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A spectacular completed pass during the 1982 National Football Conference championship game helped propel Joe Montana, former San Francisco 49er quarterback, into the legendary status he enjoys today. The reverse effect apparently occurred for Danny White, Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback. He fumbled in the final minute of the same game and never obtained the status of his predecessor, Roger, even though White took the Cowboys to the championship game three years in a row. This example illustrates the notion of perception, the process by which people select, organize, interpret, retrieve, and respond to information from the world around them. This information is gathered from the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. As Montana, White, and can attest, perception and reality is not necessarily the same thing. The perceptions or responses of any two people are also not necessarily identical, even when they are describing the same event. Through perception, people process information inputs into responses involving feelings and action. Perception is a way of forming impressions about oneself, other people, and daily life experiences. It also serves as a screen or filter through which information passes before it has an effect on people.
The quality or accuracy of a person’s perceptions, therefore, has a major impact on his or her responses to a given situation. Perceptual responses are also likely to vary between managers and subordinates. Consider which depicts contrasting perceptions of a performance appraisal between managers and subordinates. Rather substantial differences exist in the two sets of perceptions; the responses can be significant. In this case, managers who perceive that they already give adequate attention to past performance, career development, and supervisory help are unlikely to give greater emphasis to these points in future performance appraisal interviews. In contrast, their subordinates are likely to experience continued frustration because they perceive that these subjects are not being given sufficient attention. The factors that contribute to perceptual differences and the perceptual process among people at work are summarized in and include characteristics of the perceiver, the setting, and the perceived. The Perceiver a person’s past experiences, needs or motives, personality, and values and attitudes may all influence the perceptual process. A person with a strong achievement need tends to perceive a situation in terms of that need.
If you see doing well in class as a way to help meet your achievement need, for example, you will tend to emphasize that aspect when considering various classes. By the same token, a person with a negative attitude toward unions may look for antagonisms even when local union officials make routine visits to the organization. These and other perceiver factors influence the various aspects of the perceptual process. The Setting the physical, social, and organizational context of the perceptual setting also can influence the perceptual process. Kim Jeffrey, the recently appointed CEO of Perrier, was perceived by his subordinates as a frightening figure when he gave vent to his temper and had occasional confrontations with them. In the previous setting, before he was promoted, Jeffrey’s flare-ups had been tolerable; now they caused intimidation, so his subordinates feared to express their opinions and recommendations. Fortunately, after he received feedback about this problem, he was able to change his subordinates’ perceptions in the new setting. The Perceived Characteristics of the perceived person, object, or event, such as contrast, intensity, figure ground separation, size, motion, and repetition or novelty, are also important in the perceptual process. For example, one mainframe computer among six PCs or one man among six women will be perceived differently than one of six mainframe computers or one of six men where there is less contrast. Intensity can vary in terms of brightness, color, depth, sound, and the like. A bright red sports car stands out from a group of gray sedans; whispering or shouting stands out from ordinary conversation.
The concept is known as figure–ground separation, and it depends on which image is perceived as the background and which as the figure. In the matter of size, very small or very large people tend to be perceived differently and more readily than average-sized people. Similarly, in terms of motion, moving objects are perceived differently from stationary objects. And, of course, advertisers hope that ad repetition or frequency will positively influence peoples’ perception of a product. Television advertising blitzes for new models of personal computers are a case in point. Finally, the novelty of a situation affects its perception. A purple-haired teenager is perceived differently from a blond or a brunette.
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