Cognitive existence is the given form of what a person is interpreted by other people or society. The apparent appearance may be identical, but the personality or the physical capabilities can be vastly different than the original. A cognitive existence is not to be confused with a Shadow Self, though one's Shadow Self can also take on properties based on other people's interpretation of the person.
A precursor to the cognitive existence concept is introduced in the Persona 2 duology, where several entities are created seemingly from nothing by the power of widespread rumors about them, such as the entirety of the Last Battalion. This includes "false" versions of existing people, such as the ghost of Akinari Kashihara in the clock tower of Seven Sisters High School and the ghost of the (still living) Maya Amano encountered in the caves of Mt. Iwato.
The party's own Shadow Selves are likewise "created" through rumors spread about the party by the Masked Circle, though these copies are shown to be genuine reflections of their counterparts.
In Persona 4, the Shadow Selves of the main cast likewise take on elements of cognitive existence, with their appearances and mannerisms being exaggerated or distorted based not on the person's own repressed traits, but how other people watching the Midnight Channel interpret them.
Cognitive existences appear in the Palaces of their respective hosts. They are the embodiment of what the hosts perceive them in reality. A cognitive existence can be "killed" in the Palace with no consequence to its origin in reality but would appear again if its creator desires it such as the case of cognitive Ann.
- Kamoshida's Palace:
- Madarame's Palace:
- Portraits of Ichiryusai Madarame's disciples: Profitable assets
- Guests: The devoted fanbase to Madarame's stolen glory.
- Kaneshiro's Palace:
- ATM humans: Cash dispensers for Junya Kaneshiro's own greed.
- Futaba's Palace:
- Okumura's Palace:
- Shido's Palace:
- Cognitive Goro Akechi: Obedient and dispensable puppet to handle the dirty works for Masayoshi Shido.
- Party guests: The wealthy and powerful people Shido personally knows and actually cares about. It's remarked several times that they seem almost real rather than automatons, indicating Shido's charisma and ability to read people. Five of them are so similar to their real selves that they have fused with the actual Shadow Selves of the people they represent, serving as guardians to the Palace's inner sanctum.