What is Perception?

  • Post last modified:17 March 2021
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What is Perception?

Perception is the process by which a person interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful experience of the world.

It is a cognitive process by which people attend to incoming stimuli, organise and interpret such stimuli into behaviour.

What is Perception

Perception Meaning

The word Perception comes from the Latin words, “percipio” meaning “receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses”.

Perception Definition

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

Stephen P. Robbins

Perception is an important meditative cognitive process through which persons make interpretations of the stimuli’s or situation they are faced with

Fred Luthans

Perception in Organisational Behavior

Why is perception important in the study of Organisational Behavior?

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

For example, in appraising performance, managers use their perceptions of an employee’s behaviour as a basis for evaluation. One work situation that highlights the importance of perception is the selection interview. Perception is also culturally determined. Based on our cultural backgrounds, we tend to perceive things in certain ways.

Read: What is Organizational Behavior?

Nature of perception

  1. Perception is the process by which an individual gives meaning to the environment.
  2. People‘s actions, emotions, thoughts and feelings are triggered by their perceptions of their surroundings.
  3. Perception has been defined in a variety of ways; it basically refers to the manner in which a person experiences the world.
  4. Perception is an almost automatic process and works in the same way within each individual, yet it typically yields different perceptions.

Read: Theories of Personality

Factors that Influence Perception

  1. Characteristics of the Perceiver
  2. Characteristics of the Target
  3. Characteristics of the Situation
Factors that Influence Perception

Characteristics of the Perceiver

Several characteristics of the perceiver can affect perception. When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she stands for, that interpretation is heavily influenced by personal characteristics of the individual perceiver.

The major characteristics of the perceiver influencing perception are:

  1. Attitude
  2. Motives
  3. Interest
  4. Experience
  5. Expectation
  6. Self-Concept
Characteristics of the Perceiver
Characteristics of the Perceiver


The attitude and aptitude of employees influence perception formation. If they have positive attitudes towards the management, they directly perceive the stimuli given by management. In the case of negative attitudes, the employees suspect the management’s approach. Employees of high aptitude have a desire and attitude for growth. They behave positively toward the management of an organization.


The motives and desires of employees cause them to view stimuli differently as per their level and angle. Helpful motives of the employees will always assist the management. If they desire to develop themselves and the organization, they will perceive objects and situations positively. Employees having low motives will not work sincerely. The perception will differ depending on different types of motives.


The interest of individuals draws more attention and recognition to stimuli. Less attention and recognition lowers the impact of stimuli or objects on behaviour. If employees lack interest, behaviour pattern will be less effective, and the perception will be weak.


The experience of employees results in different levels of perception. A young employee takes time to understand the object and situation. Experienced employees generally understand objects quickly and correctly. However, in contradictory situations, it is difficult to correct aged persons, whereas the young are easily moulded towards achieving the objectives of the organization.


Expectations distort perceptions. People see what they expect to see. If they see the object and the situation differently from their expectations, they get frustrated. They are unable to modify their behaviour. The employees may expect more pay and so they perceive the management from that angle. The real stimuli are not properly perceived if expectations exist there on. The management has to evolve expectations for proper perception.


Another factor that can affect social perception is the perceivers’ selfconcept. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person. In contrast, a negative self-concept can lead a perceiver to pick out negative traits in another person. Greater understanding of self allows us to have more accurate perceptions of others.

Read: What is Learning?

Characteristics of the Target

Characteristics in the target that is being observed can affect what is perceived. Physical appearance plays a big role in our perception of others. Extremely attractive or unattractive individuals are more likely to be noticed in a group than ordinary looking individuals.

Motion, sound, size and other attributes of a target shape the way we see it.

  1. Physical appearance
  2. Verbal communication
  3. Non-verbal communication
  4. Objects
characteristics of the target in perception
Characteristics of the Target in Perception

Physical appearance

Physical appearance plays a big role in our perception of others. The perceiver will notice the target’s physical features like height, weight, estimated age, race and gender. Perceivers tend to notice physical appearance characteristics that contrast with the norm, that are intense, or that are new or unusual.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication from targets also affects our perception of them. We listen to the topics they speak about, their voice tone, and their accent and make judgements based on this input.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication conveys a great deal of information about the target. The perceiver deciphers eye contact, facial expressions, body movements, and posture all in an attempt to form an impression of the target.

Targets are not looked at in isolation; the relationship of a target to its background influences perception because of our tendency to group close things and similar things together.


Objects that are close to each other will tend to be perceived together rather than separately. As a result of physical or time proximity, we often put together objects or events that are unrelated.

People, objects or events that are similar to each other also tend to be grouped together. The greater the similarity, the greater the probability we will tend to perceive them as a group.

Read: What is Attitude?

Characteristics of the Situation

Change in situation leads to incorrect perception about a person.

The factor that influence the perception are:

  1. Time
  2. Work setting
  3. Social setting
Characteristics of the Situation
Characteristics of the Situation


The situation in which the interaction between the perceiver and the target takes place has an influence on the perceiver’s impression of the target.

For Example, a person decked up for a party may not be noticeable but the same dress in office would be noticed distinctly, though the person has not changed.

Work setting

You would have very frequently heard people say that their manager is different during working hours and 1800 opposite while in a social setting.

Social setting

The strength of the situational cues also affects social perception. Some situations provide strong cues as to appropriate behaviour. In these situations, we assume that the individual’s behaviour can be accounted for by the situation and that it may not reflect the individual’s disposition. This is the discounting principle in social perception.

For example, you may encounter an automobile salesperson who has a warm and personable manner, asks you about your work and hobbies, and seems genuinely interested in your taste in cars. Can you assume that this behaviour reflects the salesperson’s personality? You probably cannot, because of the influence of the situation. This person is trying to sell you a car, and in this particular situation, he probably treats all customers in this manner.

Managerial Implications of Perceptions

People in organisations are always judging each other. Managers must appraise their subordinate’s performance. Let us look at the more obvious applications of perceptions in organisations.

  • Employment Interview: A major input into who is hired and who is rejected in any organisation is the employment interview. Evidence indicates that interviewers often make inaccurate perceptual judgements. Interviewers generally draw early impressions that become very quickly entrenched.

  • Performance Evaluation: An employee’s performance appraisal very much depends on the perceptual process. The performance appraisal represents an assessment of an employee’s work. While this can be objective, many jobs are evaluated in subjective terms. Subjective measures are, by definition, judgemental.

  • Performance Expectations: A manager’s expectations of an individual affect both the manager’s behaviour towards the individual and the individual’s response.

  • Employee Loyalty: Another important judgement that managers make about employees is whether they are loyal to the organisation. Few organisations appreciate employees, especially those in the managerial ranks openly disparaging the firm.

Implications of Perception on Performance and Satisfaction

  • Productivity: What individuals perceive from their work situation will influence their productivity.

  • Absenteeism and Turnover: Absence and Turnover are some of the reactions to the individuals perception. Managers must understand how each individual interprets his job. and where there is a significant difference between what is seen and what exists and try to eliminate the distortions.

  • Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction is a highly subjective, and feeling of the benefits that derive from the job. Clearly his variable is critically linked to perception.

Read: What is Motivation?


  1. Robbins, Stephen P. 2010. Organizational Behaviour. New Delhi, Prentice-Hall.
  2. Furnham, A. (1997). The Psychology of Behaviour at Work. Sussex: Taylor & Francis.
  3. Zalkind, S.S. and Costello, T.W. (1962). Perception: Some Recent Research and Implications for Administration. Administrative Science Quarterly, 7,218-235.

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