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Model of Perception

Perception -- process of receiving information from environment and making sense of it (organizing and interpreting

Model of Perception

1.  Environmental stimuli are received through senses

2.  Received stimuli selected in or screened out

3.  Selected stimuli are organized and interpreted

4.  Interpreted information becomes beliefs, which influences behavior

Selective Attention

Process of filtering information through senses -- impossible to attend to all stimuli reaching our senses

Three influences on selective attention

1.  Characteristics of the object

--       large size

--       brightly colored (intensity)

--       in motion

--       repetitive

--       unique (novelty)

2.  Perceptual context

--       objects/people stand out against the environment

3.  Characteristics of the perceiver

--       recognize and remember information consistent with our values and attitudes

--       perceptual defense -- emotions screen out large blocks of information that threaten self-esteem

--       expectations -- condition us to expect events

Splatter vision -- scanning everything and focusing on nothing

•   Taking everything in as a whole; focus on nothing

--       expect the unexpected; check your peripheral vision

•   Used by fighter pilots, bird watchers, and security

•   Need to avoid over-reliance on familiar expectations

•   Minimizes selective attention process -- reduces chance of screening out potentially important information

Perceptual Organization & Interpretation

Perceptual grouping principles

•   Identifying trends

•   Similarity or proximity

•   Closure -- filling in missing pieces (e.g. assuming who attended meeting while you were away)

•   Perceptual grouping helps us make sense of the workplace, but it may inhibit creativity

Mental models

•   Broad world-views or ‘theories-in-use’

--       create screen through which we select information

--       mental boxes used to store information

--       assumptions used to interpret events

•   But can blind people to potentially better perspectives

Another example of how mental models have caused people to misinterpret opportunities:

•   Ross Perot's retort when colleagues suggested in 1980 that EDS buy an upstart company named Microsoft: “What do 13 people in Seattle know that we don't know?”

Social Identity Theory

Explains self-perception and social perception in terms of:

1. Our personal identity

•   Unique characteristics (only person in class who…)

2. Our social identity

•   Membership in social groups

People adopt degrees of personal and social identity depending on the situation

•   We identify ourselves with several groups and are motivated to create and present a positive self-image

Perceiving Others Through Social Identity

•   Comparative process – compare characteristics of our groups with other groups

•   Homogenizing process --we perceive that everyone in a group has similar characteristics

•   Contrasting process -- we often distinguish our social identity groups with others by forming less positive images of others


Errors in the Perceptual Process

Stereotyping, attribution, self-fulfilling prophecy, and other perceptual errors distort reality


Based on social identity theory perceptual process

a.  develop social categories and assign traits (e.g. professors are absent-minded)

b.  assign individual to social category based on identifiable features (e.g. that person is a professor)

c.  assign group’s non-observable traits to individual (e.g. that person is absent-minded)

How Accurate are Stereotypes?

Stereotypes have some inaccuracies, some overestimation or underestimation, and some accuracy

•   Stereotyped traits do not accurately describe every person in that social category

•   We often ignore or misinterpret information that is inconsistent with the stereotype

Stereotypes less accurate when:

1.  We seldom interact with people in that group

2.  We experience conflict with members of that group

3.  Stereotyping enhances our own social identity

We rely less on stereotypes as we get to know people better from personal experience

Ethical Problems of Stereotyping

•   Prejudice -- unfounded negative emotions toward people belonging to a particular stereotyped group

--       limits employment for qualified people

•   Even if prejudices suppressed, subtle discrimination occurs because stereotypes influence "ideal" person

•   Stereotyping contributes to sexual harassment

--       Harassers tend to stereotype the (female) victim as subservient or powerless


Attribution Theory

Internal attribution -- behavior or results are due mainly to ability/motivation

External attribution -- behavior or results are due mainly to factors beyond person’s control (e.g. luck, availability of resources

Internal attribution made when:

•   High consistency -- person behaved this way before

•   Low distinctiveness -- person behaves like this toward other people or in different situations

•   Low consensus -- other people do not behave this way in similar situations

External attribution made when:

•   Low consistency -- person didn’t behaved this way before

•   High distinctiveness -- person behaves like this toward other people or in different situations

•   High consensus -- other people behave this way in similar situations

Implications of attributions

•   Affects decisions -- grievances, reward distribution

•   Employee self-efficacy -- feeling of accomplishment only if we make an internal attribution

Attribution Errors

•   Fundamental attribution error

--       attributing behavior of other people to internal factors (their motivation/ability) than external factors

--       most common when we have limited information about the situational factors affecting other people

•   Self-serving bias

--       attributing our successes to internal factors; our failures to external factors

--       ego-defense mechanism

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Expectations about another person cause that person to act in a way that is consistent with those expectations

1. Expectations formed

•   e.g. Supervisor develops expectations about employee's future behavior

2. Expectations affect behavior toward employee

•   high expectancy employees receive:

-        more emotional support through nonverbal cues (e.g. more smiling and eye contact);

-        more frequent/valuable feedback/reinforcement;

-        more challenging goals and better training;

-        more opportunities to demonstrate their performance.

3. Effects on employee

•   better training/practice result in more skills learned

•   emotional support and feedback results in stronger self-efficacy -- leads to higher motivation

4. Employee behavior and performance

•   Better motivation/skills leads to high performance

•   High performance reinforces the original perception

Awareness training was early strategy to minimize negative self-fulfilling prophecy

•   Problem – limited effect because leaders have difficulty maintaining positive expectations of people who don’t perform well

Emerging three-prong strategy to harness self-fulfilling prophecy effect

1.  Learning orientation – leaders need to appreciate employee learning, not just accomplishing tasks

2.  Appropriate leadership style – leaders adjust their style to different employees

3.  Increase employee self-efficacy – behavioral modeling, opportunities to practice successfully

Other Perceptual Errors

Primacy effect

•   Quickly categorizing people based on first impressions

•   Fulfills need to make sense of our world

•   Inaccurate perceptions due to limited information

Recency effect

•   Most recent info dominates perception of others

•   Occurs when time has worn off first impressions

•   Known problem -- recent information dominates performance appraisal rating

Halo effect

•   One trait forms a general impression

•   Becomes the basis for judgments about other traits

•   Often occurs to fill in missing information and when the perceiver is not motivated to observe

•   Problem in performance appraisals -- positive halo employee rated high on all dimensions


•   Believing others have same characteristics as us

•   Defense mechanism to protect our self-esteem

Improving Perceptions

To minimize racial slurs and other perceptual problems, the NHL requires every player to attend diversity awareness sessions. In these sessions, players learn to appreciate ethnic differences and the problems with prejudicial outbursts.


1. Diversity initiatives

a   Recruit people with diverse backgrounds

--       outreach to minority-dominated schools

--       build long-term relationships with minorities

b.  Provide reasonable accommodation

--       accommodate work-family balance

--       support nontraditional breaks for religious reasons

c.  Diversity awareness activities

--       appreciation of differences in the workplace

--       sensitize people about stereotypes and prejudices

--       dispel myths about people from different backgrounds

--       doesn’t try to correct deep-rooted prejudice

•   Beyond diversity awareness -- interact more with people with different backgrounds


2. Empathize with others

•   A person’s ability to understand the feelings, thoughts, and situation of others

•   Minimizes attribution errors -- see external causes

•   Developing empathy skills

--       receive feedback on our interaction with others

--       work with others in their environment


3. Postpone impression formation

•   Avoid first impressions

•   Constantly challenge our stereotypic expectations

•   Actively seek out contrary information


4. Compare perceptions with others

•   Get different points of view

5. Know Yourself (Johari Window)

•   Developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram (hence the name "Johari")

•   Need to be aware of and sensitive to our own values, beliefs, and prejudices

•   Better mutual understanding when others know us better

•   Helps us understand coworkers, etc.

a.       open area -- information about you which is known to you as well as others

b.       blind area -- information that is known to others but not to yourself

c.       hidden area -- information known to yourself but unknown to others

d.       unknown area -- information about you known to neither you nor others

•   Objective is to increase size of open area:

a.       disclosure -- tell others about yourself

b.       feedback -- receive information from others about yourself found in the blind area

•   Applying the Johari Window

a.       Diversity awareness -- interacting with others

b.       360-degree feedback process

c.       Dialogue -- sharing perceptions

•   Cultural and ethical limitations of applying Johari Window


Relatively stable pattern of behaviors and consistent internal states that explain a person's behavioral tendencies

•   Internal states -- thoughts, values, and genetic characteristics inferred from behaviors

•   External traits -- person's social reputation, observable behaviors

•   Stable -- do not change dramatically over time

•   Behavioral tendencies -- less apparent where environment constrains behavior

Personality shaped by both heredity and environment -- affected by social experiences

Personality and Organizational Behavior

•   1960s-- evidence of very weak relationship between personality and job performance

•   Personality now regained some credibility

--       certain personality traits predict certain work-related behaviors, stress reactions, and emotions

--       personality related to job preferences

•   Personality tests should only supplement other selection methods

Big Five Personality Dimensions -- five clusters represent most personality traits

1.  Conscientiousness – characterizes people who are caring, dependable and self-disciplined.

--       predicts job performance in almost every job group

--       engage in more organizational citizenship behaviors

2.  Emotional stability – people who are poised, secure, calm and enthusiastic.

3.  Openness to experience – refers to the extent to which people are sensitive, flexible, creative and intellectual.

4.  Agreeableness – includes traits of being courteous, good-natured, trusting, cooperative, empathic and caring.

5.  Extroversion - characterizes people who are outgoing, talkative, sociable and assertive

Conscientiousness one of the most valuable personality dimensions

•   Set higher personal goals for themselves

•   Higher levels of organizational citizenship

•   More adaptive to empowerment

•   Tend to provide better customer service (along with agreeableness and emotional stability)


Jung’s Psychological Types

•   Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung

•   Personality theory identifies preferences for perceiving the environment and obtaining/processing information.

Other Personality Traits

Locus of control

•   Internal locus of control -- individuals who believe that they are very much in charge of their own destiny

•   External locus of control -- individuals who believe that their life events are due mainly to fate or luck

•   People with a moderately internal locus of control:

-        perform better, have more successful careers, more job satisfaction, better leaders


•   Level of sensitivity to situational cues, and ability to adapt their behavior to that situation

•   High self-monitors: (a) better conversationalists, (b) better leaders, (c) better boundary spanners