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Chapter 3: Perception, Attribution, and Diversity
What is Perception?
•Perception: The process of interpreting the messages of our senses to provide order
and meaning to the environment.
•People frequently base their actions on the interpretation of reality that their
perceptual system provides, rather than on reality itself e.g., if you perceive your pay
to be very low, you might seek employment in another firm.
Components of Perception
•A perceiver’s past experiences lead him/her to develop expectations, and these
expectations affect current perceptions e.g., Caucasian men are less likely to
perceive race or gender barriers than Caucasian women, non-Caucasian men, and
•Our needs unconsciously influence our perceptions by causing us to perceive what we
wish to perceive e.g., perceivers who have been deprived of food will tend to “see”
more edible things in ambiguous pictures than will well-fed observers.
•Emotions can influence our perceptions e.g., misperceiving the innocent comment of
a friend or acquaintance when we are angry.
•Perceptual Defence: The tendency for the perceptual system to defend the
perceiver against unpleasant emotions. We “see what we want to see” or “hear what
we want to hear”.
•Ambiguous targets are especially susceptible to interpretation and addition of
meaning to them because perceivers often have a need to resolve such ambiguities.
•Providing more information about the target may not improve perceptual accuracy
e.g., assigning minority workers to a prejudiced manager may improve his/her
perceptions of their true abilities.
•The situation can add information about the target e.g., if you were up for promotion,
you are likely to perceive a casual critical comment about your performance from
your boss very differently.
Social Identity Theory
•Social Identity Theory: A theory that states that 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.
oPersonal identity: Our unique personal characteristics e.g., interests, abilities,
oSocial identity: Our perception that we belong to various social groups e.g.,
gender, nationality, and occupation.
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