Individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions

The process of organizing and interpreting sensory impressions in order to give meaning to the environment

Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment. Research on perception consistently demonstrates that several individuals may look at the same thing, yet perceive it differently. One manager, for instance can interpret the fact that her assistant regularly takes several years to make important decisions as evidence that the assistant is slow, disorganized, and afraid to make decisions. Another manager, with the same assistant, might interpret the approach as evidence that the assistant is thoughtful thorough and deliberate. The first manager would probably evaluate her assistant negatively, and the second manager would probably evaluate the person positively. The point is that none of us actually sees reality. We interpret what see and call it reality. And, of course, as the preceding example illustrates we act according to our perceptions.

What Influences Perception?

How do we explain the fact that Ar, a marketing supervisor for a large commercial petroleum organization, age 52, noticed Ana ring during his employment interview, and Pr a human resources recruiter age 23 didn’t? A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. These factors can reside in the perceiver, in the object or target being perceived, or in context of the situation in which the perception is made.

When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she sees, that individual’s personal characteristics will heavily influence the interpretation. These personal characteristics include attitudes, personality, motives, interests, past experiences, and expectations. The characteristics of the target being observed can also affect what is perceived. Loud people are more likely than quiet people to be noticed in a group. So, too, are extremely attractive or unattractive individuals. Because targets are not looked at in isolation, the relationship of a target to its background also influences perception, as does our tendency to group close things and similar things together.

The context in which we see objects or events is also important. The time at which an object or event is seen can influence attention, as can location, lighting, temperature, and any number of other situational factors.

How do managers judge employees?

Much of the research on perception is directed at inanimate objects. Though, they are more concerned with human beings. Our perception of people differ from our perceptions of such inanimate objects as computers, robots, or buildings because we make inferences about the actions of people that we don’t of course make about inanimate objects. When we observe people, we attempt to develop explanations of why they behave in certain ways. Our perception and judgment of a person’s action, therefore, will be significantly influenced by the assumptions we make about the person’s internal state. Many of these assumptions have led researchers to develop attribution theory.

What is attribution theory?

Attribution theory has been proposed to explain how we judge people differently depending on what meaning we attribute to a given behavior. Basically the theory suggests that when we observe an individual’s behavior, we attempt to determine whether it was internally or externally caused. Internally caused behavior is believed to be under the control of the individual. Externally caused behavior results form outside causes; that is, the person is seen as having forced into the behavior by the situation. That determination however, depends on three factors: distinctiveness, consensus and consistency.

Distinctiveness refers to whether san individual displays a behavior in many situations or whether it is particular to one situation. Is the employee ho arrived late to work today also the person coworker see as a goof-off? What we want to know is whether this behavior is unusual. If it is, observer is likely to give the behavior an external attribution. If this action is not unique, it will probably be judged as internal.

If everyone who is faced with the similar situation responds in the same way we can say the behavior show consensus. Our tardy employee’s behavior would meet this criterion if all employees who look the same route to work today were also late if consensus is high, you would be expected to give an external attribution to the employee’s tardiness whereas if other employee who look the same route made it t work on time, you would conclude the reason to be internal.

Finally, a manager looks for consistency in an employee’s actions. Does the individual engage in the behaviors regularly and consistently? Does the employee respond the same way over them? Coming in 10 minutes late for work is not perceived in the same way if, for one employee, it represents and unusual case (she hasn’t been late for several months). But for another it is part of a routine pattern (he is late two or three times a week.). The more consistent the behavior the more the observer is inclined to attribute to internal causes.

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  • sreekumar

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