Person Perception Research Paper

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Person perception has been variously assigned such labels as social perception, interpersonal perception, social inference, person cognition, and ordinary personology (Bruner and Tagiuri 1954; Gilbert 1998). Person perception refers to how people perceive and make inferences about other people. Perception differs from sensation in that sensation is the feeling that results from sensory receptors, whereas perception is the interpretation of what is sensed. Person perception also differs from object perception or nonsocial perception because human beings are not invariant and inanimate objects. As targets of our perception, people are dynamic entities endowed with emotions, motives, and complexity (Heider 1958).

Person perception is influenced by the characteristics of (1) the perceiver, (2) the situation, and (3) the target person (Jones 1990). Research on perceiver characteristics shows that perceivers are not objective observers of their social world but  are active agents whose cognitive and motivational biases color their interpretations of others. Knowledge structures, such as schemas, scripts, or stereotypes, assist perceivers in  processing information  efficiently. Overreliance on these cognitive structures, however, may create bias and lead to errors in person perception. With knowledge structures providing convenient summary expectations and beliefs about others, perceivers may reach hasty and incorrect judgments, or they may ignore information  that  disconfirms their  expectations (Snyder and Swann 1978). Perceivers do not search thoroughly for information  to  form impressions of others (Gilbert 1998). Moreover, expectations about a target person can lead perceivers to engender behaviors from the target that confirm perceivers’ initial expectation (i.e., selffulfilling prophecy) (Rosenthal and Jacobson 1968). In addition, a perceiver may be motivated to form judgments of others that protect the perceiver’s  sense of self-worth (Klein and Kunda 1993).

Characteristics of the situation are often overlooked by perceivers when they form judgments of target persons. Perceivers have a tendency to underestimate the importance of situational influence and  to  overestimate the importance of dispositional factors when they interpret the actions of other people. This tendency is called the fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias (Ross 1977; Gilbert 1998). Perceivers also tend to see that their own failure is caused by external circumstances, while their own success is internally caused. But they are less likely to show this bias when interpreting the success or failure of others, a phenomenon known as the self-serving bias. Person perception research has also focused on the dynamic interpersonal perception between a perceiver and a target person (Kenny 1994) and the cultural influences on these interpersonal processes (Markus and Kitayama 1991).

Certain target-person traits (e.g., the central traits of warm and cold) have more impact than other traits (e.g., the peripheral traits of polite and  blunt) on  perceivers’ impressions of others (Asch 1946). Negative information also tends to be more heavily weighted in person perception  because of information  diagnosticity (Skowronski and Carlston 1989). Research has shown that perceivers have implicit personality theories about others, such that an interferential relationship is assumed by perceivers to exist, regarding which target traits seem to co-occur to form a coherent whole (Schneider 1973).

Inferences in impression formation occur not  only intentionally but also unintentionally (Anderson and Glassman 1996; Bargh 1997; Uleman 1999). Person perception includes nonverbal communication as well as cognitive inference processes (attribution or social cognition). Representative nonverbal cues are facial expression, voice tone,  gaze, interpersonal  spacing, touch,  and  gesture (DePaulo and Freidman 1998). Current work on person perception is also aimed at exploring the implicit associations  perceivers have  between  traits  and  stereotyped groups.

Bibliograhy:

  1. Andersen, Susan , and Noah S. Glassman. 1996. Responding to Significant Others When They Are Not There: Effects on Interpersonal Interference, Motivation, and Affect. In Handbook of Motivation and Cognition: Foundations of Social Behavior, eds. Richard M. Sorrentino and E. Tory Higgins, vol. 3, 262–321. New York: Guilford.
  2. Asch, Solomon 1946. Forming Impression of Personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 41: 258–290.
  3. Bargh, John 1997. The Automaticity of Everyday Life. In The Automaticity of Everyday Life, ed. Robert S. Wyer Jr., vol. 10, 1–61. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  4. Bruner, Jerome , and Renato Tagiuri. 1954. The Perception of People. In The Handbook of Social Psychology, ed. Gardner Lindzey, vol. 2, 634–654. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  5. DePaulo, Bella , and Howard S. Friedman. 1998. Nonverbal Communication. In The Handbook of Social Psychology, eds. Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, vol. 2, 3–40. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  6. Gilbert, Daniel T. Ordinary Personology. In The Handbook of Social Psychology, eds. Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, vol. 2, 89–150. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  7. Greenwald, Anthony , and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 1995. Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes. Psychological Review 102 (1): 4–27.
  8. Heider, F 1958. The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: Wiley.
  9. Jones, Edward Ellswor 1990. Interpersonal Perception. New York: Freeman.
  10. Kenny, David 1994. Interpersonal Perception: A Social Relations Analysis. New York: Guilford.
  11. Klein, William , and Ziva Kunda. 1993. Maintaining Self Serving Social Comparisons: Biased Reconstruction of One’s Past Behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin  19: 732–739.
  12. Markus, Hazel Rose, and Shinobu 1991. Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation. Psychological Review  98: 224–253.
  13. Rosenthal, Robert, and Lenore J 1968. Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectations and Pupils’ Intellectual Development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
  14. Ross, 1977. The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, ed. Leonard Berkowitz, vol. 10, 173–220. New York: Academic Press.
  15. Schneider, J. 1973. Implicit Personality Theory: A Review. Psychological Bulletin 79: 294–309.
  16. Skowronski, John , and Donal E. Carlston. 1989. Negativity and Extremity Biases in Impression Formation: A Review of Explanations. Psychological Bulletin 105: 131–142.
  17. Snyder, Mark, and William Swann Jr. 1978. HypothesisTesting Processes in Social Interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36: 1202–1212.
  18. Uleman, Jim 1999. Spontaneous versus Intentional Inferences in Impression Formation. In Dual-Process Theories in Social Psychology, eds. Shelly Chaiken and Yaacov Trope, 141–160. New York: Guilford.

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