What you think you see is what you get. What factors contribute to inferences we make about reality and what are the consequences of making (and believing in) those inferences? My research investigates the effects of cognitive structuring principles on mental representations of the world around us.
One line of research examines this question by looking at how people classify things under different conditions. For example, does it matter if we're in a more abstract or a more concrete mindset when learning a new category? In a recent study, people first did a short exercise that got them thinking either more abstractly or more concretely. Then, they learned two categories. After they had learned the categories, they classified new items that were equally likely to fit in either category but that had some features that stood out visually. In a concrete mindset, people consistently used those salient features to classify, even though the items were just as likely to belong in one category as the other. In an abstract mindset, however, they showed no bias toward salient features, suggesting that they understood and used the deeper structure of the categories they had learned.
Other lines of research include investigating the effects of perspective (your personal reference point) on distance estimates and looking at how people use information about one group of things to understand another group when they have more examples from the first group than the second.
We are inundated with data on a daily basis, and factors that influence how we organize and use that information—often without our explicit awareness—are critical to a better understanding of how people navigate their environment and interact with one another.