Factors Affecting Perception

Perception refers to the ways in which a person experiences the world. Perception is the process by which people organize, interpret and experiences the ideas. This process of perception helps us to manage noises, sights, smells, tastes received from the environment and give a meaning to them. Perception is a process that includes both a selection and organizing mechanism. Perceptions vary from person to person. Different people perceive different thing about the same situation differently. But more than that we assign different meanings to what we perceive and the meanings might change one’s perspective or simply make things mean something else.

Following factors influence the perceptual mechanism or the process of perception.
Factors Affecting Perception

1. External Factors 
These factors include the characteristics of perceived object. These are: 

a) Intensity 
The intensity states that more intense the situations, the more likely it is to be perceived. For example, loud noises will be noticed more than a soft sound. Similarly, high intensity increases the chances of selection. If sentences are underlined it gets more attention than in normal case. 

The greater the intensity of stimulus, the more likely it will be notices. An intense stimulus has more power to push itself to our selection than does the weak stimulus. 

b) Size 
Size plays an important role in perception. The bigger the size of the perceived object, higher is the probability that it is perceived. Size always attracts the attention of the individuals. For example, we see hundreds and thousands of people on the road, but we always remember the ones who are usually tall. In other words, size establishes dominance and over-rides other things and thereby enhances perceptual selection. The bigger the size of perceived stimulus, higher is the probability that it is perceived. 

c) Frequency 
A repeated external object/stimulus gets more attention than a single one does. Repetition increases our sensitivity to the object. A situation that is repeated has a chance of catching our attention. For example, we remember the advertisement that is repeated again and again. In other simple words, a repeated external stimulus gets more attention than a single one. A stimulus that is repeated has a chance of catching our attention. Repetition increases our sensitivity and alertness to the stimulus. Thus, greater the frequency with which a sensory stimulus is presented, the greater the chances we select it for attention. Repetition is one of the most frequently used techniques in advertising and is the most common way of receiving our attention. Repetition aids in increasing the awareness of the stimulus. 

d) Order 
The order in which the objects or stimuli are presented is an important factor in influencing selective attention. Sometimes, the first piece of information among many pieces received, receives the most attention, thus making the other pieces of information less significant. Sometimes, the most important piece is left to the end in order to heighten the curiosity and perceptive attention. For example, a writer of communication may intentionally build up to a major point by proceeding through several similar and less important points. 

e) Repetition 
A repeated message is more likely to be perceived than a single message. Work instructions that are repeated tend to be received better. Marketing managers and advertisers use this principle in order to get the customer’s attention. Morgan and King stated that “a stimulus that is repeated has a better chance of catching us during one of the periods when our attention to a task is waning. In addition, repetition increases our sensitivity or alertness to the stimulus.” 

f) Novelty and Familiarity 
The principle states that either the familiar or the novel factor can get attention easily. New objects in a familiar setting or familiar objects in a new setting will draw attention. People quickly notice an elephant walking along a city street. Similarly, among a group of people walking towards us, we are most likely to perceive the face of friend in the crowd. People with unusual clothing will be attention getters. 

g) Movement 
People pay more attention to moving things than that of the stationary ones. For example, people are more attracted by flying aeroplanes than a stationary one in the airport. In other words, moving objects are more likely to be perceived than stationery objects. Movement increases our awareness of the object before we become aware of the stationary surroundings. A flashing neon sign is more easily noticed. A moving car among parked cars gets our attention faster. 

h) Status 
Perception is always influenced by the status of perceiver. People of higher status tend to have more positive perception. Similarly, people with high status can influence the perception of others more than the people of low status. High status people can export more influence on perception of employees than low status people. 

i) Contrast 
Persons or objects of contrasting nature generally receive more attention and thereby influence one’s perception. Stimuli that contrast with the surrounding environment are more likely to be selected for attention than the stimuli that blend in. a contrasting effect can be caused by color / size or any other factor that is unusual. The contrast principle states that external stimuli that stand out against the background or which are not what are expected will receive better attention. The contrast effect also explains why a male person stands out in a crowd of females. For example, in a crowd of men, a woman is more attracted and vice versa. 

2. Internal Factors 
These factors are related to the characteristics of the perceiver. These factors include: 

a) Needs and Desires 
An individual’s perception about something or somebody is influenced by his needs and desires at a particular time. Similarly, perception varies depending on variation in desires and needs. Perception of a frustrated individual is totally different from a satisfied person. It is believed that socially oriented people pay attention to interpersonal factors in connection with their perception. Similarly, the needs and motives of the people play a vital role in perception. Perception of a frustrated person would be entirely different from that of a happy going person. People at different levels of needs and desires perceive the same thing differently. Power seekers more likely notice power related stimuli. Socially oriented people pay attention to interpersonal stimuli. People are likely to notice stimuli relevant to current active motives and major personality characteristics. 

b) Experience 
Experience and knowledge have a constant influence on perception. Successful and positive experiences express one’s perception ability and failure and negative experiences affects one’s self-confidence. In other words, experience and knowledge have a constant bearing on perception. Successful experiences enhance and boost the perceptive ability and lead to accuracy in perception of a person whereas failure erodes self-confidence. 

c) Learning 
Learning is an important factor in developing perceptual sets. A perceptual set is basically what a person expects from the stimuli on the basis of his learning and experience relative to same or similar stimuli. This is also known as cognitive awareness by which the mind organizes information and forms images and compares them with previous exposures to similar stimuli. 

d) Personality 
Personality is another important factor that has a profound influence on perceived behavior. What is perceived in a given situation depends much on one’s personality type. Personality is one area where individual differences are significant. Optimistic people always perceive things favorable but pessimistic people always perceive things unfavorable. Individuals having a sense of security perceive others as warm, self-accepted by others. Research on the effects of individual personality on perception reveals many truths. These are: 
  • Persons who accept themselves and have faith in their individuality perceive things favorably. 
  • Thoughtful individuals do not expose by expressing extreme judgments of others. 
  • Secure individuals tends to perceive others as warm, not cold. 

3. Symbolic Factors 
Another important factor influencing perception is symbolic factor. As regards to emotional or motivational factors, a condition of motivated tensions in the individual increases the sensitivity to those stimuli which are relevant for the satisfaction of his motives and determines the manner in which the individual perceives the ambiguous objects. The hungry individuals tend not only to select objects which will pacify their hunger but also interpret available objects in terms of their own tension.

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