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Perception in OB (Organizational Behavior) Context – The Sub-Processes Involved

What is Perception?

  • A cognitive information processing process that enables us to interpret and understand our environment.
  • According to Stephen P Robbins, Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment. The term originated from a Latin word ‘percepio’ meaning receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses.
  • The process by which people translate sensory impressions into a coherent and unified view of the world around them.

sobc model

Difference between perception and sensation:

There is a great deal of misunderstanding between sensation and perception. Perception is broader in sense than sensation and it is more complex. The process of perception involves an interaction of selection, organization and interpretation. Though it largely depends upon the senses to receive raw data or  information to be translated.

For example, when you view an object at a distance and slowly turn your eyes to the other side of the object, you feel as if the object is moving, but you very well know that is not the case – the object is stationary. The perceptual process overcomes the sensual process. The perceptual process adds to and subtracts from the “real” sensory world.

In an organizational context this can be best explained as follows:

1. A sub-ordinate’s answer to a question is based on what he heard the boss say, not on what the boss actually said.

2. The same worker may be viewed by one supervisor as a very good worker and by another supervisor as very poor worker.


S-Stimulus, O-Organizing and Interpreting Data, B-Behavior, C-Consequences

The S-O-B-C Model best explains the sub-process involved in perception. The process starts only when the person or individual is confronted with sensual stimulation which then leads to internal cognitive processes of registration, interpretation and feedback.

I’m reminded of this saying by Moorhead & Griffin “If everyone perceived everything the same way, things would be a lot simpler”. The very difference in the manner in which people perceive and react to the same matter is what makes life more interesting but alas, complicating too.

A supervisor’s raised eye-brow or change in voice modulation is a definite warning signal which never goes un-noticed by the sub-ordinates as it affects the psychological process of a person directly.

anger perception

General Perceptional Errors:

Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal factors when making judgments about the behaviour of others

Self-serving bias: The inclination to ascribe one’s own successes to internal factors and blame one’s own failures on external factors

Selective perception: The tendency to selectively interpret what is seen based on one’s interests, background, experience and attitudes

Projection: The tendency to attribute one’s own characteristics to other people

Stereotyping: The tendency to evaluate someone on the basis of the perception of a group to which that person belongs

Halo effect: The tendency to draw a general impression about an individual based on a single characteristic

Perception is how you look at things. Attitude is the way that you act towards something. Although perception can determine your attitude, you do not have to let it.

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