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Ch 3 outline - Beebe

After studying this chapter, students should be able to:
1. Define perception and interpersonal perception.
2. Identify and explain the three stages of interpersonal perception.
3. Describe the relationship between interpersonal perception and interpersonal
4. Explain how we form impressions of others, describe others, and interpret others’
5. Identify the eight factors that distort the accuracy of interpersonal perceptions.
6. Offer five suggestions for improving interpersonal perceptions.
The perception process involves selecting, organizing, and interpreting stimuli in our
We form perceptions in interpersonal relationships according to how we organize
information. Four theories explain how we organize interpersonal perceptions: impression
formation, implicit personality, constructs, and attribution.
At least eight barriers impede our accurate perceptions: ignoring information, over
generalizing, oversimplifying, stereotyping, imposing consistency, focusing on the negative,
making a fundamental attribution error, and exhibiting a self serving bias.
We can improve our perceptual skills in five ways by linking details with the big picture;
increasing awareness skills; increasing awareness of other’s perceptions of you; becoming otheroriented;
and checking your perceptions.
(All key terms appear in bold)
I. Understanding Interpersonal Perception
• Perception is the process of experiencing your world and making sense out of what you
• Interpersonal perception is the process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting your
observations of other people.
A. Stage 1: Selecting
1. The number of sensations we can attend to at any given time is limited.
2. During the selection stage, we attempt to simplify the stimuli that flood in
through our senses.
3. This selectivity can also cause us to fail to perceive information that is
4. Four principles of selection frame he process of how we select what we see,
hear, and experience:
a) Directing our attention to specific stimuli and consequently ignoring
others is called selective perception.
b) Selective attention is the process of focusing on specific stimuli.
c) Selective exposure is our tendency to put ourselves in situations that
reinforce our attitudes, beliefs, values, or behaviors.
d) Selective recall occurs when we remember things we want to
remember and forget or repress things that are unpleasant, uncomfortable,
or unimportant to us.
5. Thin Slicing: Making a judgment based on a small sample of behavior
B. Stage 2: Organizing
1. After we select stimuli to attend to, we start to organize them into convenient,
understandable, and efficient patterns that allow us to make sense of what we
have observed.
2. The way we organize information depends partly upon the way we punctuate
it. Punctuation is how we make sense out of stimuli by grouping, dividing,
organizing, separating, and categorizing information.
3. When it comes to punctuating relational events and behaviors, we each
develop our own separate set of standards.
4. Closure is the process we use to fill in missing information.
C. Stage 3: Interpreting
1. We attempt to make sense of the verbal and nonverbal cues we experience.
2. We interpret based on socialization and our own recurring experiences.
II. Perceiving Others
A. How much we notice about another person’s communication behavior relates to our
level of interest and need.
B. Perception can be either a passive or an active process.
1. Passive perception occurs simply because our senses are in operation.
2. Active perception occurs when we are motivated to select particular
C. How we form impressions of others
1. Impressions are collections of perceptions about others that we maintain and
use to interpret their behaviors.
2. Impression formation theory explains how we develop perceptions about
people and how we maintain and use those perceptions to interpret their
a) We select, organize, and interpret all of these perceptions to create a
general impression.
b) We tend to form these impressions readily and part with them
Chapter 3 - Interpersonal Communication and Perception
3. The primacy effect is when we place heavy emphasis on the first pieces of
information that we observe about another to form an impression.
4. When we place heavy emphasis to the most recent information we observe,
the recency effect has occurred.
D. How we describe others
1. In addition to developing impressions about specific people, we also organize
our perceptions by developing our own implicit theories to explain how people in
general behave.
2. Your implicit personality theory is your unique set of beliefs and hypotheses
about what people are like.
3. The halo effect involves attributing a variety of positive attributes to someone
we like without confirming the existence of these qualities.
4. The horn effect involves attributing a variety of negative qualities to people
simply because we do not like them.
a) Infante and Rancer observed that some people have a tendency to see
the worst in others, which causes them to lash out and be verbally
b) Some people may interpret any negative feedback as a personal attack.
E. How we interpret the behavior of others
1. Attribution theory explains how we ascribe specific motives and causes to the
behaviors of others.
a. We attempt to apply common sense to our observations to understand
what others do.
b. We attempt to explain people’s motives for their actions.
2. Causal attribution theory identifies three potential causes for any person’s
action: circumstance, a stimulus, or the person herself or himself.
a. Attributing the behavior to circumstance means you believe the person
acted a certain way because the situation leaves no choice.
b. Attributing the behavior to the stimulus means you believe the person
acted in response to an incentive.
c. Attributing the behavior to the person means you believe there is a quality
about the person that caused the behavior.
3. Standpoint theory explains that a person’s social position, power, or cultural
background influences how the person perceives the behavior of others; where
you stand influences what you see.
III. Barriers to Accurate Interpersonal Perception
A. Ignoring information: We don’t focus on important information because we give to
much weight to obvious and superficial information.
B. Overgeneralizing: We treat small amounts of information as if they were highly
C. Oversimplifying: We prefer simple explanations to complex ones.
D. Stereotyping: To stereotype is to attribute a set of qualities to a person because of a
person’s membership in some category. We allow our pre-existing rigid explanations
about others to influence our perceptions.
E. Imposing consistency: We overestimate the consistency and constancy of others’
behaviors, ignoring fluctuations.
F. Focusing on the negative: We focus on the negative giving more weight to negative
information than to positive information.
G. Blaming: Assuming that others have control
1. Making a fundamental attribution error: We are more likely to believe that
others are to blame when things go wrong than assume that the cause of the
problem was beyond their control.
H. Avoiding responsibility
1. Exhibiting a self-serving bias: We save face by believing other people, not
ourselves, are the cause of the problems; when things go right it’s because of our
own skills and abilities rather than help from others.
IV. Improving Your Perception Skills
A. Link details with the big picture – use all the details to form an accurate picture.
B. Become aware of others' perceptions of you by seeking honest and constructive
C. Increase your awareness by consciously attending to the input you receive.
D. Become other-oriented by social decentering and empathizing.
1. Gather as much knowledge about the circumstances that are affecting the
other person as possible.
2. Gather as much knowledge about the other person as possible.
E. Check your perceptions.
1. Indirect perception checking involves seeking additional information
through passive perception to either confirm or refute your interpretations.
2. Direct perception checking involves asking straight out if your
interpretations of a perception are correct.
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