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Perception in OB: Factor Affecting, Application, Principles, Theories, Perceptual Process

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Meaning/Concept of Perception

Perception is the process of gathering, organizing and interpreting the sensory impressions regarding the world. Individuals give the meaning to any event, object or person on the basis of their perception. Perception of the individual make difference in understanding the instances or events and hence the interpretation may be different person to person and even from the objective reality. This means that perception is the subjective judgment of nay person towards the environment which can be substantially different from one person to another. For instance, current working environment of nay organization may be satisfactory to some employee whereas may be cause of job turnover to some others. Some employees may perceive that the organization in which they are currently working can fulfill their expectation whereas that can be too low to that their organization is paying competitive pay and benefits while some others may think it is poor while the reality may be different. In this way, perception can be viewed as the individual way of explaining the environment on the basis of information collected through sensory organs. Perception is a complex cognitive process by which different people interpret the stimulus or situation they are faced with.


In conclusion, perception is the process of gathering, organizing and interpreting the information from environment. It is the basis of individual behavior. People behave as they make perception regarding what reality is rather than the reality itself. Job behavior like job commitment and organizational commitment are the consequences of employee perception which increases the importance of understanding individual perception at job. Following figures may have perceived differently by different persons.

Features of Perception

Perception is the way of interpreting the events or information received from environment. From above discussion, we can summarize the following features of perception:
  1. Psychological or cognitive process: Perception is purely mental process in which individual receives information from environment filters them on the basis of cognition. Perception is basically learning process.
     
  2. Individual indifference: Perception may be different person to person as it is based on individual psychology and way of interpretation. Same thing, person or event may be favorable to some while unfavorable to some other person. This is because of way of thinking and interpreting the stimuli.
     
  3. Different from reality: Perception may be different from real world. Individual make perception on the basis of what she/he thinks about the reality but not on the basis of reality itself. For instance, most of us perceive that sun rises in the east and sets in the west but the reality is neither sun rises not it sets. Neat and tidy people are perceived as good human but reality may be different.
     
  4. Affected by motivation and personality: Perception is affected by motivation of individual and personality. Individual perceive what they want to perceive. Personality of the people is backed by knowledge and hence the perception is also affected by level of knowledge.
     
  5. Perception can be developed: Perception can be developed or changed through learning. Formal education, training and experience improve and even sometimes change the perception of the individual.
     
  6. Basis of individual behavior: Behavior of individual is backed by perception. No behavior can be expected without perception. Individual show the behavior as she/he perceives about event, object or person. 
Also read: Organizational Behavior: Assumptions, Levels, Challenges and Opportunities, Emerging trends, System/Model, Outcomes 

    Perceptual Process

    Perception is the process of making judgment on the basis of sensory impression. This is the way by which individual receives the information from environment and filters to make conclusive decision whatever may be the reality. Perception consists of following steps:

    1. Environment Stimuli

    Environment is the primary source of information for individual perception. Environment stimulates the sensory organs to receive information. Individual gets information through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. In this stage individual collects general information about event, object and person. In perceptual process, this step is taken as input.

    2. Selection

    Individual after receiving the information from environment, filters and selects information. In this step, filtration, modification or change in stimuli takes place. This helps to organize required information and strengthen the primary decision. Selection is psychological process which follows two important principles as figure-ground principle and relevancy principles.

    Under figure-ground principle, meaning and significant (figure) information are selected but meaningless and less important (ground) information are discarded. Likewise, under relevancy principles, only relevant to the expectation and needs are selected out of total information.
    Following reasons motivate people for selecting the information:
    • People pass through selection, in order to reduce the perceptual overload as they cannot hold total information. 
    • People used to be purposive i.e. they already prepare mind set up regarding what they want to see or hear. 
    • People do not think all the information may not be important. They select only the most important or most risky. 
    • People select that information which is more familiar or strange in comparison to others. 

    3. Organization

    In this stage, the processed information is ordered and classified in a logical manner. The selected stimuli are grouped into recognizable patterns so that individual can make conclusive judgement. Logically ordered information helps to give meaning of the information. Organization includes grouping, closure and simplification process.
    • Grouping: Under grouping, more likely or proximate information which are selected are brought together. For example, if five students of a class become absent on Friday. Program coordinator perceives that they have bunk the class for new movie. But reality may be they have absent because of individual causes at home. Similarly, if three employees quit the job after the decision of promoting others, manager may think both of them have left the job because of same reason of not being promoted.
    • Bridging the gap (Closure): This is the tendency of completing sense or meaning of incomplete information with self knowledge of guess. People perceive fixed meaning of well established abbreviated form for example MGMT is meant by Management OB is understood by Organizational Behavior, etc. This is the process of obtaining complete meaning even having certain gap or incomplete information.
    • Simplification: Simplification is the process of avoiding information overload. For this, individual selects only important to them or simple to understand. Through simplification process, people select only meaningful and understandable information. 
    Also read: Organizational Behavior: Concept, Characteristics, Importance, History, Contributing Disciplines 

      4. Interpretation

      After organizing the information into logical order, individual assigns meaning to the stimuli to make sense out of them. Everybody has unique filter to interpret the stimuli within the framework of existing knowledge. This means every individual may have different meaning for same event, object or person on the basis of different interpretation. In this stage individual prepares the perception.

      5. Outcome

      On the basis of perception, individual sets emotion, attitude, and behavior. Emotion is thus, drives the psychological as well as physical activities which can easily be observed by others. This is a coordinated package of biological arousal, thoughts or mental evolution and behavioral expression. Attitude is the position or stance towards rights or wrong regarding any event, product or person. This creates positive or negative feelings. Behavior is the set of actions or conducts on the basis of attitude. So, attitude and behavior are the outcomes of perception process.

      Factors Affecting Perception

      Perception is individual specific as different people may perceive the event, object or person in different ways. A variety of factors shape and sometimes distort the perception. Basically, perception may be affected by individual, target and situation related factors. So, factors affecting perception can be classified into three major heading as factors in individual, factors in target and factors in situations.

      1. Factors in individual

      Main factor in perception formulation is the individual i.e. perceiver itself. Personal characteristics of perceiver greatly affect the way of making judgments regarding the event, object and person. Attitude, motives, emotions, interests, experience and expectations are some perceiver related factors affecting perception.

      2. Factors in Target

      Target is the event, object or person itself to which perceiver want to make an interpretation. There can be different factors on target by which individual's interpretation may be changed. Novelty, motion, sounds, size, background, proximity and similarity are most important target related factors affecting perception. Such factors affect intensity, frequency and actual evaluation of the target which may change the previous perception and or help to create the perception in different ways. For instance, distance of target may affect in color, texture, size, sound, etc. of the target which may create perception differently.

      3. Factors in Situation

      Situation in which the perceiver collects the information and interprets the target also affects in perception formation. Such situation related factors are time, work setting and social setting. These factors may affect on the priority of perceiver, satisfaction of needs of perceiver, utility function, supervision style, quality work life and the organization itself.

      Specific Application of Perception in Organization

      Perception is the way of interpreting the event, object and person. It helps to make the personal judgement. It also affects in decision making. Both of these issues are equally important in the organization. So, application of perception in organization can be discussed under two headings as:
      • To understand individual perception to understand others
      • To understand individual perception and decision making
      1. Individual perception to understand others: There are many events in the organization to understand each other in various issues. Managers and supervisors should make the decision regarding whom authority can be delegated. On the basis of person's perception, subordinate's activities may vary. Thus, it is necessary that the individual perception to understand other need to be studied. It is necessary to understand perception to understand others need to be studied. It is necessary to understand how one individual perceives other in the organization. There may be various factors regarding perceiver, target and the situation affecting the person's perception towards others. During this, one individual perceives the other with certain assumption about other's internal state. "Internal state refers to the beliefs motives, emotions, attitudes and values". Attribution theory is used to explain how and individual perceives other differently and attribute to a given behavior. Attribution theory has given one important output known as attribution error while making judgment of others.
      2. To understand individual perception and decision making: Different people have to make decision on the basis of their capacity in the organization almost in regular basis. Top managers need to make the decision regarding organizational goals and strategies. Middle level managers make decisions regarding departmental goals and action plans while lower level managers need to make decision regarding day to day operation. And non-managerial employees make decisions regarding how much efforts should be paid to accomplish job allocated to them. All such decisions are expected to achieve the organizational by increasing organizational efficiency and effectiveness. All such decision and quality of decision are affected by individual perception regarding goals, plans, policies and strategies.

        While making decision, decision maker gets information from different sources. Information then, are evaluated and the best one is chosen. Information evaluation and selection process depend upon perception of the decision maker. Perception may alter the decision through biased analysis and conclusion. 

      Principles of Perceptual Selection

      Individual does not always perceive the events freely from the environment.She/He selects the stimuli from the environment which can satisfy her/his needs, desires and expectations because of the dominance of needs in individual. Individual selects the stimuli on the basis of certain guidelines which are termed as principles of perceptual selection. Here, each principle is not significant alone in making perception. Basic principles of perceptual selection are discussed below:
      1. Principle of Intensity: According to intensity principle of perceptual selection, the more intense the external stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived. Loud sound, dark color, strong smell, bold and italic letters etc. are perceived more easily and quickly in comparison to the soft sound, light color, soft smell. This principle is used frequently in advertisement like bright color in packaging, loud sound in television commercials. Supervisors sought loudly to get attention.
         
      2. Principle of size: The size principle of perceptual selection states that the larger size of stimulus, the more likely it is to be perceived. This means that the stimulus with larger size is easily perceived than the stimulus having small size. Normally, supervisors and managers with large body size can command more strictly to their subordinates because of positive perception of subordinates towards them. Large billboards are used in advertisement to draw the attention of perceivers. Full page advertisement gets more attention of readers. In the given figure, bigger circle is likely to be perceived quickly which draws the attention of viewer.
      3. Principle of contrast: Contrast stands for dissimilarity or uniqueness against all other stimulus or objects standing out. This principle states that the stimulus which is different or unique in comparison to the nearby and common objects, that will be perceived easily and quickly. For example, person wearing different color dress in a group can perceive the attention. Employees with different sound or vision are perceived quickly. Likewise the word DANGER written with red letter on while background draws quick attention. Cricketers wear different color sun glasses to get attention. In the adjacent figure, though all the circles have equal size, but central circle is easily perceived than other because of its contrast color.
      4. Principle of Novelty and Familiarity: Novelty is newness and familiarity is commonness or known to the perceiver. This principle states that perceiver perceive easily and quickly to novel (new) or familiar stimulus depending upon circumstances. For instance, new person in locality draws more attention while familiar face can easily be recognized. New design of vehicle or machine or dress can be perceived fast.
      5. Principle of repetition: Repetition or frequency plays vital role to select the perception. Highly repeated stimulus gets more attention than none repeating or single one. For example, producers or suppliers repeat advertising materials to their prospect customers to get attention. Supervisors and managers give directions again and again to their subordinates so that they can remember. Refreshment training are given to employee to refresh the knowledge or skill of employees.
      6.  Principle of Motion: This principle states that the moving objects draw more attention than the stationary objects. For instance, advertisement of a car or motorcycle uses the running (moving) state to attract perceivers. Likewise, trainers, teachers and supervisors keep on moving while instructing or observing their trainees, students and subordinates so that perceiver gets more attention in moving.
      7. Principle of learning motivation and personality: This principle states that individual perceive the stimulus which compatible to their learning, motivation and personality. Learning creates certain expectancy so that individual perceive in certain manner. Motivation itself helps to draw attention towards stimulus and the personality affects the way of perceiving the stimulus.

      Application of Perception Theories in Organization

      Perception is the unique way in which each individual receivers, organizes and interprets things. It is a process of making personal view regarding management approaches, leadership style, group behavior and other management practices in the organization. On the basis of perception, individual makes decision towards continuation or termination, makes behavior pattern at the work place and with supervisor, managers and team members. Thus, perception theories are much useful in organizational settings. Perception theories can be used in organization mainly in following two issues:

      1. Person Perception

      By means of perception, through mental processes, individual wish to make conclusion regarding other person as well as to influence other specially. For instant, if a new manager is appointed in organization and introduces himself in front of employees, on the vary first meeting, employees make perception regarding his leadership style (strictness or softness) on the basis of his body posture, body language, words used while introducing, facial expression etc. Likewise, each employee wishes to have positive influence (image of good employee) in front of him. Attitudes, motive, interest, experience, expectation, time, social scenario, novelty, proximity, contrast, similarity, etc. affect on individual perception. In individual perception, attribution theory, attribution errors and common shortcuts are the major theories or foods.

      a. Attribution theory

      The attribution theory explains whether the behavior of individual is explained (perceived) externally or internally. "This theory tries to explain the ways in which we judge people differently, depending on the meaning we attribute to a given behavior". This theory suggests that the behavior of individuals can be attributed or judged as whether it was internally (controlled by person) or externally (situational). For instance, if an employee is late at job, it can be attributed in two ways as:
      • It is because of intention of disloyalty of employee which is internal cause of employee. 
      • It is because of the peak traffic hour which is beyond the control of employee. The first type of attribution is called internal attribution and the second type is external attribution. 
      Internally caused behavior is expected to be under control of individual. We perceive the internally caused behavior through internal attribution. Internally caused behavior is treated with high priority in the organization if they are more consistently happening. Externally caused behavior is expected to occur because of environment or situation. Such behavior is normally out of control of person. Consistency of externally caused behavior remains low because the situation or environment does not remain same always and it is not under control of individual.

      "Harold Kelly has proposed a widely accepted model which explains how people determine why others behave as they do. According to this model people determine why other behave as they do. According to this model, people make attributions with focusing on three major factors as consistency, distinctiveness and consensus".
      • Consistency: Consistency behavior refers to the same behavior performed again and again by same person in similar situation. For instance, in the above example, because of consistency behavior employee tends to be late almost everyday. This is caused by internal attribution. But, if the employee is not late for several days in previous months but she/he is late for only one day, it can be attributed by external causes.
      • Distinctiveness: Distinctiveness refers to the different behavior performed by same person in different situations. For instance, in the above example, whether the person who is late today frequently comments on management practices in other different situations as well? If yes, the attribution of being late today may be internal but if no, the behavior can be attributed externally.
      • Consensus: This refers to same behavior performed by everyone who faces similar situation. In the above example, if everyone using the route becomes late, it can be attributed consensus. If the consensus behavior is high, we can give it as the external attribution but if there is low consensus, it can be responded as internal attribution. 

      b. Attribution errors: 

      "One of the most interesting findings from attribution theory research is that errors or biases distort attributions". Attribution can be distorted by following two types of errors:
      1. Fundamental attribution error: When we make judgements about the behavior of other person, we normally over estimate the influence of internal or personal factors (abilities, motives, traits or emotions) and underestimate the influence of external or situational factors. Such type of errors is called the fundamental attribution errors. Such type of error may cause dissatisfaction in employees.
      2. Self servicing bias: Self-serving bias refers to the tendency of attributing own success to internal causes while failure to external causes. For example, a supervisor may attribute internal (because of self efficiency) if an assigned work is completed in time with desired quality but may attribute external (because of inefficiency of subordinates) if the assigned job is not completed in time with desired quality. A sales manager may attribute the sale growth because of him but may blame the production unit if it may decrease.
      3. Common shortcuts in judging others: Individuals frequently use shortcuts for judging others as they have to make quick judgement. Such shortcuts are more valuable in organizational settings as each individual make judgement respectively from their position and make their behavior. Such shortcuts are frequently used in day to day work life simply because they help us making decisions quickly. Though such shortcuts may distort the reality and lead us to wrong consequences but are not foolproof. Following shortcuts are common in judging others:

        • Selective perception: Selective perception is the tendency of selecting the event, object or person and interpret as the intention or wish of perceiver. People may interpret the stimulus on the basis of own interest, experience, background and attitude leaving all other within the same situation. For instances, a manager always delegate authority to only a selected subordinate as she/he selectively perceive the person is good. This may be because of personal vested interest as the person does the job secretly or the selected person may be own relative. Such behaviors in the private organization are too common. We observe only the car or motorcycle on the road which we want to see. People used to rely on the information supplied by certain media or person to whom they trust rather than what may be true.
        • Halo effect: Halo effect is the tendency of drawing general impression about an individual, event or object on the basis of single feature ignoring the rest of all others. Generally, we judge a person on the basis of intelligence, sociability, appearance, etc. keeping other things ignored. First impression or experience is always used for benchmark in this type of shortcut. Good person once is always good and wrong once is judged always wrong: as a halo effect.
           
        • Contrast effect: "It is the tendency of evaluation of a person's characteristics that is affected by comparisons with other people recently encountered who rank higher or lower on the same characteristics". We judge stimulus on the basis of features of stimulus which are already encountered. For instances, we judge new car on the basis of the car we are using or we have just observed in the next showrooms. We judge new employee by comparing the employee who has just retired or resigned from the same post. Current candidate in interview is judged on the basis of previous candidate. This shortcut compels to overlook the personal characteristics.
        • Stereotyping: "It is the tendency of judging someone of the basis of one's perception of the group to which that person belong". We make certain presuppositions regarding person on the basis of their belongingness. On the basis of those suppositions, we generalize out perception and decisions. For instances , "men are not fit for child care" because we suppose men are not interested for this job. Likewise, "girls are fit for front-desk job" because they have good hospitality and passion. Stereotyping is normally inherited and this plays reluctant to change the behavior in normal effort. It is very common on gender, ethnicity, age, race, body structure, body weight,skin color, etc.

          Some example of use of shortcuts in organization
          • Eligibility of candidates to apply for the job. 
          • Employee interview and hiring process.
          • Performance expectation from employee. 
          • Employee performance appraisal. 
          • Judging employee loyalty. 
          • Authority delegation

      2. Individual decision making (IDM)

      Decision are the choices made from among various alternative solutions for any particular problem. Individual, in the organization, need to make decision under various capacity of organizational hierarchy. Top level of managers make decisions over organizational goals, vision, mission, strategy as well as decision regarding expansion or hold the plant, innovation or development products, etc. middle level managers decide on departmental goals, production schedules, selection of new employees, departmental coordination, departmental strategies, etc. Likewise, lower level managers make decisions over daily schedule on production, supply, service, etc. Decisions are influenced, in most of the cases, by individual behavior. Decisions at large, affect on behavior of many people involved in the organization. Perception affects on behavior. Therefore, perception is closely associated in individual decision making process. There are mainly three theories or models of IDM as:

      a. Classical or rational decision making model: 

      "Classical or rational decision making model is a decision making model that describes how individuals should behave in order to maximize same outcome. This model assumes that best decision maker is rational and makes consistent, value maximizing choices within specified constraints". Rational decision making model is based on a number of assumption like;
      • Decision maker can easily analyze the problem. 
      • Preferences are clear, constant and stable, 
      • Decision maker has complete information. 
      • Decision maker is capable of identifying all the relevant alternative solutions. 
      • Decision maker is capable of choosing the best option without any biases.  
      Rational decision making model suggests following six steps in decision making:
      1. Define the problem: In this step, decision maker identifies the issues of problem, problem dimension, and depth of the problem. Poor diagnostic skills and perceptual biases are common errors in problem defining.
      2. Identify the decision criteria: In this step, decision maker chooses the variables affecting decision outcomes. Qualification, experience, ability, initiative, etc. are common decision making criteria which affect on quality of decision.
         
      3. Allocate weight to the criteria: In this step, decision maker ranks the decision making criteria on the basis of importance in the decision making process. Weight to the criteria is affected by perception of decision maker.
         
      4. Develop the alternatives: In this step, decision maker develops potential solutions available to solve the problems. Decision maker only prepares the list of various solutions. Once again, perception of decision maker affects on preparation of alternative solutions. 
      5. Evaluate the alternatives: In this step, decision maker evaluates all available alternative solution on the basis of their advantages and disadvantages. Adverse and favorable consequences are estimated carefully. Decision maker consider all the criteria for decision making.
      6. Select the best alternatives: This is the main stage in decision making. Decision maker at this step, selects best alternative on the basis of consequences of decision. Most appropriate alternative with positive effects are selected as decision. 

      Criticism of Classical or radical decision making model

      Most assumptions of this model are realistic. Most decision in the real situation don't follow this model. Most significant decision are made by judgement, rather than by a defined perspective model. "What's more, people are remarkably unaware of making suboptimal decisions". Many researchers have noted that decision making usually is not logical, consistent, and systematic process. Thus, decision making cannot be rational. Following facts are sufficient to limit the important of classical or radical decision making model:
      • Decision maker has limits on information processing capability. 
      • Perceptual biases can distort information processing, alternative searching evaluation of alternatives and selection of alternative. 
      • Many decision makers select information more for its accessibility than for its quality. 
      • Decision makers usually tend to commit themselves to a specific alternative prior to evaluation all other alternatives. 
      • Prior decisions always influence on the new decision. So, decision makers cannot be rational. 
      • Organizations are established with fixed goals which direct the intention of decision maker rather than being optimally rational. 
      • Organizations put time and cost constraints to the decision maker which violets one of the most important assumption of rational decision making model. 

      b. Behavioral theory of decision making (Bounded rationally model): 

      Above mentioned criticism of rational model compel researcher to think alternative model of decision making. "Our limited information processing capability makes it impossible to assimilate and understand all the information necessary to optimize". At the same time, most problems cannot be fitted in rational model. Thus, decision makers, instead of fitting problem in rational model, reduce the problem to a level at which they can understand and solve with available alternatives. This way of making decision is known as behavioral theory or boned rationality model. "Bonded rationality or behavioral decision making is a process of making decision by constructing simplified models that extract the essential features from problems without capturing at their complexities". This model explains the clear description about how decision makers makes decisions. This is more realistic guidance regarding how should decision maker made decisions. Bonded rationally model was first proposed by Herbert Simon, James March and their colleagues. 

      This theory has two important concepts as bounded rationally and satisfying outcomes. Brief description above these concepts are given below:
      Bounded rationality: This concept argues that decision makers is limited by his values and unconscious reflexes, skills, and habits. Decision makers have limited information and knowledge to make rational decision. 

      Satisfying outcome: This concept argues that decision maker continues generate and evaluate alternatives. Best alternative among all available alternatives (which may not be optimally best) is selected. 
      Advocacy for the behavioral or bounded rationality model
      • It focuses on decision making even in inadequate information. 
      • Decision makers can make decision from limited alternatives as well as they can never succeed in generating all possible alternatives. 
      • Decision can be made with the best prediction of consequences based on knowledge of decision maker. 
      • Decision can be best among the alternative but less optimal. 

      c. Intuitive decision making

      It is perhaps a least rational way making decision in which decision maker makes decisions without any conscious process. It occurs outside conscious thought means decision are made in emotions. But, for intuitive decision making, decision maker should have highly complex and highly developed form of reasoning from years of experience and learning. This model of decision making can be useful in the case where over emphasizing on decision making is not important. One of the major weakness of intuitive decision making process is that decision maker should not make the decision making only at hunch. Thus, intuitive decision making neither can be abandoned nor re relied solely. 


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