COMM 222 Lecture 3: chapter 3.docx
I. What Is Perception?
Perception is the process of interpreting the messages of our senses to provide order and meaning to the environment. Among
the most important perceptions that influence organizational behaviour are the perceptions that organizational members have of
II. Components of Perception
Perception has three components – a perceiver, a target that is being perceived, and some situational context in which the
perception is occurring.
A. The Perceiver
The perceiver's experience, motives, and emotions can affect his or her perceptions.
1. Experience. One of the most important influences on perception is experience - our past experiences lead us
to develop expectations and these affect current perceptions - differences in perception caused by experience can lead
to problems within organizations.
2. Motivational State. Differences in our needs at a given moment and our motivational state can also be a
source of conflict within organizations, since our motivational states influence our perception and interpretation of
3. Emotional State. Emotional state refers to the particular emotions that an individual feels at a given time.
Emotions such as anger, happiness, or fear can and do affect our perceptions. In some cases we employ a
perceptual defence which occurs when our perceptual system serves to defend us against unpleasant emotions.
In general, we tend to "see what we want to see."
B. The Target
Our perceptions are also influenced by the target's social status and ambiguity. Ambiguity or lack of information about a target leads
to a greater need for interpretation and addition.
C. The Situation
The context of the situation can greatly influence our perceptions by adding information about the target.
III. Social Identity Theory
According to social identity theory, people form perceptions of themselves based on their characteristics and memberships in social
categories. Our sense of self is composed of a personal identity and a social identity. Our personal identity is based on our unique
personal characteristics, such as our interests, abilities, and traits. Social identity is based on our perception that we belong to
various social groups, such as our gender, nationality, religion, occupation, and so on. Personal and social identities help us answer
the question, “Who am I?” We categorize ourselves and others to make sense of and understand the social environment. Once a
category is chosen, we tend to see members of that category as embodying the most typical attributes of that category, or what are
called “prototypes.” Further, people tend to perceive members of their own social categories in more positive and favourable ways
than those who are different and belong to other categories.
IV. A Model of the Perceptual Process
Psychologist Jerome Bruner has developed a model of perception that deals with how we select cues in our interpretations and how
this leads to perceptual constancy and consistency once we have formed our opinions. According to Bruner, when the perceiver
encounters an unfamiliar target, the perceiver is very open to the informational cues contained in the target and the situation
surrounding it. In this unfamiliar state, the perceiver really needs information on which to base perceptions of the target and will
actively seek out cues to resolve this ambiguity. Gradually, the perceiver encounters some familiar cues that enable her to make a
crude categorization of the target. At this point, the cue search becomes less open and selective. The perceiver begins to search out
cues that confirm the categorization of the target. As this categorization becomes stronger, the perceiver actively ignores or even
distorts cues that violate initial perceptions. Thus, perception becomes more selective and the perceptual system begins to paint a
constant and consistent picture of the target.
V. Basic Biases in Person Perception
The impressions that we form of others are susceptible to a number of perceptual biases.
A. Primacy and Recency Effects
We form our impressions of others fairly quickly. One reason for this is the primacy effect, which is the tendency for a perceiver
to rely on early cues or first impressions. Another reason is the recency effect, which is the tendency for a perceiver to rely on
recent cues or last impressions.
B. Reliance on Central Traits
We tend to organize our perceptions of others around the presence of certain traits or personal characteristics of a target that are of
particular interest to us. This concept is called reliance on central traits and it can have a very powerful influence on our
perceptions of others.
C. Implicit Personality Theories
Each of us has an implicit personality theory about which personality characteristics go together. For example, we might
assume that hard workers are all honest or that slow workers are not very bright.
The tendency to attribute one's own thoughts and feelings to others is called projection. If we are always honest, for example, we
often assume that others are too.
The assumption that people have certain characteristics by virtue of the category they fall into is known as stereotyping. It is the
tendency to generalize about people in a social category and ignore variations among them. Thus we might assume that all
scientists are bright and that all football players are ignorant. Since most stereotyping is inaccurate, it is best to obtain information
about targets before jumping to conclusions.
VI. Attribution: Perceiving Causes and Motives
Attribution is the process by which causes or motives are assigned to explain other people's behaviour. Dispositional
attributions suggest that some personality characteristic or intellectual characteristic unique to the person is responsible for the
behaviour. Situational attributions suggest that the external situation or environment in which the target person exists was
responsible for the behaviour.
People rely on external cues to make inferences about the causes of people’s behaviour. Research indicates that as we gain
experience with the behaviour of a target person, these cues guide our decisions as to whether we should attribute the behaviour to
dispositional or situational factors.
A. Consistency Cues
Consistency cues reflect how consistently a person engages in some behaviour over time. We tend to perceive behaviour that
a person performs regularly as indicative of his or her true motives.
B. Consensus Cues
Consensus cues reflect how a person’s behaviour compares to that of others. In general, acts which deviate from social
expectations provide us with more information about the actor's motives than conforming behaviours do.
C. Distinctiveness Cues
Distinctiveness cues reflect the extent to which a person engages in some behaviour across a variety of situations. When a
person’s behaviour occurs across a variety of situations and lacks distinctiveness we are prone to make a dispositional attribution
about its cause.
D. Attribution in Action
We often have information at hand about consistency, consensus, and distinctiveness, and we tend to use this information whenever
we judge people and their behaviour. High consistency, low consensus, and low distinctiveness results in a dispositional attribution.
High consistency, high consensus, and high distinctiveness results in a situational attribution.
E. Biases in Attribution
Despite our best efforts in attributing and interpreting behaviour, several errors and biases can occur in the attribution process.
•Fundamental Attribution Error. When judging the behaviour of people other than ourselves, we tend to
overemphasize dispositional explanations for behaviour at the expense of situational explanations. This is called the
fundamental attribution error.
•Actor-Observer Effect. Actors and observers often view the causes for the actor’s behaviour very differently.
Actors tend to emphasize the situation while observers emphasize dispositons. This difference in attributional
perspectives is called the actor-observer effect.
•Self-Serving Bias. The tendency to take credit for successful outcomes and to deny responsibility for failures is
called the self-serving bias.
VII. Person Perception and Workforce Diversity
Workforce diversity refers to differences among employees or potential recruits in characteristics such as race, gender, age,
religion, cultural background, physical ability, and sexual orientation. Workforce diversity is an important issue today because the
workforce is becoming more diverse and there is growing recognition that many organizations have not successfully managed
A. The Changing Workplace
The composition of the workforce is changing. Changing immigration patterns, the ageing baby boomers, and the increasing
movement of women into paid employment have created greater diversity in the workplace. Globalization, mergers, and strategic
alliances also require that employees interact with people from different cultures.
B. Valuing Diversity
A critical motive for valuing diversity is the basic fairness of doing so. In addition, there is increasing awareness that diversity and its
proper management can yield strategic and competitive advantages.
C. Stereotypes and Workforce Diversity
A major barrier to valuing diversity is the stereotype. Common workplace stereotypes are based on gender, age, race, and ethnicity.
Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes. Stereotypical views of other races and cultures are pervasive, persistent, frequently negative, and
often self-contradictory. Stereotypical views that “African Americans can't handle pressure” or that “Asian Americans are technical
wizards” have interfered with their opportunities for advancement to upper management positions.
Gender Stereotypes. Women are severely underrepresented in managerial and administrative jobs. Since males dominate business
and many males have a false stereotype of women's executive capabilities, women have not been able to advance as easily as men
to higher management levels. Women suffer from a stereotype that is detrimental to their hiring, development, promotion, and
Age Stereotypes. Knowing that a person falls into a certain age range, we have a tendency to make certain assumptions about the
person’s physical, psychological, and intellectual capabilities. For example, older people tend to be perceived as having less
capacity for performance than younger people. They are also viewed as being less productive and lacking the potential for
development. As a result of these false stereotypes, many older people have experienced discrimination, and many have taken their
complaints to human rights agencies.
D. Managing Diversity
Diversity needs to be managed to have a positive impact on work behaviour. Management can use a number of strategies:
•Select enough minority members to get them beyond token status.
•Encourage teamwork that brings minority and majority members together.
•Ensure that those making career decisions about employees have accurate information about them.
•Train people to be aware of stereotypes.
Diversity programs will be most successful when the following actions are taken as part of a diversity initiative: Build senior
management commitment and accountability; conduct a thorough needs assessment; develop a well-defined strategy tied to
business results; emphasize team building and group process training; and establish metrics and evaluate the effectiveness of
VIII. Perceptions of Trust
Trust refers to a willingness to be vulnerable and to take risks with respect to the actions of another party. Trust perceptions toward
management are based on three distinct perceptions: ability, benevolence, and integrity. Ability refers to employee perceptions
regarding management’s competence and skills. Benevolence refers to the extent that employees perceive management as caring
and concerned for their interests, and willing to do good for them. Integrity refers to employee perceptions that management adheres
to and behaves according to a set of values and principles that employees find acceptable. The combination of these three factors
influences perceptions of trust.
IX. Perceived organizational support
Perceived organizational support (POS) refers to employees’ general belief that their organization values their contribution
and cares about their well-being. The main factors that contribute to POS are supervisor support, fairness, organizational rewards,
and job conditions. POS is related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, a positive mood, performance, reduced strains,
and lower absenteeism and turnover. Supportive human resource practices that demonstrate an investment in employees and
recognition of employee contributions are most likely to lead to the development of greater POS.
X. Person Perception in Human Resources
A. Perceptions in the Employment Interview
Research shows that the interview is a valid selection device, although it is far from perfectly accurate, especially when the
interviewer conducts it in an unstructured, free-form format.
The interview is a difficult setting in which to form accurate impressions about others. Interviewers often adopt "perceptual crutches”
that hinder accurate perception. For example, when applicants previously interviewed affect the interviewer's perception of a current
candidate, we see the contrast effect. Previously interviewed job applicants affect an interviewer’s perception of a current
applicant, leading to an exaggeration of differences between applicants. These effects can help or hinder a current interview, and
can create false impressions of a candidate's qualifications.
The validity of the interview improves when it is structured. Interview structure involves four dimensions: evaluation standardization,
question sophistication, question consistency, and rapport building. Interviews are more likely to be structured when the interviewer
had formal interview training and focuses on selection rather than recruitment during the interview.
B. Perceptions of Recruitment and Selection
According to signalling theory, job applicants interpret their recruitment experiences as cues or signals about what it is like to work in
an organization. These perceptions are important because they influence a job applicant’s likelihood of remaining in the selection