9 Factors That Influence Personal Perception Essay


What is Perception?

A process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

Why is it Important?

Because people’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself.  The world that is perceived is the world that is behaviorally important.

Factors  Influencing Perception


·        The Perceiver – attitudes, motives, interests, experiences, expectations

·        The Target – novelty, motions, sounds, size, background, proximity, similarity

·        The Situation – time, work setting, social situation


Person Perception: Making Judgments About Others

Attribution Theory

·       When individuals observe behavior, they attempt to determine whether it is internally (under the personal control of the individual) or externally (outside  causes “force” you to behave a certain way) caused.

 Fundamental Attribution Error

·       The tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal factors when making judgments about the behavior of others.


Self-Serving Bias

–    The tendency for individuals to attribute their own successes to internal factors while putting the blame for failures on external factors.

Attribution Theory - Frequently Used Shortcuts in Judging Others

 - Selective Perception

–    People selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interest, background, experience, and attitudes.

 - Halo Effect

–    Drawing a general impression about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic.

 - Contrast Effects

–    Evaluations of a person’s characteristics that are affected by comparisons with other people recently encountered who rank higher or lower on the same characteristics.

- Projection

–    Attributing one’s own characteristics to other people

 - Stereotyping

–    Judging someone on the basis of one’s perception of the group to which that person belongs.


Specific Applications in Organizations

 - Employment interview

–    Early impressions are very important!   Perceptual judgments are often inaccurate!  (Another reason we should use structured interviews!)

 - Performance Expectations

–    People attempt to validate their perceptions of reality – even when they are faulty!   Self-fulfilling prophecy (Pygmalion Effect) is based on the notion that expectations can determine behavior – this is a very powerful managerial technique!

- Ethnic Profiling – Is it right to profile employees? 

- Performance Evaluations

–    Many subjective components (perceptions) are used in the evaluation of employees

 -  Employee Effort

–    How is “effort” perceived?  It is often a “reason” for terminations


The Link Between Perception and Individual Decision Making

Decisions = Choosing between 2 or more alternatives

Problems = A discrepancy between some current state of affairs and some desired state


How should we make decisions in organizations?

To maximize a particular outcome, try the “rational decision making model”…

Steps in the Rational Decision-Making Model


·        Define the problem.

·        Identify the decision criteria.

·        Allocate weights to the criteria.

·        Develop the alternatives.

·        Evaluate the alternatives.

·        Select the best alternative.


Assumptions of the Rational Decision-Making Model


- Problem Clarity-

–    The problem is clear and unambiguous.

- Known Options-

–    The decision-maker can identify all relevant criteria and viable alternatives.

- Clear Preferences-

–    Rationality assumes that the criteria and alternatives can be ranked and weighted.

- Constant Preferences-

–    Specific decision criteria are constant and that the weights assigned to them are stable over time.

- No Time or Cost Constraints-

–    Full information is available because there are no time or cost constraints.

 -Maximum Payoff-

–    The choice alternative will yield the highest perceived value.


How can we improve creativity in decision making?

–    You can produce novel and useful ideas by emphasizing the three component model of creativity: 1) expertise, 2) creative-thinking skills, and 3) intrinsic task motivation


So, how are decisions actually made in organizations?


·        Bounded Rationality

 - individuals make decisions by constructing simplified models that extract   the essential features from problems without capturing all their complexity.

·        Intuitive Decision Making

–  Intuition = an unconscious process created out of distilled experience. 

–  Intuition is often used when there is a high level of uncertainty, there is little precedent to go on, when the variable in question are less predictable, when “facts” are limited, these facts don’t lead you in one particular direction, data is of little use, when there are several plausible choices, and there is time pressure


Problem Identification

 - Problems that are visible tend to have a higher probability of being selected than ones that are important.  Why?

–    It is easier to recognize visible problems.

–    Decision-Makers want to appear competent and “on-top of problems.”

–    Decision-Makers self-interest affects problem selection because it is usually in the Decision-Maker’s best interest to address problems of high visibility and high payoff.  This demonstrates an ability to perceive and attack problems.


Alternative Development

 - Decision makers rarely seek optimum solutions but satisficing or “good enough” ones.

–    Efforts made are simple and confined to the familiar.

–    Efforts are incremental rather than comprehensive.

–    Many successive limited comparisons rather than calculating value for each alternative.

–    This approach makes it unnecessary for the decision maker to thoroughly examine an alternative and its consequences.

–    Thus the decision makers steps are small and limited to comparisons of the current or familiar options.


Common Biases & Errors

-         We tend to “take shortcuts”  in decision making and this allows error and bias to enter our decisions.  Common biases and errors include:

–        Overconfidence Bias – We tend to be overly optimistic (especially when our intellect and interpersonal abilities are low)

–        Anchoring Bias – Tendency to focus on initial information as a starting point.

–        Confirmation Bias – We tend to seek out info that reaffirms our past choices and we discount info that contradicts our past judgments.

–        Availability Bias --or the tendency of people to base their judgments on information readily available to them.

–         Representative Bias -- The tendency to assess the      likelihood of an occurrence by drawing analogies and seeing identical situations in which they don’t exist.

–        Escalation of Commitment --an increased commitment to a previous decision in spite of negative information (all too often creeps into decision making)

–        Randomness Error – We tend to create meaning out of random events (and superstitions).

–        Hindsight Bias – We tend to believe falsely that we’d have accurately predicted the outcome of an event, after that outcome is actually known.


Intuitive Decision Making – An unconscious process created out of distilled experience.  (see example about firefighters – pg. 153).

Individual Differences in Decision-Making Styles

- Research on decision styles has identified four different individual approaches to making decisions.

–    Directive Style -- people using this style have a low tolerance for ambiguity and seek rationality.

–    Analytic Style -- people using this style have a much greater tolerance for ambiguity than do directive decision makers.

–    Conceptual Style -- people tend to be very broad in their outlook and consider many alternatives

–        Behavioral Style -- people who tend to work well with others.

These are based on our tolerance for ambiguity and way of thinking.


Gender: Women tend to analyze decisions more than men. Women tend to analyze a decision prior to and after the fact. This rumination (reflecting at length) difference is largest in the earlier stages of life and adulthood.

Organizational Constraints


·        Performance Evaluations

·        Reward Systems

·        Formal Regulations

·        System-Imposed Time Constraints

·        Historical Precedents

Cultural Differences

–    The rational model does NOT acknowledge cultural differences

–    There are differences in what problems to focus on, the depth of analysis, importance of logic and rationality, and preference for individual vs. group decision making


What about Ethics in Decision Making?


- An individual can use three different criteria in framing or making ethical choices.  Each has advantages and disadvantages…


–    Utilitarian criterion -- Decisions are made solely on the basis of their outcomes or consequences.  The greatest good for the greatest number.

–    Rights criterion -- Decisions consistent with fundamental liberties and privileges as set forth in documents like the Bill of Rights.

–    Justice criterion -- Decisions that impose and enforce rules fairly and impartially so there is an equitable distribution of benefits and costs.

Ethics & National Culture


·        There are NO global ethical standards

·        Most issues are not “black and white” (i.e., easy to say as being “right” or “wrong”)

·        Q:  How far should we go in punishing rule breakers? Execution? 

Summary and Implications for Managers


 - Perception

–     Individuals behave based not on the way their external environment actually is but, rather, on what they see or believe it to be.

–     Evidence suggests that what individuals perceive from their work situation will influence their productivity more than will the situation itself.

–     Absenteeism, turnover, and job satisfaction are also reactions to the individual’s perceptions.

 - Individual Decision Making

–     Individuals think and reason before they act.

–     Under some decision situations, people follow the rational decision-making model.  However, this doesn’t happen very often

–     So, what can managers do to improve their decision making?

•     Analyze the situation.

•     Be aware of biases.

•     Combine rational analysis with intuition.

•     Don’t assume that your specific decision style is appropriate for every job.

•     Try to enhance your creativity

3 Individual lifestyle factors

As you have seen above, emphasis on individual lifestyle as a determinant of health can be seen in most policies and strategies. In recent years the concept of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ has achieved considerable popular currency but, like many such concepts, the term can be widely used in many different contexts and can come to mean different things. Davison et al. provide a useful definition of ‘lifestyle’ which they describe as: ‘the aspects of health related behaviours and conditions which entail an element of personal action at the individual level ... strongly associated with the possibility of individual choice and the triumph of self control over self indulgence’ (Davison et al., 1992, p. 675).

The main issues addressed usually include diet and physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, drug intake and sexual activity, although, at various times, other issues have also fallen within this rubric, for example, exposure to the sun and use of seat belt or child car seat.

Many attempts to promote public health have focused on the individual and their lifestyle, and this seems to be a fairly common-sense approach. After all, it could be argued that if individuals ate a little less and took more exercise, then they would be less likely to become obese. If they smoked less and drank less alcohol they would be at a reduced risk of long-term conditions such as heart disease or cirrhosis, and if individuals engaged in safe sex, then they would be less likely to become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Individual behaviour can play an important part in health and illness, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle could well be simply a matter of self-control. However, as outlined below, lifestyle accounts have been challenged on several counts.

At a practical level, research has shown that it is very difficult to change individual behaviour. Although there have been some instances of success (e.g. the national HEA campaign to prevent cot deaths in the 1990s), there is still considerable debate about how far health can be improved through targeting individual behaviour. For example, although smoking has declined over time, a recent Omnibus Survey (Lader and Goddard, 2004) of smoking behaviour found that nearly 80 per cent of current smokers had tried (unsuccessfully) to give up smoking; and of these, 46 per cent had received advice on smoking cessation.

Many theories and models have been developed to help explain individual health behaviours. However, one of the key problems facing those promoting public health is the failure of many individuals to follow healthy lifestyle advice. Two key explanations have been put forward to explain this. The first rests on the notion that the public are ‘victims of their own ignorance’ (Davison et al., 1992) and that with increased health education and advice, they will begin to embrace healthier lifestyles. This was the notion underpinning the government’s HIV/AIDS prevention campaign in the late 1980s (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 ‘Don’t die of ignorance’. Part of the government’s advertising campaign; this leaflet was distributed to all UK households.

The second explanation draws on the idea that individuals can believe that health is largely determined by external factors, therefore denying the relevance of individual behavioural change. Psychologists draw on the health ‘locus of control’ (Rotter, 1954) to describe the general expectancy that behaviour either is or is not directly related to health outcomes. An internal locus of control relates to the individual’s feeling of control over health, whereas an external locus of control relates to factors outside of the individual’s control. For example, a study of stress among mothers caring for children with intellectual impairments found an internal locus of control to be a protective factor (Hassall et al., 2005). A study of perceived risk for breast cancer also noted that women with an internal locus of control were more likely to engage in protective health behaviours such as attending screening (Rowe et al., 2005). The significance of this internal locus of control underpins the ‘Take Control Campaign’ launched by Epilepsy Action, which seeks to encourage all those with epilepsy to take control so as to achieve better management of their condition. ‘Take Control’ wrist bands formed part of the campaign (Figure 4).

Figure 4 ‘Take Control’ wrist band

The notion of taking control underpins many contemporary attempts within the public, private and voluntary sectors to promote public health. However, taking control is subject to the ability to take responsibility for health and to make choices, both of which are governed by power relations. In other words, not everyone is free to make decisions and choices, since individual choice and control can be constrained both by other people and by the factors that influence health.

While targeting individual behaviour might seem to be common sense, it is important to recognise that distinct patterns of behaviour can be found among different social groups. For example, Table 1 shows that people in routine and manual occupations are more likely to smoke than people with non-manual occupations. Figure 5 shows changing patterns of excessive alcohol consumption, demonstrating that younger people are more likely to drink to excess and that women are now more likely to drink excessively in comparison to previous years.

Lifestyle accounts draw on notions of individual choice. However, if patterns of behaviour are considered – for example, those identified above – it is easy to see that ‘choice’ is not just an individual matter, but a social one. It is important to ask why young women are drinking to excess and why men in manual occupations are twice as likely to smoke as men in managerial or professional occupations. The rhetoric of choice and the ‘right to choose’ have become embedded in policy and practice. Writing specifically about reproductive choice, for example, Petchesky (1980) argues that, to be meaningful, the right to choose must carry with it the enabling conditions that will make that right concretely realisable and universally available:

The ‘right to choose’ means very little when women are powerless ... women make their own reproductive choices, but they do not make them just as they please; they do not make them under conditions which they themselves create but under social conditions and constraints which they, as mere individuals, are powerless to change.

(Petchesky, 1980, pp. 674–750)

Table 1 Prevalence of cigarette smoking, by sex and socio-economic classification, 2001–2004

All respondants
Socio-economic classification 2001 2002200320042001200220032004
Percentage Smoking cigarettesBases = 100 per cent
Managerial and professional occupations17 17 1616 586 647 625 637
Intermediate occupations 26 31 26 21 244 290 256 268
Routine and manual occupations3334 3630 651 675 606 630
Never worked and long-term unemployed26 22302968 135 142 114
Total 262626 231549174716281649
Managerial and professional occupations20 16 15 18 544 574 564 527
Intermediate occupations2222 1620 467 499 435 441
Routine and manual occupations27 30 3429 802 799 686 734
Never worked and long-term unemployed14242020 131 203 207 197
Managerial and professional occupations181616171132122111891165
Intermediate occupations24251921 711 790 690 711
Routine and manual occupations303234291452147412911365
Never worked and long-term unemployed19232423 199 338 349 311
Source: ONS, 2005d, p. 9, Table 2.3
Figure 5 Adults exceeding weekly benchmarks of alcohol: by sex and age, 1988–89 and 2002–03, GB

So, although lifestyle might be a factor that influences health, it is also important to focus on wider influences and the context within which individual ‘choice’ takes place.

Thinking point: how far is maintaining a healthy lifestyle simply a matter of self-control?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *