on backups because performance was the only thing they weren't sure was working correctly. It was easier for users to report this issue than to test for it accurately.

Rather than pass judgements about why they did this consider a term and wording that sticks to what you know:

Informing our users that we were temporarily running on disaster recovery servers biased them to report performance issues.

This way you've only reported what you've observed.





  1. prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

"there was evidence of bias against foreign applicants"

synonyms: prejudice, partiality, partisanship, favoritism, unfairness, one-sidedness; bigotry, intolerance, discrimination, leaning, tendency, inclination, predilection, casteism

"he accused the media of bias"

  1. in some sports, such as lawn bowling, the irregular shape given to a ball.


  1. cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something.

"readers said the paper was biased toward the conservatives"

synonyms: prejudice, influence, color, sway, weight, predispose; distort, skew, slant

"this may have biased the result"

prejudiced, partial, partisan, one-sided, blinkered;

bigoted, intolerant, discriminatory;

distorted, warped, twisted, skewed

"a biased view of the situation"

  1. give a bias to.

"bias the ball"

google: bias

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  • Thank-you. Agreed that for communications it's best to avoid any such terminology; this question's more out of personal curiosity, – JohnLBevan Apr 1 '16 at 7:24

It may be that your users believe in the

domino theory

dom′ino the`ory


  1. a theory that a particular event will precipitate similar ones elsewhere. Also called domino effect, domino reaction.


Because one thing went wrong they expect other things to go wrong. Traditionally this term comes from the realm of politics rather than psychology.

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  • Thanks @CandiedOrange. This isn't quite it as generally domino theory means cause and effect rather than cause and psychologically induced perception-of-event or perceived-relationship-with-unrelated-event. – JohnLBevan Apr 1 '16 at 17:53
  • I think you're forgetting that the only reason you know they are wrong is because you're you and not them. Are you expecting them to have perfectly objective perception? – candied_orange Apr 2 '16 at 0:23
  • I agree that from their perspective this would appear to be the domino effect (or more simply, cause and effect). However the question is regarding the term from my perspective. – JohnLBevan Apr 2 '16 at 9:28

While I agree that @JohnLBevan's suggestion of Selective Perception is most fitting, there's also "hyper-awareness" as a related concept.

Schultz described it best:

enter image description here

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