Perception Of Others Essay

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On a daily basis, people create opinions  and judgments  of people  around them.  They  might  create opinions  and judgments  by the way they look, the type  of attitude they  have,  and  sometimes  whom they remind them of. People then take in this information  and try to interpret it, creating a perception of others.  This perception of other  people  is often called  social  perception. Social  perception is  the process   by  which   people   interpret  information from  others,  form  impressions, and  make  inferences  about  others.  Researchers  generally  believe that the perception people develop of others is most likely  inaccurate and  imperfect  and  affects  their behavior toward others. The inaccuracy is normally developed  from  the  perceptual process.  In  other words,  as people  search  for  cues that  will enable them  to  make  a crude  categorization of a target, people become less open and more selective in their perceptual process. People also begin to search out cues to  confirm  categorization of the  target,  and as  people’s  categorization of  the  target  becomes stronger,  they often  actively distort  or ignore  cues that  violate initial perception about  the target.

Familiarity  with the culture and with the person perceived  provides  more  information about  what observed behaviors  mean. An example of this is the holding of hands by males in the Arab culture as a sign of solidarity and kinship, rather than of homosexuality. One could imagine parallels in economic  transactions where  loud  interactions with lots of harsh words exchanged  might be a sign that the negotiation is going well and that  each person engaged in the interaction is perceiving the other as someone  to take seriously.

One’s  perception of  others  is susceptible  to  a number  of  perceptual biases,  such  as  projection, stereotyping, the  “halo   effect,”  first  impressions, self-fulfilling prophecies,  and perceptual defense mechanisms. Projection refers to the tendency to cognitively  assign  one’s  thoughts and  feelings to others. For example, one would think that because one is always honest, others  will be just as honest. In reality, this is often misleading. Stereotyping  is a process  by which  an  individual  has  preconceived notions  of others based on a widely held, but fixed and  oversimplified, image  or  idea  of a particular type of person.  The bias of stereotyping  has been well documented in modern  society, with examples ranging   from  the  civil  rights  movement   of  the 1960s  to  women  in the  workplace. Negative  stereotypes  can  dampen  the  earnings  and  diminish the  promotion opportunities for  women  and  historically  disadvantaged minorities, for example. Relying  on  an  inaccurate stereotype  before  truly getting to know  someone  will usually decrease the accurateness of social perception.

The halo effect occurs when one positive or negative characteristic dominates the way that person  is viewed by others.  With  this bias, a person gives into the belief that his or her favorable impressions  of another, such as “she is pretty,” correlates with how that person feels and thinks about the  other’s  character. An example  of this  is how many people view celebrities. Because people generally perceive these people as attractive and highly successful, people also tend to extrapolate beyond what  is actually  known  of these  individuals  and believe them to be nice, humorous, and intelligent. First   impressions   are   everything.   Many   people form  their  beliefs about  others  within  minutes  of meeting them, and this opinion  may never change. People tend to initially judge others  on their external appearances, such as individual’s clothes, shoes, cleanliness, makeup, body language, general pleasantness,  eye contact,  and handshake. These physical and  social  attributes form  a first  impression, which  may influence  how  they are perceived  and treated.  Self-fulfilling  prophecy  is a  concept  that introduces the belief that  how  a person  perceives an event or another person influences an outcome. For example, holding high expectations of another tends   to  improve   the  individual’s   performance. People with  low self-esteem tend  to be caught  in negative  self-fulfilling  prophecies  where  they  act on an overly critical  self-evaluation. They tend  to have  a  pessimistic  view  of  the  world  and  their chances to influence their situation for the better.

Perceptual defense mechanisms are the tendency for  people   to  protect   themselves  against   ideas, objects, or situations that are threatening. They are used  when  a  person   does  not  perceive  specific input  because he or she has a filtering mechanism or  perceptual  wall  preventing   the  sensory  data from being processed. This may lead to the denial of information, a selective perception of another, or  the  modification  of  information  to  appease one’s personal  beliefs.


  1. Fiske, Susan. “Social Cognition and Social Perception.” Annual Review  of Psychology,  44 (1991).
  2. Förster, Jens and Fritz Strack. Social Cognition: The Basis of Human Interaction. New York: Psychology Press,
  3. Funder, David. “Personality.” Annual Review  of Psychology,  52 (2001).

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