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Perception in the Context of Negotiation

1. What is “perception” in the context of negotiation?

“Perception” is the process by which individuals connect to their environment, by ascribing meaning to messages and events. This process is strongly influenced by the perceiver’s current state of mind, role and comprehension of earlier communications.

“Perceptual distortion” is a common phenomenon in negotiations. A perceiver’s own needs, desires, motivation and personal experiences may create a predisposition about the other party. This can lead to biases and errors in perception and subsequent communication.

• An example of perception distortion is “stereotyping”, which occurs when one individual assigns attributes to another solely on the basis of the other’s membership in a particular social or demographic category. This tendency is commonly revealed during conflicts involving values, ideologies, and direct competition for resources.

• Another important perception distortion is “halo effects”, which occur when people generalize about a variety of attributes based on the knowledge of one attribute of an individual. The tendency is most common when there is very little experience with a person along some dimension, the person is well known, and when the qualities have strong moral implications.

• Another tendency, known as “selective perception” occurs when the perceiver singles out certain information that supports or reinforces a prior belief and filters out information that does not confirm that belief. Selective perception relates closely to confirmation bias.

• Yet another perception distortion is “projection”, which occurs when people assign to others the characteristics or feelings that they possess themselves. Projection usually arises out of a need to protect one’s own self-concept— to see oneself as consistent and good.

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