Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Notonly do absolute thresholds vary from person to person, they also vary from time to time for a single
person.The type of stimulus, the state of one's nervous system, and the costs of false "detections"all make
a difference. Emotional factors arealso important. Unpleasant stimuli, for example, may raise the threshold
forrecognition. This effect is calledperceptual defense. "Dirty"words took longer to recognizewhen
flashed on a screen that did "clean"words. Apparently it is possible to process information on morethan
one level and to resist informationthat causes anxiety, discomfort, or embarrassment (Dember & Warm,
In other words, the tendency of perceivers to protect themselvesagainst ideas, objects, or people that are
threatening to them is called perceptual defence. It is a function of selective perception which protects the
individualfrom threatening or contradictorystimuli" (1992, 160). "Perceptual defence occurs when a
person'svalue orientations act as a barrier to stimuli that arethreatening" (Runyon, 1977, 300).For
example, an alcoholic may avoid anti-drinkingand driving campaigns in fear of what could happenbecause
they know they drink and drivesometimes. They fear what could possibly happen if they actuallyaccepted
In case of consumer, perceptualdefence can cause them to avoid or misinterpret otherwiseimportant
messages. It can occur under the followingconditions (Assael, 1992,142):
· Whenconsumers have strong beliefsand attitudes about a brand. If the message does not conform to
what they believe, they are lesslikely to perceive. If someonesees an ad for vegetables, they may choose
to ignore it if they eat fast foodevery day.
· Whenconsumers have consistentexperience with a brand. Brand-loyalsare less likely to switch,
regardless of how much "better" another product is.
· When anxiety is produced by a stimulus. If an overweight person sees an ad for Weight Watchers or a
gym, they may disregard the messagebecause that stimuliproduces fears andanxieties.
· Whenthere is a high level of postpurchasedissonance. Consumers willsearch out positiveinformation
about a brand after they have purchased that brand and they will ignore the negativeinformation
It may be defined as the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comesfrom holding twoconflicting
thoughts in the mind at the same time.
· The importance of the subject to us.
· How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
· Ourinability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.
Dissonance is often strong when we believe something aboutourselves and then do something against
thatbelief. If I believe I am goodbut do something bad, then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive
Cognitivedissonance is a very powerful motivatorwhich will often lead us to change one or other of the
conflictingbelief or action. The discomfortoften feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts.
To release the tension we can takeone of three actions:
· Changeour behaviour.
· Justifyour behaviour by changing the conflicting cognition.
· Justifyour behaviour by adding new cognitions.
Dissonance is most powerful when it is about our self-image.Feelings of foolishness, immoralityand so
on (including internal projections duringdecision-making) are dissonance in action.
If an action has been completedand cannot be undone, then the after-the-fact dissonance compels us to
changeour beliefs. If beliefs are moved, then the dissonance appearsduring decision-making, forcing us
to take actions we would nothave taken before.
Cognitivedissonance appears in virtuallyall evaluations anddecisions and is the centralmechanism by
which we experience new differences in the world. When we see other people behave differently to our
images of them, when we hold anyconflicting thoughts, we experiencedissonance.
Dissonanceincreases with the importance andimpact of the decision, along with the difficulty of
reversingit. Discomfort about making the wrong choice of car is bigger than when choosing a lamp.
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Festingerfirst developed this theory in the 1950s to explain how members of a cultwho were persuaded
by their leader, a certain MrsKeech, that the earth was going to be destroyed on 21st Decemberand that
they alone were going to be rescued by aliens, actually increasedtheir commitment to the cult when this did
nothappen (Festinger himself hadinfiltrated the cult, and wouldhave been very surprised to meet little
greenmen). The dissonance of the thought of being so stupid was so greatthat instead they revisedtheir
beliefs to meet with obvious facts:that the aliens had, throughtheir concern for the cult, saved the world
In a more mundane experiment, Festingerand Carlsmith got students to lie about a boring task.Those
whowere paid $1 felt uncomfortablelying.
Smokersfind all kinds of reasons to explain away their unhealthy habit.The alternative is to feel a great
deal of dissonance.
SocialNature of Perception
Socialnature of perception relates to how people look at themselves andothers. There are twoeffects that
areworth mentioning whiletalking about social nature of perception:
Stereotypesare generalizations, or assumptions,that people make about the characteristics of allmembers
of a group, based on an image (often wrong) about what people in that group arelike. For example,one
study of stereotypes revealed thatAmericans are generallyconsidered to be friendly, generous,and tolerant,
butalso arrogant, impatient,and domineering. Asians, on the otherhand, were expected to be shrewd and
alert,but reserved. Clearly, notall Americans are friendlyand generous; and notall Asians are shrewd. If
youassume you know what a person is like, and don'tlook at each person as an individual, you are likely to
makeerrors in your estimates of a person's character.
Theword stereotypewasinvented by Firmin Didot in the world of printing; it wasoriginally a duplicate
impression of an original typographical element,used for printing instead of the original. American
journalist Walter Lippmann coined the metaphor, calling a stereotype a "picture in ourheads" saying
"Whetherright or wrong, ...imagination is shaped by the pictures seen... Consequently, they lead to
stereotypesthat are hard to shake." (Public Opinion, 1922, 95-156). To note, clichéandstereotype were both
originally printers' words, and in theirliteral printers' meanings weresynonymous. Specifically, clichéwas a
Frenchword for the printingsurface for a stereotype.
In conflicts, people tend to develop overly-negative images of the other side.The opponent is expected to
be aggressive, self-serving, and deceitful, for example, while people view themselves in completely positive
ways.These stereotypes tend to be self-perpetuating. If one side assumes the other side is deceitful and
aggressive, they will tend to respond in a similar way. The opponentwill then develop a similarimage of the
firstparty, and the negativestereotypes will be confirmed. They may be grow worse, as communication is
shutdown and escalationheightens emotions and tension.
When we consider a person good(or bad) in one category, we are likely to make a similar evaluation in
othercategories. It is as if we cannot easilyseparate categories. It mayalso be connected withdissonance
avoidance, as making them good at one thingand bad at another wouldmake an overall evaluation (which
we do anyway) difficult.
Edward Thorndike found, in the 1920s,that when army officers wereasked to rate their charges in terms
of intelligence, physique, leadership andcharacter, there was a highcross-correlation.
Justbecause I dress like a rockstar, it does not mean I can sing, dance or play the guitar (come to think of
it, the same is true of some realrock stars!).
2) Halo effect
Thehalo effect refers to a cognitivebias whereby the perception of a particular trait is influenced by the
perception of the former traits in a sequence of interpretations.
Thehalo effect is involved in Kelley'simplicit personality theory, where the first traits we recognize in other
people then influence the interpretation and perception of latter ones (because of our expectations).
Attractive people are often judged as having a moredesirable personality and moreskills than someone of
averageappearance. Celebrities areused to endorse products that they have no expertise in evaluating.
Whencommanding officers were asked to rate their soldiers in an early psychology experiment conducted
by Edward L. Thorndike, he found highcross-correlation between allpositive and all negativetraits. People
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
seem to rarely think of eachother in mixed terms; instead we seem to see them as universally roughlygood
or roughly bad across allcategories of measurement. Solomon Aschalso performed research in this area.
The halo effect may be involved with the theory of cognitive dissonance. Solomon Asch has also done a
study about central traits and hisfindings suggest thatattractiveness is a central trait, so we presume all the
other traits of an attractive person are just as attractive and sought after.Individuals often exhibittheir best
behavior in the presence of authority figures,presumably to avoid being accosted by said figures.
Thehalo effect is also a term used in HR recruitment. While interviewing a person,you might be influenced
by one of his attributes and ignore his/her otherweaknesses.
SubliminalNature of Perception
Anytimeinformation is processed below the normal limen(threshold or limit) for awareness, it is
subliminal. Subliminal perception was demonstrated by an experiment in which people saw a series of
shapesflashed on a screen for1/1000 second each. Later, they were allowed to see these shapesand other
"new"shapes for as long as they wanted. At that time, they ratedhow much they liked eachshape. Even
tough they could not tell "old"shapes from "new," they gave"old" shapes higher ratings(Kunst-Wilson &
Zajonc,1980). It seems that the "old" shapes had becomefamiliar and thus more"likable," but at a level
belownormal awareness. To summarize,there is evidence that subliminal perception occurs. However,
well-controlledexperiments have shown that subliminal stimuli are basicallyweak stimuli. Advertisers are
better off using the loudest,clearest, more attention-demanding stimuli available --as mostdo.
· Self-PerceptionTheory gives an alternative view:
· Asch, S. E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal andSocial Psychology,
· Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error on psychological rating. Journal of AppliedPsychology, IV,
· Kelly, G. A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs (Vols. 1 and 2). New York:Norton.
· S5cialPsychology NetworkStereotyping:
· Dr.Sam Vaknin. The Merits of Stereotypes:http://samvak.tripod.com/stereotype.html
· MediaAwareness Network. What is a stereotype? Definition, role of stereotyping in the media:
· Halo effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe halo effect refers to a cognitivebias whereby the
perception of a particular: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect-
· Self-PerceptionTheory gives an alternative view.
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