December 8, 2011


Organizational Behavior Revision Article Series

Perception is a cognitive process. People's individual differences and uniqueness are largely the result of the cognitive processes they use in processing the information they receive and conclusions they make.

Perception is interpretation of the situation by a person.


Perception is a cognitive process. People's individual differences and uniqueness are largely the result of the cogntive processes they use in processing the information they receive and conclusions they make.
Perception is interpretation of the situation by a person and it is not an exact recording of it. Perception is a very complex process and it yields a unique picture to each and every individual (unique to a person implies the picture is different for different persons) and this unique picture in case of some persons may be quite different from reality.

Perception and Sensation

Behavioral scientists generally agree that people’s reality (the world around them) depends on their senses. However, raw sensory input must be processed to make sense out of them in order for a person to understand the world. Physical senses of person are vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Some people do propose many others as sixth sense; psychologists have not yet accepted any sixth sense. The senses are constantly bombarded by stimuli both from inside as well as from outside. These senses transmit signals and the transmitted signals are then processed by the central nervous system.

Perception is a more complex process than sensation. The perceptual process can be defined as a complicated interaction of selection, organization, and interpretation of signals sent by senses. Perception depends on the senses for raw data. But the cognitive process of perception filters, modifies, or completely changes these data.

Subprocesses of Perception

The subprocesses of perception are:

Situation-person interaction through senses (Confrontation):
Perception starts with the event of interaction between a stimulus and a person or between a situation and person. Stimulus is a focused external event to which an individual is subjected. Situation is more broader environment with which a person comes in contact and has to respond.
The senses  receive the stimuli and the physiological mechanism carries the sensory message to brain.
The stimuli is interpreted by the brain.
An example of the feedback would be kinesthetic feedback (sensory impressions from muscles) which is different from the stimuli captured from the sensory organ.

Subsequent processes
The perception process is terminated by behavior of the person. Perception is considered as a behavioral event and hence it terminates with behavior which is observable.
Consequence is an environmental response to the behavior of a person.

During the registration phenomenon the physiological mechanisms act. Interpretation is the most significant subprocess of perception. Other psychological process like learning, motivation and personality play a role in interpretation.

The subprocesses of registration, interpretation and feedback are internal processes that are unobservable. But situation, behavior and consequences are observable and indicate that perception is related to behavior.

Principles of Perceptual Selectivity

Principles related to external factors:

Intensity: The more intense the external stimuli, the more likely it will be perceived.
Size: larger the object, the more likely it will be perceived.
Contrast: External stimuli that stand out against the background or that are not what people are expecting will receive their attention.
Repetition: A repeated external stimulus is more attention getting than a single one.
Motion: People pay more attention to moving objects in their field of vision than they will hold to stationary objects.
Novelty and Familiarity: Either a novel or a familiar situation can serve as an attention getter.
Internal Selection Factors:
Internal perceptual selectivity is more complex. It is based on an individual’s complex psychological makeup. People will select out stimuli or situations from the environment that appeal to, are and compatible with, their learning, motivation, and personality.

Perceptual Organization

Perceptual organization explains what takes place in the perceptual process once the information from the situation is received. The person’s perceptual process organizes the incoming information into a meaningful whole.
 Principles of perceptual organization: 
1. Figure ground: Perceived objects stand out as separable form their general background. The reader or visitor perceptually organizes incoming stimuli into recognizable objects (visual, auditory, olfactory, relating to taste or touch). This principle says that background and the perceived object are identified separately.
2. Perceptual grouping: There is a tendency to group several stimuli together into a recognizable pattern. This grouping is done by closure, proximity or similarity. 
The principles used in grouping are:
   Closure: The person’s perceptual process will close the gaps that are unfilled in sensory input.
  Continuity: Closure principle says perceptual process supplies missing stimuli, where as the continuity principle says a person will tend to perceive continuous lines or patterns.
  Proximity: A group of stimuli that are close together will be perceived as a whole pattern of parts belonging together.
  Similarity: The greater the similarity of the stimuli, the greater the tendency to perceive them as a common group.

3. Perceptual constancy: The principle says that individuals have a sense of constancy in a tremendously variable and complex world. The size, shape, color, brightness, and location of an object are fairly constant regardless of the information received by the senses. Perceptual constancy results from patterns of cues. Learning plays a big role in the constancy phenomenon compared to figure-ground or grouping phenomena.

4. Perceptual context:  Context gives meaning and value to stimuli, objectives events, and others persons in the environment. The perception process takes into account the context in interpreting stimuli that emanate from a situation.


Social perception

Social person is a subtopic of perception and it is concern with how one individual perceives other individuals: How does one get to know others. How people perceive others in their day to day to life?
Some of the research findings related to social perception are:
1. One's own characteristics affect the characteristics one is likely to see in others.
2. Person who evaluate themselves favorably are more likely to be able to see favorable aspects of other people.
The above two are person characteristics of person who is trying to know the other person.
The characteristics of that other person also influence social perception.
1. The person being perceived is usually placed into categories to simplify the perception activity. The two common categories used are status and role. Status is the position of a person in the hierarchy under consideration and role is the activity he is expected to perform befitting that status in a context. 
2. The status will greatly influence others' perception of the person.
3. The visible traits of the person perceived will greatly influence others' perception of the person.

Problem areas related to social perception


Stereotyping is perceiving a persons based on the group in which he is a member.  Such groups can be supervisors, knowledge workers, old persons, women, different religions etc. The real individual traits and characteristics of a person are ignored and a set of traits thought to be exhibited by a group are perceived instead.

Halo Effect

In halo effect, the person is perceived based on the basis of one trait exhibited by him.

Applications of the Concept of Perception in Organizational Behavior

Perception is a concept of Psychology. The subject of organizational behavior applies the concept to explain various events and behavior that occur in formal organizations. What are those applications? I personally feel, Luthans treatment of this topic does not cover the application aspect adequately.


Fred Luthans (2005), Organizational Behavior, 10th Edition, McGraw Hill, New York.

Knols of Narayana Rao in the area of management are being migrate to


Article originally posted in perception
Knol no. 143

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