Perception in Individual Behavior

Cite this article as:"Perception in Individual Behavior," in The Business Professor, updated July 14, 2020, last accessed October 22, 2020,

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What is Individual Perception?

Individuals react to the environment based upon how the environment or environmental stimuli register with us. This is the essence of perception. It is an intellectual process. More specifically it is a cognitive and psychological process.

Perception is subjective and different people detect, process, organize, and interpret external information or stimuli differently. Interestingly, individuals may pay selective attention to different aspects or details of a given stimulus while ignoring others.

What is the Process of Perception?

The process by which individuals perceive can be broken down into several steps:

  • Receiving – This involves the recognition of internal or external stimuli.
  • Selecting – This involves either accepting or screening out the received stimuli. This process is controlled by:
    • Internal factors (characteristics of the perceiver)
    • Self-concept – How the perceiver sees themselves.
    • Beliefs – Individual beliefs resulting from prior experience or logic.
    • Expectations – They influence what a person selects as important.
    • Inner Needs – The feeling of tension or discomfort related to the perception of missing something that is important or vital.
    • Response Disposition – The tendency to perceive familiar stimuli over unfamiliar ones.
    • Response Resilience – This is the tendency to see things in accordance with one’s cognitive pre-dispositions.
    • Perceptual Defense – Screening of elements that tend to result in conflict or a threatening situation:
      • Denying the importance or existence of certain information.
      • Distorting present information to correspond with prior information.
      • Treating the information as an exception to the general expectation:
      • External factors (characteristics of the stimuli – size, intensity, strength, repetition, novelty/familiarity, contrast, and motion.). We subconsciously select the things that we deem important and filter those we do not.
  • Organizing – This involves organizing the received and selected information in a meaningful way. The process generally involves 3 steps:
    • Grouping – Organizing stimuli based upon similarity and proximity.
    • Closure – Filling in the incomplete bits of information to create a meaningful narrative. Our ability to connect pieces of information into a whole is affected by our cognitive abilities and experiences.
    • Simplification – Reducing the information to its main features for ease of understanding and use.

Biases and Perception

Individual perception is a function of the external environment and our internal influences. Some well-understood biases include:

  • Visual Perception – Individuals do not perceive objects in isolation. We perceive visual elements and then mentally extrapolate on them. This can lead to wrong inferences about the people around us.
  • Self-Perception – There are several identifiable biases related to how we perceive ourselves. The presence of these biases varies based upon personality type and experience.
  • Social Perception – How we perceive others is shaped by our values, beliefs, wants/needs, fears, and emotions, etc.
  • Self-enhancement bias – The tendency to see our individual capabilities and performance in an overly positive light.
  • Self-effacement bias – The tendency to underestimate capabilities and performance and to have a negative outlook on events.
  • False consensus error – The tendency to believe that others generally agree or see things the same way that we do.
  • Stereotype – Stereotyping is the tendency to make assumptions about an individual based upon generalizations about group characteristics.

What is Impression Management?

Impression management is an effort to affect or shape the way that others perceive you. This is generally done by establishing credibility and maintaining authenticity. This can be achieved through any form of verbal, non-verbal, or behavioral approaches.

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