Thursday, May 31, 2012

Barriers to Social Perception

In the last blog we looked at the characteristics of situation and how that influences the social perception. In today's blog we begin our discussion on the barriers to social perception.

There are several factors that could lead us to having inappropriate impressions of others - some of these are:
  • Selective Perception
  • Stereotype
  • First Impression Error
  • Projection
  • Self-Fulfilling prophesy. 

In today's blog we shall define these and continue the discussion on each of these in the next blog.

Selective Perception refers to the process of selecting information that supports our individual viewpoints while discounting information that threatens our viewpoint

Stereotype refers to the generalization about a group of people

First impression error refers to the tendency to form lasting opinions about an individual based on initial perception

Projection refers to overestimating the number of people who share our own beliefs, values and behavior

Self-fulfilling Prophecy refers to the situation in which our expectations about people affect our interaction with them in such a way that our expectations are fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The situation characteristics that affect social perception

In the last blog, we looked at the characteristics of the target and its influence in the process of social perception. In today's blog, we look at the characteristics of the situation and the influence of this on the social perception.

The following is a our common experience as students - When we meet a professor in our class we would perceive differently, from say when we meet the professor at his room or at some other social gathering or for that matter of fact after graduation from the institute. This context of the interactions is called the "social context", and definitely these have an influence on the way we perceive the situation. Again, we would need to remember, that these contexts and situations and the corresponding behavior would also be perceived differently from one culture to another.

There are some situations, in which we get a strong cue of the appropriate behavior. In these situations, we believe that the behavior of the individual would be influenced primarily by the situation and may not be the individual's general behavior. This is called "Discounting Principle" (The assumption that an individual's behavior is accounting for by the situation).

The above two explain how the characteristics of the situation influence the social perception process. However, to get an apt understanding of the same, we would need to consider the combined effect of the characteristics of the perceiver, target and the situation. However, even a thorough understanding of these characteristics cannot free us from the barriers of social perception. We shall discuss about these in the next few blogs.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Target Characteristics and its influence on social preception

In the last blog, we looked at the characteristics of the perceiver which affect social perception. In today's blog we look at the characteristics of the target that affect the social perception.

Target typically refers to the person who is being perceived - even his characteristics influences the way we perceive him. Some of the major characteristics of the target that affect this perception are:
  • Physical Appearance
  • Verbal Communication
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Intentions

Physical Appearance: It is pretty common knowledge that an individual’s first impression about any other person is made by the dress he wears. This common knowledge is what this characteristics talks about - but this time it’s not just the clothing, it’s the height, weight, age... and many more. To really understand this, we only need to reflect and think of a situation where in we were able to identify a newcomer or a minority in the organization with ease!

Verbal Communication involves not just the topic of discussion, but also the volume, the tone, the accent etc - All these create a mental impression which affects our perception of the individual.

Non verbal communication includes the eye contact we make with people, the body movements postures etc - all these too create an impression in the perceivers mind. Again these would also be affected by the social context of the transaction.

The intentions of the target could also affect the way we interpret the target - the impressions made when we have a boss walking into the room indicates the affect of the intentions of the target has on our social perception!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Characteristics of Perceiver that affect social preception

In the last blog, we looked at the model of social perception. In today's blog we look at the characteristic of a perceiver and how it can affect social perception.

There are several factors of the perceiver which affect social perception, but for discussion sake in this blog we would limit ourselves to understanding the influence of the following characteristics:
  • Familiarity
  • Attitude
  • Mood
  • Self-Concept
  • Cognitive Structure

Familiarity with the target is when we have multiple observations of the target. These observations help us form an impression about the individual. When we get any new information about the individual, we tend to screen out the information which is inconsistent with what we believe the person is like.

Attitude forms another major influence on our social perception - say for example, we have a department in an organization where we find only men working in there and mentally we have formed an attitude. This attitude would begin influencing us when we are taking an interview!

Mood plays a very strong influence on the way we perceive someone - we think very differently when we are happy from when we are upset. When we are in a positive mood, we tend to make a positive opinion of the people we meet!

Another factor that can affect social perception is the perceiver’s self-concept. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person and a similar aspect for the person with negative self-concept. A greater understanding of self allows us to have more accurate perception of others.

Cognitive structure refers to the thought pattern of an individual. Some of us tend to perceive physical traits before other traits, while others tend to focus on central traits. Cognitive complexity allows a person to perceive multiple characteristics of another personal rather than attending to a few traits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Model of Social Perception

In the last blog, we began understanding the concept of perception and stated the various factors that influence social perception. We stated that there are 3 primary factors whose characteristics influence social perception. These are:
  1. The perceiver
  2. The target
  3. The situation

The interaction of these three could also potentially lead to certain barriers to social perception.

We could represent this through a model as shown below:

[Source: The Model is an adapted version from Fig: 3.2 of Organizational Behavior - Nelson & Quick 5th Edition]

We shall discuss these in detail over the next few blogs

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What do I feel about you? - Perception and its Nature

In the last blog, we discussed about MBTI and the 16 preferences. In today's blog, we look at the concept of perception and introduce ourselves to social perception.

The term Perception in common parlance derives itself from the word - "perceive". The term perceive means - to recognize, discern, envision, or understand. In the context of our discussion on Organizational Behavior, the term is used a bit differently.

Perception involves the way we look at the world around us - it is the one that adds meaning to what we gather through the five sense - touch, smell, hearing, vision and taste. It is the vehicle through which we understand ourselves and our surrounding. What is of peculiar interest in the context of our discussion is a particular type called - "Social Perception".

Social Perception is the process of interpreting the information about other people. Almost all of management activities deal with perception - be it appraisal of an individuals performance or interview - it is based on how the current situation is perceived, what my individual opinions are about you (the subject of discussion or observation) and what the subject has actually done.Stated differently, we have the following factors that affect our perception:
  • characteristics of ourselves as perceiver
  • characteristics of the target of perception
  • characteristics of the situation in which the interaction takes place

Monday, May 21, 2012

Understanding the 16 personality types formed through MBTI classification

In the last blog, we understood the evolution of the MBTI framework and what the different preferences where. The set of 4 preferences lines, lead us to 16 options, the nature of which we have listed as below

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MBTI - Origin and Preferences

In the last blog, we looked at 3 broad ways in which personality was measured. In today's blog (and continuing in the next blog) we look at the most commonly used tool for assessing personality - MBTI Instrument.

Origin of the MBTI framework:
The origin of the framework could be traced to the works of Swiss psychiatrist - Carl Jung. His classic work - "psychological types" proposed that there were two basic types of people - Extroverts and Introverts. He also identified that there were two types of perceiving (sensing and intuition) and two types of judgments (thinking and feeling).

This initial work caught the attention of a mother-daughter team - Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers who developed the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument also called MBTI. This instrument put Jung's type theory into practice.

MBTI is used extensively in Career Counseling, Team Building, Conflict Management, Understanding Management styles etc.


In this section, we shall define the 8 types of preferences:
  • Extraversion: A preference indicating that an individual is energized by interactions with other people
  • Introversion: A preference indicating that an individual is energized by time alone
  • Sensing: Gathering information through five senses
  • Intuition: Gather information through "sixth sense" and focusing on what could be rather than what actually exists
  • Thinking: Making decisions in a logical, objective fashion
  • Feeling: Making decisions in a personal, value-oriented way
  • Judging Preference: Preferring closure and completion in making decisions
  • Perceiving Preference: Preferring to explore many alternatives and flexibility

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Measuring the Individual's Personality

In the last blog, we looked at the positive and negative affects that an individual's personality characteristics could have on its work experience. In today's blog, we take the next step in understanding personality - that is to understand how we can measure personality. We would discuss briefly about the following of the various methods that are used - Projective Tests, Behavioral Measures and Self-Report Questionnaire are the ones we discuss today.

Projective Tests are ones in which, individuals are shown a picture, abstract images, or photos and are asked to describe what they see or to tell a story about what they see. This is based on the rationale that individual responds to the stimulus in a way that reflects his or her unique personality.

Behavioral measures are assessments of personality that involves observing an individual's behavior in a controlled situation. This however is not without some problems; the observer's ability to stay focused and the way observer interprets the behavior! The very fact that one is being observed also creates a distortion in the way an individual behaves.

The most common method used to measure personality is the self-report questionnaire. Individuals generally respond to a series of questions usually in agree/disagree or true/false format. There are numerous such tests that are available out of which - MBTI is commonly followed in the industry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Positive and Negetive Affect on Work environment!

In the last blog, we looked at self-monitoring characteristics of an individual and what does it imply in an organizational context. In today's blog, we look at Positive/Negative Affect and attempt understanding what this would mean for an organization.

A look at the people around us, and a brief reflection on the experience we had working or sharing some time with them would broadly help us to recollect - 1that with some people, we felt a positive energy to work with, and with some others we were so bogged down by the cribbing and negativity that they spread. In today's blog this is the very subject matter.

Positive Affect refers to the individual's tendency to accentuate the positive aspects of himself or herself, other people and the world in general. Negative Affect refers to an individual's tendency to accentuate the negative aspects of him or herself other people and the world in general.

Positive Affect is generally also linked with job satisfaction; such individuals are found to absent themselves from work to a lower extent than the people with negative affect people. Positive Affect is definitely a very positive asset in a work environment. Managers stretch the extra mile to ensure that positive affect is promoted - this also includes incorporating a participative decision making style. Negative Affect increases work stress.

While discussing the Positive and Negative Affect, it is important not to forget the impact of situations on the work we do. If the situation tends to overwhelm the affects of individual personalities then we call it as strong situation. All individuals more or less interpret the situation in a similar manner, and behave more or less in the same way. A weak situation in contrast has multiple interpretations; the situation doesn’t define what the appropriate response has to be.

Research has found that Organizations present a combination of strong and weak situations and therefore personality would have a stronger effect on behavior in some situations than in others.

Monday, May 14, 2012

How Important is it to be self-monitoring?

In the last blog, we looked at self-esteem and its implication to a practicing manager. In today's blog we look at the concept of "self-monitoring" and how a manager could make use of this understanding.

As humans, our survival and success in the process of evolution has been primarily through our ability to adapt to the changing scenario. We pick up cues from the environment and respond to the situation at hand - But do all humans respond to the cue with the same intensity? Absolutely not. This is what the concept of self-monitoring talks about. Self-monitoring refers to the extent to which people base their behavior on cues from other people and situation.

People with high self-monitor are respond to the cues from nature better than low self-monitors who are not so vigilant to situational cues and act from internal states rather than paying attention to the situation. This also means that the behavior of people with low self-esteem is consistent across situation, while the people with strong self-esteem are more unpredictable and less consistent.

It could be seen that people with high self-monitoring would be quickly promoted as they accomplish tasks by reaching the expectations of people they work with. They are extremely flexible; however this flexibility is not suited for every job!

Since, high self-monitors are very receptive to the situation and people around, they demonstrate higher levels of managerial self-awareness - they are able to assess their own workplace behavior pretty accurately. And in managerial positions these people would also be able to read their employees needs and change the way they interact with them based on the needs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Harnessing Self-esteem towards more effective work

In the last blog we learnt about self-efficacy and its implications for a manager. In today's blog we will look at the concept of self-esteem and its implication for a manager.

Self-esteem is a pretty common term that we use in our daily lives! In management, it refers to the individual's general feeling of self worth. It is normal for every person to have strengths as well as weakness - when ones belief that their strengths are more important than their weakness, we say the individual has a high self-esteem. On the contrary, a person with a low self-confidence views themselves negatively. People with low self esteem are seen to be strongly affected by what other people think about them - they complement people who give a favorable feedback while cut down people giving unfavorable feedback.

It is not to say that evaluation of other people doesn’t have an effect at all - If the evaluation is to say the individual is liked for what one is - it is seem to have a more stable effect on individual's self-esteem; while being liked for ones achievement has a temporary effect on one's self-esteem.

Self-esteem also has an effect on a host of other aspects including the attitude one has towards things. It has been seen that people with high self-esteem perform better and are more satisfied with their jobs. A team with high self-esteem people is more likely to be successful.

Extremely high self-esteem is not a good thing - it could lead to overconfidence and relation conflicts. Such individuals would also shift their social identities to protect themselves when they do not live up to the standard.

Success tends to raise self-esteem while failure tends to lower it. Given that this is generally a positive characteristics, managers should encourage employees to raise their self-esteem by giving them appropriate challenge and opportunities for success.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What drives your work's effectiveness?

In the last blog, we looked at the implication of Locus of Control, in today's blog we look at Self Efficacy and look at how a manager could make use of this understanding.

Self-efficacy could be seen to be of two types based on the scope of activities - General and Task. General Self-Efficacy refers to the general belief of an individual about one's ability to meet the job demands in a wide variety of situations. An Employee with a high general self-efficacy would be more confident in their job-related ability and would show a larger positive energy, influence others etc - this in turn affects them perform better at their activity. Individuals with low self-efficacy feel ineffective at their work place and express doubts about their ability to perform a new task well.

An adage that "success attracts success" is in some ways associated with these characteristics of a team to certain extent. When one succeeds in a task, the self-belief increases and this is transferred to the next task they do and so on - there by making it a chain. It is also interesting to note that people with high self-efficacy would like to provide their opinions in the task they do at work. The opportunity to participate is extremely important for the people with high self-efficacy.

A Manager would need to carefully observe the behavior of the employees working with him and create opportunities for people to increase their self-efficacy.

Task specific Self-Efficacy is a similar belief but limits itself to a specific task.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Who do you think controls what happens to you?

In the last blog, we looked at three different theories that would explain an individual personality. In order to understand the particular behavior of an individual, one would need to look at the personality characteristics. Research has indicated 5 major characteristics are important for managers to understand the job related characteristics. These are - Locus of Control, self-efficacy, self-esteem self-monitoring and positive/negative effect. In today's blog, we look at understanding locus of control.

An Individual's generalized belief about internal control (self-control) versus external control (control by the situation or others) is referred to as Locus of Control. It has been observed and strongly indicated even in research studies that people with a strong internal locus of control are found to have higher job-satisfaction and performance. They are also likely to assume managerial positions and prefer a participative management styles.

When promoted, people with both internal and external locus of control will have similar reactions to being promoted; they would have similar reactions - a high job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment. Though the initial reactions are similar, these would continue for a long time with those possessing an internal locus of control, while those with external locus of control would begin attribute to the external environment.

With this understanding, managers would look at adopting an appropriate style of involvement of these sorts of employees. People with internal locus of control will be like to enjoy freedom in their job, while those with an external locus of control will appreciate a more structured work environment.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Understanding the Personality - Psychodynamic, Humanistic and Integrative Approaches

In the last blog we looked at the Trait theory approach to understand the personality, in today’s blog we briefly attempt to understand the psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative theories to understand the concept of personality.

The Psychodynamic Theory is based on the works of Sigmund Freud. The subject of emphasis in this theory is the influence of unconscious determinants of behavior. The theory focuses on the ongoing conflict between the "id" and the "superego". The "ego" attempts to manage this conflict which leads to compromise and thereby results in a defensive behavior - for example the denial of reality!

The Humanistic Theory proposed by Carl Rogers emphasizes the individual growth and improvement. It emphasizes the fact that, there exists a basic drive towards self-actualization which essentially signifies the individual quest to be all one can be. This approach contends that self-concept is the most important of an individual's personality.

The Integrative Approach looks at personality as having a composition of various individual psychological processes. The theory introduces the concept of "Disposition" - which means the tendencies of individuals to respond to situations in consistent ways.  These are influences both by genetics and experience. Examples of dispositions include emotions, cognition, attitudes, expectancies and fantasies.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Understanding Personality through traits

In the last blog we understood what personality meant, in this blog we look at the "trait theory" of personality.

The trait theory - uses the traits as a base to understand the individual personality - Traits are the broad, general guides that lend consistency to behavior. There have been number of traits identified, but the some recent progress has identified that many of these traits can be reduced to a set of five traits. These five traits are called - "The Big Five" Personality Traits. These "Big Five" Traits are:
  • Extraversion: The person is gregarious, assertive, and scalable (as opposed to reserved, timid and quiet)
  • Agreeableness: The person is cooperative, warm and agreeable (as opposed to cold, disagreeable and antagonist)
  • Conscientiousness: The person is hardworking, organized, and dependable (as opposed to lazy, disorganized and unreliable)
  • Emotional stability: The person is calm, self-confident, and cool (as opposed to insecure, anxious, and depressed)
  • Openness to experience: The person is creative, curious and cultured (as opposed to being practical and narrow interested)

This trait theory is not without criticism - the major of these criticisms is that, just the identification of traits by itself wouldn’t be of any use. It would be important to understand that personality is dynamic and not completely stable. The influence of situation too is something that cannot be ignored.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Understanding Personality

In the last blog we looked at the relation between the individual and his environment and how the behavior could be understood as part of this interaction. In this blog we begin our journey towards understanding the concept of "personality"

Personality could be understood as a relatively stable set of characteristics that influence an individual's behavior. It is the individual difference that provides consistency to an individual's behavior. The origin of Personality of an individual has been a much debated issue by a lot of intellects - some have attributed it to hereditary, others talk about an early childhood experience etc. 

Personality has also been understood to include attitudes, modes of thought, feelings, impulses, strivings, actions, responses to opportunity and stress and everyday modes of interacting with others - it is the repetitive nature of these that makes it part of the character of the individual and hence a part of his/her personality.

To understand better about Personality, numerous theories have been proposed by researchers. For the sake of discussion, over the next few blogs we would look at these 4 traits:
  • Trait Theory
  • Psycho-dynamic Theory
  • Humanistic Theory
  • Integrative Theory

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Individual Differences represented in an Equation

In the last blog, we began looking at individual differences as the basis of manager's ability to manage. In today's blog we continue understanding the Lewin's Theory of individual differences.

Lewin expressed the idea of individual differences in an equation as follows:

B = f (P, E)

B = behavior
P = person
E = environment

This equation in some form is the essence of "interactional psychology" - this approach emphasizes that in order to understand human behavior, we must know something about the person and the situation. The 4 basic propositions of this approach are listed below:
  1. Behavior is a function of continuous, multidimensional interaction between the person and the situation
  2. The person is active in the process and is both changed by situation and changes the situation
  3. People vary in many characteristics, including cognitive, affective, motivational and ability factors.
  4. Two interpretations of situations are important: the objective situation and the person's subjective view of the situation

To understand this better, over the next few blogs, we look at the various personality differences one by one.