Perception Checking in Interpersonal Communication Essay

Introduction, the concept of perception checking, avoiding conflict, improving communication, building interpersonal relationships, critique of perception checking, works cited.

Interpersonal relationships are the foundation of our life, as they influence our work, friendship, and family connections. There are various communication tools that can help people to avoid conflicts and promote healthy interpersonal communication. Perception checking is one of these tools, as it can assist in effective communication. Perception checking is the process of arriving at mutual understandings with others (Wood 58). The present paper will attempt to explain the process of perception checking and show how it has helped me to improve my interpersonal experiences and communication with others.

Our communication with people is primarily based on our interpretation of their words, behaviors, and actions. Our interpretations are created in three steps. First, we gain information about a person, an event, or a situation from our senses (Dr. Deb). This information is usually incomplete, as our minds fail to notice details that create a comprehensive picture. Then, the data is processed through our thinking structures, which are largely influenced by our personality, experiences, and other mental schemata (Dr. Deb). Lastly, we assign a meaning to the information, thus forming an interpretation.

As evident from the description of this process, our vision is often subject to bias and misunderstanding. Nevertheless, many people fail to distinguish their understanding from the truth. This creates a space for conflict, as people’s intentions, thoughts, and other relevant details are not included in our description of the situation.

Perception checking is intended to prevent conflicts arising from incorrect interpretations by aligning our interpretations with those of other people. As defined by Adler and Proctor, perception checking also includes three steps: collecting information, developing at least two possible interpretations, and requesting clarification on how to interpret the behavior or a situation (123). Whereas our usual approach to interpretation does not take into account other people’s thoughts and intentions, perception checking enables to see the big picture, thus discovering a true meaning of people’s words or actions and reducing the possibility of bias. Benefits of perception checking thus include avoiding conflicts, improving communication, and build better interpersonal relationships.

Perception checking assists in preventing conflict by reducing the possibility of misunderstanding and ensuring that two or more people involved in a situation have a similar interpretation of it (Abraham). One example of how performance checking helped me to avoid conflict occurred in January when I asked a colleague to swap a shift with me. He agreed to trade shifts and told me that he would visit the manager the next morning to confirm a new schedule with her.

However, during my next day at work, I saw that the schedule remained unchanged. In order to avoid conflict with my co-worker, I used perception checking to develop two interpretations of the situation and to request a clarification from him. My two interpretations were that he either forgot to speak to the manager or decided to refuse my offer without telling me. As it turned out, my colleague forgot to talk to the manager, and we resolved the situation within an hour. In this case, perception checking was helpful, as it allowed me to avoid making hasty conclusions and maintain a friendly relationship with my colleague.

Another benefit of perception checking is improved communication. As shown by Ball, perception checking enables people to explain their ideas and thoughts, thus ensuring a mutual understanding. I often use perception checking to improve communication with others. For instance, I once used perception checking in my studies to clarify the professor’s stance on the topic. I am a Criminal Justice major, and we were discussing cases of police brutality in class when my professor made a dubious comment on the issue. I could see that some people in the class were offended but did not ask for a clarification, instead relying on their personal interpretation of the professor’s words.

Instead of assuming that my first interpretation was correct, I requested a clarification from the professor, thus allowing him to elaborate and explain his words. The request made the professor realize that his statement was dubious and he revealed its true meaning to the class, thus easing the tension and clarifying what the correct interpretation was. There were two positive outcomes of using perception checking in this situation. Firstly, the professor appreciated my question and thanked me for giving him a chance to explain his words. Secondly, it showed the group that their first interpretation was incorrect, thus restoring the professor’s positive image in their minds.

Lastly, perception checking aids in building healthy relationships with others, as it improves one’s ability to listen to and understand others (Nicksic). Therefore, it makes the people involved in the dialogue to feel appreciated and supported rather than ignored. One time when this tool helped me to better understand a person occurred when I was talking to a friend on the phone. I believed that he was disengaged from the conversation, as his responses were short and snappy. At first, I thought that my friend did not want to talk to me and was not interested in our discussion. I was about to end the call when I decided to apply perception checking.

I found two other possible interpretations of this behavior and asked my friend about his perception of the situation. My friend admitted that he just had a fight with his family and was not in the mood to chat with me but still wanted to help. Instead of cutting the call short, I listened to my friend’s story and offered him my advice and support, thus contributing to our relationship. Therefore, in this situation, perception checking proved to be a relevant and beneficial tool.

Although perception checking applies to a variety of situations and contexts, there are some limitations associated with the method. As stated by Adler and Proctor, it is not applicable to some cultural context and may appear too blunt to people from Latin American or Asian cultures (125). Besides, perception checking may not be helpful in online or text communication. Adler and Proctor mention that a perception check is only effective if there is nonverbal congruency, i.e., if the person’s body language and voice convey openness and lack of accusation (124). In the contexts where the people cannot see or hear each other, perception checking could be taken for an accusation and have an opposite effect on the situation, triggering further misunderstanding and facilitating conflict.

Overall, perception checking can be a powerful tool for facilitating interpersonal relationships if used appropriately. In my personal life, perception checking has helped me to avoid conflict and improve my relationships with other people. The examples of perception checking offered in the paper show that this tool can help in promoting understanding, mutual respect, and dialogue between the parties, which is why I intend to continue using it in my work and personal life.

Abraham, Lauren. “The Power of Perception Checking.” Grand Canyon University . 2017. Web.

Adler, Ronald, and Russell F. Proctor II. Looking out, Looking in . Nelson Education, 2015.

Ball, Dana. “3 Reasons Why All Leaders Should Engage in Perception Checking.” Dana Ball Legal Services , 2018. Web.

Dr. Deb. “Perception Checking.” Get Control of Your Life . 2017. Web.

Wood, Julia T. Communication Mosaics: An Introduction to the Field of Communication . Cengage Learning, 2013.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 5). Perception Checking in Interpersonal Communication.

"Perception Checking in Interpersonal Communication." IvyPanda , 5 May 2021,

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IvyPanda . 2021. "Perception Checking in Interpersonal Communication." May 5, 2021.

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IvyPanda . "Perception Checking in Interpersonal Communication." May 5, 2021.

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Perception Checking: 15 Examples and Definition

perception checking examples and definition, explained below

Perception checking refers to finding out if your perception of someone’s behavior is accurate.

It is an essential skill in effective communication in both professional and personal contexts because it can help clear-up miscommunication and misunderstandings that arise due to humans’ natural selective perception tendencies.

People are not always the best communicators of their thoughts and feelings. A person might seem to be saying one thing, but really, they mean something else.

Therefore, it can also help avoid conflicts. By gaining an accurate understanding of what someone wants to say, it can reduce the likelihood of offending someone, or, being offended.

Types of Perception Checking

According to Floyd (2011),

“perception checking is the process of testing your perceptions for accuracy” (p. 154).

There are two types of perception checking: direct and indirect.

Direct perception checking simply involves asking the person you’re speaking with if your understanding is correct.

This method involves three steps:

  • Description: Describing the behavior observed.
  • Interpretation: Provide two possible interpretations.
  • Clarification: Asking if your interpretation is correct.

Indirect perception checking involves seeking additional information about the person’s behavior by observing their facial expressions or how they act towards others.

Perception Checking Examples

  • When in a Relationship: “You are being really quiet tonight. Did I do something wrong or did you have a bad day? Just let me know what’s wrong.”
  • In a Meeting: “I’m not sure if I understand what you are saying. Are you for or against the project? Please help me get a clear picture.”
  • Not Hearing from Someone: “You usually call every day, but I haven’t heard from you in almost a week. Did something happen or did you go out of town? Give me a ring so I won’t worry.”
  • After a Tense Encounter: “It seems like you ended our conversation abruptly. Did I say something to offend you or were you just in a hurry? I’d like to know what happened.”
  • Following-up about a Promised Raise: “I remember during my performance evaluation a raise was mentioned, but it hasn’t happened yet. So, I was wondering if I misunderstood or if maybe HR has not completed the paperwork yet. If you could let me know what to expect, that would be great.”
  • With a Spouse: “I noticed that you didn’t eat much at dinner tonight so I’m not sure if I cooked something you don’t like or if you were just not hungry. Let me know so I don’t make the same mistake next time.”
  • Getting Started on a Project: “It seems that when I try to arrange a time for us to get started on the project, you have a reason to not set a time. So, I am wondering if you don’t want to be partners on this project or if you have too much other work to do. Can you help me understand what’s happening?”
  • With the Boss: “You say you’re happy with the report but your tone sounds different. So, I’m not sure if the report is all wrong or if something else is on your mind. Either way, just give me a little clarification please.”
  • Getting the Cold Shoulder: “The last three times I saw you out it seems that you didn’t notice me. Have I done something to offend you or did you really not see me? I’d like to know.”
  • The New Neighbor: “We were disappointed not to see you and your wife at our BBQ last weekend. Did you not think you were invited or have other plans? If we change the time for the next one will that help?  “
  • Being Friendly or Flirting: “At the party last night you seemed to spend a lot of time talking to Fred. Were you talking about work or do you have some romantic interest in him? I just think its best to be clear about where we stand.”
  • No Reply to an Email: “I sent you an email last week asking about the project but didn’t get a reply. Have you been too busy to reply yet or did it go to your spam folder by accident? I can send it again if you need, just let me know.”
  • At the end of a Job Interview: “Okay, when you say you’ll get back to me, does that me that I have a good chance to get the position or are you just being polite? I don’t mind a direct answer, I’d just like to know.”
  • Checking the Phone During a Conversation: “Oh, I notice that you are checking your phone a lot, are you expecting an important message from work or worried about missing a phone call? What’s going on?”
  • Leaving the House without saying Goodbye: “You left this morning without saying anything. Were you in a hurry or did you forget that you have a wife? I’d like to know what happened.”
  • After an Awkward Silence: “During our chat today, there were quite a few long pauses. I’m wondering if you were just lost in thought or if you felt uncomfortable with the conversation? I want to make sure we’re both at ease.”
  • When a Friend Cancels Plans: “You’ve cancelled our last two meet-ups pretty last minute. Is it because you’re going through a busy phase right now or have I done something that’s bothering you? Just want to make sure everything’s okay.”
  • In a Group Project: “I’ve noticed that you haven’t contributed much to our group discussions or tasks. Are you finding the project uninteresting or are you just not sure how to get involved? Your input would be really valuable.”
  • During a Family Gathering: “At dinner, you seemed to avoid any conversation about your new job. Is it because you’re not happy there or do you just prefer keeping work and family separate? I’m just curious to know how you’re doing.”
  • Receiving a Vague Response: “When I asked about your weekend, you just said it was ‘fine’ but seemed a bit down. Did something happen that you’d like to talk about or was it just a regular weekend? I’m here if you need to share anything.”

Case Studies of Perception Checking    

1. contextual clues and perception.

It is easy to misinterpret another person’s behavior or personality. The context in which the person is viewed can have a big impact on the accuracy of our perceptions.

For example, noticing that someone is fidgeting a lot can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on if they are in a doctor’s waiting room, outside the boss’s office, or at a social gathering; same behavior, different context.

To examine how context can impact accuracy of perception , Gosling et al. (2002) asked research participants to make judgments regarding a person’s personality based on their office (Study 1) or bedroom (Study 2).

Those perceptions were then compared with self-ratings and peer-ratings of those individuals.

The researchers then calculated a correlation between participants’ perceptions and the self and peer ratings of the individuals. The results revealed that “accuracy correlations in the study of bedrooms (Study 2) were consistently stronger than those in the study of offices (Study 1)” (p. 393).

The researchers explain that in some contexts, such as a social gathering or personal dwelling space, people can be more self-expressive, which makes aspects of their personality more visible.

In these situations, perception may actually be more accurate.

2. Cross-Cultural Influences

Communication styles can vary across cultures. When working in a foreign country this can be a serious issue if not handled well. Misunderstandings can lead to harsh feelings and conflict that are completely unnecessary.

For example, North Americans have the habit of greeting coworkers in the morning with a friendly “hello.” It is a way of acknowledging a person’s presence and is just part of the culture.

However, in some other countries, this is not the custom at all. When people enter the office, they go straight to their desk and get to work. It’s simply not customary to look up from one’s desk and say “good morning” to others as they arrive.

If someone from North America is not aware of this cultural difference, then they may interpret the lack of greeting as rudeness or someone being cold and indifferent.

In a situation like this, one could try perception-checking, but that might be misunderstood by the other person. It can be seen as being too personal or a sign of a fragile personality.

Sometimes, it’s best to let it go and don’t overanalyze the situation.

See Also: Cultural Influence Examples

3. Self-Reflection and Perceptions

Each person enters an interpersonal encounter with at least one or two biases. These biases are hard to overcome and can affect even those of us that try really hard to be unbiased.

The first step to overcoming this implicit bias is to be self-aware. knowing what biases you have and how they can affect your interpretations of others is essential.

Our perceptions can be skewed by many factors, including our mood, cultural biases , expectations regarding a person’s economic or social class, geographic upbringing, religious beliefs, and the list goes on and on.

To go with just one example, when in a negative mood, we have a tendency to interpret the behavior of others has having a negative meaning. This can lead to misinterpreting their tone of voice, misidentifying a facial expression, or just completely applying a different meaning to what they said.

Being self-reflective and knowing your own tendencies and current state of mind can go a long way to more accurate perception.

See Also: Self-Reflection Examples

4. Stereotypes: Even Positive Ones

There seems to be a stereotype for just about category of human on the planet. These stereotypes are often perpetuated by television shows that depict certain groups of people in very particular ways.

For example, if meeting a professional athlete for the first time, we may have a preformed notion about their personality type, habits, and values. 

Even stereotypes that we think might be positive , are still stereotypes. And, they can still sometimes be offensive. For instance, Asians are stereotyped as being good at math and knowing martial arts.

Even though those may seem like good qualities to have, many Asian people feel offended by being typecast. A lot of people would like to be seen as individuals, unique and special. Being placed in a group is a way of denying their self-identity.

5. Perception Checking and Emotional Intelligence

Ever since Daniel Goleman came out with his book on emotional intelligence ( discussed here ), the world has been obsessed with finding ways to improve it. From kindergarten classrooms to corporate training programs, there is no shortage of advice on how to become better at understanding others and ourselves.

The term emotional intelligence, originally coined by Salovey and Mayer in 1990, has been developed into a model which contains several components, including one labeled as Emotional Perception and Expression (Salovey et al., 2002).

This component includes “a person’s capacity to perceive and express their feelings…from both a verbal and non-verbal form.” Including “the ability to interpret emotional messages articulated through facial expressions and tone of voice” (Tarasuik et al, 2009, p. 4).

Although a person with a high EQ may be accurate at interpreting the emotions and behaviors of others, they may also understand the importance of not being wrong.

Choosing the right tone of voice and words are extremely important when perception checking. People can become easily offended if they feel that their sincerity is being doubted.

Using a delicate, slow, calm, and slightly high-pitched tone can help convey your intent to just have a better understanding of the situation.

Perception checking is a way to test the accuracy of our interpretation of a person’s behavior and gain clarity.

There are three basic steps that entail describing the person’s actions, offering two possible explanations, and then asking for help in understanding.

Perception checking can be useful in a variety of situations. With colleagues, it can help make coworker relations function more smoothly and help create a positive work environment.

With friends and romantic partners, it can help diffuse potentially volatile situations and avoid unnecessary conflict.

Being aware of one’s own cultural biases and stereotypes can help prevent the need for perception checking in the first place. At the same time, context can influence our perceptions, sometimes actually leading to greater accuracy.

Although perception checking seems harmless and the goal innocent enough, in some cultures it may be seen as a sign of weakness.

Floyd, K. (2011). Interpersonal communication . New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ. Learning , 24 (6), 49-50.

Gosling, Samuel & Ko, Sei & Mannarelli, Thomas & Morris, Margaret. (2002). A room with a cue: Personality judgments based on offices and bedrooms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82 (3), 379-98. doi:

Faheem, S. & Aparna, P. (2014). Interpersonal communication skills in academic and scholastic perspective: Barriers and solutions. International Journal of Humanities , Arts, Medicine and Sciences , 2 (12), 63-72.

Hansen, F. C. B., Resnick, H., & Galea, J. (2002). Better listening: Paraphrasing and perception checking–a study of the effectiveness of a multimedia skills training program. Journal of Technology in Human Services , 20 (3-4), 317-331. doi:

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9 , 185-211.

Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D., & Caruso, D. (2002). The Positive Psychology of Emotional Intelligence. In Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 159-171). London: Oxford University Press.

Shanthi, D. (2014). Cross cultural communication: Its relevance and challenges in organizations. International Journal of Research and Development-A Management Review , 1 (1), 49-51.

Tarasuik, J. C., Ciorciari, J., & Stough, C. (2009). Understanding the neurobiology of emotional intelligence: A review. Assessing emotional intelligence: Theory, research, and applications , 307-320. doi:


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Using Perception Checking to Improve Communication

This essay about the practice of perception checking in communication highlights its importance in fostering clarity and understanding. It explains how perception checking involves seeking clarification and confirmation of our interpretations of others’ behavior or communication. By suspending judgment, actively listening, and practicing empathy, individuals can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts from escalating. The essay emphasizes perception checking as a valuable tool for improving interactions and building healthier relationships.

How it works

In the dynamic dance of human interaction, communication serves as both the melody and the rhythm, guiding our steps through the complexities of understanding and connection. Yet, just like any intricate choreography, it’s not always flawless. Sometimes, we misstep, stumble, or trip over our own assumptions and interpretations. Enter perception checking – the unsung hero of effective communication, here to help us tune our ears, adjust our lenses, and waltz gracefully through the nuances of human interaction.

Imagine perception checking as a finely tuned instrument in the orchestra of communication, harmonizing the discordant notes of misunderstanding and discord.

It’s the art of pausing before we press play on our assumptions, taking a moment to fine-tune our reception and ensure we’re hearing the symphony of someone else’s intentions clearly. By doing so, we avoid the cacophony of misinterpretation and cultivate a more harmonious dialogue.

One of the magical qualities of perception checking is its ability to transform the static snapshots of our perceptions into dynamic, living portraits of understanding. It’s like adjusting the focus on a camera lens, bringing clarity to the blurry edges of our interpretations. Rather than settling for the pixelated version of reality, perception checking invites us to zoom in, zoom out, and explore the full spectrum of meaning hidden within the frame.

But perception checking isn’t just about fine-tuning our reception; it’s also about fine-tuning our transmission. It’s the art of speaking in colors instead of black and white, painting a vivid picture of our thoughts and feelings for others to see. By articulating our perceptions with clarity and precision, we invite others to join us in the rich tapestry of understanding, weaving together threads of insight and empathy.

At its heart, perception checking is an act of humility – a humble acknowledgment of the limitations of our own perspective. It’s the recognition that we are all artists painting on the canvas of reality, each with our own palette of experiences and biases. By embracing this humility, we create space for curiosity and discovery, opening ourselves up to the possibility of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

In the grand symphony of human interaction, perception checking is the conductor, guiding the flow of communication with grace and precision. It’s the secret ingredient that transforms discord into harmony, misunderstanding into connection. So, let us tune our ears, adjust our lenses, and dance to the rhythm of perception checking – for in doing so, we unlock the true beauty of communication and connection.


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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Effective Communication — The Importance of Perception Checking in Effective Communication


The Importance of Perception Checking in Effective Communication

  • Categories: Communication Skills Effective Communication

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Published: Mar 20, 2024

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Table of contents

The role of perception in communication, the importance of perception checking, examples of perception checking in practice, the impact of perception checking on communication.

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2.4 Improving Perception

Learning objectives.

  • Discuss strategies for improving self-perception.
  • Discuss strategies for improving perception of others.
  • Employ perception checking to improve perception of self and others.

So far, we have learned about the perception process and how we perceive others and ourselves. Now we will turn to a discussion of how to improve our perception. Our self-perception can be improved by becoming aware of how schema, socializing forces, self-fulfilling prophecies, and negative patterns of thinking can distort our ability to describe and evaluate ourselves. How we perceive others can be improved by developing better listening and empathetic skills, becoming aware of stereotypes and prejudice, developing self-awareness through self-reflection, and engaging in perception checking.

Improving Self-Perception

Our self-perceptions can and do change. Recall that we have an overall self-concept and self-esteem that are relatively stable, and we also have context-specific self-perceptions. Context-specific self-perceptions vary depending on the person with whom we are interacting, our emotional state, and the subject matter being discussed. Becoming aware of the process of self-perception and the various components of our self-concept (which you have already started to do by studying this chapter) will help you understand and improve your self-perceptions.

Since self-concept and self-esteem are so subjective and personal, it would be inaccurate to say that someone’s self-concept is “right” or “wrong.” Instead, we can identify negative and positive aspects of self-perceptions as well as discuss common barriers to forming accurate and positive self-perceptions. We can also identify common patterns that people experience that interfere with their ability to monitor, understand, and change their self-perceptions. Changing your overall self-concept or self-esteem is not an easy task given that these are overall reflections on who we are and how we judge ourselves that are constructed over many interactions. A variety of life-changing events can relatively quickly alter our self-perceptions. Think of how your view of self changed when you moved from high school to college. Similarly, other people’s self-perceptions likely change when they enter into a committed relationship, have a child, make a geographic move, or start a new job.


Having a child can lead to a major change in a person’s self-concept.

Photophile – Father & Son 2055 – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Aside from experiencing life-changing events, we can make slower changes to our self-perceptions with concerted efforts aimed at becoming more competent communicators through self-monitoring and reflection. As you actively try to change your self-perceptions, do not be surprised if you encounter some resistance from significant others. When you change or improve your self-concept, your communication will also change, which may prompt other people to respond to you differently. Although you may have good reasons for changing certain aspects of your self-perception, others may become unsettled or confused by your changing behaviors and communication. Remember, people try to increase predictability and decrease uncertainty within personal relationships. For example, many students begin to take their college education more seriously during their junior and senior years. As these students begin to change their self-concept to include the role of “serious student preparing to graduate and enter the professional world,” they likely have friends that want to maintain the “semiserious student who doesn’t exert much consistent effort and prefers partying to studying” role that used to be a shared characteristic of both students’ self-concepts. As the first student’s behavior changes to accommodate this new aspect of his or her self-concept, it may upset the friend who was used to weeknights spent hanging out rather than studying. Let’s now discuss some suggestions to help avoid common barriers to accurate and positive self-perceptions and patterns of behavior that perpetuate negative self-perception cycles.

Avoid Reliance on Rigid Schema

As we learned earlier, schemata are sets of information based on cognitive and experiential knowledge that guide our interaction. We rely on schemata almost constantly to help us make sense of the world around us. Sometimes schemata become so familiar that we use them as scripts, which prompts mindless communication and can lead us to overlook new information that may need to be incorporated into the schema. So it’s important to remain mindful of new or contradictory information that may warrant revision of a schema. Being mindful is difficult, however, especially since we often unconsciously rely on schemata. Think about how when you’re driving a familiar route you sometimes fall under “highway hypnosis.” Despite all the advanced psychomotor skills needed to drive, such as braking, turning, and adjusting to other drivers, we can pull into a familiar driveway or parking lot having driven the whole way on autopilot. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But have you slipped into autopilot on a familiar route only to remember that you are actually going somewhere else after you’ve already missed your turn? This example illustrates the importance of keeping our schemata flexible and avoiding mindless communication.

Be Critical of Socializing Forces

We learned earlier that family, friends, sociocultural norms, and the media are just some of the socializing forces that influence our thinking and therefore influence our self-perception. These powerful forces serve positive functions but can also set into motion negative patterns of self-perception. Two examples can illustrate the possibility for people to critique and resist socializing forces in order to improve their self-perception. The first deals with physical appearance and notions of health, and the second deals with cultural identities and discrimination.

We have already discussed how the media presents us with narrow and often unrealistic standards for attractiveness. Even though most of us know that these standards don’t represent what is normal or natural for the human body, we internalize these ideals, which results in various problems ranging from eating disorders, to depression, to poor self-esteem. A relatively overlooked but controversial and interesting movement that has emerged partially in response to these narrow representations of the body is the fat acceptance movement. The fat acceptance movement has been around for more than thirty years, but it has more recently gotten public attention due to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Kirstie Alley, who after years of publicly struggling with weight issues have embraced a view that weight does not necessarily correspond to health. Many people have found inspiration in that message and have decided that being healthy and strong is more important than being thin (Katz, 2009). The “Healthy at Every Size” movement and the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance have challenged the narrative put out by the thirty-billion-dollar-a-year weight-loss industry that fat equals lazy, ugly, and unhealthy. [1] Conflicting scientific studies make it difficult to say conclusively how strong the correlation is between weight and health, but it seems clear that a view that promotes healthy living and positive self-esteem over unconditional dieting and a cult of thinness is worth exploring more given the potential public health implications of distorted body image and obesity.


The “Healthy at Every Size” movement strives to teach people that being thin doesn’t necessarily mean a person is healthy.

Pixabay – CC0 public domain.

Cultural influences related to identities and difference can also lead to distorted self-perceptions, especially for people who occupy marginalized or oppressed identities. While perception research has often been used to support the notion that individuals who are subjected to discrimination, like racial and ethnic minorities, are likely to have low self-esteem because they internalize negative societal views, this is not always the case (Armenta & Hunt, 2009). In fact, even some early perception research showed that minorities do not just passively accept the negative views society places on them. Instead, they actively try to maintain favorable self-perceptions in the face of discriminatory attitudes. Numerous studies have shown that people in groups that are the targets of discrimination may identify with their in-group more because of this threat, which may actually help them maintain psychological well-being. In short, they reject the negative evaluations of the out-group and find refuge and support in their identification with others who share their marginalized status.

Beware of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Self-fulfilling prophecies are thought and action patterns in which a person’s false belief triggers a behavior that makes the initial false belief actually or seemingly come true (Guyll et al., 2010). For example, let’s say a student’s biology lab instructor is a Chinese person who speaks English as a second language. The student falsely believes that the instructor will not be a good teacher because he speaks English with an accent. Because of this belief, the student doesn’t attend class regularly and doesn’t listen actively when she does attend. Because of these behaviors, the student fails the biology lab, which then reinforces her original belief that the instructor wasn’t a good teacher.

Although the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies was originally developed to be applied to social inequality and discrimination, it has since been applied in many other contexts, including interpersonal communication. This research has found that some people are chronically insecure, meaning they are very concerned about being accepted by others but constantly feel that other people will dislike them. This can manifest in relational insecurity, which is again based on feelings of inferiority resulting from social comparison with others perceived to be more secure and superior. Such people often end up reinforcing their belief that others will dislike them because of the behaviors triggered by their irrational belief. Take the following scenario as an example: An insecure person assumes that his date will not like him. During the date he doesn’t engage in much conversation, discloses negative information about himself, and exhibits anxious behaviors. Because of these behaviors, his date forms a negative impression and suggests they not see each other again, reinforcing his original belief that the date wouldn’t like him. The example shows how a pattern of thinking can lead to a pattern of behavior that reinforces the thinking, and so on. Luckily, experimental research shows that self-affirmation techniques can be successfully used to intervene in such self-fulfilling prophecies. Thinking positive thoughts and focusing on personality strengths can stop this negative cycle of thinking and has been shown to have positive effects on academic performance, weight loss, and interpersonal relationships (Stinston et al., 2011).

Create and Maintain Supporting Interpersonal Relationships

Aside from giving yourself affirming messages to help with self-perception, it is important to find interpersonal support. Although most people have at least some supportive relationships, many people also have people in their lives who range from negative to toxic. When people find themselves in negative relational cycles, whether it is with friends, family, or romantic partners, it is difficult to break out of those cycles. But we can all make choices to be around people that will help us be who we want to be and not be around people who hinder our self-progress. This notion can also be taken to the extreme, however. It would not be wise to surround yourself with people who only validate you and do not constructively challenge you, because this too could lead to distorted self-perceptions.

Beware of Distorted Patterns of Thinking and Acting

You already know from our discussion of attribution errors that we all have perceptual biases that distort our thinking. Many of these are common, and we often engage in distorted thinking without being conscious of it. Learning about some of the typical negative patterns of thinking and acting may help us acknowledge and intervene in them. One such pattern involves self-esteem and overcompensation.


Some people have speculated that men who have a midlife crisis may overcompensate for a perceived loss in status or power due to age by purchasing material things that make them appear more youthful.

Kevin Dooley – Midlife crisis car – CC BY 2.0.

People with low self-esteem may act in ways that overcompensate for their feelings of low self-worth and other insecurities. Whether it’s the businessman buying his midlife crisis Corvette, the “country boy” adding monster tires to his truck, or the community leader who wears several carats of diamonds everywhere she goes, people often turn to material possessions to try to boost self-esteem. While these purchases may make people feel better in the short term, they may have negative financial effects that can exacerbate negative self-perceptions and lead to interpersonal conflict. People also compensate for self-esteem with their relational choices. A person who is anxious about his career success may surround himself with people who he deems less successful than himself. In this case, being a big fish in a small pond helps some people feel better about themselves when they engage in social comparison.

People can also get into a negative thought and action cycle by setting unrealistic goals and consistently not meeting them. Similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who set unrealistic goals can end up with negative feelings of self-efficacy, which as we learned earlier, can negatively affect self-esteem and self-concept. The goals we set should be challenging but progressive, meaning we work to meet a realistic goal, then increase our expectations and set another goal, and so on.

Some people develop low self-esteem because they lack accurate information about themselves, which may be intentional or unintentional. A person can intentionally try to maintain high self-esteem by ignoring or downplaying negative comments and beliefs and focusing on positive evaluations. While this can be a good thing, it can also lead to a distorted self-concept. There is a middle ground between beating yourself up or dwelling on the negative and ignoring potentially constructive feedback about weaknesses and missing opportunities to grow as a person. Conversely, people who have low self-esteem or negative self-concepts may discount or ignore positive feedback. To wrap up this section, I’d like to turn to one of my favorite shows and a great source for examples relevant to the perception process: American Idol .

I’ve always enjoyed showing clips from American Idol auditions in my class when I teach about self-perception. As you probably know, the season always starts with audition footage shot in various cities. The range of singing abilities, not to mention personalities, of those who show up for a chance to sing in front of the judges leads millions of viewers to keep tuning in. While it’s obvious that the producers let some people through who they know don’t have a chance at making it on the show, they also know that certain personalities make for good reality television viewing. I’ve often found myself wondering, “Do these people really think they can sing?” The answer is sometimes a very clear “Yes!” Sure, some are there just to make a spectacle and hopefully make it on TV, but there are many who actually believe they have singing abilities—even to the point that they challenge and discount the judges’ comments.


Some contestants on American Idol find it difficult to accept the constructive criticism they receive from the judges because they have distorted self-perceptions about their singing abilities.

Beth – American Idol Experience 9258 – CC BY 2.0.

During the contestant’s tearful and/or angry postrejection interview, they are often shown standing with their family and friends, who are also surprised at the judges’ decision. These contestants could potentially avoid this emotional ending by following some of the previous tips. It’s good that they have supportive interpersonal relationships, but people’s parents and friends are a little biased in their feedback, which can lead to a skewed self-concept. These contestants could also set incremental goals. Singing at a local event or even at a karaoke bar might have helped them gain more accurate information about their abilities and led them to realize they didn’t have what it takes to be an “American idol.”

Overcoming Barriers to Perceiving Others

There are many barriers that prevent us from competently perceiving others. While some are more difficult to overcome than others, they can all be addressed by raising our awareness of the influences around us and committing to monitoring, reflecting on, and changing some of our communication habits. Whether it is our lazy listening skills, lack of empathy, or stereotypes and prejudice, various filters and blinders influence how we perceive and respond to others.

Develop Empathetic Listening Skills

As we will learn in Chapter 5 “Listening” , effective listening is not easy, and most of us do not make a concerted effort to overcome common barriers to listening. Our fast-paced lives and cultural values that emphasize speaking over listening sometimes make listening feel like a chore. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of listening to make someone else feel better and to open our perceptual field to new sources of information. Empathetic listening can also help us expand our self- and social awareness by learning from other people’s experiences and taking on different perspectives. Empathetic listening is challenging because it requires cognitive and emotional investment that goes beyond the learning of a skill set.

I didn’t know what a lazy listener I was until I started teaching and realized how much time and effort teachers have to put into their jobs. Honestly, at first it was challenging to attentively listen to student issues, thoughts, and questions, but I immediately saw the value in it. To be a good teacher, I had to become a better listener. As a result, I also gained more empathy skills and became a lot more patient. A valuable lesson I learned during this time is best stated as follows: “Everyone’s biggest problem is his or her biggest problem.” If one person’s biggest problem is getting enough money together to buy a new cell phone and another person’s biggest problem is getting enough money together to get much needed medication, each of these people is likely experiencing a similar amount of stress. As an outsider, we might look at this example and think about how a cell phone isn’t necessary to live but the medication is. But everyone’s reality is his or her reality, and when you can concede that someone’s reality isn’t like yours and you are OK with that, then you have overcome a significant barrier to becoming more aware of the perception process.

I recently had a good student inform me that he was leaving school to pursue other things. He had given speeches about wildfire firefighting and beer brewing and was passionate about both of those things, but not school. As an academic and lover of and advocate for higher education, I wouldn’t have made that choice for myself or for him. But I am not him, and I can’t assume his perceptions are consistent with mine. I think he was surprised when I said, “I think you are a smart and capable adult, and this is your decision to make, and I respect that. School is not going anywhere, so it’ll be here when you’re ready to come back. In the meantime, I’d be happy to be a reference for any jobs you’re applying for. Just let me know.” I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t perceive him as irresponsible, immature, misguided, or uncommitted. He later told me that he appreciated my reaction that day.

Beware of Stereotypes and Prejudice

Stereotypes are sets of beliefs that we develop about groups, which we then apply to individuals from that group. Stereotypes are schemata that are taken too far, as they reduce and ignore a person’s individuality and the diversity present within a larger group of people. Stereotypes can be based on cultural identities, physical appearance, behavior, speech, beliefs, and values, among other things, and are often caused by a lack of information about the target person or group (Guyll et al., 2010). Stereotypes can be positive, negative, or neutral, but all run the risk of lowering the quality of our communication.

While the negative effects of stereotypes are pretty straightforward in that they devalue people and prevent us from adapting and revising our schemata, positive stereotypes also have negative consequences. For example, the “model minority” stereotype has been applied to some Asian cultures in the United States. Seemingly positive stereotypes of Asian Americans as hardworking, intelligent, and willing to adapt to “mainstream” culture are not always received as positive and can lead some people within these communities to feel objectified, ignored, or overlooked.

Stereotypes can also lead to double standards that point to larger cultural and social inequalities. There are many more words to describe a sexually active female than a male, and the words used for females are disproportionately negative, while those used for males are more positive. Since stereotypes are generally based on a lack of information, we must take it upon ourselves to gain exposure to new kinds of information and people, which will likely require us to get out of our comfort zones. When we do meet people, we should base the impressions we make on describable behavior rather than inferred or secondhand information. When stereotypes negatively influence our overall feelings and attitudes about a person or group, prejudiced thinking results.


Prejudice surrounding the disease we now know as AIDS delayed government investment in researching its causes and developing treatments.

Sassy mom – AIDS Awareness – CC BY-NC 2.0.

Prejudice is negative feelings or attitudes toward people based on their identity or identities. Prejudice can have individual or widespread negative effects. At the individual level, a hiring manager may not hire a young man with a physical disability (even though that would be illegal if it were the only reason), which negatively affects that one man. However, if pervasive cultural thinking that people with physical disabilities are mentally deficient leads hiring managers all over the country to make similar decisions, then the prejudice has become a social injustice. In another example, when the disease we know today as AIDS started killing large numbers of people in the early 1980s, response by some health and government officials was influenced by prejudice. Since the disease was primarily affecting gay men, Haitian immigrants, and drug users, the disease was prejudged to be a disease that affected only “deviants” and therefore didn’t get the same level of attention it would have otherwise. It took many years, investment of much money, and education campaigns to help people realize that HIV and AIDS do not prejudge based on race or sexual orientation and can affect any human.

Engage in Self-Reflection

A good way to improve your perceptions and increase your communication competence in general is to engage in self-reflection. If a communication encounter doesn’t go well and you want to know why, your self-reflection will be much more useful if you are aware of and can recount your thoughts and actions.

Self-reflection can also help us increase our cultural awareness. Our thought process regarding culture is often “other focused,” meaning that the culture of the other person or group is what stands out in our perception. However, the old adage “know thyself” is appropriate, as we become more aware of our own culture by better understanding other cultures and perspectives. Developing cultural self-awareness often requires us to get out of our comfort zones. Listening to people who are different from us is a key component of developing self-knowledge. This may be uncomfortable, because our taken-for-granted or deeply held beliefs and values may become less certain when we see the multiple perspectives that exist.

We can also become more aware of how our self-concepts influence how we perceive others. We often hold other people to the standards we hold for ourselves or assume that their self-concept should be consistent with our own. For example, if you consider yourself a neat person and think that sloppiness in your personal appearance would show that you are unmotivated, rude, and lazy, then you are likely to think the same of a person you judge to have a sloppy appearance. So asking questions like “Is my impression based on how this person wants to be, or how I think this person should want to be?” can lead to enlightening moments of self-reflection. Asking questions in general about the perceptions you are making is an integral part of perception checking, which we will discuss next.

Checking Perception

Perception checking is a strategy to help us monitor our reactions to and perceptions about people and communication. There are some internal and external strategies we can use to engage in perception checking. In terms of internal strategies, review the various influences on perception that we have learned about in this chapter and always be willing to ask yourself, “What is influencing the perceptions I am making right now?” Even being aware of what influences are acting on our perceptions makes us more aware of what is happening in the perception process. In terms of external strategies, we can use other people to help verify our perceptions.

The cautionary adage “Things aren’t always as they appear” is useful when evaluating your own perceptions. Sometimes it’s a good idea to bounce your thoughts off someone, especially if the perceptions relate to some high-stakes situation. But not all situations allow us the chance to verify our perceptions. Preventable crimes have been committed because people who saw something suspicious didn’t report it even though they had a bad feeling about it. Of course, we have to walk a line between being reactionary and being too cautious, which is difficult to manage. We all know that we are ethically and sometimes legally required to report someone to the police who is harming himself or herself or others, but sometimes the circumstances are much more uncertain.

The Tony Award–winning play Doubt: A Parable and the Academy Award–winning movie based on it deal with the interplay of perception, doubt, and certainty. In the story, which is set in a Bronx, New York, Catholic school in 1964, a young priest with new ideas comes into the school, which is run by a traditional nun who, like many, is not fond of change. The older nun begins a campaign to get the young priest out of her school after becoming convinced that he has had an inappropriate relationship with one of the male students. No conclusive evidence is offered during the course of the story, and the audience is left, as are the characters in the story, to determine for themselves whether or not the priest is “guilty.” The younger priest doesn’t fit into the nun’s schema of how a priest should look and act. He has longer fingernails than other priests, he listens to secular music, and he takes three sugars in his tea. A series of perceptions like this lead the nun to certainty of the priest’s guilt, despite a lack of concrete evidence. Although this is a fictional example, it mirrors many high-profile cases of abuse that have been in the news in recent years. Hopefully we will not find ourselves in such an uncertain and dire position, but in these extreme cases and more mundane daily interactions, perception checking can be useful.

“Getting Competent”

Perception Checking

Perception checking helps us slow down perception and communication processes and allows us to have more control over both. Perception checking involves being able to describe what is happening in a given situation, provide multiple interpretations of events or behaviors, and ask yourself and others questions for clarification. Some of this process happens inside our heads, and some happens through interaction. Let’s take an interpersonal conflict as an example.

Stefano and Patrick are roommates. Stefano is in the living room playing a video game when he sees Patrick walk through the room with his suitcase and walk out the front door. Since Patrick didn’t say or wave good-bye, Stefano has to make sense of this encounter, and perception checking can help him do that. First, he needs to try to describe (not evaluate yet) what just happened. This can be done by asking yourself, “What is going on?” In this case, Patrick left without speaking or waving good-bye. Next, Stefano needs to think of some possible interpretations of what just happened. One interpretation could be that Patrick is mad about something (at him or someone else). Another could be that he was in a hurry and simply forgot, or that he didn’t want to interrupt the video game. In this step of perception checking, it is good to be aware of the attributions you are making. You might try to determine if you are overattributing internal or external causes. Lastly, you will want to verify and clarify. So Stefano might ask a mutual friend if she knows what might be bothering Patrick or going on in his life that made him leave so suddenly. Or he may also just want to call, text, or speak to Patrick. During this step, it’s important to be aware of punctuation. Even though Stefano has already been thinking about this incident, and is experiencing some conflict, Patrick may have no idea that his actions caused Stefano to worry. If Stefano texts and asks why he’s mad (which wouldn’t be a good idea because it’s an assumption) Patrick may become defensive, which could escalate the conflict. Stefano could just describe the behavior (without judging Patrick) and ask for clarification by saying, “When you left today you didn’t say bye or let me know where you were going. I just wanted to check to see if things are OK.”

The steps of perception checking as described in the previous scenario are as follows:

  • Step 1: Describe the behavior or situation without evaluating or judging it.
  • Step 2: Think of some possible interpretations of the behavior, being aware of attributions and other influences on the perception process.
  • Step 3: Verify what happened and ask for clarification from the other person’s perspective. Be aware of punctuation, since the other person likely experienced the event differently than you.
  • Getting integrated: Give an example of how perception checking might be useful to you in academic, professional, personal, and civic contexts.
  • Which step of perception checking do you think is the most challenging and why?

Key Takeaways

  • We can improve self-perception by avoiding reliance on rigid schemata, thinking critically about socializing institutions, intervening in self-fulfilling prophecies, finding supportive interpersonal networks, and becoming aware of cycles of thinking that distort our self-perception.
  • We can improve our perceptions of others by developing empathetic listening skills, becoming aware of stereotypes and prejudice, and engaging in self-reflection.
  • Perception checking is a strategy that allows us to monitor our perceptions of and reactions to others and communication.
  • Which barrier(s) to self-perception do you think present the most challenge to you and why? What can you do to start to overcome these barriers?
  • Which barrier(s) to perceiving others do you think present the most challenge to you and why? What can you do to start to overcome these barriers?
  • Recount a recent communication encounter in which perception checking may have led to a more positive result. What could you have done differently?

Armenta, B. E. and Jennifer S. Hunt, “Responding to Societal Devaluation: Effects of Perceived Personal and Group Discrimination on the Ethnic Group Identification and Personal Self-Esteem of Latino/Latina Adolescents,” Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 12, no. 1 (2009): 11–12.

Guyll, M., et al., “The Potential Roles of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, Stigma Consciousness, and Stereotype Threat in Linking Latino/a Ethnicity and Educational Outcomes,” Social Issues 66, no. 1 (2010): 116.

Katz, M., “Tossing Out the Diet and Embracing the Fat,” The New York Times , July 16, 2009, accessed June 6, 2012, .

Stinson, D. A., et al., “Rewriting the Self-Fulfililng Prophecy of Social Rejection: Self-Affirmation Improves Relational Security and Social Behavior up to 2 Months Later,” Psychological Science 20, no. 10 (2011): 2.

  • “About Us,” NAAFA: the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, accessed June 6, 2012, . ↵

Communication in the Real World Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What Is Perception?

Recognizing Environmental Stimuli Through the Five Senses

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

perception checking essay

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

perception checking essay

  • How It Works
  • Improvement Tips

Perception refers to our sensory experience of the world. It is the process of using our senses to become aware of objects, relationships. It is through this experience that we gain information about the environment around us.

Perception relies on the cognitive functions we use to process information, such as utilizing memory to recognize the face of a friend or detect a familiar scent. Through the perception process, we are able to both identify and respond to environmental stimuli.

Perception includes the five senses; touch, sight, sound, smell , and taste . It also includes what is known as proprioception, which is a set of senses that enable us to detect changes in body position and movement.

Many stimuli surround us at any given moment. Perception acts as a filter that allows us to exist within and interpret the world without becoming overwhelmed by this abundance of stimuli.

Types of Perception

The types of perception are often separated by the different senses. This includes visual perception, scent perception, touch perception, sound perception, and taste perception. We perceive our environment using each of these, often simultaneously.

There are also different types of perception in psychology, including:

  • Person perception refers to the ability to identify and use social cues about people and relationships.
  • Social perception is how we perceive certain societies and can be affected by things such as stereotypes and generalizations.

Another type of perception is selective perception. This involves paying attention to some parts of our environment while ignoring others.

The different types of perception allow us to experience our environment and interact with it in ways that are both appropriate and meaningful.

How Perception Works

Through perception, we become more aware of (and can respond to) our environment. We use perception in communication to identify how our loved ones may feel. We use perception in behavior to decide what we think about individuals and groups.

We are perceiving things continuously, even though we don't typically spend a great deal of time thinking about them. For example, the light that falls on our eye's retinas transforms into a visual image unconsciously and automatically. Subtle changes in pressure against our skin, allowing us to feel objects, also occur without a single thought.

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Need a breather? Take this free 9-minute meditation focused on awakening your senses —or choose from our guided meditation library to find another one that will help you feel your best.

Perception Process

To better understand how we become aware of and respond to stimuli in the world around us, it can be helpful to look at the perception process. This varies somewhat for every sense.

In regard to our sense of sight, the perception process looks like this:

  • Environmental stimulus: The world is full of stimuli that can attract attention. Environmental stimulus is everything in the environment that has the potential to be perceived.
  • Attended stimulus: The attended stimulus is the specific object in the environment on which our attention is focused.
  • Image on the retina: This part of the perception process involves light passing through the cornea and pupil, onto the lens of the eye. The cornea helps focus the light as it enters and the iris controls the size of the pupils to determine how much light to let in. The cornea and lens act together to project an inverted image onto the retina.
  • Transduction: The image on the retina is then transformed into electrical signals through a process known as transduction. This allows the visual messages to be transmitted to the brain to be interpreted.
  • Neural processing: After transduction, the electrical signals undergo neural processing. The path followed by a particular signal depends on what type of signal it is (i.e. an auditory signal or a visual signal).
  • Perception: In this step of the perception process, you perceive the stimulus object in the environment. It is at this point that you become consciously aware of the stimulus.
  • Recognition: Perception doesn't just involve becoming consciously aware of the stimuli. It is also necessary for the brain to categorize and interpret what you are sensing. The ability to interpret and give meaning to the object is the next step, known as recognition.
  • Action: The action phase of the perception process involves some type of motor activity that occurs in response to the perceived stimulus. This might involve a major action, like running toward a person in distress. It can also involve doing something as subtle as blinking your eyes in response to a puff of dust blowing through the air.

Think of all the things you perceive on a daily basis. At any given moment, you might see familiar objects, feel a person's touch against your skin, smell the aroma of a home-cooked meal, or hear the sound of music playing in your neighbor's apartment. All of these help make up your conscious experience and allow you to interact with the people and objects around you.

Recap of the Perception Process

  • Environmental stimulus
  • Attended stimulus
  • Image on the retina
  • Transduction
  • Neural processing
  • Recognition

Factors Influencing Perception

What makes perception somewhat complex is that we don't all perceive things the same way. One person may perceive a dog jumping on them as a threat, while another person may perceive this action as the pup just being excited to see them.

Our perceptions of people and things are shaped by our prior experiences, our interests, and how carefully we process information. This can cause one person to perceive the exact same person or situation differently than someone else.

Perception can also be affected by our personality. For instance, research has found that four of the Big 5 personality traits —openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism—can impact our perception of organizational justice.

Conversely, our perceptions can also affect our personality. If you perceive that your boss is treating you unfairly, for example, you may show traits related to anger or frustration. If you perceive your spouse to be loving and caring, you may show similar traits in return.

Are Perception and Attitude the Same?

While they are similar, perception and attitude are two different things. Perception is how we interpret the world around us, while our attitude (our emotions, beliefs, and behaviors) can impact these perceptions.

Tips to Improve Perception

If you want to improve your perception skills, there are some things that you can do. Actions you can take that may help you perceive more in the world around you—or at least focus on the things that are important—include:

  • Pay attention. Actively notice the world around you, using all your senses. What do you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch? Using your sense of proprioception, notice the movements of your arms and legs, or your changes in body position.
  • Make meaning of what you perceive. The recognition stage of the perception process is essential since it allows you to make sense of the world around you. Place objects in meaningful categories, so you can understand and react appropriately.
  • Take action. The final step of the perception process involves taking some sort of action in response to your environmental stimulus. This could involve a variety of actions, such as stopping to smell the flower you see on the side of the road, incorporating more of your senses.

Potential Pitfalls of Perception

The perception process does not always go smoothly, and there are a number of things that may interfere with our ability to interpret and respond to our environment. One is having a disorder that impacts perception.

Perceptual disorders are cognitive conditions marked by an impaired ability to perceive objects or concepts. Some disorders that may affect perception include:

  • Spatial neglect syndromes, which involve not attending to stimuli on one side of the body
  • Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is a disorder that makes it difficult to recognize faces
  • Aphantasia , a condition characterized by an inability to visualize things in your mind
  • Schizophrenia , which is marked by abnormal perceptions of reality

Some of these conditions may be influenced by genetics, while others result from stroke or brain injury.

Perception can also be negatively affected by certain factors. For instance, one study found that when people viewed images of others, they perceived individuals with nasal deformities as having less satisfactory personality traits. So, factors such as this can potentially affect personality perception.

History of Perception

Interest in perception dates back to the time of ancient Greek philosophers who were interested in how people know the world and gain understanding. As psychology emerged as a science separate from philosophy, researchers became interested in understanding how different aspects of perception worked—particularly, the perception of color.

In addition to understanding basic physiological processes, psychologists were also interested in understanding how the mind interprets and organizes these perceptions.

Gestalt psychologists proposed a holistic approach, suggesting that the sum equals more than the sum of its parts.  Cognitive psychologists have also worked to understand how motivations and expectations can play a role in the process of perception.

As time progresses, researchers continue to investigate perception on the neural level. They also look at how injury, conditions, and substances might affect perception.

American Psychological Association. Perception .

University of Minnesota. 3.4 Perception . Organizational Behavior .

Jhangiani R, Tarry H. 5.4 Individual differences in person perception . Principles of Social Psychology - 1st International H5P Edition .

Aggarwal A, Nobi K, Mittal A, Rastogi S. Does personality affect the individual's perceptions of organizational justice? The mediating role of organizational politics . Benchmark Int J . 2022;29(3):997-1026. doi:10.1108/BIJ-08-2020-0414

Saylor Academy. Human relations: Perception's effect . Human Relations .

ICFAI Business School. Perception and attitude (ethics) . Personal Effectiveness Management .

King DJ, Hodgekins J, Chouinard PA, Chouinard VA, Sperandio I. A review of abnormalities in the perception of visual illusions in schizophrenia .  Psychon Bull Rev . 2017;24(3):734‐751. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1168-5

van Schijndel O, Tasman AJ, Listschel R. The nose influences visual and personality perception . Facial Plast Surg . 2015;31(05):439-445. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1565009

Goldstein E. Sensation and Perception .

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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."


Exploring media impact on journalism, public relations, advertising, human communication and culture, perception checking: an excellent method for keeping your foot out of your mouth.

perception checking essay

by Terri Reddout

Has something like this ever happened to you?

perception checking essay

As she pulls out her books, she mentally congratulates herself for taking the time to talk to the professor.  After their conversation, Mandi got a much clearer idea what the assignment was about.  So, instead of dreading writing the paper, she hammered it out in 30 minutes.  Mandi felt so confident she uploaded it to Canvas a day before it was due.

Now she’s looking forward to spending the weekend with friends but remembers she needs to send her roommates a text to remind them she’ll be out of town.

That’s when Sam sits down next to her, slams his textbook on the table and says “Why are you mad at me?”

Mandi’s mood takes a sudden shift.  She was happy.  Sam attacked her and she doesn’t understand why.  She was just sitting there having a great day and suddenly her buddy Sam comes along , accuses her of being mad and basically ruins what started out to be a great day.

Okay, let’s look at the same situation from Sam’s point of view

perception checking essay

He knows Mandi is stressed out about the paper due at the end of the week and she seemed a little put off the other day when he mentioned he had already turned it in.  Sam starts to sit down at the table but Mandi turns away while sipping her coffee.  She continues to ignore him by grabbing her phone and texting.

Sam’s textbook accidentally falls out of his backpack, startling Mandi.  That’s when Sam looks at Mandi and says “Why are you mad at me?”

Let’s replay this scenario with a twist

Mandi walk into the class feeling great.  She grabs her phone to text her roommates before she forgets.  Sam’s book startles her.  When she looks at Sam he says,  “Hey, you didn’t wave to me when I walked in the door.  In fact, you didn’t look at me.  You just took a sip of your coffee and started digging around for your phone.  Are you upset with me because I got my paper finished early?  Or are you stressed out about getting ready for your trip this weekend?  What’s going on?”

How would you think Mandi reacted to Sam’s question this time?  Better than when he point blank asked her “Why are you mad at me?”

perception checking essay

It lets the other person know what it is you are reacting to that’s causing your perception.  (Remember the selecting stimulus step of the Perception Process ?)  It allows you to determine if you are organizing the stimuli (Perception Process step 2) and perceiving the situation correctly (Perception Process step 3).

In many cases, it saves you from a situation where you end up with your foot in your mouth. (Imagine how Sam is going to feel when he finds out Mandi only got mad at him after he asked/yelled “Why are you mad at me?” )

To understand how a perception check works, we need to review the perception process

perception checking essay

  • We select a stimulus.  Something we hear, see, smell, taste or touch.  We select a stimulus for many reasons based on how often it happens or its intensity.
  • We organize that stimulus based on our experiences.  How you organize a stimulus might be quite different from how I organize it.
  • We interpret what the stimulus means and we react to it.

So, when I first moved into my downtown apartment I selected the noise coming up from the street in front of (what was then) Pizza Collin.  Generally, sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 in the morning I’d hear people yelling about how much they f**king loved someone or hated someone. The intensity of the yelling woke me up.   Based on my experiences waiting tables as a college student, I organized that yelling as a situation about to get out of control.  I remember seeing drunks get over emotional and watched how the bartender and the cook would have to talk the drunk down.  We even had to call the cops a couple of times.  I interpreted the yelling in front of Pizza Collin as a fight about to start so I called 9-1-1.

Soon, my perception of what went on outside Pizza Collin in the wee hours of the morning changed.  Now, if someone yells under my window, I wake up, think to myself it must be sometime between 12:30 and 1:30, then roll over and go back to sleep.  It’s the same stimuli but, based on the experiences I gained living downtown, I now organize and interpret it differently.  My perception has changed.  What was true for me when I first moved into my apartment is no longer true for me today.

So, what is a perception check (and how does it relate to the perception process)?

The perception check recognizes the perception process.  It lets the other person know what stimuli you are reacting to, how you are organizing and interpreting it.

It allows you to express yourself more clearly and decode messages more accurately.  It reduces the chances of defensiveness while increasing mutual understanding.

Remember the Sam and Mani scenario above?  Which one do you think has the best outcome?  The perception check or the “Why are you mad at me?” scenario?

How a perception check works

perception checking essay

  • Step 1: Describe behavior
  • Step 2: Provide plausible explanations for that behavior
  • Step 3: As for clarification

Let’s walk through it.

Describe behavior: This is where you let the other person know what stimuli you are responding to. In our classroom scenario, Sam describes the behavior (stimuli) he was responding to.

  • “Hey, you didn’t wave to me when I walked in the door.  In fact, you didn’t look at me.  You just took a sip of your coffee and started digging around for your phone.”

What’s important here is that you describe the behavior and avoid judgemental language.  It changes the tone and makes your statement more confrontational if you interpret the behavior.

Imagine if Sam had said, “You completely ignored me when I walked into the room.”   That may be true from his point of view, but how do you think Mandi would respond to Sam’s comment?  She’s just sitting there thinking how well things are going and how much she’s looking forward to the weekend, when Sam suddenly accuses her of ignoring him.  Not good.  Describe the behavior; don’t interpret the behavior.  There’s a good chance you’ll be wrong.

Next, you provide at least two plausible explanation for the behavior. In our scenario, Sam provides two explanations for what appears to be Mandi ignoring him.

  • “Are you upset with me because I got my paper finished early?  Or are you stressed out about getting ready for your trip this weekend?”

A couple of things.  First, you need to include your perception in the explanation.  Second, you need to communicate there could be possible other explanations for the behavior.  It gives the other person another option for their behavior.  Imagine if Sam had just asked if it’s because he had finished the paper first?  How out of left field this might seem for Mandi.  She’s finished writing the paper and is feeling good about it.  Why is Sam rubbing it in her face that he finished first? By providing another option, Mandi sees there are different ways of interpreting her behavior.

Last, ask for clarification. Basically, it puts the ball in the other person’s court.

  • “What’s going on?”

Asking for clarification can be something as simple as asking “What’s up?” It could be more complex like “I’m only asking because I’m concerned about you.”  Or you could simply give them a non-verbal cue like a nudge or a look. The idea here is to communicate here’s what I’m thinking and I’d really like you to respond.

But Terri….

But Terri, these perception checks sound so awkward and unnatural. I just don’t talk that way.

Well, practice makes perfect. Like everything else, the more you use it the more natural it becomes.  In fact, after I learned what a perception check was, I realized the man who taught me used it all the time.

When he asked questions during a faculty meeting, he asked in the form of a perception check.  I soon realized the emails he sent me about overdue scripts were actually perception checks. He used perception checking so often, it became a normal part of his speech patterns.

I can’t say perception checking is completely natural for me now.  But I do know it’s easier now than it was several years ago.  I can also tell you I’ve avoided a lot of potentially embarrassing situations because I took a moment, composed my thoughts and did a perception check.

For example, there’s been so many times when I’ve walked up to a group in one of my classes and wanted to ask “Why aren’t you working on the assignment?”

There’s an equal number of times I saved myself from an embarrassing situation by perception checking the group.  Often I’ll learn why a group member was talking about her camping trip is because was an example of a communication concept.

Imagine how the mood of the conversation and my relationship with the students would change if I had just marched up and and asked why they were talking about camping and not communication.

And even if the group was off-task, I’ve still communicate a message that I think they’re goofing off.  They may even fib and say the camping trip had something to do with a communication concept I asked them to discuss.  Now, thanks to the perception check, they know that I know they are screwing around and need to get back on topic.

But Terri, isn’t it just easier to tell the other person what my perception is?

Sure.  Let’s try it.

“Yeah, you! It’s clear you don’t know any of the perception check warnings.  Why is that?” 

How do you feel?  Confused? Pissed?  Hurt?

Often, stating your perception puts the other person on the defensive.  If you are on the defensive, that’s a communication “noise” gets in the way of us communicating effectively.  It may be easier and quicker to state your perception, but you may not like the results.

Let me try it again.

“Yeah, you! When I asked what are some of the perception check warnings I wrote about in my blog, you didn’t answer right away. Is it because you were trying to remember what you wrote down in your notes?  Or is it because you didn’t read my blog?  I only ask because you really need to know this stuff before you attempt the two perception check assignments.”

How do you feel this time?  Do you understand what you did ( stimuli ) that made me come to my perception?  Do you have an idea how I organized your non-response? Did I communicate my perception ( interpretation ) that I didn’t think you finished reading this blog?  Do you see I’m giving you some benefit of the doubt?  Do you feel I really want to hear your side of the story?

That’s the beauty of a perception check.  It gets your point of view across.  It gives the other person an idea of what stimuli you are reacting to.  It shows the other person you recognize there may be other reasons for his or her behavior.  It invites conversation without putting the other person on the defensive.  A perception check is assertive, without “getting up in your grill.”

BTW- I know now why you didn’t answer when I asked about the perception check warnings.  It’s not because you didn’t read the blog.  It’s because the warnings about perception checking are in the second part of this blog.  So, now, go read Perception checking: One powerful tool.

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2.2: Role of Perception in Communication

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Learning Objectives

  • Explain the three steps of the perception process.
  • Explain two common perceptual errors: the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias.
  • Discuss how the first impressions influence perception.
  • Discuss how physical and environmental factors influence perception.
  • Define Schemata.
  • Explain the horn and halo effects.

National Prostate Health Month - Wikipedia

Since we perceive information based on our frame of reference, we can often be incorrect and run the risk of over-generalizing and misjudging. It is important to examine ourselves and the situation before making a judgment. Since this is an intrapersonal process, what we perceive will affect our interpersonal communication with others.  Take a look at the ribbons above, they are the same but have different colors, which yields different meanings for different groups of people.  What do these ribbons mean?

A neighbor who is usually friendly has not responded to your “Good morning” message for three days in a row. How would you perceive being ignored? Instead of deciding to never speak to that person again, check your perception to see if there is something wrong with the neighbor. Give the neighbor the benefit of the doubt; share your perception of his or her behavior, and ask if everything is all right. Conducting a perception check will help you avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions.

Perception and Communication

Perception is the way in which we see the world, and each of us sees the world differently. As a result, each of us comes to a conversation with different ways of talking and of doing things. Perception directly affects the way we communicate. More often than not, we perceive based on our frame of reference, which includes our background, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and culture. These aspects not only affect our intrapersonal communication, but also drive how we communicate daily with others. Perception colors the way we create and respond to messages.

Keep in mind that when you are talking with others, they have their own frame of reference driving their thought processes. No two people have exactly the same frame of reference!

Perception Process

Perception is the process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting information. This process, includes the perception of select stimuli that pass through our perceptual filters, are organized into our existing structures and patterns, and are then interpreted based on previous experiences. Although perception is a largely cognitive and psychological process, how we perceive the people and objects around us affects our communication. We respond differently to an object or person that we perceive favorably than we do to something we find unfavorable. But how do we filter through the mass amounts of incoming information, organize it, and make meaning from what makes it through our perceptual filters and into our social realities?

Image of The Perception Process


Selecting Information 

We take in information through all five of our senses, but our perceptual field (the world around us) includes so many stimuli that it is impossible for our brains to process and make sense of it all. Selecting is the first part of the perception process, in which we focus our attention on certain incoming sensory information.

about how, out of many other possible stimuli to pay attention to, you may hear a familiar voice in the hallway, see a pair of shoes you want to buy from across the mall, or smell something cooking for dinner when you get home from work. We quickly cut through and push to the background all kinds of sights, smells, sounds, and other stimuli, but how do we decide what to select and what to leave out?

Perception: what you see is what you get - ppt video online download

We select information based on:

Needs and Interests -  We tend to pay attention to information that we perceive to meet our needs or interests in some way.  We know what interests us and we automatically gravitate toward stimuli that match up with that.

Expectations -  Since we expect something to happen, we may be extra tuned in to clues that it is coming.

Organizing Information 

Organizing is the second part of the perception process, in which we sort and categorize information that we perceive.  We organize interactions and interpersonal experiences based on our firsthand experiences

We also organize information based on:

Similarity  - We tend to think similar-looking or similar-acting things belong together and we have a tendency to perceive others as similar to us

Difference -  We assume that the item that looks or acts different from the rest doesn’t belong

Perception Chapter topics The Perception Process - ppt download

Interpreting Information 

Interpretation is the third part of the perception process, in which we assign meaning to our experiences using mental structures known as schemata . Schemata are like databases of stored, related information that we use to interpret new experiences. We all have fairly complicated schemata that have developed over time as small units of information combine to make more meaningful complexes of information.

It’s important to be aware of schemata because our interpretations affect our behavior. For example, if you are doing a group project for class and you perceive a group member to be shy based on your schema of how shy people communicate, you may avoid giving him presentation responsibilities in your group project because you do not think shy people make good public speakers. Schemata also guide our interactions, providing a script for our behaviors. We know, in general, how to act and communicate in a waiting room, in a classroom, on a first date, and on a game show. Even a person who has never been on a game show can develop a schema for how to act in that environment by watching Beat Shazam , for example.

Beat Shazam on FOX: cancelled? season five? - canceled + renewed TV shows -  TV Series Finale

Schemata are used to interpret others’ behavior and form impressions about who they are as a person. Think about how your communication with someone might differ if he or she were introduced to you as an artist versus a doctor. We make similar interpretations based on where people are from, their age, their race, and other social and cultural factors.

Organization and Interpretation of Stimuli - ppt download

“Getting Real”: Police Officers, Schemata, and Perception/Interpretation

Prime-time cable and network television shows like the  Law and Order  franchise and  Southland  have long offered viewers a glimpse into the lives of law enforcement officers.  COPS , the first and longest-running prime-time reality television show, and newer reality-themed and educational shows like  The First 48  and  Lockdown , offer a more realistic look into techniques used by law enforcement. Perception is a crucial part of an officer’s skill set. Specifically, during police-citizen encounters, where tensions may be high and time for decision making limited, officers rely on schemata developed through personal experience off the job and training and experience on the job (Rozelle & Baxter, 1975). Moreover, police officers often have to make perceptions based on incomplete and sometimes unreliable information. So, how do police officers use perception to help them do their jobs?

Research has examined how police officers use perception to make judgments about personality traits, credibility, deception, and the presence or absence of a weapon, among others things, and just like you and me, officers use the same process of selection, organization, and interpretation. This research has found that officers, like us, rely on schema to help them make decisions under time and situational constraints.

In terms of selection , expectations influence officer perception. At preshift meetings, officers are briefed on ongoing issues and “things to be on the lookout for,” which provides them with a set of expectations—for example, the make and model of a stolen car—that can guide their selection process. They must also be prepared for things that defy their expectations, which is not a job skill that many other professionals have to consider every day. They never know when a traffic stop could turn into a pursuit or a seemingly gentle person could turn violent.

These expectations can then connect to organization strategies. For example, if an officer knows to be alert for a criminal suspect, they will actively organize incoming perceptual information into categories based on whether or not people look similar to or different from the suspect description. Proximity also plays into police work. If a person is in a car with a driver who has an unregistered handgun, the officer is likely to assume that the other person also has criminal intent. While these practices are not inherently bad, there are obvious problems that can develop when these patterns become rigid schema. Some research has shown that certain prejudices based on racial schema can lead to perceptual errors—in this case, police officers mistakenly perceiving a weapon in the possession of black suspects more often than white suspects (Payne, 2001). Additionally, racial profiling (think of how profiles are similar to schemata) has become an issue that’s gotten much attention since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the passage of immigration laws in states like Arizona and Alabama that have been critiqued as targeting migrant workers and other undocumented immigrants. As you can see, law enforcement officers and civilians use the same perception process, but such a career brings with it responsibilities and challenges that highlight the imperfect nature of the perception process.

  • What communication skills do you think are key for a law enforcement officer to have in order to do their job effectively and why?
  • Describe an encounter that you have had with a law enforcement officer (if you haven’t had a direct experience you can use a hypothetical or fictional example). What were your perceptions of the officer? What do you think his or her perceptions were of you? What schemata do you think contributed to each of your interpretations?
  • What perceptual errors create potential ethical challenges in law enforcement? For example, how should the organizing principles of proximity, similarity, and difference be employed?

Are you a good judge of character? How quickly can you “size someone up?” Interestingly, research shows that many people are surprisingly accurate at predicting how an interaction with someone will unfold based on initial impressions. As you read this section, keep in mind that these principles apply to how you perceive others and to how others perceive you. Just as others make impressions on us, we make impressions on others. We have already learned how the perception process works in terms of selecting, organizing, and interpreting. In this section, we will focus on how we perceive others, with specific attention to how we interpret our perceptions of others.

Impressions and Interpretation

As we perceive others, we make impressions about their personality, likeability, attractiveness, and other characteristics. Although much of our impressions are personal, what forms them is sometimes based more on circumstances than personal characteristics.

  • All the information we take in isn’t treated equally.
  • How important are first impressions?
  • Does the last thing you notice about a person stick with you longer because it’s more recent?
  • Do we tend to remember the positive or negative things we notice about a person?

This section will help answer these questions, as we explore how the timing of information and the content of the messages we receive can influence our perception.

First Impressions

First impressions are enduring because of the primacy effect, which leads us to place more value on the first information we receive about a person. So if we interpret the first information we receive from or about a person as positive, then a positive first impression will form and influence ho we respond to that person as the interaction continues. Likewise, negative interpretations of information can lead us to form negative first impressions. If you sit down at a restaurant and servers walk by for several minutes and no one greets you, then you will likely interpret that negatively and not have a good impression of your server when he finally shows up. This may lead you to be short with the server, which may lead him to not be as attentive as he normally would. At this point, a series of negative interactions has set into motion a cycle that will be very difficult to reverse and make positive.

Physical and Environmental Influences on Perception

We make first impressions based on a variety of factors, including physical and environmental characteristics. In terms of physical characteristics, style of dress and grooming are important, especially in professional contexts. We have general schema regarding how to dress and groom for various situations ranging from formal, to business casual, to casual, to lounging around the house.

You would likely be able to offer some descriptors of how a person would look and act from the following categories: a conceited person, a layed back person, a loud mouth, a fashionista, etc. The schema associated with these various cliques or styles are formed through personal experience and through exposure to media representations of these groups. Different professions also have schema for appearance and dress. Imagine a doctor, mechanic, congress person, exotic dancer, or mail carrier. Each group has clothing and personal styles that create and fit into general patterns. Of course, the mental picture we have of any of the examples above is not going to be representative of the whole group, meaning that stereotypical thinking often exists within our schema. We will learn more about the negative effects of stereotypical thinking later in the chapter, but it’s important to understand how persuasive various physical perceptual influences can be.

Careers -

Just as clothing and personal style help us form impressions of others, so do physical body features. The degree to which we perceive people to be attractive influences our attitudes about and communication with them. Facial attractiveness and body weight tend to be common features used in the perception of physical attractiveness.  People perceived as attractive are generally evaluated more positively and seen as more kind and competent than people evaluated as less attractive. Additionally, people rated as attractive receive more eye contact, more smiles, and closer proximity to others (people stand closer to them). Unlike clothing and personal style, these physical features are more difficult, if not impossible, to change.

Finally, the material objects and people that surround a person influence our perception. In the MTV show Room Raiders , contestants go into the bedrooms of three potential dates and choose the one they want to go on the date with based on the impressions made while examining each potential date’s cleanliness, decorations, clothes, trophies and awards, books, music, and so on. Research supports the reliability of such impressions, as people have been shown to make reasonably accurate judgments about a person’s personality after viewing his or her office or bedroom (Hargie, 2011). Although the artificial scenario set up in Room Raiders doesn’t exactly match up with typical encounters, the link between environmental cues and perception is important enough for many companies to create policies about what can and can’t be displayed in personal office spaces. It would seem odd for a bank manager to have an Animal House poster hanging in his office, and that would definitely influence customers’ perceptions of the manager’s personality and credibility. The arrangement of furniture also creates impressions. Walking into a meeting and sitting on one end of a long boardroom table is typically less inviting than sitting at a round table or on a sofa.

Although some physical and environmental features are easier to change than others, it is useful to become aware of how these factors, which aren’t necessarily related to personality or verbal and nonverbal communication, shape our perceptions. These early impressions also affect how we interpret and perceive later encounters, which can be further explained through the halo and horn effects.

The Halo and Horn Effects

We have a tendency to adapt information that conflicts with our earlier impressions in order to make it fit within the frame we have established. This is known as selective distortion, and it manifests in the halo and horn effects. The angelic halo and devilish horn are useful metaphors for the lasting effects of positive and negative impressions.

The halo effect occurs when initial positive perceptions lead us to view later interactions as positive. The horn effect occurs when initial negative perceptions lead us to view later interactions as negative (Hargie, 2011). Since impressions are especially important when a person is navigating the job market, let’s imagine how the horn and halo effects could play out for a recent college graduate looking to land her first real job. Nell has recently graduated with her degree in communication studies and is looking to start her career as a corporate trainer. If one of Nell’s professors has a relationship with an executive at an area business, his positive verbal recommendation will likely result in a halo effect for Nell. Since the executive thinks highly of his friend the professor, and the professor things highly of Nell, then the executive will start his interaction with Nell with a positive impression and interpret her behaviors more positively than he would otherwise. The halo effect initiated by the professor’s recommendation may even lead the executive to dismiss or overlook some negative behaviors. Let’s say Nell doesn’t have a third party to help make a connection and arrives late for her interview. That negative impression may create a horn effect that carries through the interview. Even if Nell presents as competent and friendly, the negative first impression could lead the executive to minimize or ignore those positive characteristics, and the company may not hire her.

Key Takeaways

  • To simplify how patterns help us to more communicate efficiently and get through life.
  • Review the three steps of the perception process.
  • Utilize the factors that effect our perceptions.
  • Understand how perception alters how we think and communicate with ourselves and others.
  • Understand the purpose of Schemata.
  • Think of a recent conflict and how you explained the behavior that caused the conflict and subsequently formed impressions about the other person based on your perceptions. Briefly describe the conflict situation and then identify internal and external attributions for your behavior and the behavior of the other person. Is there any evidence of the fundamental attribution error or self-serving bias in this conflict encounter? If so, what?
  • Describe a situation in which you believe the your impression of something influenced your perceptions of a person or event.
  • Has your perception of something ever changed because of exposure to cultural difference? For example, have you grown to like a kind of food, music, clothing, or other custom that you earlier perceived unfavorably?

Hargie, O., Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice (London: Routledge, 2011), 280.

Payne, B. K. (2001). Prejudice and perception: The role of automatic and controlled processes in misperceiving a weapon.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81 (2), 181–192.

Richard M. Rozelle & James C. Baxter (1975) Impression Formation and Danger Recognition in Experienced Police Officers, The Journal of Social Psychology, 96:1, 53-63, DOI:  10.1080/00224545.1975.9923262

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Perception Checking: McLean’s Definition, Examples

Many conflicts arise from wrong conclusions resulting from how people perceive others in a given situation. A simple statement can result in conflict while the original intent was good. As people interact with each other, there are many ways through which perception can lead to conflict. Sometimes, perceptions are influenced by the relationship and the type of communication (Dirican & Erdil, 2020). Sometimes statements are misunderstood because the information was not appropriately decoded.

This readings described the concepts of perception and how it is checked to minimize conflicts. According to McLean, perception checking is the tool used to avoid conflicts in communication by assessing perceptions to make sure that the wrong conclusions are not drawn from a statement (McLean, 2005, p. 11). In customer service, a good example of perception is when a client comes in to file a complaint about defective goods sold to them.

The customer says, “last week, I bought two cartons of yoghurt and found they expired.” The customer service personnel uses perception checking by repeating the customer’s statement while seeking clarification in the following statement “So you are saying the yoghurt you purchased from this shop was past the best-before date? Sorry to hear that, but I can assure you I will check into the matter and offer you other cartons of yoghurt in replacement”. Through these statements, the customer service attendant avoids conflict by ensuring they decode the customer’s message correctly.

A person can recognize their use of perception by looking at the outcome of many conversations. If conflicts mainly arise from their dialogue, it means there is an element of perception at play. Currently, I use perception checking in my group discussions to bring all members on the same page and resolve conflicts. When discussing points, I encourage my group members to understand each statement well before responding. The process can be improved by eliminating emotions and analyzing the statements rather than the person. In conclusion, perception checking is essential in facilitating effective communication and eliminating bias and conflicts. The information learned from our course text can be used to evaluate perceptions and build good relationships.

Dirican, A. H., & Erdil, O. (2020). The influence of ability-based emotional intelligence on discretionary workplace behaviors . Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment , 30 (3), 369-382. Web.

McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication . Allyn & Bacon.

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PsychologyWriting . "Perception Checking: McLean’s Definition, Examples." September 15, 2023.

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