Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information. It is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions to give meaning to the external factors or the environment. People generally use a number of shortcuts when they judge others. They are also called perceptual errors or barriers to perceptual accuracy.
Types of Perceptual Errors
The types of perceptual errors are as follows:
1) Selective Perception
Since we can not observe everything going on about us, we engage in selective perception. People selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interests, background experiences, and attitudes. It is the tendency not to notice and more quickly forget stimuli that cause emotional discomfort and contradict our prior beliefs. For example, a teacher may have a favorite student because they are biased by in-group favoritism. The teacher ignores the student’s poor attainment.People selectively interpret what they see based on their interests, backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes.
It is possible for bias to occur in decision making due to a wrong interest or attitude of a decision maker, and because of the principle that “we perceive what we prefer to perceive.”.It is impossible to pay attention to everything because we are constantly inundated with sensory information. By scanning our environment, our subconscious mind selects what seems easy to notice. Even then, people tend to see things according to their expectations as well as according to their desires.
Whenever we perceive a situation that looks familiar to us, we often interpret it in light of our past experiences. Because our attention spans are limited, we tend to categorize things by aspects that resemble what we already know, and we save time and energy by assuming the current situation is similar to previous experience. In addition to seeing things the way we expect, we are also prone to seeing things the way we wish they were. People tend to think themselves to be above average in intelligence because they are highly skilled drivers.
This is because we like to believe flattering things about ourselves. We fail to see how our current beliefs conflict with the facts we gather. People who firmly hold onto a specific belief allow it to affect how they see a situation. When a meeting is called to discuss options for a controversial work issue, employees who strongly support one side of the issue may view the meeting in a fundamentally different way.
2) Halo Effect
It refers to the tendency of judging the person entirely on the basis of a single trait which may be favorable or unfavorable. Here, a single trait dominates other characteristics of the individual. It helps to judge others quickly. Among other errors of perception, halo error has the most profound/deep impact and implication on an individual’s perception and behavior.
They are not always inaccurate, although, they probably are more often wrong than right.We are influenced by the halo effect when we believe a single characteristic is associated with a number of other desirable qualities. Those who are deemed to be attractive are also generally rated as smart, those with warm dispositions are deemed to be sociable and funny, and those with intelligence are regarded as more able leaders. An individual is evaluated favorably or unfavorably merely on the basis of his or her individual attributes. In our organization, we usually see this type of error at the time of employee selection and when evaluating employee performance.
Managers who limit their evaluation of employees to a single characteristic are distorted by such impression effects. People start judging based on their impressions even before knowing any of the important features. Often, incorrect decisions are made when initial impressions are assumed to have more significance and importance in the decision-making process than later impressions. As a result, judgmental biases are produced. According to the concept of “first impressions are lasting,” this type of bias arises.
Initially, we have intuitive impressions. The workings of our subconscious have detected something about the person which triggers an emotional reaction leading to feelings of liking or disliking. When an initial impression is perceived to be more relevant and important than a later impression in rendering a decision, it is known as a primary influence. The constant message mothers give to their children is to make a good first impression, and evidence shows that first impressions often last a lifetime. First impressions, however, can also be misleading. The presence of certain attributes (such as attractiveness or high energy levels) can lead us to believe that people possessing such positive qualities must also possess other positive traits.
When decision makers consider both situations and people, the primary effect can occur. The first presentation can carry more weight than subsequent presentations when we are exposed to opposing views on a controversial issue. The interviewers tend to make an initial impression of a candidate’s resume after inspecting a few bits of information. It is more common to treat candidates with favorable first impressions and stronger halo expectations pleasantly and tap for confirming information in interviews, instead of treating everyone equally.
3) Stereotyping (Generalizing/Grouping)
In order to simplify matters, we often tend to classify people and events into already known general categories or groups. We put people into a convenient category on the basis of some characteristics (usually ethnic occupational, sexual, etc.) is known as stereotyping. It helps to simplify the complexity. It avoids individual differences and gives a wrong judgment.
For e.g: Indians are quick-tempered, Fat men are Jolly/happy, Americans are ambitious, Chinese are mysterious and Japanese are industrious, etc. The above examples are not always true. They are true in general not in particular.
Stereotyping refers to judging someone based on how one perceives the group that they belong to. Stereotyping bias is also called availability bias. This bias is determined by how information is stored and assessed in our minds. We will perceive information as representative or typical of the class to which it can be assigned, regression to the mean happens when we ignore the fact that the next time we encounter an extreme event, and availability occurs when we can recall a memory more easily because it is vivid or easy to recall, assuming that the information is more typical.
4) Contrast Effect
When we compare something to something else, the contrast effect distorts our perception of it, intensifying their differences. An explicit or implicit comparison can occur simultaneously or at different times, and it can encompass a variety of traits, from physical traits such as color and taste to abstract qualities such as price and attractiveness.
It is another perceptual error that is very common in our workplace. We don’t evaluate a person in isolation. Contrast effect or error occurs when we evaluate a person’s characteristics that are affected by comparisons with other people recently encountered who rank higher or lower on the same. This type of error is very commonly found when managers go through employment interviews, performance appraisal, etc.
Types of Contrast Effect
a) Positive contrast Effect: An object is perceived as better by comparing it with something worse, which produces a positive contrast effect. When placed next to a book with a boring cover, a book with a positive contrast effect may appear more interesting than usual.
b) Negative contrast Effect: Due to comparison with something better, something is perceived as worse than usual because of a negative contrast effect. If an expensive car is parked next to a car with a negative contrast effect, the latter may appear cheaper than usual.
This is also a very common type of perceptual error. Projection refers to the tendency of the people to see their own traits in other people. It means that, when people make judgments about others, they project their own characteristics into others.
As the saying goes, ‘to an honest man, everybody is honest’ and vice versa.When people assume they are similar to us, it is easy to judge them. We assume, for instance, that others want the same in their jobs, if we want challenge and responsibility.
People tend to attribute their own characteristics to other people if they project their own characteristics onto them. A manager’s involvement in a project compromises their ability to adapt to individual differences. Managers tend to see people as more homogeneous than they actually are. Presentation effects occur when the information we receive influences how we make decisions.
In working toward a final decision, we often start with an initial value and adjust as we progress. The human mind has a limited capacity for processing short-term information. Human minds are limited in their short-term information processing capacity, so decision makers tend to concentrate on the most important aspects of a situation to make decisions. Even the most outrageously extreme anchors can unknowingly sway our judgments, according to research.
There is a popular saying that ‘the first impression is the last impression’. We frequently form the impression of others at first sight. Even before knowing any of their personality traits, they start having impressions and perceive thereby.
This sometimes leads to perceptual distortion. This error may create biasness while performing a performance appraisal.
- First bench students disciplined and intelligent
- Last bench students undisciplined and weak
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