Aspects of human perception in organizations

Term Paper, 2011
22 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1 Introduction/Problem Definition

2 Objectives

3 Methodology

4 Main Part
4.1 The Mind-Body Problem and the Self Reflecting Brain
4.2 Perspectives of Radical and Social Constructivism
4.3 Reducing Complexity:The Process of Selective Attention
4.4 Social Perception: Biases and Effects with Impact on Social Interaction in Organizations
4.5 Working with Mental Models: The Ladder of Inference

5 Conclusion

6 ITM Checklist

7 Bibliography

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 1: Drawing of a person with a so called "unilateral neglect"

Figure 2: Self-fulfilling prophecy process (Brehm & Kassin, 1993)

Figure 3: The ladder of inference (Senge, Kleiner, Smith, Roberts, & Ross, 1997)

Figure 4: The Müller-Lyer deceptive perception. All lines depicted have the same length

List of Tables

Table 1: Heuristics and effects that influence social perception. Own depiction according to Brehm & Kassin, 1993, pp. 112

1 Introduction/Problem Definition

Perception is probably the most basic process studying leadership respectively any kind of social influence. Going back the early days before the concept of IQ was introduced by Alfred Binet in 1905 researches tried to evaluate the performance of a human mind by testing the fitness of the sensory system (Amelang & Bartussek, 1990). Perception comprises both the neurophysiological and the cognitive aspects of how human beings construct their subjective facets of reality. In order to understand the fundamental meaning of perception for any kind of social interaction it has to be regarded from a wholistic point of view. Besides cognitive aspects like conception, evaluation, recognition, etc. also subliminal and preconscious elements of perception have to be taken into consideration. Despite all insights modern research can provide to understand how human perception works there is a central limitation E. Bruce Goldstein points out in the opening words of his fundamental publication “Sensation and Perception”: “Perception is a private experience”. (Goldstein, 1989).

2 Objectives

The following text should give answers to a number of elementary questions concerning the interrelation of human perception and social interaction in organizations especially leadership behaviour:

1. What is perception and what are the cognitive aspects of perception?
2. How real is reality? –a short introduction into the perspective of radical constructivism.
3. The reduction of complexity: which role does (selective) attention play?
4. What social psychological effects and biases have an impact on human interaction respectively leadership behaviour.
5. The economy of mind[1]: Why is it important for our mind to keep the world stable?
6. Which implications do the insights into human perception have for leadership excellence?

3 Methodology

The following text is based on an intensive literature research according to the topic of human perception. Since the studies of human perception are subject of philosophical discussions and intensive psychophysiological and social psychological research for many many years only a small excerpt can be provided here. The main focus will be the description of social psychological phenomena and their implications to aspects of social interaction in organisations especially leadership related behaviour.

4 Main Part

Perception (from the Latin perceptio, percipio) can be regarded as the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information (Pomerantz, 2003). Before starting a discussion about how human perception is influencing social interaction and vice versa some fundamental philosophical considerations have to be mentioned.

4.1 The Mind-Body Problem and the Self Reflecting Brain

We think when we think about thinking. This means: we work with our perception apparatus when we try to find out how perception apparatuses generally work. The implication is that our explanations in the best case cover all potentials and restrictions our perception apparatus has. A basic precondition for perception is a “difference” e.g. hot/cold, dark/bright, blue/green, etc. Similar stimulation has the tendency not to be perceived or losing relevance (an effect called habituation). In other words: In a world where everything is blue there is no possibility to develop a concept for blue due to the absence of other colours (Bodenmüller & Joksch, 1999, p.161). This perspective is based on the understanding of information developed by the Palo Alto Group around Gregory Bateson and Paul Watzlawick (Bateson, 2000), (Watzlawick et al., 1992).

In his famous publications “Critic of Pure Reason” and “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics” Immanuel Kant already in the 18th century postulated that our experience of the world depends on our perception apparatus what necessarily leads to the fact that things, as they appear to us, are something different as they really are. Causal relations can only be postulated for elements of the so called “world of phenomena”. Kant was convinced that besides this world of phenomena there is another independent and unrestricted reality he called the “Noumenon” (Magee, 1997).

The implication is: our perception is probably based on a very restricted fragment of the whole. First this is true for things which are not perceivable due to limitations of our perception system (e.g. ultraviolet light) and second this is partially true for sub-/unconsciously running processes.


[1] In accordance to the title of Gregory Bateson´s publication “Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution and Epistemology” (Bateson, 2000).

Excerpt out of 22 pages


Aspects of human perception in organizations
University of applied sciences, Munich
Softs Skills and Leadership
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ISBN (Book)
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Perception, Constructivism;, Social Psychology;
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Holger Bodenmüller (Author), 2011, Aspects of human perception in organizations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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