I. PERCEPTION:  the active process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting people, objects, events, situations and activities.

A.   SELECTION:  what we choose to pay attention to

1.    We tend to notice things that STAND OUT

2.    Change draws our attention

Education is a process of learning to tell ourselves things we haven’t previously noticed

B.   ORGANIZATION: use of schemata to sort and arrange what we perceive

1.    Prototypes: an ideal for a category; prototypes are used to classify information

2.    Personal Constructs:  mental yardsticks that allow us to measure people and situations along binaries (i.e. smart-dumb, pretty-ugly, kind-mean, etc.)

3.    Stereotypes: predictive generalizations about people and situations

a.     Can be accurate or inaccurate

b.    Remember they are selective and subjective (they change and are not always the same)

4.    Scripts:  sequence of activities that define what we and others are expected to do in specific situations

a.     “S’up?”

b.    “Nuthin’. S’up wit’chu?”

c.      “Hi.  How are you?” 

d.    “I’m fine.  How are you?”

“I love you.” 

f.      “Uh…o.k….” *click* ß(this is not a normal ‘script’)

“I love you.” 

h.    “I love you too!” *smooch*


C.   INTERPRETATION:  creating explanations for what we observe and experience

1.    Internal locus of control:  interpreting people’s behavior as a result of internal factors

2.    External locus of control:  interpreting people’s behavior as a result of external factors




He’s angry

The traffic jam frustrated him

She got the film because she’s a sweet person

She just got the film because she had some extra time today

Borger ’s cranky because she’s tired

Borger ’s cranky because students have been acting up

That student is just lazy

That student didn’t get his work in because his mom is in the hospital 


D.   Self-serving bias:  we tend to explain or interpret other’s behavior in order to serve our own personal interests.  We think good results come from our own actions, but negative results come from external factors beyond our control.




I failed the quiz because I didn’t study.

I failed the quiz because it was full of trick questions!


I got suspended because I threw a bottle across the room and popped Michael upside the head for the third time this week.

I got suspended because my teacher had my brother and she hates him so she just has it out for me too!


The electricity got turned off because I didn’t pay the bill on time.

The electricity got cut because the stupid mailman doesn’t come until after 12 every day and I can’t help it that he wouldn’t take a bill that didn’t have a stamp on it!


I got a detention because I was text-messaging in class.

I got a detention because the teacher thought I was cheating on a quiz but she really should have given the kid in front of me a detention because he’s the one who was texting me on my cell phone!  


II.  Influences on Perception:  

A.   Physiological Factors:

1.    The five senses are not the same for all of us

2.    One person’s favorite music might make another’s ears bleed

3.    Physiological states affect our perceptions

4.    Being tired can turn a joke into an insult

5.    Age influences perceptions

B.   Expectations:

1.    Teacher / student expectations

2.    Positive Visualization is a technique used to reduce speaking anxiety by guiding apprehensive speakers through imagined positive speaking experiences.  Individuals form a mental picture of themselves then enact that mental picture in actual speaking situations.  Works for classroom and testing situations as well.

C.   Cognitive Abilities:

1.    Cognition refers to our knowledge base and how elaborately we think about situations and people

2.    Cognitive complexity  refers to the number of constructs (binaries), how abstract they are and how elaborately they work to shape our perceptions

3.    Cognitively complex individuals are flexible in interpreting complicated situations.  Less cognitively complex individuals tend to ignore information that doesn’t fit their impressions or to throw out old ideas and replace them with new.

D.   Person-Centeredness:  Ability to perceive another as a unique individual.  Avoid stereotyping.

E.   Social Roles:

1.    Teacher vs. student

2.    Doctor vs. patient

3.    Professional vs. personal

4.    Rich vs. poor

F.    Cultural Factors:  Culture consists of beliefs, values, understandings, practices, and ways of interpreting experiences that a number of people share.

III.  Developing Perception Skills:  

A.   Avoid Mind Reading:  Mind reading is assuming we understand what another person thinks or feels.  We act as if we know what’s on someone else’s mind.  This easily leads to assumptions and misinterpretations.

B.   Check perceptions with others

1.    Helps people arrive at mutual understandings

2.    Don’t accuse

3.    Use “I” language:  “I feel like you’ve been ignoring me. ” vs. “you’re selfish and don’t care about me anymore!”

C.   Distinguish facts from inferences:  An inference is an interpretation that goes beyond what you know to be a fact.

1.    i.e. student who is late to class and then proceeds to sleep.

2.    Teacher can infer the student is lazy and rude.

3.    Teacher can ask a question and find out the student works late at night to help support the family.

D.   Monitor your self-serving bias: Monitoring is the process of calling behaviors or other phenomena to our attention so that we can observe and regulate them.