Perceptual Biases and Reducing Their Impact

Assignment 1 Perceptual Biases and Reducing Their Impact May 29, 2011 Biases, and more specifically, perceptual biases are a range of humanly inevitable techniques that are used by people to make sense of the behaviours, personalities, and attitudes of other people around them. These various techniques are generally the easy way out when we try to analyze an individual’s predisposition.

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However, because they are the easy way out, they cause us to receive only a limited and possibly inaccurate impression of the individual in question and consequently, formulate a biased perception of the individual in our minds. These biased judgements may lead to great difficulties for individual decision makers as well as the organizations they work for.

Some of these erroneous techniques that are used to judge an individual’s behaviour and personality include the primacy effect, where more weight is given to the early cues when forming an impression; the recency effect, which is the tendency to rely on recent cues when forming an impression; the halo effect, where an impression about an individual’s characteristics are based on a single characteristic; and stereotyping, which is the tendency to make generalizations about an individual on the basis of one’s perception of the group to which the individual belongs.

The primacy effect is when a person is influenced by the first thing they acknowledge about an individual’s behaviour or personality, and form a perception of that individual’s entire temperament based on that acknowledgement only. This is most prevalent in interviews- for example, interviewers will make the decision of whether or not to hire an individual within the first 5 minutes of talking with the candidate.

An individual may at first appear to be kind and compassionate, then anxious, then slowly impulsive and outspoken, and finally critical and stubborn- this kind of individual would pass as a kindhearted person with a few insecurities to the observer, even though his/her prime traits would dominate in the observer’s eyes. Even though it is very hard to reduce the impact of primacy effect since it is related to our unconscious level we can use the primacy effect to our benefit and put a positive first impression on others.

For example, if your first impression of an individual is a positive one, then whatever the person does will appear to you as more favourable than it would otherwise. One way to reduce the impact of the primacy effect is to present yourself or have a quick introduction rather than a long one so that the perceiving person does not have enough time or opportunity to make any initial judgements about your personality that would permanently carry on in his/her mind.

Stereotyping is the tendency to judge an individual on the basis of your perception of the group to which that individual belongs. It supports the belief that all or most individuals of a particular group have the same traits, characteristics, and views about certain things. For example, in the case of accountants, it is negatively stereotypical to say that all accountants are boring, dumb, and monotonous, while many accountants are very energetic and enthusiastic.

Furthermore, it positively stereotypical to say that all accounts are intelligent, trustworthy, and hardworking, while in the case of the company, Enron, it is not true as the company’s accountants had falsely made the financial statements in favour of the company’s reputation amongst the shareholders and investors. Stereotyping can be reduced in many ways to reduce the impact of biases when judging an individual.

For example, hire a religiously and ethnically diverse group of individuals to interview potential employees and educating employees and students at an institution about the negative impacts of stereotyping- how stereotyping effects good decisions made in the hiring and evaluation processes, and increasing your social circle to include people of all races, backgrounds, and professions to alternate your perception and judgement of individuals from a specific group.

In conclusion, perceptual biases effect our judgements when observing individuals. Impacts of biases and errors that include the primacy effect and stereotyping can be reduced by not jumping to conclusions about an individual’s personality and qualities in the first few moments of meeting them and reducing ignorance and being aware that each and every human being has a unique temperament that is independent of the race, religion, or career profession that the individual relates to.


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