Friday, March 28, 2008

Chapter 3: Perceiving and Understanding

I. Perception is an active, three-part, interrelated process of selecting, organizing and interpreting phenomena.
A. Selection is the process of choosing which aspects of reality to notice.
1. We notice things that stand out because they are intense, large, or unusual.
2. We can talk to ourselves to influence what we selective attend to.
3. Our needs, interests and motives also influence what we selectively perceive.
B. Organization occurs when we use cognitive schemata to arrange perceptions in meaningful ways.
1. Prototypes define the clearest, most representative examples of categories.
2. Personal constructs are bi-polar dimensions of judgment we use to assess phenomena.
3. Stereotypes are predictive generalizations about phenomena.
4. Scripts are action guides that reflect our expectations of how we, and others, will behave in specific situations.
C. Interpretation is the subjective process of creating explanations for what we observe and experience.
1. Attributions are explanations of why things happen or why people act as they do.
a. An internal or external locus attributes what a person does to causes inside or outside the person.
b. Stability explains actions as a result of factors that do not change.
c. Control attributes responsibility to factors within or beyond a person’s control.
2. Self-serving bias occurs when attributions serve the self-interests of the person constructing the attribution.
a. We are inclined to attribute success to internal and stable factors over which we have control.
b. We are inclined to attribute failures to external and unstable factors over which we have no control.

II. Perception is influenced by many factors.
A. Physiological factors shape perceptions.
1. The five senses affect perceptions.
2. Stress, illness, fatigue and biorhythms also determine perceptions.
3. Factors such as age and gender can also influence perceptions.
B. Expectations influence perceptions.
1. Perceptions may be affected by exposure to words that make something salient.
2. Positive visualization can enhance personal success by altering expectations.
3. We become more cognitively alert when expectations are violated.
C. Cognitive abilities affect how and what we perceive.
1. Cognitive complexity refers to the number of constructs used, how abstract they are, and how elaborately they interact in our efforts to interpret phenomena.
2. Person-centeredness is the ability to perceive and act toward another as a unique individual.
3. Empathy refers to the ability to feel with another person and feel what he or she feels in a situation.
D. Social roles shape our perceptions.
1. Training for a role influences interpretations.
2. The actual demands of a social role, i.e., your profession, influence your interpretations.
E. Cultural factors influence perceptions.
1. A culture consists of beliefs, values, understandings and ways of interpreting experience that a number of people share.
2. A social community is a group of people that are part of an overall society, but have unique values and practices within their group.
3. Western culture emphasizes speed while some other countries prefer a more leisurely pace.

III. Four guidelines can improve skills in perceiving.
A. Avoid mind reading.
1. Do not assume you understand what another person thinks or feels.
2. When we mind read, we impose our perceptions on the other person.
B. Check perceptions with others.
1. Compare subjective perceptions to arrive at common understandings.
2. Assume a tentative tone, instead of a dogmatic or accusatory one.
C. Distinguish facts from inferences.
1. An inference is a deduction that goes beyond what you know as fact.
2. Use tentative words to avoid mistakenly going beyond the facts.
D. Monitor the self-serving bias.
1. Monitoring is becoming aware of our own behavior in order to observe and regulate it.2. Avoid blaming others or judging them too harshly.

Vocabulary Terms


Cognitive complexity

Cognitive schemata




Expectation Violation Theory





Mind reading



Personal Constructs


Positive Visualization




Self-serving bias


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