In this article we will discuss about the Social Perception of an Individual. After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Social Perception 2. Accuracy of Social Perception 3. Factors Influencing.
Meaning of Social Perception:
Social perception simply means the perception of social processes. The objects of social perception are the person’s relations with others including his perception of groups and social institutions. The study of social perception centres around the actual process of perception.
A social perception takes place in a social situation where two or more people interact with each other and perceive each other’s behaviour, activities and responses in relation to the social situation. Here the way in which two people perceive or judge the situation determines how they will behave and interact in that very situation.
Suppose two persons meet in a club and, the way ‘x’ behaved with ‘y’ made ‘y’ very angry and emotional. So he judged ‘x’ as very ruthless, adament and arrogant. Had this incident not occurred, he would not have perceived him so or had he not behaved with him the way he behaved, probably the perception about the person would have completely changed.
Thus Tagiuri and Petrullo (1958) hold “Through his own presence and behaviour in the perceptual situation of the other, the perceiver may alter the perceptual characteristics of the person whose state he is trying to judge.” In a social perception aspects of the “perceiver” and the “perceived” are important.
Since both of them are expected to change in course of interaction social perception is not rigid and perception of a person changes from time to time due to several interval and external factors. Accurate social perception is essential because working and living together would be difficult if perception of other people are inaccurate.
Every social reaction starts with the perception of other individuals or groups. The problem of perception is therefore basic in social interaction. When you meet a person in the market and talk to him there is social perception and social interaction. How people gain knowledge and understanding of other people? It is through social perception.
Social perception means perceptions of other individuals, groups and persons in c; social situation or in a social context to know and understand them. It is a tendency to see persons and not the situations or the cause of action, says Heider.
The way in which a person responds to the actions of another person is influenced by how he perceives or interprets the cause of the behaviour. In social perception enough importance is attached to the human behaviour and its effects on the persons presence in the environment and too little importance is attached to its situational context.
In social perception therefore the individual or the person is given importance and all events appear to be under the person’s own control. In short, perception of behaviour in relation to other members of the society is called Social perception.
Accuracy of Social Perception:
Accuracy of Social perception has been called social sensitivity, social insight and empathy. If social perception becomes inaccurate, working and living together would be difficult. In order to be successful in the society one’s social perception should be accurate. Studies show that groups who make accurate perception of social behaviour are more efficient than groups composed of members with less accurate perception.
Similarly in a small group the leader’s accurate perception about his coworkers increases the effectiveness of the group. Society gives greater acceptance to those who make accurate and effective perceptions of the individuals in the society and their behaviour.
If a person makes wrong perception of people he is often disliked by the society. Social perception comes through the study of social and interpersonal behaviour. According to Steiner, accuracy of social perception is linked with effective social behaviour.
Competency in interpersonal behaviour helps in participating more effectively in group activity and group discussion. When the accurately perceived qualities of the group members are relevant to the activities of the group then only accurate social perception leads to an increase in interpersonal relationship, competency and group efficiency.
If the perception, say of a mental patient is not made accurately by the psychiatrist then the diagnosis and treatment becomes wrong. But say in a hospital the doctor’s perception that a compounder is unhappy and wants to quit the job is not relevant to the functioning of the hospital.
Factors Influencing Social Perception:
Social perception sometimes becomes biased and erroneous due to social prestige, high status in the society, higher responsibility, wealth, high caste and high socio-economic status. It is also influenced by physical features, attractiveness, power and recognition, education etc.
Attractive high status persons engaged in important jobs are generally perceived to be more responsible for their actions than ineffective, low status persons. Studies provide support to this view.
Similarly, people who think themselves as powerful in controlling their own destiny and own actions perceive others as controllers of their own fate. On the other hand, persons who feel having less power or powerless perceive others as controlled by external events. According to Mann, “Perception of social causality is influenced by an appraisal of situational pressures, the status of the person and the personality of the judge.”
Trust, confidence, personal relationship and close association with the person also influence social perception. A stranger is perceived in a different way than an already known person. While trust, confidence and good personal relationship help in attribution of positive factors leading to positive social perceptions, lack of confidence, mistrust, bias and prejudice, unpalatable attitudes lead to negative social perception.
The role of need, value and past experience also cannot be underestimated in social perception. Feelings of gratitude are influenced by one’s perception. ‘X’ obliged by ‘Y’ always perceive ‘Y’ as a better person compared to another person who has not obliged him. Further the perception becomes more positive when he perceives the favour and obligation to be intentional than incidental or unintentional.
That somebody has done something intentionally, this perception develops during middle childhood, Piaget has found that children under seven years tend to perceive an action harmful or dangerous from the amount of damage it has caused. But older children judge such actions by the past history and intention of the person responsible for the act.
Status of the person also influences the perception and judgment of older children. Generally person of high status is perceived and attributed having good intentions in whatever he does than a person with low status.
In social perception, perception of intention plays a major role as one’s reaction and self evaluations are effected and influenced by the action of another. When good intention is added to the action of a person the perception of the person becomes positive and when bad intention is added the perception of the person becomes negative.
When the action and behaviour of a person makes the life of another person difficult, painful and a hail, one tries to find out if its is done intentionally, deliberately or accidentally or due to chance or fate and the perception of the person is determined accordingly. Thus the context of action influences one’s perceptions of intentions.
When it is perceived that somebody does something good to you not to gain any favour but spontaneously and out of affection or generously, he is perceived as very acceptable and compliments are showered on him. Whether the action of a person is deliberate or accidental is determined by one’s knowledge of the skill and ability of the person.
Justifiability is another factor affecting social perception. Justifiability of a social act is dependent upon the degree to which this action stands on an adequate ground. If the action violates ethical standards or deviates from the norms of social standards, customs and traditions it does not stand on an adequate ground and hence he is compelled to do a negative act because of certain compulsions beyond his control.
This action may even be perceived generously and usually excused by the perceiver. If a bus driver does not stop a bus near the bus stop because it is overcrowded and no passenger wants to get down there, his action though illegal way be perceived as justifiable. But when the bus driver without any obvious reasons arbitrarily does not stop the bus at the bus stop his action is perceived as unjustified.
Hence the same action can be perceived differently with different background reasons. Higher status of the person also enables a perceiver to perceive his act as justified Social perception mainly deals with the effect of person’s perception on human interaction and the social determinants of person’s perception.
It broadly deals with the role of accurate judgment in human interaction, impression management and the interpretation of social causality.
The main purpose of social perception is to known about the motives and attitudes of other persons in social interaction. It also aims to attribute level of responsibility, intentionality and justifiability for their actions.
Through the process of attribution attempts are made to know and make sense out of other person’s behaviour. When the actions are perceived to be without intentions and because of situational requirements little importance is attached to the person and very less is known about the person.
It is an established fact that judgment of others are strongly affected by their face value or the impression they present to the perceiver. Some people try to be very impressive by using several tactics. In such cases the perception of the person becomes faulty and erroneous because of error in judgment.
Concluding on the errors in social perceptions. Mann says, “Error in judgment is due to faulty generalization from limited or inaccurate information, excessive reliance on self perception and the tendency to emphasize the person’s role in action at the expense of situational determinants. The various processes of interpersonal perception, including attribution of causality, categorization and stereotyping forming and ereating impressions, can be seen as a part of the general move to simplify and make sense out of a highly variable environment and to give some order to a multitude of experiences and events.”
While commenting on social perception Gardner Murphy opines, “In the light of ten strong trends in recent years to lift the problem of social psychology from the behaviour level to the level of awareness of social reality the need for reasonable theory of the process of social perceiving has became imperative.”
Personality psychologists have established that one’s personality determines one’s perception, as we do not perceive stimuli as they are but as we are. In view of these findings the problem of social perception has drawn the active attention of psychologists.
Structural and Functional Factors of Social Perception:
According to Kupuswamy, all perception is based on the interaction of three factors:
(a) The logical stimulation
(b) The stimulus field forces and
(c) The organisms field forces.
The social value of an object and the individual need for the socially valued object will influence one’s perception. These factors determining social perception are also called behavioural determinants.
Frame of Reference:
It also influences perception. The frame of reference is the background of stimulation which influences one’s behaviour in a particular stimulation. Frame of reference brings out the significance of the factor that a system of functional relations influence our perception at a given time.
The external and internal factors of perception operate in an interdependent way at a given time as the frame of reference of the experience and behaviour in question. Perception of good and bad, tall and short, thin and fat are relative terms in perception.
The study of Bruner and Rotter with the size of coins indicates the role of need and motivation in the perceiver’s perception. In this study, the poor children tend to judge coins to be larger than the discs of the same size. They concluded that the social value of on object and the need of the individual for the same influence one’s perception.
Since perception is functionally selective, the role of need, value and past experience of the perceiver on the precept is obvious.
Things are very rarely what they appear. The perception of a person is coloured by the frame of reference, emotions, moods, temperaments of the person who perceives. It is said that the entire cognitive world of a person who has an overriding need for security will be organised on quite different basis from the individual who does not seek constant reassurances.
Two people who are enemies will see in each other many unfavourable qualities; while two people who are friendly will perceive in each other’s personality many good qualities.
Keeping the stimulus same, if the persons are changed, the perception also changes. The same two persons who were best friends, in the past and showered praises on each other in the public start seeing unpalatable qualities in each other when they start becoming enemies. This happens in persons of different political parties who suddenly change their party at the time of election for not getting a ticket.
Once the best friends become the worst enemies when their personal needs and vested interests are not fulfilled and so their frame of reference has changed Therefore Sherif & Cantril say “The term frame of reference is simply used to denote the functionally related factors which operate at the moment to determine the particular properties of a psychological phenomena like perception judgement, affectivity.”
Sherif used the term “Anchorage” to explain the concept of frame of reference. An anchorage is a great reference point that gives significance to perception. It is a standard which influences what one perceives. It may be due to external and internal factors or due to the socially derived factors.
The whole situation of perception may be reorganized according to one’s personal, functional and social factors. Socially derived factors like group norms and group pressures may recognize one’s perception. Facial expressions may also influence social perception. Gates reported an investigation on the growth of social perception using photographs of facial expressions.
Finally social perception may be related to the way in which one perceives individuals as member of groups. In India and even elsewhere the status of people is perceived from their dress, because people of different status use different types of dress. Employees of the army, Navy, Police, railways postal department and even doctors use uniforms from which one could immediately perceive their status and function.
In army, navy, air force and police employees of different status use different types of dresses and different badges. The influence of diverse factors on social perception has made it very complex and complicated.