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Perception and Individual Decision Making

What Is Perception?

Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sen- sory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment. However, what one perceives can be substantially different from objective reality. There need not be, but there is often, disagreement. For example, it’s possible that all employees in a firm may view it as a great place to work—favorable working conditions, interesting job assignments, good pay, excellent benefits, an under- standing and responsible management—but, as most of us know, it’s very unusual to find such agreement. Why is perception important in the study of OB? Simply because people’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself. The world as it is perceived is the world that is behaviorally important Frequently Used Shortcuts in Judging Others

We use a number of shortcuts when we judge others. Perceiving and interpret- ing what others do is burdensome. As a result, individuals develop techniques for making the task more manageable. These techniques are frequently valuable—they allow us to make accurate perceptions rapidly and provide valid data for making predictions. However, they are not foolproof. They can and do get us into trouble. An understanding of these shortcuts can be helpful in rec- ognizing when they can result in significant distortions Selective Perception Any characteristic that makes a person, object, or event stand out will increase the probability that it will be perceived. Why? Because it is impossible for us to assimilate everything we see—only certain stimuli can be taken in. This tendency explains why you are more likely to notice cars like your own or why some people may be reprimanded by their boss for doing something that, when done by another employee, goes unnoticed. Because we can’t observe everything going on about us, we engage in selective perception. A classic exam- ple shows how vested interests can significantly influence which problems we see.

Halo Effect When we draw a general impression about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic, such as intelligence, sociability, or appearance, a halo effect is operating.8 This phenomenon frequently occurs when students appraise their classroom instructor. Students may give prominence to a single trait such as enthusiasm and allow their entire evaluation to be tainted by how they judge the instructor on that one trait. Thus, an instructor may be quiet, assured, knowledgeable, and highly qualified, but if his or her style lacks zeal, those students would probably give the instructor a low rating

Contrast Effects There is an old adage among entertainers who perform in variety shows: Never follow an act that has kids or animals in it. Why? The com- mon belief is that audiences love children and animals so much that you’ll look bad in comparison. This example demonstrates how contrast effects can distort perceptions. We don’t evaluate a person in isolation. Our reaction to one per- son is influenced by other persons we have recently encountered

Projection It’s easy to judge others if we assume that they’re similar to us. For instance, if you want challenge and responsibility in your job, you assume that others want the same. Or, you’re honest and trustworthy, so you take it for granted that other people are equally honest and trustworthy. This tendency to attribute one’s own characteristics to other people—which is called projection—can distort perceptions made about others. People who engage in projection tend to perceive others according to what they themselves are like rather than according to what the person being observed is really like. When managers engage in projection, they compromise their ability to respond to individual...
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