Perception involves the senses put to use while attaining awareness of any situation. It can be distracting, tarnishing reality with preconceived ideas or notions. You cannot perceive reality without basing it on your own preconceived beliefs and past experiences. Further, you cannot process new information without first comparing it to previous knowledge and experiences. New information is matched to closely related past incidents, which means the present reality can be distorted and relay wrong information to your brain.
Numerous inaccurate impressions and interpretations arise because of wrong perceptions. Selectiveness in perception can be one such wrong perception of reality. You have a natural tendency to accept information that is beneficial or is understandable and to reject information that you might not wish to assimilate. Information that is unpleasant or difficult to believe is automatically filtered and rejected. This tendency to filter out information that does not support your beliefs or views may result in the assimilation of inaccurate conclusions.
Perception can also be influenced by your background, upbringing, interests and attitudes rather than the actual reality stimulus. Such influence may cause you to stereotype or make generalizations about people and situations. Stereotyping is a shortcut used to judge individuals from a certain group or locality. Such generalizations and stereotyping may often result in wrong judgments and often lead to inaccurate conclusions. When you stereotype someone, you judge that person based on your preconceived notions rather than the individual’s actions.
Another barrier to accurate perception is that of the first impression. The cliche “the first impression is the last impression” is a demonstration of a tendency to cling to the first impression you gained from meeting someone for the first time. No matter what the individual does in the future, the initial impression is impossible to erase. The prima-facie impression may not be an accurate one, but you may form the acceptance or rejection of someone based on your initial impression with no consideration of evidence or facts.
There are instances when what you believe regarding the result of interactions with certain individuals leads to the results you expected; this is called self-prophesying or the Pygmalion effect. In organizations, the Pygmalion effect provides positive results when managers have an excellent opinion about an employee’s potential and capacity to advance in the organization. In this case, the manager may take that employee under his wings, helping to further the employee’s career. Conversely, if the manager’s perceptions are that the employee will perform poorly, the manager may show a lack of interest in that employee, and the employee may in turn not perform to her full potential as she is not receiving the stimuli that would encourage her.