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Perceptual Selection – Principles of Perceptual Selection | Organizational Behavior

Perceptual Selection

Perceptual Selection: People are goal-oriented and they have limited capacity to perceive. Therefore, they are always selective. They select from among those physical stimuli which they can grasp at that moment in time. Again, they select those stimuli which satisfy their needs, desires, and expectations based on their capacity.

There are many stimuli demanding the attention of the individual at the same time and that individual can sense only a limited amount of stimuli at a time. Human beings are characteristically selective. They select from among those physical stimuli, which they can register at a point in time. They close themselves off entirely from some stimuli and tend to open their channels of absorption to others. Thus, they set themselves to respond to a particular stimulus or a group of stimuli. Yet, certain events may characteristically creep into an individual’s perceptual life and distract his attention. (Also check, Different kind of Perceptual Errors).

Principles of Perceptual Selection

Some of the important principles of perceptual selection are given below:

1. Intensity:

The intensity principle of attention states that the more intense the external stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived. Because of this advantage that advertisers employ intensity to draw the consumers’ attention. For instance, a loud noise, strong smell or bright light will be noticed more than a soft sound, weak smell, or dim light.

  • Advertisers use intensity to gain customer’s attention (bright packaging; television commercials are slightly louder than the regular programs etc.)
  • Supervisors raise their voices to gain attention.
  • Readers generally pay more attention to bold and italic letters.

2. Size:

The size of things is closely related to intensity. The larger an external factor, the more likely it is to be perceived and vice versa. We are most likely to notice things that stand out because of their size relative to other things in that area.
For example:

  • Advertising Companies use large billboards and signs that capture the perceiver’s attention.
  • The maintenance engineering staff may pay attention to a bigger machine than to a smaller though the smaller one costs more than the bigger one.
  • A tall and fat professor may receive more attention from his students than a 5-foot 3-inch 55 kg talent OB professor.


The contrast principle states that external stimuli that stand out against the background or that are not what people are expecting will perceive their attention.

  • A warning sign in a plant, such as ‘DANGER’ written black against yellow background would be noticed more quickly because of the contrast factor.
  • A manager who interviewed twenty women and one man for a job would remember the man first because of contrast.

4. Repetition (frequency):

This principle states that a repeated external stimulus is more attention getting than a single one.Perhaps, it is because of this that supervisors tend to repeat directions regarding job instructions several times for even simple tasks to hold the attention of their workers.

  •    Advertisers go for repetition a to gain the customers’ attention to their product.   
  • Supervisors give directions over and over again for even the simplest tasks.

5. Motion:

The motion principle says that people will pay more attention to moving objects in their field of vision than they will to non-moving/stationary objects.The factor of motion implies that the individual attends to changing objects in their field of vision than to static objects. It is because of this advantage that advertisers involve signs, which include moving objects in their campaigns.

  • Soldiers in combat learn this principle very quickly.
  • People will be more attracted by a running train/bus than one standing on the platform/bus stand.
  • Advertisers create signs that incorporate moving parts.

6. Novelty and familiarity:

This principle says that either a familiar or a novel (new) factor in the environment can attract attention, depending on the circumstances.A novel object in the familiar situation or a familiar object in a novel situation tends to attract attention. Thus a white person or a black person in India catches attention faster.

  • People would quickly notice an elephant walking along a city street.
  • Someone is likely to notice the face of a close friend among a group of approaching people.


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