Factors Affecting Perception: Internal, External and Symbolic Factors

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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Perceptual Process, a sequence starts with stimuli

The perceptual process is a sequence of steps that starts with the stimuli that happen in our surroundings and leads through nerve transmission through peripheral and central nerves and the brain and results to our perception of what is going on. It also includes our resulting action to the original stimulus. So, the perceptual process involved when we go outside a room on a rainy day is that the stimulus from the environment – the fat that it is raining and cold and we are getting we – is recognized by our senses. Our eyes, ears, cold receptors and touch receptors all send signals to the brain, which works out that it is raining. The perceptual process consists of following components.

Perceptual Process

1. Environmental Stimuli

Perception initiates with the presence of the stimulus situation. In other words, the first stage in the process of perception is the presence of a stimulus or situation which confronts the human being. This confrontation may be with the immediate sensual stimulation or with the total physical and socio-cultural environment. Strictly speaking, the presence of a stimulus is not the start of perception process; however it cannot start in the absence of it.

2. Sensations

Sensation is the second step of perception process. It may be described as the response of a physical sensory organ. The physical senses are vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These sense are bombarded by stimuli continuously, both internal and external to human body and reactions to these sense take place because of these. In other words, sensation is the immediate and direct response of the sensory organs to stimuli. Human sensitivity refers to the experience of sensation. Sensitivity to stimuli varies with the quality of an individual’s sensory receptors (e.g. eye sight or hearing) and the amount of intensity of the stimuli to which he is exposed. For example, a blind person may have more highly developed sense of hearing than the average sighted person and may be able to hear sounds that the average person cannot. These examples show that sensation deals with a elementary behavior that is determined by physiological functioning.

3. Attention

Although we are capable of sensing many environmental stimuli, we attend to only a very small portion of them and ignore the rest. Numerous following factors influence the attention process.
  • Size: The larger the size of a physical object, the more likely it is to be perceived.
  • Intensity: The greater the intensity of a stimulus, the more likely it is to be noticed. A loud noise, such as shouting, is more likely to get attention than a quiet-voice.
  • Frequency: The greater the frequency with which a stimulus is presented, the greater the chances we will attend to it. This principle of repetition is used extensively in advertising to attract the attention of buyers.
  • Contrast: Stimuli which contrast with the surrounding environment are more likely to be selected for attention than stimuli which blend with the environment. The contrast can be created by color, size or any other factor that distinguishes on stimulus from others.
  • Motion: Since movement tends to be perceived than a stationery object, an animated sign, for example, attracts more attention than a fixed bill board.
  • Change: Objects are more likely to be noticed if they display some form of change. An object with lights blinking on and off, such as a Christmas tree or sign, attracts more attention than one without blinking lights.
  • Novelty: A stimulus that is new and unique will often be perceived more readily than stimuli that have been observed on a regular basis. Advertisers use the impact of novelty by creating original packaging or advertising messages.
4. Perception

Perception is the last step of its process. The process of perceptions involves organizing and interpreting the sensations we attend to visual images, sounds, orders and other sensations which do not simply enter our consciousness as pure, unpolluted sensations. Perception is an important mediating cognitive process through which persons make interpretation of the stimulus or situation they are faced with. As we attend to them, we consciously try to organize or categorize the information into a meaningful perception that will somehow make sense to use.

Although we would like to think of ourselves as open-minded unbiased, and non-judgmental in our perceptions, the situation make it impossible, we are forced to draw quick inferences based upon very sparse information.

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Meaning of Motives, Behavior and Needs

Meaning of Motives and Behavior

Motives are the caused behavior. A motive is what prompts to act in a certain way or at least develop a propensity for specific behavior. A person’s choice of one course of action over others depends on his or her motive. Individuals in organizations have different motives and they change over time. There is positive relationship between motives of an individual and behavior of an individual. In business organization, the work is done by the workers. According to the need theory, all normal human behavior and his course of future action, both are caused by a person’s need structure. So, management can influence the behavior of individual in the organization by recognizing and influencing their needs. The management can create a suitable environment in the organization conductive to the fulfillment of individual needs within the overall structure. 

In other words, motivation causes goal-directed behavior. Need is the base for motivation which is a kind of mental feeling in an individual that he needs something. This lack of something creates tension in the mind of the individual. Since the tension is not an ideal state of mind, the individual tries to overcome this by engaging himself in and behavior through which he satisfies his needs. This goal-directed behavior is presented in the following figure.

Motives, Behavior and Needs

Causes of Motivation and Behavior
Goal directed behavior leads to goal-fulfillment and the individual successes in fulfilling his needs and thereby overcoming his tension in the favorable environment.

Meaning of Needs

Needs are internal feelings of individuals and sometimes, even they themselves may not be quite aware about the needs and the priority on these. Thus understanding of human needs and providing means for their satisfaction becomes difficult. Needs are the initial factors for the motivation. Needs are deficiencies that is energized us or trigger our behaviors to satisfy them.

There are two popular models explained by different authors. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and McClelland ERG theory of needs.

There are many needs which an individual may have and there are various ways in which these may be classified. The basic objective behind classification of needs into different categories is to find out similarity and dissimilarity in various needs to that incentives are grouped to satisfy the needs falling under one category or the other. From this point of view, a meaningful classification of needs is based on the sources through which individual, or these may develop over the period of time through learning. Since, these two types of needs emerge from two different sources, these may be satisfied by different types of incentives. Besides, there are certain needs which are neither purely biological nor these are completely learned but fall in between the two. Therefore, a separate category has to be provided for these. Thus, needs may be grouped into three categories.

1. Primary Needs

Primary needs are also known as physiological, biological, basic or unlearned needs. However, the term primary is more comprehensive as compared to other terms. Primary needs are animal drives which are essential for survival. These needs are common to all human beings, though their intensity may differ, some of the needs are food, sex, sleep, air to breathe, satisfactory temperature etc. these needs arise out of the basic physiology of life and are important to survival and preservation of species. These needs are also conditioned by social practices. According to the concept of economic man, these are the only wants of a human being and he attempts to satisfy them only. But researches in human behavior show that psychological needs are equally rather more important for human beings.

2. Secondary Needs

As contrast to the primary needs, secondary needs are not natural but are learned by the individual through his experience and interaction. Therefore, these are also called learned or derived needs. Emergence of these needs depends on learning. This is the reason why we find differences among need pattern of a child and a matured individual. There may be different types of secondary needs like need for power, achievement, status, affiliation etc.

3. General Needs

Though a separate classification for general needs is not always given, such a category seems necessary because there are a number of needs which lie in the grey area between the primary and secondary classifications. To be included in this category, a need must not be learned but at the same time, it is not completely physiological. In fact, there are certain such needs like needs for competence, curiosity, manipulation, affection etc.

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Meaning of Sensation, Emotion and Cognitive Dissonance

Meaning of Sensation

Sensation can be defined as individual capacity to sense the world. Each and every motivated individual senses the world, interprets it, responds to it and reacts to the results of his own responses. Every individual has capacity to sense cold and hot, pressure etc. But how he/she senses these things or in which way he senses these things affect his behavior. As for example, if an individual senses too cold, his behavior is wants of warmth cloths. Similarly inside the organization, now the employee senses the environment and mould the behavior of the employee. Sensation has three factors to work. They are:
  • Stimulus 
  • Receptor 
  • Nervous system 
Stimulus are the inputs that are sensed and received by the receptor organ and transmitted to the nervous system for further processing to draw out the meaningful result.

Sensation may be described as the response of a physical sensory organ. The physical senses are vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These senses are bombarded by stimuli continuously, both internal and external to human body and reactions particular sense organ take place because of these. In other words, sensation is the immediate and direct response of the sensory organs to stimuli. Human sensitivity refers to the experience of sensation. Sensitivity to stimuli varies with the quality of an individual’s sensory receptors (e.g., eye sight or hearing) and the amount of intensity of the stimuli to which he is exposed. For example, a blind person may have a more highly developed sense of hearing than the average sighted person and may be able to hear sounds that the average person cannot. These examples show that sensation deals very elementary behavior that is determine by physiological functioning. Sometimes, confusion arises between sensation and perception as both are the cognitive processes and both are beads of the same string. Sensation involves detecting the presence of a stimulus whereas perception involves understanding what the stimulus means. For example, when we see something, the visual stimulus is the light energy reflected from the external world and the eye becomes the sensor. The visual image of the external thing becomes perception when it is interpreted in the visual cortex of the brain. Thus, visual perception refers to interpreting the image of the external world projected on the retina of the eye and constructing a model of the three dimensional world. Sensation itself depends on energy change or differentiation of input. Regardless of the strength of the sensory input, provides little or no sensation at all.

The distinction between sensation and perception may be made as follows:
  1. The person is comparatively inactive in sensation whereas he becomes more active in perception because he tries to know the meaning of sensation in this process.
  2. Sensation is a simple mental process whereas perception is comparatively a complex mental phenomenon. Perception is a complex process because it is affected by a number of variables.
  3. Sensation may be considered as a part of perception because the former is the first stage of the latter. The first experience of stimulation is sensation. Only our organs and nerves are active in sensation but all our body becomes active in perception.
  4. By sensation, the person just becomes cautious of the quality of stimulus; he just becomes aware of the stimulus like color, form, shape, smell, and meaning of the stimulus. By perception, he derives meaning of these.

Meaning of Emotion

Emotions are intense feelings that are directed at someone or something. They are object specific. In other words, emotions are reactions to an object. It is a neural impulse that moves an organism to action. Emotions have three components:

1. Cognitive Component

Cognitive component includes the conscious experience of emotions, and the way we ‘label’ our emotions.

2. Physiological Component

Physiological component includes emotional arousal. Different emotions have different arousal. For example, fear, anger and sadness increase heart rate, anger raises blood pressure etc.

3. Expressive Component

Expression component includes body language (gaze, gestures, posture and walk) and para-language (intonation, fakes smile versus genuine smile, etc.)

There are four related terms (affect, emotion, feeling and mood) that need to be differentiated from each other. ‘affect’ is a generic term that covers a broad range of feeling that people experience. It covers emotions, feelings and moods. Emotions are intense feelings that are directed to someone or something. In other words, emotions are specific and intense, and are a reaction to a particular event. Feelings are personal and biographical factors that arouses from any event or from any object. Finally moods are feelings that tend to be less intense that emotions and that lack a contextual stimulus. In other words, moods are diffused and unfocused. It is useful to understand the concept of primary and secondary emotions.

1. Primary Emotions

Primary emotions are those that we feel first, as a first response to a situation. Thus, if we are threatened, we may feel fear. When we hear of a death, we may feel sad. They are our instinctive responses. Typical primary emotions include fear, anger, sadness, and happiness (although these can also be felt as secondary emotions). The problem sometimes with primary emotions is that they disappear as fast as they appear.

2. Secondary Emotions

Secondary emotions appear after primary emotions. They may be caused directly by them for example, where the fear of a threat turns to anger that fuels the body for a fight reaction. They may also come from more complex chains of thought. The secondary emotions give a picture of the person’s mental processing of the primary emotion.

Meaning of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the state experienced by individuals when they discover inconsistency between two attitudes they hold or between their attitudes and their behavior. Here, dissonance means an inconsistency. It occurs most often in situations where an individual must choose between two incompatible beliefs or actions. In other words, cognitive dissonance refers to any incompatibility that an individual might perceive between two or more of his/her attitudes or between his/her behavior and attitudes. The greatest dissonance is created when the two alternatives are equally attractive.

The concept or theory of cognitive dissonance was first developed by Leon Festinger in 1957. According to this theory, individuals tend seek consistency among their cognition (i.e. opinions, knowledge and beliefs). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors, something must change to eliminate the dissonance. There are three ways to eliminate dissonance.
  1. Change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent.
  2. Reduce the importance of dissonant beliefs.
  3. Add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs.

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