Dr. Lyn Colangelo

1318 Lecture Notes Chapter 3: Perception & Attribution Errors


I.                     The Nature of Perception

A.                 Perception is a subjective, active, and creative process

B.                 A mental process through which we interpret what we sense

1.                  The process of assigning meaning to sensory information

2.                  The process by which we understand ourselves and others

C.                Perceptions of others affect ways we communicate with them

1.                  “I understand your feelings” is based on perception

2.                  There is no way we can actually feel what another feels

3.                  So to understand, we select, organize, and interpret cues

II.                   How does perception influence how we relate to others?

A.                 Interpersonal perception involves sensing, organizing, & interpreting information about people & their messages

B.                 Instantaneous evaluations create automatic judgments that predisposes positive or negative reactions toward others

1.                  Automatic judgments occur outside of awareness

2.                  We trust them the way we trust our senses not realizing they are already biased

C.                Messages we send can shape others’ self-concept & behavior

D.                Differing perceptions cause challenges for communication


III.                  Three Stages of Perception

A.                 Selection

1.                  To experience a stimulus through the senses & attend to it

a)                 Stimulus: anything prompting action, feeling, thought

b)                 Senses

(i)                             sight

(ii)                           sound

(iii)                         smell

(iv)                          taste

(v)                            touch

2.                  Selective Perception

a)                 Actively select some stimuli & ignore (filter) others

(i)                             We don’t perceive everything

(ii)                           10,000 bits of sensory information available/sec

b)                 Physiological & psychological states influence what the senses pick up and the meaning you give it

c)                  Factors that Affect Perceptions

(i)                             Physiology

Height, weight, hearing, vision, physical well-being, mood

(ii)                           Age

Experience teaches lessons; wealth of experience vs. naiveté

(iii)                         Culture as a filter

Conditions us to perceive in similar ways

Develop shared attitudes, beliefs, values, etc.

Standpoint theory explains our perceptions are influenced by the subgroups or subcultures to which we belong, such as age, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, marital status, occupation, etc.

(iv)                          Social Roles

How would a physician’s training vs. a lawyer’s training cause them to notice different things at the scene of an automobile accident?

(v)                            Ourselves

Implicit Personality Theory: Unspoken, unconscious assumptions about how various qualities fit together in human personalities (outgoing = friendly, confident, and fun

Attachment Styles: We perceive & approach relationships differently b/c of how we were parented


B.                Organization

1.                  To sort stimuli into groups and categories

2.                  Constructivism theory states we organize and interpret experience by applying cognitive structures

3.                  Schemata (organizational structures to make sense of what we have noticed)

a)                 Prototypes: knowledge structures that define the clearest or most representative examples of some category

U.S. prototype of romantic relationships emphasizes trust, caring, honesty, friendship, and respect.  Passion is less central to prototype than companionship and caring. (p. 76)

b)                 Personal constructs: bipolar mental yardsticks that allow us to measure people and situations along specific dimensions of judgment (physical characs, mental qualities, psychological features, interpersonal/social qualities)
Dilbert Cartoon: smart & beautiful; smart & ugly; stupid & beautiful; stupid & ugly

c)                  Scripts: define expected or appropriate sequences of action in particular settings; guides to action
Greeting acquaintances; dating, managing conflict, talking with professors, dealing with clerks, etc.

d)                 Stereotypes: predictive generalizations about people and situations

(i)           categorize others on basis of easily recognized characteristics (race, blondes, frat/sorority, jocks, ethnicity)

(ii)         Base judgments about people on categories they fit instead of on individuality

(iii)       Prevent us from seeing individual as unique

(iv)        "Them": prejudiced, biased, discriminatory word

(v)          Stereotypes of groups we don't belong to are more negative & inaccurate than of own groups


C.                Interpretation

1.                  Subjective process of explaining our perceptions in ways that make sense to us: Construct an explanation

2.                  Factors that cause us to interpret differently

a)                 Degree of involvement with other

b)                 Relational satisfaction

c)                  Past experiences

d)                 Assumptions about human behavior

e)                 Expectations

f)                    Knowledge of others

g)                 Personal moods

h)                  Gender

i)                    Occupation

j)                    Culture  (Standpoint theory explains our perceptions are influenced by the subgroups or subcultures to which we belong, such as age, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, marital status, occupation, etc.)

k)                  Self-concept

3.                  Attribution

a)                 Causal accounts that explain why things happen and people act the way they do

b)                 Attributions are based on Dimensions of Interpersonal Attributions

i)                                Locus of control: Internal vs external

ii)                              Stability: Stable vs unstable

iii)                            Scope: Global vs specific

iv)                            Responsibility: Within personal personal control vs beyond personal control

c)                  Attribution Errors occur when we attach distorted meanings to what happens around us

i)                    Self-serving bias: Take credit for positive outcomes, deny responsibility & control over negative outcomes; attribute negative behaviors to uncontrollable factors (test was hard); attribute positive behaviors to controllable factors, your strength, intelligence, or personality (got an A b/c I worked hard or I’m smart).  Why?  B/c we KNOW the situation surrounding our behaviors we naturally focus on the influence of these factors.

ii)                  Fundamental Attribution Error: Occurs when we assume other people’s behavior is due more to internal characteristics such as their personality, whereas we view our own behavior as more a result of external factors, e.g. context or situation: Overestimating the internal causes of others behavior and underestimating the external causes