How Perception Influences the Communication Process

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  • 0:02 Perception
  • 1:07 Factors That Affect Perception
  • 1:30 Attribution Theory
  • 2:19 Distortions
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Perception's effect on the communication process is all about how the same message can be interpreted differently by different people. Distortions, such as stereotypes, projections and halo effects, all affect worker relationships and productivity.


Do you remember the first time you met your best friend? What was your initial thought about that person? Did you think they looked scary, funny, smart, stupid or intimidating? Your initial thoughts that ran through your mind were your perceptions of the person. Perception is the processing, interpreting, selecting and organizing of information. Perception's effect on the communication process is all about how the same message can be interpreted differently by different people.

In order to communicate effectively, business people need to spend time to fully investigate job applicants. They should also not judge an individual by just first their impression. Perhaps you thought your future best friend was a serious, shy person due to the fact that they dressed conservatively and wore glasses. In the end, your perception could have been incorrect, as your friend turned out to be very extroverted. People can filter out certain information to make it align with their own thoughts, beliefs and judgments.

Nicholas is in charge of hiring a new manager for the Honey Cake Company's sales division. He has set up a number of candidates to interview for the position. Let's take a look at how perception plays a role in communicating in business.

Factors That Affect Perception

Past experiences, culture and present feelings are all examples of factors that can affect perceptions. For example, Nicholas has had great success hiring graduates from the local university fraternity, Phi Sig Mi. His past experiences with those graduates lead him to perceive that fraternity members are better suited for the position than any other candidate.

Attribution Theory

In order to understand perception's effect on communication, it helps to understand how individuals try and make sense of their judgments. The attribution theory helps give reasoning or cause for an action by assigning explanations to events. In other words, it allows an individual to give a reason for the result of an action.

For example, Nicholas believes that the last salesperson was fired due to not keeping up with their sales reports. His perception is that the person had a lazy personality. He felt that the sales person must have been fired due to laziness. In actuality, the sales rep was going through a divorce and had become depressed. It was a challenge to keep up with the reports. The attribution theory is an easy way for people to come up with reasons that they perceive is the correct implication that caused an event.


Perception issues in workplace communication can lead to a number of distortions, which are biases or judgments of others. This is where problems in communication can develop. Stereotypes, projections and halo effects are all type of distortions. Stereotypes are when individuals use generalizations that are inaccurate to judge people.

During the interview process, Nicholas felt that many of the female candidates would not be able to do the job. He felt they were way too attractive to actually be smart enough. He stereotypically believed that smart females are not attractive. This incorrect perception cost him good candidates and also set him up for a few discriminatory lawsuits.

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