Factors Influencing Perception

Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory perceives in order to give meaning to their environment. However, what one perceives can be substantially different from objective reality. There need be, but there is often, disagreement. For example, it’s possible that all employees in a firm may view it as great place to work – favorable working conditions, interesting job alignments, good pay, excellent benefits, an understanding and responsible management but, as most of us known, it’s very unusual to find such agreement.

Why is perception important in the study of OB? Simply because people’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality it self. The world as it is perceived is the world that is behaviorally important.

Perception is the process by which an individual selects, organizes, and interprets information inputs to create a meaningful picture the world. Perception depends not only on the physical stimuli, but also on the stimuli’s relation to the surrounding field and on conditions within the individual. The key point is that perception can vary widely among individuals exposed to the same reality. One person might perceive a fast-talking salesperson an aggressive and insincere another, as intelligent and helpful. Each will respond differently to the salesperson.

Factors Influencing Perception:

How do we explain that individuals may look at the same thing, yet perceive it differently? 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 the context of the situation in which the perception is made (See Below):

Factors that influence perception:


Factors in the perceiver

Factors in the situation
Work setting
Social setting

Factors in the target

When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she sees, that interpretation is heavily influenced by the personal characteristics of the individual perceiver. Personal characteristics that affect perception included a person’s attitudes, personality motives interest, past experiences, and expectations. For instance if you expect police officers to be authoritative, young people to be lazy, or individuals holding office to be unscrupulous, you may peeve them as such regardless of their cultural traits.

Characteristics of the target being observed affect what is perceived. Loud people are more likely to be noticed in a group than quiet ones. 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. For instance, women people of color or members of any other group that has clearly distinguishable characteristics in terms of features or color are often perceived as alike in other, unrelated characteristics as well.

A shrill voice is never perceived to be one of authority. Practice some vocal exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. Here is one to start: Sing – but do it an octave lower on all your favorite songs. Practice this regularly and after a period of time, your voice will lower. People will perceive you as nervous and unsure if you talk too fast. Also, be careful not to slow down to the point where people feel tempted to finish your sentences.

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, light, heat, or any number of situational factors. For example, at a nightclub on Saturday night, you may not notice a 22 year old female dressed to the nines. Yet that same woman so attired for your Monday morning management class would certainly catch your attention (and that of the rest of the class). Neither the perceiver nor the target changed between Saturday night and Monday morning, but the situation is different.

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