What is Social Perception?

peoples in group

Perception is an individual’s recognition & interpretation of sensory information. It also involves how one response to the information.
A person’s ability to precisely evaluate and generate judgments about other individuals based on their overall outer appearances as well as verbal & non-verbal communication patterns is known as social perception. It is a process through which an individual seek to understand the other people.

Process of social perception (mechanism)

People use different techniques, methods and ways to know and understand about others in order to get superficial or a deeper understanding about them. Mechanism of social perception involves non-verbal channels of communications, internal & external attributes, as well as impressions and implicit theories about others.

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Knowing the other person involves two stages. Understanding the temporary states of others, i.e. their present emotions and feelings.
Understanding the most permanent or lasting characteristics i.e. their motives, intentions or traits.

• Understanding temporary states:

Temporary factors such as , fatigue, illness, and drugs can influence individual’s social behavior. To understand others’ feelings, people try to understand their non-verbal cues like facial expressions, eye contact, posture, and body movement. And these are hard to control and could also reveal real feelings, especially when they are hidden. This is known as ‘non-verbal communication’, and their efforts to perceive it are often affected by these temporary factors. for effective social interaction it is important to understand these cues clearly and play a crucial role.

• Basic channels of non-verbal communication:

emotional state of an individual also influence their behaviour. The basic channels by which such communications take place and there are five basic channels:

  1. facial expressions,
  2. eye contact,
  3. body language,
  4. body movements, and
  5. touching and proximics.

Theories of social perception

There are multiple theories of social perception. The important ones are:

  1. Attribution Theory: focuses on how individuals interpret or perceive other people behaviour by attributing it to external or internal factors. External factors like situational factors or chance (luck) while internal are personality traits or abilities.
  2. Social identity theory: this theory states that individuals classify other people in social groups on the basis of features they have in common, like country, gender, race, or religion. As per this theory, people’s way of perception and interactions with others can be influenced by these group characteristics.
  3. Cognitive dissonance theory: people may change their attitudes or perceptions to match their behaviors in an effort to lessen their suffering. People face the discomfort when there is inconsistency among ideas, attitudes and behavior and this also causes psychological pain.
  4. Social comparison theory and stereotype content model are also considered.

Components of social perception

Observation, attribution, integration and confirmation are the key components of social perception.

  • Observation: it is the basic component which is based on the interaction of three variables – people, situations and behavior. These variables furnish facts that support up one’s perception, or conclusion about others.
  • Attribution: The process of applying data collected by observation to help people perceive and justify the reasons behind their own and other people’s actions is known as attribution.
  • Integration: While quick judgment is formed by seeing persons, situations, or actions, one integrates these tendencies to develop impressions.
  • Confirmation: To finally verify these impressions, individuals strive to fully understand, find, and produce knowledge in the form of various biases.

Factors that influence social perception

There are so many factors that influence social perception like physical characteristics, attractiveness, authority and recognition, education, social prestige, status in society, etc. People with higher rank are considered more responsible for their deeds than people with lower status in the society. Individuals who feel powerful view others as masters of their own destiny, whereas those who feel weaker perceive other people as subjects of other forces. Social perception is also influenced by prior experiences, interpersonal connections, and trust. Gratitude and intentionality are shaped by need, value, and prior experiences.

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The way a person perceived themselves affects how older children are perceived and judged. Those with high rank are seen as having good intentions, and spontaneous acts performed out of love are accepted. Justifiability is determined by how morally or socially acceptable an activity is.

Also Read: Social Psychology: The Landscape of Human Interaction

Functions or roles

It enables individuals to form impressions and judgments about other people which are based on various characteristics like their appearance, behavior, as well as social cues. Also help to navigate the complexive social situations and better communication skills. This also permits to form judgments about other individuals in regarding their behavior or actions like trustworthiness or competence. The influence social influence of modifying attitudes, customs, and actions due to which there is betterment in communications. It strengthens social identity as well as foster thev sense of connectedness and social connection.

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