2 Perception and Attitude (Ethics)


What is Perception?

According to dictionary.com (2012), perception is the ability to recognize, discern, envision, or understand. In simpler words Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sense organs.

According to S. P. Robbins, perception can be defined as “the process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environments.”

Perception is not the passive receipt of these signals but is shaped by learning, memory, expectation, and attention. The study, of these perceptual 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 who perceives. Perception includes the 5 senses; touch, sight, taste smell and sound.

Why perception is Important?

Perception is a subjective, active and creative process through which we assign meaning to sensory information to understand ourselves and others. It also includes how we respond to the information.

Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment.

  1. Perception is very important in understanding human behavior because every person perceives the world and approaches life problems differently.
  2. Perception allows us to understand the world and find pattern in others’ behaviour.We can predict the behavior based on perception. As one person’s perception varies from other person/s.
  3. On the basis of perception we can understand the motivation and need of various people because people’s perception is conditioned by their motive and needs.
  4. Perception is very important in professional life as it helps you in avoiding making errors, in quickly understanding and adopting to the environment and people at workplace.
  5. Perception allows you to have open/flexibility in your ideas as we understand the various versions of the truth.
  6. It is vitally important if we want to get along with others to try to see things from their perspective or walk in their shoes for a while. If we walk in their shoes we will gain a new perspective about things and in that understand the other and also can love and help the other more appropriately.

Thus, for understanding human behavior and improve on interpersonal relationships, it is very important to understand their perception, that is, how they perceive the different situations.

People’s behavior is based on their perceptions of what reality is, not on reality itself. The world as it is perceived is the world that is important for understanding human behavior.

“Organizational Behaviour”NPTEL is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
How Perception is formed?

Perception depends not only on the physical stimuli but also on the stimuli’s relation to the surrounding field and on conditions within the individual. Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory observations in order to give meaning to their environment.

However, what one observes can be substantially different from objective reality. It is the process through which the information from the outside environment is selected, received, organized and interpreted to make it meaningful. So in a way, we can say that perception is filtered and colored reality not the exact reality. A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception.

Personal characteristics that affect perception include a person’s attitudes, personality, motives, interests, past experiences, and expectations.

There are also some situational factors like the time of perceiving others, work settings, social settings, etc. which influence the perception process.

Besides these, there are some other factors like perceptual learning which is based on past experiences or any special training that we get; every one of us learns to emphasize some sensory inputs and to ignore others.

Another factor is the mental set, which refers to preparedness or readiness to receive some sensory input.

Such expectancy keeps the individual prepared with good attention and concentration. The level of knowledge we have may also change the way we perceive his or her behaviors.

We cannot ignore the role of training in perceiving we can make first impression based on our perception but still can refrain for making judgment based only on perception.

For example;

If a person knows that his/ her friend is stressed out over family problems then she might overlook her snappy comments. Learning has a considerable influence on perception.

Perception is not only what meets the eyes it is much more complex process by which an individual selectively absorbs or assimilates the stimuli offered by the environment.

How we make perception?

In order to fully understand how the perception process works, we have to follow each of the following steps.

3 stages of perception process are;

a. Selection.

b. Organization.

c. Interpretation.


The world around us is filled with an infinite number of stimuli that we might attend, but our brains do not have the resources to pay attention to everything.

Thus, the first step of perception is the decision of what to attend to.


Once we have chosen to attend to a stimulus in the environment, the choice sets off a series of reactions in our brain.

Organizing is the second part of the perception process, in which we sort and categorize information that we perceive based on innate and learned cognitive patterns.


After we have attended to a stimulus, and our brains have received and organized the information, we interpret it in a way that makes sense using our existing information about the world Interpretation simply means that we take the information that we  have sensed and organized and turn it into something that we can categorize.

Therefore, when people react differently in a situation, part of their behavior can be explained by examining their perceptual process, and how their perceptions are leading to their responses.

Source: “Organizational Behaviour”NPTEL is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Errors in Perception

As discussed above perception is the process of analyzing and understanding a stimulus as it is.

But it may not be always possible to perceive the stimuli as they are.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we mistake the stimulus and perceive it wrongly.

Many times the prejudices in the individual, time of perception, unfavorable background, lack of clarity of stimulus, confusion, conflict in mind and such other factors are responsible for errors in perception. Perceptual differences can sometimes lead to conflict in the organization.

There are some errors in perception;

  • Illusion.
  • Hallucination.
  • Halo Effect.
  • Stereotyping.
  • Similarity.
  • Horn Effect.
  • Contrast.


The illusion is a false perception. Here the person will mistake a stimulus and perceive it wrongly.


For example, in the dark, a rope is mistaken as a snake or vice versa. The voice of an unknown person is mistaken as a friend’s voice. A person standing at a distance who is not known may be perceived as a known person.


Sometimes we come across instances where the individual perceives some stimulus, even when it is not present.


This phenomenon is known as a hallucination. The person may see an object, person, etc. or he may listen to some voice though there are no objects and sounds in reality.

Selective Perception

Selective perception means the situation when people selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interests, background, experience, and attitudes.

It means any characteristics that make a person, object, or event stand out will increase the probability that it will be perceived.

Because it is impossible for us to assimilate everything we see, only certain stimuli can be taken in.

Halo Effect

The individual is evaluated on the basis of perceived positive quality, feature or trait. When we draw a general impression about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic, such as intelligence, sociability, or appearance, a halo effect is operating.

In other words, this is the tendency to rate a man uniformly high or low in other traits if he is extraordinarily high or low in one particular trait: If a worker has few absences, his supervisor might give him a high rating in all other areas of work.


People usually can fall into at least one general category based on physical or behavioral traits then they will be evaluated. When we judge someone on the basis of our perception  of the group to which he or she belongs, we are using the shortcut called stereotyping.

For example, a boss might assume that a worker from a Middle East country is lazy and cannot meet performance objectives, even if the worker tried his best.


Often, people tend to seek out and rate more positively those who are similar to themselves. This tendency to approve of similarity may cause evaluators to give better ratings to employees who exhibit the same interests, work methods, points of view or standards.

Horn Effect

When the individual is completely evaluated on the basis of a negative quality or feature perceived. This results in an overall lower rating than an acceptable rate.

He is not formally dressed up in the office, that’s why he may be casual at work too.


The tendency to rate people relative to other people rather than to the individual performance he or she is doing. Rather will evaluate an employee by comparing that employee’s performance with other employees.

In the early 20th Century, Wilhelm Wundt identified contrast as a fundamental principle of perception, and since then the effect has been confirmed in many different areas.

When perception fails it results into

Budding managers who flame out do so because they fail to read situations properly and  act accordingly. They develop poor working relationships, are too authoritarian, or have a conflict with upper management. As a result, their careers come to screeching halt or downhill.

This should be avoided and they had been able to correctly perceive what they should be doing and had the emotional maturity and ability to make the necessary changes.

Source: “Introduction to psychology”NPTEL is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


First impressions do undoubtedly hold a significantly high value due to variety of influential factors. The manner in which people perceive what has happened or is happening in the moment is a vital component in shaping past, current, and future perspectives in life. Furthermore, the cumulative result of experiences gained through internal and external influences (self and others) creates a picture of what is and what could be in this life. Similarly, the cumulative result of the experiences one shares with others coupled with their own internal/external influences also forms a picture of what they think our lives may be or could be. Yet, personal perceptions and perspectives  may not always be in accord with who you really are. Likewise, the long-standing perceptions and perspectives of others may not actually be what they, or even you, think they are. Having a true non-judgmental and unbiased viewpoint, will enable you to see life through multiple angles and develop an open and flexible attitude. Moreover, you will be able to manage discrepancies more appropriately while bringing more clarity and equilibrium to your sense of purpose. Through continuous efforts to empower all to collaborate effectively in dissecting any established stereotypes or embedded prejudices.

Attitude what it means?

Source: “Attitudes – Part 1”NPTEL is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Your attitude to something is the way that you think and feel about it, especially when    this shows in the way you behave.

A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).

  • The attitude of an individual generally remains unchanged over a period of time unless he she is influenced by some internal or external life/attitude changing forces or experiences.
  • Usually attitude is an evaluative statement either favorable or unfavorable. For example you have either positive or negative attitude.

Factors responsible to build Attitude

The factors which lead to development of attitudes are:

a. Family

b. Peers

c. conditioning

d. Social adjustment functions

e. direct instruction

f. modeling

g. satisfaction of wants and

h. prejudices!


Family is the most powerful source for formation of attitudes. The parents, siblings provide information about various things.

Attitudes developed by an individual, whether positive or negative are the result of family influence, are very powerful and difficult to undo.


As the individual develops, he comes in contact with outer world and peers in first place. Peers include same age friends, neighbor, classmates, etc. The child tries to internalize the attitudes of these people.


When we are conditioned or adjusted to a certain set up of people, situation, etc., we will  be influenced by that. Hence, our associations lead to develop attitudes. Many times the kind of reinforcement we get from environment also leads to develop attitudes.

On the other hand, negative reinforcement like punishment, teasing, criticizing, troubling may lead to develop negative attitude. For example: when a patient’s life is saved by a particular hospital at critical moments, he will develop a favorable attitude about that hospital (classical conditioning).

Social adjustment functions:

Every society has majority of people who prefer to lead a harmonious life. They try to avoid unnecessary friction of conflicts with people. Naturally, they are inclined to develop positive attitudes towards most of the people and issues. Our attitudes may facilitate and maintain our relationships with members of positively valued groups.

Direct instruction:

Sometimes direct instruction can influence attitude formation. For example, somebody gives information about a doctor or usefulness of some fruit, we develop an attitude about that product, may be positive or negative.


This has been influential in developing attitudes toward a wide range of issues  from alcohol to various kinds of dress, shoes, etc.

Satisfaction of wants:

Individual develops favorable attitudes towards those people and objects which satisfy his wants and unfavorable attitudes towards those who do not satisfy.


Prejudices are preconceived ideas or judgments where one develops some attitudes on  other people, objects, etc., without proper information.

How to build positive Attitude?

Having and maintaining a positive attitude is vital for success in life and business. It’s not always easy to stay positive and keep a good attitude. As things go wrong throughout the day, it is easy to let negative thoughts start to take over. There are many things that one can do to help maintain a positive attitude.

Some of the ways of developing a positive attitude are:

  • Changing Influence and Association:

The models of the world shape how one view things, events and people. The people they associate with have an effect on the person’s life. If one wants to have the right way of thinking, move away from the wrong crowd and connect with people who have the positive mind-set.

  • Get Rid of Limiting Beliefs:

Individual’s beliefs determine one’s approach to life. The people see the world the way they are i.e. their beliefs reflect back at them. If one’s belief about the world is good, that is what one will see. Therefore, to change opinion, the people must change their mind-set. The limiting thoughts must pave the way to limitless human possibility and potential.

From I cannot do -I may do-I CAN DO

  • Think Positively:

The method of having a positive attitude in life is to make sure that the person thinks positively. There are many people who keep worrying about various problems in their life.

  • Taking Life Easy and not to Worry:

The people should take life easy for them to have a positive attitude. People who are struggling with various problems like financial problems and family problems seem to be the people who have negative attitude more than the ones who do not have problems.

Attitude consists of three components-cognitive, affective and behavioral. The cognitive component indicates the opinions, values or belief of an individual about something.


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