You are on page 1of 11

CHAPTER 1.

Perception

PERCEPTION
Meaning and Definition of Perception
Human beings are constantly attacked by numerous sensory stimulations including noise, sight, smell, taste etc, The critical question in the study of perception is why the same universe is viewed differently by different persons? The answer is the perception. Different people perceive the universe differently. Perception is the process through which the information from outside environment is selected, received, organized and interpreted to make it meaningful to us. Perception is the process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment According to Kolasa, Perception is selection and organization of material which stems from the outside environment at one time or the other to provide the meaningful entity we experience. According to S.P. Robbins, Perception may be defined as a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment. According to Joseph Reitz, Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling.

Features of Perception
From the above discussion, we can identify the features of perception as follows: i) Perception is the intellectual process through which a person selects the data from the environment, organizes it, and obtains meaning from it. ii) Perception is a basic cognitive or psychological process. The manner in which a person perceives the environment affects his behavior. Thus, people's actions, emotions, thoughts, or feelings are triggered by the perception of their surroundings. iii) Perception is a subjective process and different people may perceive the same environmental event differently based on what particular aspects of the situation they choose to absorb, how they organize this information, and the manner in which they interpret it to obtain the understanding of the situation.

Importance of Perception
1) Perception is very important in understanding the human behavior, because every person perceives the world and approaches the life problems differently. Whatever we see or feel is not necessarily the same as it really is. It is because what we hear is not what is really said, but what we perceive as being said. When we buy something, it is not because it is the best, but because we take it to be the best. Thus, it is because of perception, we can find out why one individual finds a job satisfying while another one may not be satisfied with it. 2) If people behave on the basis of their perception, we can predict their behavior in the changed circumstances by understanding their present perception of the environment. One person may be viewing the facts in one way which may be different from the facts as seen by another viewer. 3) With the help of perception, the needs of various people can be determined, because people's perception is influenced by their needs. Like the mirrors at an amusement park, they distort the world in relation to their tensions. 4) Perception is very important for the manager who wants to avoid making errors when dealing with people and events in the work setting. This problem is made more complicated by the fact that different people perceive the same situation differently. In order to deal with the subordinates effectively, the managers must understand their perceptions properly.

Perception (Chapter 1.5)

B - 65

Thus, for understanding the human behavior, it is very important to understand their perception, that is, how they perceive the different situations. Peoples behavior is based on their perceptions of what reality is, not on reality itself. The world as it is perceived is the world that is important for understanding the human behavior.

Components of Perception
Perception is a process of sensory organs. The mind gets information through the five sense organs, viz., the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. The stimulation coming to these organs may be through action, written messages, oral communication, odor, taste, touch of the product and people. The perception starts with the awareness of these stimuli. Recognizing these stimuli takes place only after paying attention to them. These messages are then translated into action and behavior.
Stimuli 1) Overt Environment i) Physical, ii) Socio-cultural iii) Work relation Covert or Internal Environment i) Sensor ii) Self Attention Sensory and Neural Mechanisms Recognition Mediators and Physical organisms Translation Response organism Decisions

2)

Satisfaction Expectation and Performance Evaluation

Performance Action Satisfaction Reaction Retrospection

Behavior Overt Physical Action Covert Mental State

Figure: Components of Perception

1) Stimuli: The receipt of information is the stimulus which results in sensation. Knowledge and behavior depend on senses and their stimulation. The physical senses used by people are vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Intuitions and hunches are known as the sixth sense. These senses are influenced by a larger number of stimuli which may be action, information, consideration and feelings, etc. 2) Attention: Stimuli are selectively attended to by people. Some of the stimuli are reacted to while others are ignored without being paid any attention. The stimuli that are paid attention depend purely on the peoples selection capacity and the intensity of stimuli. During the attention process, sensory and neural mechanisms are affected and the message receiver becomes involved in understanding the stimuli. Taking employees to the attention stage is essential in an organization for making them behave in a systematic and required order. 3) Recognition: After paying attention to the stimuli, the employees try to recognize whether the stimuli are worth realizing. The messages or incoming stimuli are recognized before they are transmitted into behavior. Perception is a two-phase activity, i.e., receiving stimuli and translating the stimuli into action. However, before the stage of translation, the stimuli must be recognized by the individual. The recognition process is dependent on mental acceptability. 4) Translation: The stimuli are evaluated before being converted into action or behavior. The evaluation process is translation. In the above example, the car driver after recognizing the stimuli uses the clutch and brake to stop the car. He has immediately translated the stimulus into an appropriate action. The perception process is purely mental before it is converted into action. The conversion is translation. 5) Behavior: Behavior is the outcome of the cognitive process. It is a response to change in sensory inputs, i.e., stimuli. It is an overt and covert response. The behavior of employees depends on perception which is visible in the form of action, reaction or other behavior. The behavioral termination of perception may be overt or covert. The overt behavior of perception is witnessed in the form of physical activities of the employees and covert behavior is observed in the form of mental evaluation and self-esteem.

B - 66

Thakurs MBA First Semester HB (Organizational Behavior)

6) Performance: Proper behavior leads to higher performance. High performers become a source of stimuli and motivation to other employees. A performance-reward relationship is established to motivate people. 7) Satisfaction: High performance gives more satisfaction. The level of satisfaction is calculated with the difference in performance and expectation. If the performance is more than the expectation, people are delighted, but when performance is equal to expectation, it results in satisfaction. Several stimuli are observed everyday by individuals. They confront these stimuli, notice and register them in their minds, interpret them and behave according to their background and understanding. Employees confronted with stimuli select only a few stimuli of their choice and leave other stimuli unattended and unrecognized. Factors influencing the selective process may be external as well as internal, organizational structure, social systems and characteristics of the perceiver.

Perception and Sensation


Sensation is the response of a physical sensory organ. The physical senses are touch, vision, hearing, smell and taste. These senses are affected by stimuli continuously. The stimuli may be both internal and external to the human body and reaction in a particular sense organ takes place because of these. Examples of sensation may be reaction of eye to color, ear to sound, and so on. These examples show that sensation deals with very elementary behavior that is largely determined by physiological functioning. Perception is something more than sensation. It correlates, integrates and comprehends diverse sensations and information from many organs of the body by means of which a person identifies things and objects the sensation relates to. Perception classifies the stimuli based on past experience (learning), feeling, and motives. Thus, perception is determined by both physiological and psychological characteristics of the organism. However, sensation only activates the organs of the body and is not affected by psychological factors as learning and motives. The following statement further clarifies the difference between the two. By means of my eye, I see, but it is not my eye but I who see, and I tend to see an object in its totality, a thing or event with certain qualities, with a figure and form set against a back-ground. Thus, in seeing, both sensation and perception are involved. The activity of eyes to see an object is sensation, while the interpretation of what is seen is perception. Difference between Sensation and Perception
1) 2) Sensation Sensation is a simple mental process. By sensation, the person just becomes cautious of the quality of stimulus; he just becomes aware of the stimulus like color, form, shape, smell, etc. The person is comparatively inactive in sensation. Perception Perception is comparatively a complex mental process. By perception, he derives meaning of the stimulus.

3)

4) 5)

The first experience of stimulation is sensation. Sensation is broader concept.

He becomes more active in perception because he tries to know the meaning of sensation in this process. The process related to the distinct knowledge of stimulus is perception. Perception is narrow concept.

Perceptual Process
Perception is a process consisting of several sub-processes. We can take an input-throughput-output approach to understand the dynamics of the perceptual process. This approach emphasizes that there is input, which is processed and gives output. The stimuli in the environment subjects, events, or people can be considered as the perceptual inputs. The actual transformation of these inputs through the perceptual mechanisms of selection, organization, and interpretation can be treated as the throughputs, and the resultant opinions, feelings, attitudes, etc., which ultimately influence our behavior, can be viewed as the perceptual outputs. The whole perceptual process can be presented as follows:
Perceptual inputs Stimuli Perceptual Mechanisms ReceivingSelectingOrganizingInterpreting Perceptual Process Perceptual outputs Action

Perception (Chapter 1.5)

B - 67

1) Perceptual Input/Stimuli: The first process in the perceptual processes is the presence of stimuli like people, objects, events, information etc. Though the presence of stimulus is necessary for perception, it is not the actual process of perception. Nevertheless the perception process cannot start in the absence of stimuli. 2) Perceptual Mechanism: The actual perception process starts with the receipt of information, or data (of stimuli) from various sources. The receipt of stimuli is a psychological aspect of the perception process. And most perceptual inputs are received from various sensory inputs. One sees things, hears them, smells, tastes, or touches them and learns other aspects of the things. Thus, reception of stimuli is a physiological aspect of perception process. 3) Selection of Stimuli: After receiving the stimuli or data, some are selected for further processing while others are screened out because it is not possible for a person to select all stimuli for processing to attach meaning, which he receives from the environment. Perceptual selectivity refers to the tendency to select certain objects from the environment for attention such that these objects are consistent with our existing beliefs, values and needs. Without this ability of selection, the individuals will not be able to consider all available information necessary to initiate behavior. This selectivity is enhanced by two related processes. First, it is believed that our senses are activated only by a certain type of stimuli so that some stimuli may go unnoticed if these are not strong, bright or loud enough to activate our senses. Second process, known as sensory adaptation relates to our ability to tune out certain stimuli to which we have been continuously exposed. For example, a new home owner near an airport might be excessively bothered by the noise, but such noise does not bother those who have been living there for a long time and have been exposed to this noise over this long period. Thus many objects or stimuli are stopped from entering our perceptual system by the above two processes. All the remaining stimuli must compete for attention. Various external and internal factors influence our process of stimuli selection. These factors have been discussed earlier in the chapter under the heading of factors influencing perception. 4) Organization of Stimuli: After the data have been selected, these are organized in some form in order to make sense out of them. Such organization of stimuli may take the form of figure-ground, grouping, simplifications, and closure. These factors have been discussed below under perceptual organization. 5) Action: The last phase of the perceptual process is that of acting in relation to what has been perceived. This is the output aspect of perceptual process. The action may be covert or overt. The covert action may be in the form of change in attitudes, opinions, feelings, values, and impression formation resulting from the perceptual inputs and throughputs. The overt action may be in the form of behavior easily visible.

Factors Influencing Perception/Perceptual Selection of Stimuli


Individuals may look at the same thing, yet perceive it differently? A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. These factors include: 1) Characteristics of the Perceiver (Internal Factors) 2) Characteristics of the Target or Perceived (External Factors) Factors in the Situation 3) Characteristics of the Situation
Factors in the Perceiver Self Concept Beliefs Expectations Inner Needs Response Disposition Response Salience Perceptual Defense Physical setting Social setting Organizational setting

Perception

Factors in the Target Size Intensity Contrast Repetition Novelty and Familiarity Motion Order Factors that Influence Perception

B - 68

Thakurs MBA First Semester HB (Organizational Behavior)

1) Characteristics of the Perceiver (Internal Factors) The internal factors relate to the perceiver and include such factors as learning and motivation. These factors are explained as follows: i) Self-Concept: The way a person views the world depends a great deal on the concept or image he has about himself. This concept plays an internal role in perceptual selectivity. It can be thought of as an internal form of attention-getting and is largely based on the individuals complex psychological makeup. Knowing oneself makes it easier to see others accurately. Peoples own characteristics affect the characteristics which they are likely to see in others. They select only that aspects which they find match with their characteristics. ii) Beliefs: A persons beliefs have profound influence on his perception. Thus, a fact is conceived not on what it is but what a person believes it to be. The individual normally censors stimulus inputs to avoid disturbance of his existing beliefs. This is referred to as maintenance of cognitive consistency. Katz argues that: a) An individual self censors his intake of communications so as shield his beliefs and practices from attack; b) An individual seeks out communications which support beliefs and practices; and c) The latter is particularly true when the beliefs and practices in question have undergone attack or the individual has otherwise been made of them.

iii) Expectations: Expectations affect what a person perceives. Expectations are related with the state of anticipation of a particular behavior from a person. Even in the organizational setting, expectations affect peoples perception. Thus, a technical manager may expect ignorance about the technical features of a product from non-technical people, or union officials use rough language. Such expectations may affect the perception. Though such expectations may change because of direct contact, and expectations may fall near actual but a mental set about beliefs, expectations and values filters perception and may be lasting and difficult to change. iv) Inner Needs: Peoples perception is determined by their inner needs. The need is a feeling of tension or discomfort when one thinks he is missing something or when he feels he has not quite closed a gap in his knowledge. People with different needs usually experience different stimuli. Similarly, people with different needs select different items to remember or respond to. v) Response Disposition: Response disposition refers to a persons tendency to perceive familiar stimuli rather than unfamiliar ones. Thus, a person will perceive the things with which he is familiar. For example, persons having a particular value take lesser time in recognizing the words having implications in the area of that value, but take longer time in recognizing the words not associated with value. vi) Response Salience: Response salience is the set of dispositions which are determined not by the familiarity of the stimulus situations, but by the persons own cognitive predispositions. Thus, a particular problem in an organization may be viewed as a marketing problem by marketing personnel, a control problem by accounting people, and human relations problem by personnel people. It indicates that type of response salience which people have affects their perception. The reason for this phenomenon lies in the background of the people for which they are trained. They are trained to look at the situation from one point of view only, not from other points of view. vii) Perceptual Defence: Perception defence refers to the screening of those elements which create conflict and threatening situation in people. They may even perceive other factors to be present that are not a part of the stimulus situation. Perceptual defence is performed by: a) Denying the existence or importance of conflicting information, b) Distorting the new information to match the old one, or c) Acknowledging the new information but treating it as a non-representative exception. There are empirical evidences that suggest the existence of perceptual defence mechanism. On the basis of these empirical evidences, Lawless has derived following conclusions: a) Emotionally disturbing information has a higher threshold for recognition than neutral or non-disturbing information. b) Disturbing information is likely to bring about substitute perceptions which are distorted to prevent recognition of disturbing elements. c) Emotionally arousing information actually does arouse emotion even though the emotion is distorted and directed elsewhere 2) Characteristics of the Target or Perceived (External Factors) External factors relate to the characteristics of objects or people that activate our senses and thus get our attention. Some of these external factors are:

Perception (Chapter 1.5)

B - 69

i)

Size: The larger the size of the object, the more likely that it will be noticed. We are most likely to notice things that stand out because of their size relative to other things in that area. For example, a basketball player, more than seven feet tall will stand out in a crowd. Conversely, we also become aware of the objects that are smaller in size than their surroundings. For this reason, advertising companies use large billboards and signs that capture the perceivers attention. This factor is shown below: Intensity: The intensity principle of attention states that the more intense the external stimulus is, the more likely it is to be perceived. A loud sound, strong odor or bright light is noticed more as compared to a soft sound, weak odor, or dim light. For example, based on the intensity principle, commercials on televisions are slightly louder than the regular programmes.

ii)

iii) Contrast: If an object in some way contrasts with its surroundings, it is more noticeable. For example, a warning sign in a plant, such as DANGER written in black against a yellow background would be noticed more quickly because of the contrast factor. A manager who interviews twenty women and one man for a job would remember the man first because of contrast. In the following diagram, the shaded square would be noticed first because of its contrast with other squares. iv) Repetition: A repeated message is more likely to be perceived than a single message. Work instructions that are repeated tend to be received better. Marketing managers and advertisers use this principle in order to get the customers attention. According to Morgan and King, a stimulus that is repeated has a better chance of catching us during one of the periods when our attention to a task is waning. In addition, repetition increases our sensitivity or alertness to the stimulus. In the following illustration, the letter M will be more often remembered than other letters.
M M M B M P M M G M M M M M M M M M A O

v) Novelty and Familiarity: Novelty and familiarity principle states that either a novel or a familiar external situation can serve as attention-getter. New objects or events in a familiar setting, or familiar objects or events in new setting draw better attention. For example, in job rotation, when workers jobs are changed from time to time, they become more attentive to their new jobs as compared to the previous ones. Similarly, communication in familiar jargons attracts more attention. vi) Motion: Motion principle states that a moving object draws more attention as compared to a stationary object. For example, workers may pay more attention to the materials being moved by them on a conveyor belt as compared to the maintenance needs of a machine lying next to them. Advertisers use this principle in their advertising by designing signs which incorporate moving parts, for example, commercials on televisions (moving ones) get more attention than print media. vii) Order: According to Second and Backman, the order in which the objects or stimuli are presented is an important factor influencing selective attention. Sometimes, the first piece of information among many pieces received, receives the most attention, thus making the other pieces of information less significant. Sometimes, the most important piece is left to the end in order to heighten the curiosity and perceptive attention. For example, a writer of a communication may intentionally build up to a major point by proceeding through several smaller and less important points. 3) Characteristics of the Situation: The context in which we see objects or events is important. Elements in the surrounding environment influence our perception. The time at which an object or event is seen can influence attention, as can location, light, heat, or any number of situational factors.

Perceptual Organization
While perceptual selectivity deals with the factors affecting the stimuli for further processing, perceptual organization deals with the manner in which selected stimuli are organized in order to make sense out of them. People seldom perceive a stimulus in patches. Instead, they perceive organized patterns of stimuli and identifiable whole objects. In other words, the persons perceptual process organizes the incoming information into a meaningful whole. People organize the various stimuli on the following principles given below:

B - 70

Thakurs MBA First Semester HB (Organizational Behavior)

1) Figure and Ground: Figure-Ground principle is generally considered to be the most basic form of perceptual organization. This principle simply implies that the perceived object or person or event stands out distinct from its background and occupies the cognitive space of the individual. For example, as you read this page, you see white as the background and black as the letters or words to be read. You do not try to understand what the white spaces in the middle of black letters could mean. Likewise, in the organizational setting, some people are more noticed or stand out than others. For example, an individual in the organization might try to focus his entire attention on his immediate supervisor, trying to be in his good books, completely ignoring his colleagues and how they feel about his behavior. According to this principle, thus, the perceiver tends to organize only the information which stands out in the environment which seems to be significant to the individual. 2) Perceptual Grouping: Grouping is the tendency to curb individual stimuli into meaningful patterns. For instance, if we perceive objects or people with similar characteristics, we tend to group them together and this organizing mechanism helps us to deal with information in an efficient way rather than getting bogged down and confused with so many details. This tendency of grouping is very basic in nature and largely seems to be inborn. Some of the factors underlying his grouping are: i) Similarity: The principle of similarity states that the greater the similarity of the stimuli, the greater the tendency to perceive them as a common group. The principle of similarity is exemplified when objects of similar shape, size or color tend to be grouped together. For example, if all visitors to a plant are required to wear white hats while the supervisors wear blue hats, the workers can identify all the white hats as the group of visitors. Another example is our general tendency to perceive minority and women employees as a single group. Proximity: The principle of proximity or nearness states that a group of stimuli that are close together will be perceived as a whole pattern of parts belonging together. For example, several people working on a machine will be considered as a single group so that if the productivity on that particular machine is low, then the entire group will be considered responsible even though, only some people in the group may be inefficient. The following figure demonstrates the proximity principle. The ten squares in the figure are seen as pairs of two, three, four or five depending on their nearness to each other:

ii)

iii) Closure: The principle of closure relates to the tendencies of the people to perceive objects as a whole, even when some parts of the object are missing. The persons perceptual process will close the gaps that are unfilled from sensory input. For example, in the following figure the sections of the figures are not complete, but being familiar with the shapes we tend to close the gaps and perceive it as a whole: Speaking from the point of view of an organization, if a manger perceives a worker, on the whole, a hard worker, sincere, honest, then even, if he behaves in a contradictory way sometimes (which is a kind of a gap, the manager will tend to ignore it, because it does not fit with the overall impression, that he has about the worker. iv) Continuity: Continuity is closely related to closure. But there is a difference. Closure supplies missing stimuli, whereas the continuity principle says that a person will tend to perceive continuous lines of pattern. The continuity may lead to inflexible or non creative thinking on the part of the organizational participants. Only the obvious patterns or relationships will be perceived. Because of this type of perception, the inflexible managers may require that employers follow a set and step by step routine leaving no ground for implementation of out of line innovative ideas. 3) Perceptual Constancy: Constancy is one of the more sophisticated forms of perceptual organization. This concept gives a person a sense of stability in this changing world. This principle permits the individuals to have some constancy or stability in a tremendously variable and highly complex world. If constancy were not at work, the world would be very chaotic and dis-organized for the individual. There are several aspects of constancy: i) Shape Constancy: Whenever an object appears to maintain its shape despite marked changes in the retinal image e.g. the top of a glass bottle is seen as circular whether we view it from the side or from the top.

Perception (Chapter 1.5)

B - 71

ii)

Size Constancy: The size constancy refers to the fact that as an object is moved further away from us we tend to see it as more or less invariant in size. For example, the players in cricket field on the opposite side of the field do not look smaller than those closer to you even though their images on the retina of the eye are much smaller. iii) Color Constancy: Color constancy implies that familiar objects are perceived to be of the same color in varied conditions. The owner of a red car sees it as red in the bright sunlight as well as in dim twilight. Without perceptual constancy the size, shape and color of objects would change as the worker moved about and it would make the job almost impossible. 4) Perceptual Context: The highest and most sophisticated form of organization is context. It gives meaning and value to simple stimuli, objects, events, situations and other persons in the environment. The organizational structure and culture provide the primary context in which workers and managers do their perceiving. For example, a verbal order, a new policy, a pat on the back, a raised eye brow or a suggestion takes on special meaning when placed in the context of the work organization. 5) Perceptual Defence: Closely related to perceptual context is the perceptual defence. A person may build a defence against stimuli or situational events in a particular context that are personally or culturally unacceptable or threatening. Accordingly, perceptual defence may play a very important role in understanding union-management and supervisor-subordinate relationship. Most studies verify the existence of a perceptual defence mechanism. The general conclusions drawn from these studies are that people may learn to avoid certain conflicting, threatening or unacceptable aspects of the context. The various defences may be denial of an aspect, by modification and distortion, by change in the perception, then the last but not the least is recognition but refusal to change.

Perceptual Errors and Distortion


One of the more interesting findings from attribution theory is that there are errors or biases that distort attributions. Each of these errors can lead to poor decisions and are discussed below. 1) Selective Perception: People selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interests, background, experience and attitudes. You are more likely to notice cars like your own, or why some people may be reprimanded by their boss for doing something that, when done by another employee, goes unnoticed. Since we cant observe everything going on about us, we engage in selective perception. A groups perception of organizational activities is selectively altered to align with the vested interests they represent. In other words, when the stimuli are ambiguous, perception tends to be influenced more by an individuals base of interpretation (i.e., attitudes, interests, and background) than by the stimulus itself. Selective perception allows us to speed-read others, but not without the risk of drawing an inaccurate picture. Because we see what we want to see, we can draw unwarranted conclusions from an ambiguous situation. If there is a rumor going around the office that your companys sales are down and that large layoffs may be coming, a routine visit by a senior executive from headquarters might be interpreted as the first step in managements identification of people to be fired, when in reality such an action may be utmost thing from the mind of the senior executive. 2) Halo Effect: Drawing a general impression about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic. This phenomenon frequently occurs when students appraise their classroom instructor. Students may give prominence to a single trait such as enthusiasm and allow their entire evaluation to be ruined by how they judge the instructor on that one trait. Thus, an instructor may be quiet, assured, knowledgeable, and highly qualified, but if his style lacks zeal, those students would probably give him a low rating. 3) Contrast Effects: Evaluations of persons characteristics that are affected by comparisons with other people recently encountered who rank higher or lower on the same characteristics. An illustration of how contrast effects operate is an interview situation in which one sees a pool of job applications. Distortions in any given candidates evaluation can occur as a result of his or her place in the interview schedule. The candidate is likely to receive a more favorable evaluation if preceded by mediocre applicants and less favorable evaluation if preceded by strong applicants. 4) Projection: Attributing ones own characteristics to other people. If you are honest and trustworthy, so you take it for granted that other people are equally honest and trustworthy.

B - 72

Thakurs MBA First Semester HB (Organizational Behavior)

People who engage in projection tend to perceive others according to what they themselves are like rather than according to what the person being observed is really like. When observing other who actually are like them, these observers are quite accuratenot because they perceptive but because they always judge people as being similar to themselves. So when they do find someone who is like them, they are naturally correct. 5) Stereo Typing: Judging someone on the basis of ones perception of the group to which that person belongs. Its less difficult to deal with an unmanageable number of stimuli if we use stereotypes. As an example, assume a sales manager looking to fill a sales position in his territory. He wants to hire someone who is ambitious and hardworking and who can deal well with adversity. He had good success in the past by hiring individuals who participated in athletics during college. So he focuses his search by looking for candidates who participated in collegiate athletics. In so doing, he has cut down considerably on his search time. Furthermore, to the extent that athletes are ambitious, hardworking, and able to deal with adversity, the use of this stereotype can improve his decision making. The problem, of course, is when we inaccurately stereotype. All college athletes are not necessarily ambitious, hardworking, or good at dealing with adversity. In organizations, we frequently hear comments that represent stereotypes based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, and even weight. Women wont relocate for a promotion; men arent interested in child care; older workers cant learn new skills; Asian immigrants are hardworking and conscientious; overweight people lack discipline. From a perceptual standpoint, if people expect to see these stereotypes, that are what they will perceive, whether they are accurate or not. 6) Impression: People often form impression of others on the first sight. Even before knowing any of their personality traits, they start having impression and making assessment of individuals they meet for the first time. This sometimes leads to perceptual distortion because first impression need not be the last impression. If a new employee in an industrial organization is judged on the basis of his first impression on the superior, it will be a great injustice to such an employee. 7) Inference: There is a tendency on the part of some people to judge others on limited information. For example, an employee might be sitting at his desk throughout the working hours without doing anything, but it may be inferred that he is sincere towards his duties. Thus, performance appraisal must not be based on halfcooked or incomplete information. In the above case, the productivity and the behavior of the concerned employee towards customers, fellow employees and others must also be taken into consideration. 8) Attribution: When people give cause and effect explanation to the observed behavior, it is known as attribution. Perception is distorted sometimes by the efforts of the perceiver to attribute a causal explanation to an outcome. There is a tendency for the individuals to attribute their own behavior to situational factors, but explain the behavior of others by their personal dispositions. Perceptual distortion occurs because of attribution on two counts: i) Fundamental Attribution Error: The tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal factors when making judgments about the behavior of others. ii) Self Serving Bias: The tendency for individuals to attribute their own successes to internal factors while putting the blame for failures on external factors. 9) Distortions: Distortion occurs when we twist and manipulate events either consciously or unconsciously. We often tend to distort reality when it is unfavorable to us, because it threatens our self-image. We then act in a defensive manner and distort or even totally shut out what is actually occurring. In other words, we tend to twist or avoid that which is an unpalatable threat to our ego. Thus, distortion is due to defence mechanisms that operate when one encounters data or receives information that is incongruent with ones self-concept. 10) Self-fulfilling Prophecy: Based on expectations, some bias in perception may creep in. In many cases it has been found that people try to validate their perceptions of reality (or expected performance) when those perceptions are faulty. For instance, if a manager expects good results from his people, they are not likely to let him down. Thus, expectations become reality. This is called self-fulfilling prophecy or pygmalion effect, i.e., peoples expectations determine their behavior. If the boss inaccurately perceives the capability of a subordinate and the resulting expectations cause the subordinate to show performance as perceived by the boss, it is called self-fulfilling prophecy. It states that expecting certain things to happen shapes the behavior of the perceiver in such a way that the expected is more likely to happen.

Perception (Chapter 1.5)

B - 73

Managing the Perception Process/Strategies for improving Perceptual Skills


Successful managers understand the importance of perception as an influencing factor on behavior and they act accordingly. They are aware of perceptual distortions and also know that perceptual differences are likely to exist in any situation. As a result, they try to make decisions and take action with a true understanding of the work situation as it is viewed by all persons concerned. A manager who is skilled in the perception process will: i) Have a High Level of Self-Awareness: Individual needs, experience, and expectations can all affect perceptions. The successful manager knows this and is able to identify when he or she is inappropriately distorting a situation because of such perceptual tendencies. ii) Seek Information from Various Sources to Confirm or Disconfirm Personal Impressions of a Decision Situation: The successful manager minimizes the biases of personal perceptions by seeking out the viewpoints of others. These insights are used to gain additional perspective on situations and the problems or opportunities they represent.

iii) Be Empathetic-That is, be Able to see a Situation as it is Perceived by other People: Different people will define the same situation somewhat differently. The successful manager rises above personal impressions to understand problems as seen by other people. iv) Influence Perceptions of other People when they are Drawing Incorrect or Incomplete Impressions of Events in the Work Setting: People act in terms of their perceptions. The successful manager is able to influence the perceptions of others so that work events and situations are interpreted as accurately as possible and to the advantage of all concerned. v) Avoid Common Perceptual Distortions that Bias our Views of People and Situations: These distortions include the use of stereotypes and halo effects, as well as selective perception and projection. Successful managers are self-disciplined and sufficiently self-aware so that the adverse impacts of these distortions are minimized. vi) Avoid Inappropriate Attributions: Everyone has a tendency to try and explain why events happened the way they did or why people behaved as they did. The successful manager is careful to establish the real reasons why things happen and avoid quick or inappropriate attributions of casualty. vii) Diversity Management Programmes: As firms globalize themselves, diversity management assumes greater relevance. The challenge for corporate executives is to leverage the benefits of this diversity while minimizing the perceptual and behavioral problems that tend to accompany heterogeneity. OB experts have designed diversity management programmes. Typically, these training programmes serve two purposes. First, they communicate the value of diversity. Second, these programmes help participants become aware of their personal biases and give them more accurate information about people with different backgrounds, thus avoiding perceptual distortions. viii) Know Yourself: Apply the Johari window to know the real self. A powerful way to minimize perceptual biases is to know and become more a of one's values, beliefs, and prejudice.

Managerial and Behavioral Applications of Perception


1) Perception and Motivation: Perception of the workplace plays a major role in motivation. Suppose an employee is experiencing some unexpected money trouble. Because of her disposition (she is worried) and the salience of money (it is unusually important to her at the moment), she will be especially sensitive to issues of compensation. Through projection, she may assume that everyone in the organization also cares mainly about money. A large pay raise given to another employee will seem frustrating and will intensify her efforts to get a pay raise of her own, focusing even more attention on her own pay, the pay of others, and how they compare to one another. 2) Perception and Hiring: Hiring new employees can be affected by perception in many ways. Contrast or novelty in the job applicant can affect his or her chances of getting the job. The person doing the hiring may stereotype applicants on the basis of race or sex, or may allow the halo effect to color an overall perception of an applicant. An interviewers disposition during an interview or attitudes towards certain of the applicants attributes can also affect the interviewers perceptions of an applicant. For example, a manager, who believes that people should dress professionally for a job interview, is likely to be unimpressed by an applicant who shows up wearing sunglasses and a flowered sports coat.

B - 74

Thakurs MBA First Semester HB (Organizational Behavior)

3) Performance Appraisal: The appraisal of a subordinates performance is highly affected by the accuracy of a managers perceptions. The major areas of concern in this context are: a) Managers may have tendencies to positively evaluate some employees because they are better liked, or are on favored tasks, or are particularly noticeable; and b) Performance evaluation will be affected adversely because of halo effects. These factors act as hindrance to objective performance appraisal. And sometimes these factors weigh so much in favor of or against some employees that the real purpose of performance appraisal gets defeated. 4) Employee Effort: An individuals future in an organization is usually not dependent on performance alone. In many organizations, the level of an employees effort is given high importance. Just as teachers frequently consider how hard you try in a course as well as how you perform on examinations, so often do managers. An assessment of an individuals effort is a subjective judgment susceptible to perceptual distortions and bias. If it is true, as some claim, that more workers are fired for poor attitudes and lack of discipline than for lack of ability, then appraisal of an employees effort may be a primary influence on his or her future in the organization. 5) Employee Loyalty: Another important judgment that managers make about employees is whether or not they are loyal to the organization. Despite the general decline in employee loyalty, few organizations appreciate it when employees, especially those in the managerial ranks, openly disparage the firm. Furthermore, in some organizations, if the word gets around that an employee is looking at other employment opportunities outside the firm, that employee may be labeled as disloyal and so may be cut off from all future advancement opportunities. The issue is not whether organizations are right in demanding loyalty. The issue is that many do, and that assessment of an employees loyalty or commitment is highly judgment.