What is Perception?
Perception in Organisational Behavior: – Perception in Organisational Behavior is defined as the process by which an individual selects, organizes and interprets stimuli into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world. Perception is an intellectual process of transforming sensory stimuli to meaningful information. It involves both recognizing environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. It is a cognitive process by which people attend to incoming stimuli, organise and interpret such stimuli into behaviour.
Stimulus is any unit of input to any of the senses; examples of stimuli (i.e. Sensory inputs) include products, packages, brand names; advertisement and commercials. Sensory receptors are the human organs (the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin) that receive sensory inputs. These sensory functions are to see, hear, smell, taste and feel respective.
The study of perception is largely the study of what we subconsciously add to or subtract from raw sensory inputs to produce a private picture of the world.
Sensation is the immediate and direct response of the sensory organs to simple stimuli and advertisement, a package, a brand name. Human sensitivity refers to the experiences of sensation.
Different individuals have different thinking styles, beliefs, feelings and motives etc. and almost every person behaves accordingly. It is only because of these factors that different people take different meanings for the same thing. One particular thing is right for some and completely wrong for some. It’s all because of how you take things, what your point of view is, how you look at things. This is the perception.
Definitions by Different Authors
- Stephen P. Robbins: – “Perception may be defined as a process by which individuals organise and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.”
- Joseph Reitz: – “Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment—seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling.”
- Fred Luthans: – “Perception is an important meditative cognitive process through which persons make interpretations of the stimuli or situation they are faced with”
Perception in Organisational Behaviour
Perception is simply defined as how a person perceives the world around them and interprets that information. It is a subconscious thing that the mind does and is dependent on your ability to pay attention to your surroundings and your existing knowledge.
In organizational behaviour and business, perception often helps shape an individual’s personality and how they act in certain situations. These can affect how they react to certain things such as their performance in stressful situations—tasks, and even their creativity.
In order to deal with the subordinates effectively, the managers must understand their perceptions properly. Perception can be important because it offers more than objective output; it ingests an observation and manufactures an altered reality enriched with previous experiences.
For management, paying attention to personality traits in employees can help them determine an individual’s work ethic and strengths. i.e., if the manager’s perception is not disrupted in some way. Simply because people’s behaviour is based not on reality, but on their perception of what reality is. The world as it is perceived is the world that is practically important.
For example, in evaluating performance, managers use their assumptions about an employee’s behaviour as the basis for evaluation. One work position that highlights the importance of perception is the selection interview. Perception is also culturally determined. Depending on our cultural background, we see things in certain ways.
What are the components of Perception?
Perception is a process of sensory organs. The mind receives information through the five sense organs, eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. The incoming stimuli to these organs can be through action, written message, verbal communication, smell, taste, touch of the product and people.
Perception begins with awareness of these stimuli. Recognizing these stimuli occurs only after paying attention to them. These messages are then translated into action and behaviour.
- Stimuli (Excitement): – The receipt of information is the stimulus, which results in sensation. Knowledge and behaviour depend on the senses and their stimuli. The physical senses used by people are sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Intuition and hunch are known as the sixth sense. These senses are affected by a large number of stimuli, which can be actions, information, thoughts and feelings etc.
- Attention: – People engage in stimuli selectively. Some stimuli are reacted to while others are ignored without attention. The stimuli to which attention is given purely depend on the selectivity of the people and the intensity of the stimuli. Educated employees pay more attention to any stimulus, e.g., bonus announcements, appeals to increase productivity, training and motivation. Management has to find out suitable stimuli, which can appeal to the employees at the maximum level.
- Recognition: – After noticing the stimuli, employees try to identify whether the stimuli are worth feeling. Messages or incoming stimuli are recognized before they are transmitted in practice. Perception is a two-stage activity, i.e., receiving stimuli and converting stimuli into action. However, prior to the translation phase, the stimulus must be recognized by the individual.
- Translation: – The stimuli are evaluated before they are converted into actions or behaviours. The evaluation process is translation. In the above example, the car driver uses the clutch and brake to stop the car after recognizing the stimuli. They have translated the stimulus into appropriate action immediately. The perception process is purely mental before it is converted into action. Conversion is translation. Management in an organization has to consider various processes of converting message into action. Employees should be assisted to convert stimuli into action.
- Behaviour: – Behaviour is the result of a cognitive process. It is a response to changes in sensory inputs, i.e., stimuli. This is an obvious and covert response. Perceptual behaviour is not influenced by reality, but is the result of the individual’s perception process, his or her learning and personality, environmental factors, and other internal and external factors at the workplace.
- Performance: – Appropriate behaviour leads to high performance. High performers become a source of excitement and inspiration to other employees. A performance-reward relationship is established to motivate people.
- Satisfaction: – Higher performance gives more satisfaction. The level of satisfaction is calculated from the difference between performance and expectation. If the performance exceeds the expectation, people are pleased, but when the performance is equal to the expectation, it results in satisfaction. On the other hand, if performance is less than expected, people become frustrated and this requires a more attractive form of incentive to develop appropriate employee work behaviour and higher performance.
What is the nature of Perception in Organisational Behavior?
The nature of Perception in Organisational Behavior are as follows: –
- Perception is the process by which a person gives meaning to the environment;
- People’s actions, feelings, thoughts and emotions are driven by their perceptions about their surroundings;
- Perception has been defined in various ways; It basically refers to the way in which a person experiences the world; and
- Perception is an almost automatic process and works the same way within each individual, yet it usually produces different perceptions.
What are the factors influencing perception in organisational behavior?
The factors influencing perception in organisational behaviour are as follows: –
- Factors that shape (and can distort perception)
- Characteristics of the Perceiver;
- Characteristics of the Perceived or Target; and
- Characteristic of the Situation.
- When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she sees, that interpretation is heavily influenced by personal characteristics of the individual perceiver.
- The more relevant personal characteristics affecting perception of the perceiver are attitudes, motives, interests, past experiences, and expectations.
- Characteristics of the target can also affect what is being perceived. This would include attractiveness, gregariousness, and our tendency to group similar things together. For example, members of a group with clearly distinguishable features or color are often perceived as alike in other, unrelated characteristics as well.
- The context in which we see objects or events also influences our attention. This could include time, heat, light, or other situational factors.
- Characteristics of the Perceiver: – Many characteristics of the perceiver can affect perception. When a person looks at a goal and attempts to interpret what it stands for, that interpretation is heavily influenced by the individual characteristics of the individual thinker. The major characteristics of the perceiver influencing perception are: –
- Needs & Motives: – The perception of individuals is basically determined by their internal needs and motives. They approach things differently according to their different needs and objectives. Different needs result in different stimuli, in the same way that people choose different objects to satisfy their needs. According to Freud, “Wishful thinking is the means by which the ID, a part of the personality, attempts to reduce stress.” In such cases, people will only understand things that fit their wishful thinking.
- Self-Concept: – How a person actually views others or the rest of the world will clearly determine how he thinks of himself, or his self-concept. It is largely based on the complex psychological makeup of individuals. Self-understanding helps to understand others. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person. In contrast, a negative self-concept can lead a perceiver to pick out negative traits in another person.
- Belief: – A person’s belief has a direct impact on his perception. It is very difficult for a person to think beyond their personal beliefs because most people go by their beliefs and they feel that way. According to Daniel Katz: –
- A person self-censors his intake of communication so that his beliefs and practices are protected from attack.
- A person seeks communication that supports his beliefs and practices.
- The latter is especially true when the beliefs and practices in question have come under attack.
- Past Experience: – People’s perception is greatly influenced by their past experiences. A person having good experience in the past will perceive accordingly and vice versa. The experience of employees results in different levels of perception. A young employee takes time to understand the object and situation. Experienced employees generally understand objects quickly and correctly. However, in contradictory situations, it is difficult to correct aged persons, whereas the young are easily moulded towards achieving the objectives of the organization.
- Current Psychological Status: – The current psychological or emotional state of people plays an important role in perception. The current state of the person defines how the person will perceive something. As such, a person in a good mood will perceive it in a different way than a person who is not in a good mood.
- Expectations: – Again, expectations are a major player in deciding how a person will feel. Expectations are related to the state of anticipation of a particular behaviour from an individual. E.g., If a person thinks that Mr. X will never do him any good, then even if Mr. X is right, that person will always be under the impression that Mr. X is wrong. The employees may expect more pay and so they perceive the management from that angle. The real stimuli are not properly perceived if expectations exist there on. The management has to evolve expectations for proper perception.
- Attitude: – The attitude and aptitude of employees influence perception formation. If they have positive attitudes towards the management, they directly perceive the stimuli given by management. In the case of negative attitudes, the employees suspect the management’s approach. Employees of high aptitude have a desire and attitude for growth. They behave positively toward the management of an organization.
- Characteristics of the Perceived or Target: – Characteristics in the target that is being observed can affect what is perceived. Physical appearance plays a big role in our perception of others. Extremely attractive or unattractive individuals are more likely to be noticed in a group than ordinary looking individuals.
- Physical Appearance or Size: – The larger the size of the perceived stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived and vice versa. Physical appearance plays a big role in our perception of others. The perceiver will notice the target’s physical features like height, weight, estimated age, race and gender. Perceivers tend to notice physical appearance characteristics that contrast with the norm, that are intense, or that are new or unusual. People understand things better when it is explained clearly and they understand accordingly.
- Intensity: – The more intense the external stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived. A loud sound, bright colours, etc. are more likely to attract attention than a softer sound or a relatively dull colour.
- Frequency: – The higher the frequency of repetition of things, the higher the perceptual selectivity. This is also in accordance with the repetition principle of learning.
- Status: – Perception is also affected by the position of the thinker. High status people can have a greater influence on employee perception than low status people.
- Contrast: – The stimulus which is opposite to the surrounding environment attracts more attention than the stimuli found in it.
- Characteristic of the Situation: – Change in situation leads to incorrect perception about a person. Time, place and situation play an important role in the perception of communication. Such situational factors can be further classified as: –
- Physical Setting: – It includes place, location, lighting, heat, ventilation, infrastructure etc. If all these things are reasonable then people can perceive positively and vice versa.
- Social Setting: – This includes human resources, i.e., people around you or affected parties or people concerned about you or people you are concerned about or people you work with. The strength of the situational cues also affects social perception. Some situations provide strong cues as to appropriate behaviour. In these situations, we assume that the individual’s behaviour can be accounted for by the situation and that it may not reflect the individual’s disposition.
- Organizational Setting: – It includes hierarchy, organizational setup, structure, etc. in the organization. All these affect perceptions.
What is Perceptual Selectivity?
Meaning of Perceptual Selectivity: – Perception is a selective process because people can perceive only a limited amount of information in the environment. Perception is the process by which individuals screen, select, organize, and interpret stimuli in order to give them meaning. Perceptual selectivity is the process by which individuals select certain stimuli for attention instead of others.
In everybody’s environment there are various stimuli. These stimuli are in the form of objects, events and people. An individual cannot get attracted towards all these stimuli. So they are characteristically selective. By selection some aspects of the stimuli are examined and others are accepted.
Such selectivity in perception can be brought about by various factors which can be broadly classified as external and internal factors: –
- External factors in perceptual selectivity: – External factors are in the form of perceptual inputs or characteristics of stimuli. The influence of external factors on perceptual selectivity: –
- Size: – Can influence perceptual selectivity by influencing the attractiveness of the perceiver. Usually, the larger the size of the perceived stimulus, the higher the probability that it attracts the attention of the perceiver and he can select it for perception. E.g., Large letters in books grab the attention of the readers and they tend to read the entire text before reading it.
- Intensity: – The more intense the external stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived. Loud sound or strong smell, bright light. E.g., Advertisements on TV are a bit louder than the hoarding.
- Repetition: – Repeatedly the external stimulus is attracting more than one attention.
- Novelty and Familiarity: – Either a novel or a familiar situation can serve as an attention-getter. E.g., Job rotation makes people more attentive to their new job or better accepted communication in a familiar jargon.
- Difference: – Stimuli that stand out against the background or that people don’t expect attract more attention. E.g., block letters, differently dressed person, different colour.
- Motion: – Moving objects attract more attention than stationary objects. E.g., TV commercials get more attention than print ads. All these factors should be used judiciously.
- Internal Factors in Perceptual Selectivity: – These are related to the complex psychological structure of individuals.
- Self-Concept: – The way a person sees the world depends to a great extent on the concept or image that it is about. People’s own characteristics affect the characteristics they can see in others. They select only those aspects that match their characteristics to them.
- Belief: – A fact is not considered what it is, but what a person believes it to be. The individual typically censors the stimulus input to avoid disturbances in their existing beliefs.
- Expectations: – We expect the trade union officials to use abusive language. A mental set about beliefs, expectations and values filters perception.
- Internal Requirement: – People with different needs choose different objects to remember or respond to and experience different stimuli. When people are not able to meet their needs, they engage in wishful thinking to satisfy needs not in the real world but in the imaginary world. In such cases people understand only those things which are in line with their wishful thinking.
- Response Disposition: – Refers to a person’s tendency to perceive familiar stimuli rather than unfamiliar ones. E.g., In one experiment people with dominant religious values took less time to recognize such related words as priest or minister. Whereas it took them longer to recognize words related to economic values such as cost or price.
- Response Salience: – It is the set of attitudes that are not determined by familiarity with the stimulus situations, but by the cognitive tendencies of individuals themselves. E.g., A particular problem in an organization may be viewed by the marketing person as a marketing problem, but as a control problem for the accounting person and as a human resource problem for the personnel person.
- Perceptual Defence: – Refers to the screening of elements that create conflict and threatening situations among people. They may also perceive other factors to be present that are not part of the stimulus state.
Managerial Implications of Perception
A manager is mainly concerned with the achievement of organizational objectives. Perception influences the behaviour of the employee. Therefore, necessarily the facts cannot always be accepted. Thus, understanding human perception is important for understanding and controlling behaviour. There are five major areas that require special attention with regard to perceptual accuracy, as follows: –
- Interpersonal Working Relationship: – Managers in the organization need to know whether the members share the same or at least consistent perception. Interpersonal relationships can be strengthened if people are not misunderstanding each other, if they are not working with busy mind and having a positive attitude.
- Staff Selection: – Selection is based on test, interview and background review of applicants. The perception of managers should not be biased. The selection of staff also depends on how the candidate is taking the questions. His answers will be accordingly. If the candidate is taking the questions in the same way as they are asked then he/she will be in a better position to answer it in an affirmative manner. The perceptual difference completely changes the meaning of the response which sometimes results in bigger problems.
- Performance Appraisal: – Valuation is highly affected by the accuracy of managers’ perceptions. In most of the cases promotion, transfer, increment, continuation of employees etc. depends upon the perceptual process of the boss. Performance appraisal is related to the performance of the employees and should be based on objective criteria. But despite this fact, it is dependent on subjective criteria E.g., Senior’s personal likes and dislikes.
- Level of Efforts: – The manager evaluates the qualitative aspect of the performance of the employees by looking at the level of effort of an individual. If he regards them as having made enough effort and being honest then he will give them a high status even if they do not achieve their goals and vice versa. The manager should be careful while judging in this aspect.
- Increase in Loyalty Levels: – Loyalty levels can be increased with proper application of perception. If the employees feel that the management is not taking any undue advantage from them, the management is understanding them, then they will understand it as their own organization and the job swap will be reduced.
Errors of Perception
The main sources of errors in perception include the following: –
- Central Tendency: – Appraising everyone at the middle of the rating scale.
- Contrast Error: – Basing an appraisal on comparison with other employees rather than on established performance criteria.
- Different from me: – Giving a poor appraisal because the person has qualities or characteristics not possessed by the appraiser.
- Halo Effect: – Appraising an employee undeservedly on one quality (performance, for example) because s/he is perceived highly by the appraiser on another quality (attractiveness).
- Horn Effect: – The opposite of the halo effect. Giving someone a poor appraisal on one quality (attractiveness) influences poor rating on other qualities. (Performance)
- Initial Impression: – Basing an appraisal on first impressions rather than on how the person has behaved throughout the period to which appraisal relates.
- Latest Behavior: – Basing an appraisal on the person’s recent behavior.
- Lenient or Generous Rating: – Perhaps the most common error, being consistently generous in appraisal mostly to avoid conflict.
- Performance Dimension Error: – Giving someone a similar appraisal on two distinct but similar qualities, because they happen to follow each other on the appraisal form.
- Spillover Effect: – Basing this appraisal, good or bad, on the results of the previous appraisal rather than on how the person has behaved during the appraisal period.
- Status Effect: – Giving those in higher level positions consistently better appraisals than those in lower level jobs.
- Strict Rating: – Being consistently harsh in appraising performance.