Organizational Behavior

Why perceptions vary from person to person?

A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. These factors can reside:

  1. In the perceiver
  2. In the Object or target being perceived or
  3. In the context of the situation in which the perception is made.

1. Characteristics of the Perceiver

Several characteristics of the perceiver fan affect perception. When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she stands for, that interpretation is heavily influenced by personal characteristics of the individual perceiver. The ‘major characteristics of the perceiver influencing perception are:

  •  Attitudes: The perceiver’s attitudes affect perception. For example, Mr. X is, interviewing candidates for a very important position in his organization – a position that requires negotiating contracts with suppliers, most of whom are male. Mr. X InaY feels that women are not capable of holding their own in tough negotiations. TO attitude with doubtless affect his perceptions of the female candidates he interviews.
  • Moods: Moods can have a strong influence on the way we perceive someone, wthink differently when we are happy that we do when we are depressed. In addition, we remember information that is consistent with our mood state better than information that is inconsistent with our mood state. When in a positive mood, we form more positive impressions of other. When in a negative mood, we tend to evaluate others unfavorably.
  • Motives: Unsatisfied needs or motives stimulate individuals and may exert a strong influence on their perceptions. For example, in an organizational context, a boss who is insecure perceives a sub ordinate’s efforts to do an outstanding job as a threat to his or her own position. Personal insecurity can be translated into the perception that others are out to “get my job”. regardless of the intention of the subordinates.
  • Self – Concept: Another factor that can affect social perception is the perceiver’s self-concept. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person. In contrast, a negative self-concept can lead a perceiver to pick out negative traits in another person. Greater understanding of self-allows us to have more accurate perceptions of others.
  • Interest: The focus of our attention appears to be influenced by our interests. Because our individual interests differ considerably, what one person notices in a situation can differ from what others perceive. For example, the supervisor who has just been reprimanded by his boss for coming late is more likely to notice his colleagues coming late tomorrow than he did last week.
  • Cognitive structure: Cognitive structure. an individual’s pattern of thinking also affects perception. Some people have a tendency .to perceive physical traits, such as height, weight. and appearance. more readily. Cognitive complexity allows a person to perceive multiple characteristics of another person rather than attending to just a few traits.
  • Expectations: Finally, expectations can distort your perceptions in that you will see what you expect to see. The research findings of the study conducted by Sheldon S Zalking and Timothy W Costello on some specific characteristics of the perceiver reveal
  1. Knowing oneself makes it easier to see others accurately.
  2. One’s own characteristics affect the characteristics one is likely to see in other.
  3. People who accept themselves are more likely to be able to see favorable aspects of other people.
  4. Accuracy in perceiving others is not a single skill. These four characteristics greatly influence how a person perceives other as the environmental situation.

2. Characteristics of the Target

Characteristics of the target that is being observed Can affect what is perceived. Physical appearance pals a big role in our perception of others. Extremely attractive or unattractive individuals more likely to be noticed in a group than ordinary looking individuals. Motions, sound, size and other attributes of a target shape the way we see it. Verbal Communication from targets also affects our Perception of them. Nonverbal communication conveys a great deal of information about the target. The perceiver deciphers eye contact, facial expressions, body movements, and posture all in an attempt to form an impression of the target.

3. Characteristics of the Situation

The situation in which the interaction between the perceiver and the target takes place has an influence on the perceiver’s impression of the target. The strength of the situational cues also affects social perception. Some situations provide strong cues as to appropriate behavior. In this situation, we assume that individual’s behaviors can be accounted for by the situation and that it may not reflect the individual’s disposition.