Perceptual Biases and Reducing Their Impact

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Perceptual Biases and Reducing Their Impact

May 29, 2011

Biases, and more specifically, perceptual biases are a range of humanly inevitable techniques that are used by people to make sense of the behaviours, personalities, and attitudes of other people around them. These various techniques are generally the easy way out when we try to analyze an individual's predisposition. However, because they are the easy way out, they cause us to receive only a limited and possibly inaccurate impression of the individual in question and consequently, formulate a biased perception of the individual in our minds. These biased judgements may lead to great difficulties for individual decision makers as well as the organizations they work for. Some of these erroneous techniques that are used to judge an individual's behaviour and personality include the primacy effect, where more weight is given to the early cues when forming an impression; the recency effect, which is the tendency to rely on recent cues when forming an impression; the halo effect, where an impression about an individual's characteristics are based on a single characteristic; and stereotyping, which is the tendency to make generalizations about an individual on the basis of one's perception of the group to which the individual belongs.

The primacy effect is when a person is influenced by the first thing they acknowledge about an individual's behaviour or personality, and form a perception of that individual's entire temperament based on that acknowledgement only. This is most prevalent in interviews- for example, interviewers will make the decision of whether or not to hire an individual within the first 5 minutes of talking with the candidate. An individual may at first appear to be kind and compassionate, then anxious, then slowly impulsive and outspoken, and finally critical and stubborn- this kind of individual would pass as a kindhearted person with a few insecurities to the...
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