Person Perception | Principles & Factors that Affect Perception

Person perception refers to the mental process we use to form judgement about other people and draw conclusion about the characteristics of others. On the basis of very limited information we always/often draw conclusion about the nature of people who are complete strangers to us and we also make rough prediction on how this strangers are most likely to behave.

Person perception is active and subjective processes that always occur in an interpersonal context. This interpersonal context has three components namely the characteristics of the individual you are trying to size up, your own characteristics as the perceiver, the specific situation in which the process occurs.

It is important to note that each component influences the conclusion you reach about other people, as a psychological process, person perception follows some basic principles.


Your reactions to others are determined by your perception of them not by whom or what they really are.

Your goal in a particular situation determines the amount and kind of information you collect about others.

In every situation, you evaluate people partly in terms of how you expect them to act in that situation.

Yourself perception also influences how you perceive others and how you act on your perception


Social categorization:

This is the mental process of classifying people into groups on the bases of common characteristics.

Much of this mental word is spontaneous and automatic. Social categorization mostly when we have limited information about a person so at a glance at the person you quickly categorize him as (20) twenty years of age, business or student, Yoruba or Hausa.

Using social categories has both advantage and disadvantage. It ignores the person characteristics and qualities and relies on superficial information.

On the other hand, social categories allow us to mentally organize and remember information about others more efficiently and effectively.

When using social categories, we often use superficial cues like clothing and context to assign people to social categories and draw conclusions about their behavior.

For example, a young man cooperatively dress in suit can be referred to as a banker while a young man putting on T-shirt and jeans can be regarded as undergraduate.

However we don’t always depend on quick automatic social judgement especially when we want a more accurate and comprehensive information about a person, example marriage.

Implicit personal theory:

This theory is closely related to social category. It is a network of assumption or believes, about the relationships among various types of people, traits and behavior.

Through previous social experiences we form cognitive schema (an organized structured set of recognition about some concept or stimulus) about the trait and behavior associated with different types of people.

When we perceive someone to be a particular type, we often assume that the person will display this trait and behaviors.

For instance your choice of a friend on entering the university reflect some of your own implicit personality theory, you might feel comfortable choosing someone who has a particular dress code, hair style, walking style etc.

Because this supercilious characteristic leads you to assume that he or she is a particular type of person.

Just like social categories, implicit personality theory can be useful as a mental shortcut in perceiving other peoples.

Physical attractiveness:

Physical attractiveness plays a major role in person perception, this is the reason why we say that beauty is only skin deep and you can’t judge a book by its cover.

However from childhood we are bombarded with images that suggest an entirely different cultural message.

For example, in fairly tales, cartoon, movies and films, the heroes are handsome and the heroines are beautiful. Then bad guys, wicked witches and those that play bad roles are ugly.

The implicit cultural message in this social schema implies that whatever that is beautiful is good.

As a result of such cultural conditioning must people do associate physical attractiveness with a wide range of other desirable characteristics.

Example, good looking people are perceived as being more intelligent, happier and better adjusted than other people.

They are seen as being more socially competent and sexier than less attractive people.

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