- how we perceive others and make assumptions about who they are, how they
are likely to behave and whether we empathise with them and form our
attitudes towards them is dependent on a number of factors
- social position:
- our social position will alter our perception by changing our
- cultural identities:
- our personal cultural exposures result in differences in how we
- perceived self:
- what we identify with
- any situation that makes us more conscious of ourselves is likely to
affect our perception of events and objects that are seen as related to
- evaluating others:
- we are likely to have a favourable opinion of others when they are
able & competent, behave in pleasant & agreeable ways, indicate
that they like us, are similar to us, etc.
- we like people who provide us with maximum gratification at minimal
expense. ie. whose behaviour is most rewarding to us.
- excessive levels of "good" qualities can make the other
person look too good, unapproachable, or perhaps non-human & their
superiority may make the observer feel inferior.
- thus realisation of such a person's fallibility may actually
increase his popularity
- the popularity of a near-perfect person who has an embarassing
moment usually rises, whereas, it falls if the person is perceived
as mediocre to start with.
- self-fulfilling prophecies:
- our false perception of others creates a tendency for us to behave
toward them in such a way as to validate our false perception ('the
- esp. likely if observer is cynical with low self-esteem and target is
outside the observer's "group" and where the social norm
allows or encourages this attitude
- prejudiced attitudes toward any group are often justified and
reinforced by stereotypes - generalised, value-laden impressions that
people of one group use to characterise those of another
- intergroup relations of any type cannot be carried on unless members
make use of some kind of frame of reference - a stereotype - in dealing
with members of other groups. Not to do so would mean you would make
naive assumptions that all are alike as yourself irrespective of
- stereotypes are indispensable shortcuts, a way of abstracting
characteristics of a group.
- but stereotypes can mislead when they interfere with our ability to
function effectively with others by leading us to make assumptions
inconsistent with the kind of behaviour usually exhibited by the target
- an ability to take on another's role & thus become aware of his
feelings, as well as his motives - his attitudes, values & beliefs.
- an interpersonal perceptual skill
- empathic accuracy depends upon our ability to make accurate
interpretations of the information others give us about their internal
- non-verbal cues are important data on another's mood state although
there can be significant cultural differences in how mood is expressed.
- a behavioural tendency that not only takes the awareness as in
empathy but also implies a willingness to take on another's mood,
esp. when the other individual is fearful, anxious, or depressed.
- empathy is often increased with exposure but also often decreased esp.
if too much data confused the picture, in which case, just using
stereotyped data may increase empathy.
- depends on:
- personality of observer
- interpersonal skill levels of observer
- rigidity of attitudes (correlates with authoritarianism)
- less perceptive of environmental detail
- more conventional & stereotyped
- more emotionally controlled
- tendency to assume "unknown" target will behave
& feel as we do
- interpersonal distance during conversation (proxemics):
- indicates degree of acquaintance
- social influences:
- our responsiveness to one another's cues is the basis for group
patternings of behaviour in terms of what are called social norms.
- social norms apply to motives as well as to behaviour & constitute
the structure of the enduring consensual way of life we term culture,
as well as more temporary phenomena, such as fads
- we are so sensitised to respond to one another's behaviour that it
takes very little to set a norm in operation.
- we are so conditioned to use the behaviour of others for our own
responses to various situations that we spontaneously imitate their
behaviour, often without being aware that we are doing so. This tendency
is esp. strong in ambiguous or novel situations.
- in summary:
- our perception of another and how we perceive he will behave or
emotions he may feel then depends on much, but in particular, we rely on
what we already know about that person:
- if we know the person well enough we may well be able to use the
verbal & non-verbal cues along with our prior knowledge of the
person to make reasonably accurate assumptions, however, in close
relationships, it is dangerous to make assumptions, and better to
communicate to clarify the matter
- if we know a group, which we can categorise the person into, then
our perception of them will be coloured by our prejudices and
stereotypes that we have relating to that group, this is useful but
can give us false perceptions, so care is needed
- if we know very little about them at all, then we are likely to
use projection, and make subconscious assumptions that he will be