The Spotlight fallacy, or sampling bias is when one assumes the same properties for all instances of a subject or object when a particular instance in focus has those traits. In other words, the observer is only aware of what one example of a object/subject is like, because it's the one that has the spotlight shining on it, lighting it up, and assumes the rest are the same. It's similar confirmation bias, except the person isn't aware of the "misses". This happens frequently in the mainstream media, as one subject or another is addressed.
- Bob watches the news, and every time New York appears in a news report, the scene is that of a paved sidewalk. Bob concludes that all of New York is paved sidewalk.
- Many Christians see select clips of atheists on TV, and assume all atheists are the same as the ways the atheists are represented.
- An atheist may assume all Christians are morons because that's the only type he/she has encountered.