Perception is the method of which we understand or interpret the information we observe from the world around us. It is a four stage process consisting of stimuli, attention to the stimuli, organisation of what it is and how we interpret it (O'Rourke & Barnett, 2008). Because we develop unique interpretations our perceptions are quite different from one another. This creates barriers in itself for communication, as it becomes difficult to achieve a shared meaning or mutual understanding. Perceptions of same scenarios are interpreted differently by individuals and can change over time. This is because interpretations develop and change with understanding and familiarity to situations or stimuli.
Initially my perception of this course was a mixed one. The topic of communication itself was familiar, being that we all communicate and have done so our entire lives, however the foreign environment of lecture halls and study seemed to make the subject intimidating. When looking around the lecture hall a diverse range of students becomes apparent and they can all be stereotypically linked to my perceived interpretation of them. Majority of the students came across as intelligent, fresh out of school with the ability to learn new subjects easier than myself. Some were adult students and my perception was they would have similar learning abilities as me, being that we would find it harder to absorb the new information and more importantly, remember it. The foreign students, although having linguistic and cultural barriers, come across as highly educated and intelligent and they seem most likely to excel in the learning environment because of this. Sexuality roles seem prominent, as masculinity and femininity are being displayed excessively, particularly in the younger age group. The girls seem to dress revealingly or sexually appealing in a bid to outdo one another and the men display their dominance through boisterousness and physical features, such as the big arms and tight shirts.
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The effect this perception had on my communication was the fear of being compared to the other students who seem more educated and intelligent. My communication was limited to familiarity and comfort, perceiving less judgement on my intellect would be made by those relatable to me. The sexuality role was less intimidating for me to adopt as my self-perception coincided with this. The beginning of the course also promoted shyness of communication, as the unfamiliar surrounding accentuated the differences with new people. For this reason communication was kept to a minimum, generally only speaking when being spoken to. The perception of these stereotypes among classmates is still prominent and still a part of my interpretation of them, however, understanding of my own perceptual influences is more apparent and therefore acknowledgement of false classification is recognised.
My perception is altered by the interpretation of the stimuli which my senses pick up, primarily those which attract my attention. Selectivity in perception has created stereotypes and other forms of bias interpretation which has lead to confirmation of expectations of others. If there is any uncertainty in someone's behaviour, people are likely to interpret what they see in a way that is consistent with their expectations (Weiten, 1995). Therefore the assumptions of the student's intellect, attributes, nature and principals were created by me out of convenience to my perspective. This initial perception of others is shaped by our own perception of surroundings and events. If we are insecure, we see those around us as confident. When we are shy, we see those around us as outgoing. When we struggle to grasp information, we see those around us as intelligent. Although the view we have of others plays a significant role in our perception of them, equally the opinions of others interpretation of us plays a role. This is because we actively try to influence others views of us, and in that way we also influence our own self-perceptions. Also, we compare ourselves to others as a way of defining and evaluating ourselves, and we often bias those comparisons by favouring some pieces of evidence rather than others (Gray, 2007).
The reason my initial perception was created on a bias notion was due to lack of understanding. Using my own personal beliefs and experiences, the course and classmates were subject to a preconception opinion. This preconception impacted the communication and interactions between me and others in the class in a manner that according to me, they were already linked to a stereotype. The way perception influences communication is by the way we interpret the message and the idea we form of others. It influences the way we behave and think, so if our perceptions are different from the perception of another person, we must work harder to achieve a shared meaning or common understanding (O'Rourke & Barnett, 2008). According to Susan O'Rourke and Sandra Barnett, ways in which we can improve our communication is to seek improvement through perception. To achieve this we must pay attention to a variety of cues, such as testing our conclusions, becoming aware of contradictions, avoiding mind reading and assumptions, and valuing diversity.
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Susan O'Rourke & Sandra Barnett. (2008). Communication: Organisation and Innovation. (2nd ed.). Auckland: Pearson Education New Zealand.
Wayne Weiten. (1995). Psychology: Themes and Variations. (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.
Peter Gray. (2007). Psychology. (5th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.