Written by  Marcy Pedersen

Perception is the process we use to “become aware of the world.” We often think that our perception is reality, but that might not be accurate. Perception is “developed by what we sense, organize and interpret about the people in our lives.” How we perceive things will greatly affect how we communicate. Our perception will serve as a frame for how we interact with others, interpret their message and respond to others.

When we receive a message we receive stimuli. We filter the stimuli and select some stimuli and not others. What is left gets organized. We sometimes filter consciously and sometimes subconsciously. We may decide to stop listening to something or we may have developed a pattern over many years of filtering out certain messages.

Each person has a perceptual schema, or communication organization system. The organization system includes organizing the people we talk to by roles, traits or personality. Depending on how people are organized will determine how we interpret their message.

When we interpret a message we seek to make sense of the message. There are interpretive guidelines that people apply when interpreting communication. How the message is interpreted will determine whether it is a positive or negative message. Interpretive guidelines include:

Status of Relationship: If we are happy with the person we are talking to we will interpret the message positively and the reverse if we are not happy with them.
Expectations: This is also considered the self-fulfilling prophecy. When a communicator expects another person to act a certain way that person often fulfills that prophecy. One person treats another person a certain way and in return their behavior follows suite.
Self-concept: How we think about ourselves affects our perception and how we interpret messages.
Circumstances: What is going on in our life will affect how we filter and interpret things.
Timing: When the message comes to someone will affect interpretation. A first time message and the most recent message will have the most effect on someones perception.
Consistency: This asks what the most consistent way is to interpret the message considering the new information versus what is known about the situation or circumstance.

When we interpret a message we actually do so very quickly. There are shortcuts we may use to speed up the process. We may stereotype the people we are talking to and assume they possess the same characteristics as other people in the same group, or category. We may apply characteristics from one individual to the group.

When interpreting we are often trying to determine why people do what they do. This is referred to as the Attribution Theory. We attempt to attribute motives to peoples behaviors. When doing this there is a danger of over attributing or attributing everything a person does to a single circumstance or event.

Perception is a key area that determines how we interpret a message. I believe that it affects how we read, and write as well. Authors are communicating with us and our perception affects if we are able to understand their intended meaning. I would like to spend more time studying how perception affects my writing and the message I am trying to send and how my perception affects my ability to understand an authors intended meaning.

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