Meaning of Perception:

“Perception is the process through which the information from outside environment is selected, received, organised and interpreted to make it meaningful. This input of meaningful information results in decisions and actions.”

According to Joseph Reitz, “Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment—seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. The study of these perpetual processes shows that their functioning is affected by three classes of variables—the objects or events being perceived, the environment in which perception occurs and the individual doing the perceiving.”

Nature/Characteristics of Perception:

  • Perception is a subjective process, therefore, different people may perceive the same environment differently.
  • Perception is an intellectual process.
  • What one perceives may be different from objective reality.
  • It is often observed that a manager is rated differently by his subordinates because of their different perceptions about the manager.


Sensation vs Perception: 

Perception refers to the interpretation of sensory data. In other words, sensation involves detecting the presence of a stimulus whereas perception involves understanding what the stimulus means. Perception is something more than sensation. Perception is determined by both physiological (body) and psychological (mind) characteristics of the human being whereas sensation is conceived with only the physiological (body i.e. sensory organs) features.


Process of Perception:


Perceptual process are the different stages of perception we go through. The different stages are −

  • Receiving
  • Selecting
  • Organizing
  • Interpreting


  • First and most important stage.
  • Initial stage in which a person collects all information and receives the information through the sense organs.


  • Second stage in the process.
  • A person doesn’t receive the data randomly but selectively as per his interest or needs.

The selection of data is dominated by various external and internal factors.

  • External factors − The factors that influence the perception of an individual externally are:1. Size : Bigger size attracts the attention of the perceiver2. Intensity : A loud sound, strong odor or bright light is noticed more as compared to a soft sound, weak odour or dimlight.3. Repetition : A repeated external stimulus is more attention getting than a single one. Advertisers use this principle.

    4. Novelty and Familiarity : A novel or a familiar external situation can serve as attention getter.

    5. Contrast : It is a kind of uniqueness which can be used for attention getting. Letters of bold types, persons dressed differently than others, etc., get more attention.

    6. Motion : A moving object draws more attention as compared to a stationary object. Advertisers use this principle.

  • Internal factors − The factors that influence the perception of an individual internally are psychological requirements, learning, background, experience, self-acceptance, and interest.


In order to make sense of the data received, it is important to organize it.

We can organize data by −

  • Grouping them on the basis of their similarity, proximity, closure, continuity.
  • Establishing a figure ground is the basic process in perception. Here by figure we mean what is kept as main focus and by ground we mean background stimuli, which are not given attention.
  • Perceptual constancy that is the tendency to stabilize perception so that contextual changes don’t affect them.


  • It means forming an idea about a particular object depending upon the need or interest.
  • Information we have sensed and organized, is finally given a meaning by turning it into something that can be categorized.
  • It includes stereotyping, halo effect etc.

Factors affecting Perception:

Following three factors influence the perception:

  • Perceiver: Perceivers’s attitude, motives, Interests, past experiences and expectations influences how he/she perceives things.
  • Object/Target: Shape, size, sound, background, movement, shade etc. of the object being perceived are another influencing factors.
  • Situation: The kind of situation i.e. Work setting or Social setting also influences perception. A manager may behave differently in work situation and differently in personal setting.


Attribution Theory of Perception

Attribution theory suggest that when we evaluate human behaviour, it is either internally caused or it is caused due to external factors.

Internally caused behaviour refers to internal factors on which individual has a full control, whereas the externally caused behaviour refers to the behaviour which has been caused due to external factors and that the individual has no control over it.

The actual perception however depends on the following factors:

Distinctiveness: Let us take an example of X worker coming late for duty. When we carry out interpretation there are two factors, one whether arriving late is usual or unusual behaviour. If it is usual, it is attributed to internal factor on which X has full control. When the behaviour is unusual then it can be attributed to external factors. In the former situation individual could be counselled appropriately in the later situation, the external factors cannot be corrected.

Consensus: This factor refers to group behaviour. If the entire group taking the same route came late on duty, the behaviour is attributed to external factors. But by some chance if X only was late then the cause is internal.

Consistency: If the behaviour of Mr. X is consistence, that is if he is consistently coming late then internal factors are at play. If X came late once in a while, then it can be attributed to external factors.


Fundamental Attribution Error:

Humans have a tendency to under estimate the influence of external factors and over estimate the influence of internal factors or personal factors while carrying out perception. This phenomenon is called the fundamental attribution error. Fall in sales of a commodity is generally attributed to inefficiency of sales force rather than market trend, recession or the effectiveness of competitor.

Self Serving Bias Error:

There is also a self-serving bias error caused by the individuals who tend to attribute their own success to internal causation like ability, hard work and self-worth and the failure, to external factors like Luck.

Common Perception Errors:

Selective Perception: People selectively interpret what they see based on their attitude, interest, background and experience. People in organisation perceive different things differently based on their past experience and attitude towards work. For accurate perception an individual must be observed, studied, tried and then perceived without any individual bias.

Halo Effect: Halo effect refers to judging an individual based on single characteristics, such as intellect, sociability and appearance. The halo effect is often noticed in performance appraisal. A rater may rate a subordinate based on dominance of a single trait of the subordinate.

Projection: You assume a person based on your own traits and not what he actually possesses. If you were hard working and dependable you would expect others to be so. This phenomenon is called the ‘projection’, an error that is common in any organization.

Contrast Effect: We do not evaluate a person in isolation. Our reaction to a person is relative to the other. For example – during selection process, interviewer selects a particular candidate not because he fulfils all requirements but he is better in relation to the other candidates.

Stereotyping: In order to simplify matters, we often tend to classify people and events into already known categories. For example we generally perceive man as executive and woman as secretary. In reality this may not be true. Similarly we attach positive attribute to judges, professors and doctors and negative attributes to school dropouts, addicts although they may not be really so. This stereotyping leads to perceptual errors.

Importance of Perception in Organisation:

Perception is important for the manager to perceive individuals correctly irrespective of their status

  • A manager needs to perceive each of the situation as it exists by interpreting the sensory reflects in correct way.
  • A manager needs to remember that people’s behaviour is based on their perceptions of what reality is, not on reality itself.
  •  A manager needs to remember that different people perceive the same situation differently. In order to deal with the subordinates effectively, the managers must understand their perceptions properly.
  • With the help of perception, manager can gauge the needs of various people in an organisation, because people’s perception is influenced by their needs.
  • Further understanding perception is very important in assigning tasks & roles, motivating employees
  • Also, accurate perception regarding employees helps in determining and adopting appropriate HRM practices.


Thus, study of perception is very important for any OB manager.


  1. Explain internal and external factors that influence perception and discuss the role and application of perception in an organisation. (2011)
  2. Explain the following: figure ground principle. (2013)
  3. Discuss the concept of perception and explain the process of attribution and factors affecting it.
  4. Write a short note on: (a) common perception errors. (b) attribution theory of perception.

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