Perceptual Errors - Organizational Behavior

One of the more interesting findings from attribution theory is that there are errors or biases that distort attributions. Each of these errors can lead to poor decisions and are discussed below.

1)     Selective perception: people selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interests, background, experience and attitudes. You are more likely to notice care like own, or why some people may be reprimanded by their boss for doing something that, when done by another employee, goes unnoticed. Since we can't observe everything going on about us, we engage in selective perception.

A group's perception of organizational activities is selectively altered to align with the vested interests they represent. In other words, when the stimuli are ambiguous, as in the steel company case, perception tends to be influenced more by an individual's base of interpretation (i.e., attitudes, interests, and background) than by the stimulus itself.

Selective perception allows us to "speed-read" others, but not without the risk of drawing an inaccurate picture. Because we see what we want to see, we can draw unwarranted conclusions from an ambiguous situation. if there is a rumor going around the office that your company's sales are down and that large layoffs may be coming, a routine visit by a senior executive from headquarters might be interpreted as the first step in management's identification of people to be fired, when in reality such an action may be furthest thing from the mind of the senior executive.

2)     Halo effect:  drawing a general impression about an individual in the basis of a single characteristic. This phenomenon frequently occurs when students appraise their classroom instructor. Students may give prominence to a single trait such as enthusiasm and allow their entire evaluation to be tainted by how they judge the instructor on that one trait. Thus, an instructor may be quiet, assured, knowledgeable, and highly qualified, but if his style lacks zeal, those students would probably give him a low rating.

3)     Contrast effects: evaluations of person's characteristics that are affected by comparisons with other people recently encountered who rank higher or lower on the same characteristics.

An illustration of how contrast effects operate is an interview situation in which one sees a pool of job applications. Distortions in any given candidate's evaluation can occur as a result of his or her p place in the interview schedule. The candidate is likely to receive a more favorable evaluation if preceded by mediocre applications and less favorable evaluation if preceded by strong applicants.

4)     Projection: attributing one's own characteristics to other people. If you are honest and trustworthy, so you take it for granted that other people are equally honest and trustworthy.

People who engage in projection tend to perceive others according to what they themselves are like rather than according to what the person being observed is really like. When observing other who actually are like them, these observers are quite accurate- not because they perceptive but because they always judge people as being similar to themselves. So when they do find someone who is like them, they are naturally correct.

5)     Stereo typing: judging someone on the basis of one's perception of the group to which that person belongs. It's less difficult to deal with an unmanageable number of deals with an unmanageable number of stimuli if we use stereotypes. As an example, assume you're a sales manager looking to fill a sales position in your territory. You want to hire someone who is ambitious and hardworking and who can deal well with adversity. You've had good success in the past by hiring individuals who participated in athletics during college. So you focus your search by looking for candidates who participated in collegiate athletics. In so doing, you have cut down considerably on your search time. Furthermore, to the extent that athletes are ambitious, hardworking, and able to deal with adversity, the use of this stereotype can improve your decision making. The problems, of course, are when we inaccurately stereotype. All college athletes are not necessarily ambitious, hardworking, or good at dealing with adversity.

In organizations, we frequently hear comments that represent stereotypes based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, and even weight. "Women won't relocate for a promotion"; "men aren't interested in child care"; "older worker can't learn new skills"; "Asian immigrants are hardworking and conscientious"; "overweight people lack discipline". From a perceptual standpoint, if people expect to see these stereotypes, that are what they will perceive, whether they are accurate or not.

6)     Impression: people often form impression of others on the first sight. Even before knowing any of their personality traits, they start having impression and making assessment of individuals they meet for the first time. This sometimes leads to perceptual distortion because first impression need not be the last impression. If a employee in an industrial organization is judged on the basic of his first impression on the superior, it will be a injustice to such an employee.

7)     Inference: there is a tendency on the part of some people to judge others on limited information. For example, an employee might be sitting at his desk throughout the working hours without doing anything, but it may be inferred that he is sincere towards his duties. Thus, performance appraisal must not be based on half-cooked or incomplete information. In the above case, the productivity and the behavior of the concerned employee towards customers, fellow employees and others must also be taken into consideration.

8)      Attribution: when people give cause and effect explanation to the observed behavior, it is known as attribution. Perception is distorted sometimes by the efforts of the perceiver to attribute a causal explanation to an outcome. There is a tendency for the individuals to attribute their own behavior to situational factors, but explain the behavior of others by their personal dispositions.

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