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stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. Through the perceptual process, we gain information about properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival. Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment. The Percep tu al Pr ocess The perceptual process is a sequence of steps that begins with the environment and leads to our perception of a stimulus and an action in response to the stimulus. The En vir onmen ta l Sti mulus The world is full of stimuli that can attract our attention through various senses. The en vir onmen ta l stimu lus is everything in our environment that has the potential to be perceived. In tro duc ti on a nd Pu rp ose Perception seems to be an elusive term to define. The mere concept of perception appears to be common sense on its surface, but proves difficult to comprehend the deeper one examines the idea. In fact, perception can be perceived in several different ways. The purpose of this paper is to: • • • • define and explore the concept of perception, list factors that influence perception, define and investigate selective perception and its elements and discuss selective perception's relevance to the profession of advertising.
A Defin it ion o f Percep ti on In large part, the extent of a discussion of perception is determined by the definition one uses in their discussion. For the purposes of this paper, the author will use a definition proposed by Forgus and Melamed: "the process of information extraction." (1976) Forgus and Melamed based their description of perception on cognitive structures. These are the processes that determine how humans interpret their surroundings. Humans interpret their surroundings on a "higher" level than those of animals, which perceive the world in terms of stimulus-response or reflex-tropistic actions. Humans, on the other hand, perceive their world through information processing. Because all humans extract information from their environment through the same general process, Forgus and Melamed proposed that scientists must pursue the concept of perception by the avenue of information processing. This approach makes perception the central step in the acquisition of knowledge and higher thought. Perception is the "superset," composed of learning, memory and thinking as "subsets" of perception. This understanding requires a more in-depth understanding of the relationship between learning and perception. Le arnin g Ch ang es Percep ti on Because of the assumption that learning is a subset of perception, it must also be assumed the process of learning affects the perception of the individual. Learning is defined by Forgus and Melamed as "the process by which this information is acquired through experience and becomes part of the organism's storage of facts in memory." (1976) These stored facts in memory then facilitate increased perception by the individual. The chain begins at the stimulus affecting the individual, which triggers learning, which furthers thought. The following graphic demonstrates this.
As shown in the previous graphic, thinking is considered the highest perceptual process. Thinking is defined as the process occuring when an individual is solving problems. Forgus and Melamed's definition of perception links thinking, learning and perception. This idea of perception as being composed of learning, memory and thinking helps to explain the development of an individual's higher concepts such as language and mathematics, which affect the individual's ability to further perceive their environment. For example, a baby's perception of the world is initially limited to physical stimuli such as touch, light
and sound. These stimuli help the baby learn to process items about their surroundings, which in turn lead to higher thought as the baby continues to develop through childhood and into adulthood. Com po nents o f Percep ti on are R ela te d It is important to understand that each process is not independent of the others in this model. All three components (learning, memory, thought) are subsets of perception. Information extraction cannot occur without these building blocks. It is also important to understand that this model is a two-way model. As learning leads to thinking, further thought reinforces learning. Perception is cyclical. There are several factors that can influence one's perception, which are listed by Severin and Tankard (1997), Scott and Brydon (1997) and Rice (1993). These factors are both external and internal. These are what draw attention to a subject. A discussion of each factor follows.
Exter nal F actors on Per cept ion
• Bac kgr oun d Background provides the backdrop upon which humans make perceptions. For instance, in the figure to the right, it may be difficult at first to see the word sly because the background is different from what one typically expects. Backgrounds can also include noisy rooms or smoky air. • Ex tensi ty Extensity refers to an item's size. People generally notice larger items over smaller objects. Given the same color or presentation, a larger item will be seen before a proportionately smaller item. • In tensi ty Intensity concerns how high above the required threshold level of perception a stimulus is. For instance, a more vividly colored photograph tends to draw attention over a muted portrait. According to Weber's Law, a stimulus must at least reach the just noticeable difference in intensity before the individual will perceive a change. (Rice 1993) • Concre teness Abstract ideas are more difficult to understand than concrete examples. Concrete ideas explain concepts better and generally receive more perceptual attention than abstract ideas by reducing complexity. • Cont ras t Underlined typeface draws attention because of contrast; it is different than the text surrounding it. As defined by Rice, contrast "can create apparent intensity of stimulus without utilizing size, loudness or colour." Contrast is different only when considered in its context. • Novelty What is not typical draws attention. Differences in what is considered unusual can complicate this influence on perception. However, all humans notice what is not expected over the mundane. • Repet it io n Although repetition may also dull one's senses, in its initial stages repetition draws attention by repeating the stimulus. So long as that stimulus is not regularly expected, it may increase the odds for perception. • Vel oc ity Motion tends to draw attention over stationary objects. Perceived movement may be actual or--in the case of art or photography--simulated. • Cond it io ned S timul i Certain stimuli are ingrained into human attention. Examples of these are telephone and doorbell rings, sirens and flashing lights. Even though these stimuli are often repeated, they do not lose their effects because humans have become so attuned to them. In tern al F act or s on P erce pt ion • Mot iv at io n Exhaustion makes humans more aware of the need for rest. Hunger alerts the desire for food. Any time a person is motivated by an internal stimulus, they are more likely to perceive items related to that stimulus. • In terest People in the market for a new vehicle are more likely to notice automobile advertisements. When an individual's interest is high for a specific item, that item is more likely to be perceived.
Need Need similarly draws attention to those items which are needed. Gasoline is necessary for driving, so when the fuel in a vehicle is low the driver naturally notices gas stations.
Assu mp ti ons Human assumptions can sometimes affect perception. Severin and Tankard give the following example: [The monocular distorted room] is constructed so that the rear wall is a trapezoid, with the vertical distance up and down the left edge of the wall longer than the vertical distance up and down the right edge of the wall. The rear wall is positioned at an angle so that the left edge is farther back than the right edge. This angle is carefully selected so that the room will appear to be an ordinary rectangular room to an observer looking through a small hole at the front of the room. If two people walk into the room and stand in the rear corners, something interesting happens. The one on the right appears to a viewer looking through the hole to be very large because he or she is closer to the viewer and fills most of the distance from the floor to the ceiling. The one on the left appears to be very small because he or she is farther away and fills less of the distance from the floor to the ceiling. This illusion occurs because the mind of the viewer is assuming that the rear wall is parallel to the front wall of the room. This assumption is based on prior experience with other rooms that looked similar.
The Con cep t o f Selec tiv e Percep ti on Now that a baseline understanding of perception has been set out, the concept of selective perception can be explored. It may first be beneficial to provide a definition of selective perception. Selective perception occurs when two different individuals perceive a stimulus in different ways. For example, George W. Bush may be perceived by one person to be a conservative Republican, but be perceived by another as a moderate Republican. According to Assael, selective perception operates at two levels: a higher and a lower. In the case of a high-level case of selective perception humans selectively choose or expose themselves to information that confirms previous beliefs or helps them make informed choices. Low-level selective perception occurs when humans block out information to avoid overload. (1992) Selective perception serves at least two purposes.
1. Perce pt ua l vigi la nce leads individuals to the information they need or desire. Humans are constantly bombarded
by information from millions of internal and external sources per day. Selective perception allows the individual to sort through the sensory data--either consciously or subconsciously--in order to choose the most relevant information. This is crucial to low-level processes.
2. Perce pt ua l de fense helps individuals avoid cognitive dissonance by highlighting information that is contrary to
firmly-held beliefs and may be rejected. In the case of politics, this explains why most registered Democrats and Republicans tend to vote for candidates within their party: they reduce cognitive dissonance by rejecting messages from the opposition, even though those messages may be truthful. Just as perception is a superset to learning, memory and thought, selective perception is a superset to various other components. The various elements of selective perception are: • • • • selective exposure selective attention selective comprehension selective retention
Sele ct iv e exp osure Selective exposure is a result of deliberate human selection of input. Research shows that individuals have a predisposition towards certain stimuli in which they are interested or partial to. In fact, this reinforces the idea of selective perception. A study conducted by Bradley Greenberg showed a statistical significance between exposure to numerous media and individuals who believed they were on the winning side of an election. Those who believed they were on the losing side of the election responded that they were exposed to fewer media. It may be inferred that the "winners" were reinforcing their beliefs by pursuing more media information, while the "losers" were avoiding cognitive dissonance by exposing themselves to less mass communication. (1965) Sele ct iv e a tten ti on
Selective attention provides awareness of supportive information and avoidance of information that is perceived negatively. It does so by selecting the elements from a situation that will be allowed to exert an influence on the perceiver, and focusing attention on those elements. (Silverman 1970) Selective attention is a low-level aspect of selective perception. Sele ct iv e c om prehensio n This element of selective perception interprets information so that it confirms previously held beliefs and attitudes. Selective comprehension is a high-level aspect of selective perception. Sele ct iv e reten ti on This is the memory aspect of selective perception. It is through this mechanism that information selected in the previous steps is stored for later retrieval. Generally this information is given preference to information that does not fall in line with previously held beliefs and attitudes. Sum ma ry It is important to understand that consumers will not perceive the same message from all marketing communications. Therefore, the study of selective perception is important in order to make each message reinforce positive images in current users' minds. Understanding selective perception is useful in the following ways. • Reinf or cin g Curren t Percep ti ons Studies of perception clearly indicate that there is a cyclical process involved in perception. A product that reinforces positive images in a consumer's mind makes the continued assumption of that position easier. Likewise, a product that does not reinforce positive marketing messages well (i.e., a poor product) creates dissonance in the consumer's mind and risks being perceived in a poorer light than competitors. The stimulus (good or bad) leads to learning, thinking and memory concerning the product. This is the consumer's perception of the product. • Buil ding Br an d Ima ge One key issue is how to maintain and/or develop the brand image in the consumer's mind when they may selectively choose not to perceive a certain marketer's product. Many answers to this problem may be found in the various factors influencing perception. Also, the product must reinforce the desired perception in the consumer's mind. • Com munic at in g to Targe t M ark ets Assael (1992) writes that marketers should clearly mention their products benefits in advertising if the target is welldefined. The selective perception principle behind this belief is perceptual vigilance. The clearly-defined target market will already be looking for information regarding the marketer's product, so it is important to include the information in which that target market is interested. • Ch oo sing Messa ge Type Selective perception may explain some advertiser's seemingly ambiguous marketing communications. These are the advertisements that cause people to say, "What does 'Wassup' have to do with beer?" Ambiguous messages allow the consumer to perceive the message in their own way to reinforce their already-held beliefs about that product. On the other hand, unambiguous advertisements will either have a positive or negative influence; there is no leeway for interpretation. Therefore, one group of consumers who have a positive image of Budweiser will be able to identify with certain aspects of the Wassup commercials in a way that reinforces their perception of the product, and an entirely different group of consumers--who also have a positive image, but not necessarily the same image--will identify with different aspects of the commercials to reinforce their beliefs. (Assael 1992) It is hoped that this discussion will improve the understanding of the process of selective perception, both in the author's mind as well as any reader's mind. Selective perception is a well-documented psychological phenomenon and should be understood by the professional advertiser. Perce pt io n Intr odu ct ion In order to receive information from the environment we are equipped with sense organs eg eye, ear, nose. Each sense organ is part of a sensory system which receives sensory inputs and transmits sensory information to the brain. A particular problem for psychologists is to explain the process by which the physical energy received by sense organs forms the basis of perceptual experience. Sensory inputs are somehow converted into perceptions of desks and computers, flowers and buildings, cars and planes; into sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch experiences. A major theoretical issue on which psychologists are divided is the extent to which perception relies directly on the information present in the stimulus. Some argue that perceptual processes are not direct, but depend on the perceiver's expectations and previous knowledge as well as the information available in the stimulus itself. This controversy is
discussed with respect to Gibs on (1966) who has proposed a direct theory of perception which is a 'bottom-up' theory, and Greg ory (1970) who has proposed a constructivist (indirect) theory of perception which is a 'topdown' theory. Psychologists distinguish between two types of processes in perception: bottom-up processing and top-down processing. Bottom- up pr ocess ing is also known as data-driven processing, because perception begins with the stimulus itself. Processing is carried out in one direction from the retina to the visual cortex, with each successive stage in the visual pathway carrying out ever more complex analysis of the input. Top -do wn pro cessin g refers to the use of contextual information in pattern recognition. For example, understanding difficult handwriting is easier when reading complete sentences than when reading single and isolated words. This is because the meaning of the surrounding words provide a context to aid understanding. Wha t is P ers on ali ty? Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Whether we realize it or not, these daily musings on how and why people behave as they do are similar to what personality psychologists do. While our informal assessments of personality tend to focus more on individuals, personality psychologists instead use conceptions of personality that can apply to everyone. Personality research has led to the development of a number of theories that help explain how and why certain personality traits develop. “Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal condition of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination.” - Carl Gustav Jung, 1934 Com po nents o f Perso na li ty While there are many different theories of personality, the first step is to understand exactly what is meant by the term personality. A brief definition would be that personality is made up the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person unique. In addition to this, personality arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life. Some of the fundamental characteristics of personality include: • • • • • Consis tenc y - There is generally a recognizable order and regularity to behaviors. Essentially, people act in the same ways or similar ways in a variety of situations. Ps ych ol og ic al an d physio lo gi ca l - Personality is a psychological construct, but research suggests that it is also influenced by biological processes and needs. Im pa ct behavi ors an d act io ns - Personality does not just influence how we move and respond in our environment; it also causes us to act in certain ways. Mu lt iple expressio ns - Personality is displayed in more than just behavior. It can also be seen in out thoughts, feelings, close relationships, and other social interactions. interactions.
Theo ries of P ers on ali ty There are a number of different theories about how personality develops. Different schools of thought in psychology influence many of these theories. Some of these major perspectives on personality include: • • • Type the or ies are the early perspectives on personality. These theories suggested that there are a limited number of "personality types" which are related to biological influences. Trait the ories viewed personality as the result of internal characteristics that are genetically based. Ps ych od yna mi c theo ries of personality are heavily influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, and emphasize the influence of the unconscious on personality. Psychodynamic theories include Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stage theory and Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Behavioral theories suggest that personality is a result of interaction between the individual and the environment. Behavioral theorists study observable and measurable behaviors, rejecting theories that take internal thoughts and feelings into account. Behavioral theorists include B. F. Skinner and John Watson. Humanist theories emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality. Humanist theorists include Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
No two people are exactly the same - not even identical twins. Some people are anxious, some are risk-taking; some are phlegmatic, some highly-strung; some are confident, some shy; and some are quiet and some are loquacious. This issue of differences is fundamental to the study of personality. Note also that in studying these differences we will also examine where the differences come from: as with intelligence we will find that there is a mixture of nature and nurture involved. Perspectives on personality that we’ll be examining... • • • • • • Trait Perspective Biological Perspective Psychoanalytic Perspective Learning Perspective Phenomenological Perspective Cognitive Perspective
Lay us age o f the te rm " pers ona li ty" We use the term personality frequently but what does it actually mean? “She has a wonderful personality.” “He has no personality.” “He has personality plus.” “We seem to have a personality conflict.” “It’s just her personality.” “She has her mother’s personality.” “He’s a real personality.” Pers on ali ty c omes fro m the Greek wor d "p erso na ", mean ing " mas k" The word ‘personality’ derives from the Latin word ‘persona’ which means ‘mask’. The study of personality can be understood as the study of ‘masks’ that people wear. These are the personas that people project and display, but also includes the inner parts of psychological experience which we collectively call our ‘self’. "I" is for pers on al ity According to Adams (1954, cited in Schultz & Schultz, 1994) personality is “I”. Adams suggested that we get a good idea of what personality is by listening to what we say when we use "I". When you say I, you are, in effect, summing up everything about yourself - your likes and dislikes, fears and virtues, strengths and weaknesses. The word I is what defined you as an individual, as a person separate from all others.” (Schultz & Schultz, 1994, p.8) "I am" ex ercise Write 10 honest endings to "I am..." Share them with someone Does this sum up your personality? Why or why not? Var ious de fini ti ons of pe rso na lity • • • • • • • "Deceptive masquerade or mimicry." "The entire organization of a human being at any stage of development." "Levels or layers of dispositions, usually with a unifying or integrative principle at the top." "The integration of those systems or habits that represent an individual’s characteristic adjustments to the environment." "The way in which the person does such things as remembering, thinking or loving." "Those characteristics that account for consistent patterns of behaviour" "Personality is not an existing substantive entity to be searched for but a complex construct to be developed and defined by the observer." (Smith & Vetter, 1982, p.5)
Cl ar ifi ca ti on o f the d if feren ce bet ween d isp osi ti ons, t rai ts , & types Sometimes you see the terms “dispositions”, “traits" and "types" used interchangeably. However, personality traits and types are really part of the broader dispositional perspective on personality, albeit the largest part. A dispositional approach to personality emphasizes • • • • “qualities that people carry around with them, that are somehow part of them” (Carver & Scheier, 2000, p.54) “a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character” consistently found (across people and over time) dimensions of thinking, behavior and feeling allow people individuals to be placed in a continuum with respect to different traits (e.g, introversion-extraversion, neuroticism-emotional stability) categoric descriptions of characteristic patterns of thinking, behavior and feeling e.g., (Type A personality vs. Type B personality)
Personality traits are:
Pers on ali ty types ref ers t o: •
Two ma jor , unde rlyin g assu mp ti ons There are two major assumptions underlying a dispositional approach: 1. STABILITY of personality People display consistency in their actions, thoughts, and feelings BETWEEN situations and OVER time. In other words, unpredictability is the exception rather than the rule (i.e. unpredictability doesn’t define the essence of personality). Note that some psychologists, such as social psychologists, would argue that too much emphasis is placed on the stability of personality. The idea behind this assumption is that YOU ARE THE SAME PERSON YOU USED TO BE AND WILL BE IN THE FUTURE. 2. DIFFERENCES between people. The composition of dispositions varies from person to person. Each person’s personality consists of a pattern of dispositional qualities which form a unique combination in each person. Underlying all these typologies are four personality traits (functions): Ex trov ers ion ( E) -- - In trov ers ion ( I) Do you recharge your energy via external contact & activity (Extroversion) or spending time in your inner space (Introversion)? In tui ti on (N ) -- - Sensin g (S ) Do you rely on your inner voice (Intuition) or observation (Sensing)? Thinkin g (T) - -- Feelin g (F ) When making decisions, what do you rely most on? Your thoughts or your feelings? Jud gemen t (J ) --- Percep ti on (P ) Do you tend to set schedules and organize your life (Judgement), or do you tend to leave the options open and see what happens (Perception)? Type A / B Pers ona li ties Meyer Friedman, an American cardiologist, noticed in the 1940's that the chairs in his waiting room got worn out from the edges. They hypothesized that his patients were driven, impatient people, who sat on the edge of their seats when waiting. They labelled these people "Type A" personalities. Type A personalities are work-aholics, always busy, driven, somewhat impatient, and so on. Type B personalities, on the other hand are laid back and easy going. "Type A personality" has found its way into general parlance. Streng ths & li mit ati ons o f pers ona li ty types Type theory in general has been criticized as over-simplistic because it overlooks the multi-dimensional and continuous nature of personality traits. Also, some would say that Individual Differences may be qualitative not quantitative. That is that there may be a difference in the qualities that people possess rather than, as trait theory would have us believe, we all possess certain traits it’s just a case of how much or how little we possess (the quantity).
A key strength of the personality type approach, I think, is its simple applicability and person-centered relevance. It can be particularly useful to complete personality type profiles for helping improve how people get along in relationships and at work.
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