We shall presently be discussing a few points of differences between perception of a person and a perception of an object.
Incidentally, sometimes other terms like social perception, social cognition and person cognition have been employed by some writers to mean more or less person perception. But here again we will see that there are differences.
Basically, the term person perception means the processes and mechanisms by which we come to know and look at other persons, their qualities, their characteristics, their intentions, dispositions etc. Thus, we look at one person as dependable, honest, courageous etc.
We do not attribute these qualities to a chair or a table. Of course, in some rare instances people do describe some chair or table as lucky or unlucky but in a lighter vein. So, person perception involves not only responding to the physical characteristics but also the process of making inferences about the characteristics of the person, like his ability and interest, arriving at judgements, and making predictions about the other person.
These inferences and judgements in turn influence our relationship and interaction with that person. In a basic sense, the perception of a person is the same as perceiving an object as stated by Brunswick. But in as much as we try to perceive internal characteristics like values, attitudes, intentions, beliefs, emotions and similar internal attributes certainly person perception is different from the perception of a physical object.
Person perception unlike object perception involves complex psychological mechanisms and processes in the perceiver. In person perception we are not content with simply seeing and noting the physical characteristics of others. We do not just say, we are seeing a man wearing a business suit and glasses.
We go beyond these obvious features and infer about or attribute to him underlying motives, interests, abilities and thoughts. On the whole, we try to arrive at an overall picture, image impression or idea of the person. This is an important and crucial difference between person perception and object perception. Person perception involves our own values and attitudes.
Yet another factor which makes for a qualitative difference between person perception and object perception is that in the case of the former, the perceiver and the perceived have several points of similarity unlike in the perception of a physical object. This makes for a lot of difference. In perceiving a person, the perceiver can and very often does make use of his own past experiences in judging etc.