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Introduction to Organizational Behavior


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Chapter 9 : Perception

Meaning and Significance of Perception

Sensation vs Perception

Subprocesses of Perception

Perceptual Selectivity

External Attention Factors
Internal Set Factors

Factors Influencing Perception

The Perceiver
The Target
The Situation

Perceptual Organization

Perceptual Grouping
Perceptual Constancy
Perceptual Context
Perceptual Defense

Social Perception

The Halo Effect

Impression Management

The Process of Impression Management
Impression Management Strategies Used by Employees

Chapter Summary

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 and similarity.

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.

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