Perception can be defined as a process by which individuals select, organize
and interpret their sensory impressions, so as to give meaning to their
environment. Perception is a complex cognitive process and differs from
person to person. People's behavior is influenced by their perception of
reality, rather than the actual reality.
In comparison to sensation, perception is a much broader concept. Sensation
involves simply receiving stimuli through sensory organs, whereas the process
of perception involves receiving raw data from the senses and then filtering,
modifying or transforming the data completely through the process of
cognition. The processes of perception consist of various subprocesses such
as confrontation, registration, interpretation and feedback.
Though people are continuously exposed to numerous stimuli, they tend to
select only a few of them. The principle of perceptual selectivity seeks to
explain how, and why people select only a few stimuli out of the many stimuli
they keep encountering at any given time. Perceptual selectivity is affected
by various internal set factors and external attention factors. Some of the
internal set factors are learning, motivation and personality. External
attention factors include environmental influences like intensity, size,
contrast, repetition, motion, novelty and familiarity.
Sometimes, different individuals may perceive the same thing differently.
Differences may arise due to factors associated with the perceiver
(attitudes, motives, expectations, etc.) or the situation (time, place, etc.)
or the target (novelty, background, sounds, size, etc.).
Perceptual organization focuses on the subsequent activities in the
perceptual process after the information from the situation is received.
The various principles of perceptual organization consist of figure-ground,
perceptual grouping, perceptual constancy, perceptual context and perceptual
defense. The principle of figure-ground states that perceived objects stand
out from their general background. According to the principle of perceptual
grouping, people tend to group several stimuli together into a recognizable
pattern. People usually tend to group stimuli together on the basis of
closure, continuity, proximity or similarity. Even if a person is not able to
obtain sufficient information to arrive at a decision, he tries to close the
gap by grouping the available information with the information from his past
experience. This is called the principle of closure. Sometimes people tend to
think only in a particular direction. This is called principle of continuity.
It may also happen that people may group the stimuli based on their proximity
According to principle of perceptual constancy, there are some things which
are perceived alike by all people, irrespective of the factors influencing
perception. It provides a person a sense of stability in this changing world.
Perceptual context provides meaning and value to stimuli with respect to a
particular context. According to the principle of perceptual defense, people
tend to resist information that is emotionally disturbing or clashes with
their personal convictions or cultural values.
Social perception is concerned with how individuals perceive one another. The
primary factors that lead to social perception are the psychological
processes that lead to attribution, stereotyping and halo effect. Attribution
refers to the way in which people explain the cause of their own behavior or
others' behavior. If a person's behavior can be attributed to internal
factors such as personality traits, motivation or ability, then it is called
dispositional attribution. If a person's behavior is attributed to external
factors, such as a machine or being under the influence of others, then it is
referred to as situational attribution.
Stereotyping and the halo effect are common problems in social perception.
When an individual is judged based on the perception about the group to which
he belongs, it is termed as stereotyping. When people draw a general
impression about an individual based on a single characteristic, it is known
as the halo effect. The process by which people try to manage or control the
perceptions other people form of them is called impression management. It is
used by employees in organizations to favorably impress their boss and move
up the hierarchy.
Perceptions have a crucial role in individual decision-making in
organizations, by affecting both the decisions as well as the quality of the
decision. The decision taken by an individual is a complex process involving
the intake of data, screening, processing, and interpreting and evaluating of
data, based on the perception of the individual.