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One of the important cognitive factors of human behavior is perception. It is essentially a psychological process. It is the chief mechanism by which people come to know about their surrounding milieu. Perception is the process whereby people select, organize, and interpret sensory stimulations into meaningful information about their work environment. There can be no behavior without perception, and perception lies at the base of every individual behavior. The best supervisor is one who can accurately estimate employee’s perceptions and make his moves. Unfortunately, a manager is not gifted with any set of rules, formulas and techniques to understand other’s minds and other’s perceptions. He is left with his own inventiveness, innovative ability, sensitiveness and introspective skills to deal with perception. 

29.5.1 Defined

People in organizations are bombarded constantly by thousands of visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory stimuli. The critical question in the study of perception is, “Why the same world is viewed differently by different people”? The answer, of course, is quite obvious. That is, psychologically, the world is not same for different people. The question still remains as to Why? An understanding of perception clarifies this point.

1. People’s actions, emotions, thoughts and feelings are triggered by perceptions of their surroundings.

2. Perceptions is the intellectual process by which a person acquires the information from the environment, organize it and obtain the meaning from it.

3. Perception is the phase of operation that takes place after the information being received but one that is well-nigh indistinguishable from it. Though perception has been defined in a variety of ways, it basically refers to the manner in which a person experiences the world.

4. Perception is the basic cognitive or psychological process. The manner in which a person perceives the environment affects his behavior.

5. We define perception as “the process by which people organize, interpret, experience, process and use stimulus materials in the environment so that they satisfy their needs.” 

29.5.2 Perceptual Process

It is widely known that an output is a function of inputs. Similarly perceptual inputs ‘ are first received, then processed by the perceiver and the resultant output becomes the base of the behavior.

The model has four variables:











Perceived inputs are the objects, events, people etc. that are received by the perceiver. 

The received inputs are processes through the selection, organization and interpretation.


Through the processing mechanism, the output is derived. These outputs may be the feelings, actions, attitudes etc.


Behavior is dependent on these perceived outputs. The perceiver’s behavior, in tum, generates responses from the perceived and these response give rise to a new set of inputs.



29.5.3 Perceptual Mechanism: (Steps in Perception)

Perception is a process that operates constantly between us and reality. There are three well-noted mechanisms of perception – selection organization and interpretation. Perceptual selection takes account of only those stimuli that are relevant and appropriate for an individual. Perceptual organization is concerned with harnessing the perceived inputs and converting them into a meaningful shape or form. The final mechanism – perceptual interpretation, deals with inference from observed meaning from the perceived event or objects. From it emanates the resultant behavior of individual.

1. Selection

Individuals cannot assimilate all they observe so they engage in selectivity. Selection is the first fundamental step in perceptual process. There are numerous stimuli constantly confronting everyone all the time. Selectivity occurs because it is virtually impossible for a human being to assimilate everything he observes. He rather prefers only a certain stimuli to take in that are most relevant to him. The process of choosing certain stimuli for further processing is known as ‘selection’. Selectivity is an important means of handling the perceptual overload.

Individual collect bits and pieces of information, not randomly, but selectively deepening on the interests, background, experience, attitudes of the perceiver. Selective perceptions allows us to ‘speed read’ others, but not without (limitations or) the risk of drawing an inaccurate picture.

Generally those events or things that are bright or unusual generate some degree of awareness than the dully and usual. People further perceive only what they want to see. For instance, out of a hundred children playing in the ground parents see their own children before others enter into their field of perception.

2. Organization

Another associated mechanism in perception is the organization. The perceived inputs (incoming stimuli) are organized into meaningful pictures to the perceiver. That is to say, organizing the information that is incoming into a meaningful whole is called ‘organization’. This process is also labeled as ‘gestalt process’. Gestalt is a German work essentially meaning ‘to organize’. There are several ways people organize the perceived inputs, objects, events – viz. grouping, closure and simplification. The common methods of organizing perception thus include grouping, closure and simplification.

3. Interpretation

The third and most important mechanism of perception is interpretation. Without the interpretation of the perceived events the perceived world would be meaningless. Interpretation is subjective and judgment process. In organization, interpretation is influenced by many factors such as the halo effect, stereotyping, attribution, impression and inference. 

29.5.4 Factors Influencing Perception

The factors that influence perceptual mechanism are of two kings internal and external. 

1.         Internal factors : Among the internal factors the most important are the needs, desires of individuals, individual personality, and the experience of people.

a. Needs and desires. The needs and motives of people play a vital role in perception. Perception of a frustrated individual is entirely different from that of happy going person. Some researchers like Atkinson have further pointed out that when pictures of individuals in social settings are shown to them, they perceive in different ways. People at different levels of needs and desires perceive the same thing differently. There is a strong like hood of attending to job-threatening comments if you feel insecure about your job. Power-seekers are more likely to notice power related stimuli. Socially oriented individuals pay attention to interpersonal stimuli. That is to say, expectancy, motives or interests also affect people perception. It goes without saying that people will likely to notice stimuli relevant to current active motives and compatible with major personality characteristics.

b. Personality, Individual personality is another internal factor that has a profound influence on perceives behavior. It is a trite saying that optimistic people perceive the things in favorable terms, pessimistic beings in negative terms. Maslow contends that between these two extremes there exists a category who can see things more accurately and objectively. Individuals who have real perceptive abilities can function effectively without being defensive about their imitations in their personality. Research on the effects of individual personality on perception reveals many truths.

i. Secure individuals tend to perceive others as warm, not cold.

ii. Thoughtful Individual do not expose by expressing extreme judgments of others.

  1. Persons who accept themselves and have faith in their individuality perceive things favorably.
  2. Self-accepting individuals perceive themselves as liked, wanted and accepted by others.
  3.  Experience. Experience and knowledge have a constant bearing on perception. Successful experiences enhance and boost the perceptive ability and lead to accuracy in perception of a person whereas failure erodes self-confidence. 

2.         External (Exogenous) Factors: Perception is also influenced or affected by the characteristics of perceived object or event or person. These include size, intensity, frequency, status etc.

a.         Size: The bigger the size of the perceived stimulus, the higher is the probability that it is perceived. Size establishes dominance and overrides other things and thereby enhances perceptual selection. For example, the maintenance engineer may pay more attention to a big mechanic than to a smaller one, even though the small machine costs the same as the big machine. To take another example, in advertising, a full-page spread is more attention getting than a few lines in some corner of the newspaper.

b.         Intensity: Intensity accentuates and functions to increase the chances of selection. For instance, if the messages are bright and loud then they attract people; underlining sentences calls for a more attention and people generally pay more attention to italics also. The greater the intensity of a stimulus, the more likely it will be noticed. An intense stimulus has more power to push itself our selection filters than does a weaker stimulus. For example, a shout is more attention getting than a normal speaking voice. But one question arises. If intensity is so important why a whisper by a teacher. The answer lies in the fact that a whisper often contrasts with the rest of the noisy environment. The essence of intensity principle is that a loud noise, strong odor, or bright light will be noticed very easily and more than a soft sound, week odor, dim light. The principle that “the higher the intensity of external stimulus the more likely it will be perceived” is sometimes invalid. For example, by speaking loudly the supervisor may be actually turning the subordinates off instead of gaining attention. The intensity factor has to be considered in light of the situation i.e., frame of reference.

c.         Frequency: The frequency principle states that a repeated external stimulus is more attention – getting than a single one. “A stimulus that is repeated has a better chance of catching us during one of the periods when our attention to a task is waning. In addition, repetition increases our sensitivity or alertness to the stimulus”. Thus the greater the frequency with which a sensory stimulus is presented, the greater the chances we select it for attention. Reception is one of the most frequently used technique in advertising and is the most common way of getting our attention. Repetition aids in increasing the awareness of the stimulus. But it has certain limitations. Repeating the confusing information increases confusion. Secondly, if stimulus is presented an excessive number of times you may choose to filter it out completely to avoid becoming irritated. And finally, frequency no doubt increases the probability of selection of stimulus by the receivers but it is no way connected to the accuracy of the interpretation of the information. Frequency simply results in making people aware of the stimulus.

d.         Status: Perception is also influenced to the status of the perceiver. High status people can exert influence on perception of an emp1oyee than low status people. For example, when we are introduced to the divisional manager and foreman we are likely to remember the name of the divisional manager than the name of the foreman.

29.5.5 Perceptual Constancy, Perceptual Context and Perceptual Defence 

Perceptual Constancy: Perceptual constancy deals with stability in changing environment or world. Moskowitz and order observe that constancy permits the individual to interpret the kaleidoscopic variability of proximal stimuli in such a manner than these same stimuli more or less accurately reflect the constancies of the real world the stability and exchangeability of objects and people, the consistency of three – dimensionality of our everyday world. If constancy principle is not at work the world becomes a chaotic and disorganized for the individual. Without perceptual constancy, the shapes. size, colors, of the objects would changes as a person moved about and this makes his job uncomfortable and sometimes impossible. According to Kendler perceptual constancy does not result from ignoring any particular cure, it results from responding to patterns of cues. These cues are mostly learned by individuals, but with each situation the interactions between learned and inborn tendencies occur within the entire perceptual process. The essence of perceptual constancy is that the shape, size, color, brightness, and location of an object are reasonably an fairly constant regardless of the information received by senses. For example, a cricket ball is red in color: all cricket players wear white uniform etc.

Perceptual context: Context is very important in order to give meaning and value of stimuli, objects, events, and situations. The visual stimuli without context become completely meaningless. But when the boodles are placed in a verbal context they take on meaning and some value to the person who perceives.

In the organization, a pat on the back, a suggestive gesture, a raised eyebrow, etc., will be meaningless without proper context. They will be made more meaningful if an employee receives a pat on the back for increase in performance and like that.

Perceptual defence. People often screen out perceptual stimuli that makes than uncomfortable and dissatisfying. People have certain inherent tendencies to defined their reactions against new information which would be conflicting with their existing impressions. Perceptual defence is performed by i. denying the existence or importance of conflicting information, ii. distorting the new information to match the old or iii. acknowledging the existence of the new information but treating it as a non-representative exception. People generally build defenses against stimuli or events that are either personally or culturally unacceptable or threatening. From the point of view of organization, perceptual defense plays an influential role in understanding superior subordinate relationships.

The empirical evidence, although conflicting, suggests that perceptual defense mechanism do exists. For instance, Bruner and postman have found barriers to perceiving personally threatening words, and another study by McGinnis raised identification of thresholds for critical and emotionally toned words. The essence is that people learn to avoid perceiving certain conflicting, threatening and unacceptable aspects of context.