How can we perceive others accurately?

Remember the old saying about assumptions and what they make out of you and me? Impression research has demonstrated we make inferences from behavior which may result in our perceptual distortion of a person.   Fritz Heider referred to these inferences as situation and disposition attributions . The former inferences refer to the assumptions we attribute to situational factors. The latter refers to assumptions we attribute to the persons disposition or character. Either inference may result in a distortion of our perception of a person.   [1]

Assumptions complicate the perceptual process of getting to know one another. Suppose, for example,. a student changes his, or her, behavior after having taken this interpersonal course. Did the student do it because of external factors, such as a desire to get a good grade, or from internal factors such as a sincere desire to change as a result of increased  insight? Suppose a girl kisses a boy after the first date, did she do it because she really liked him, or does she do that on all dates? Suppose a boy buys the girl a gift on a first date. Did he do it because he wished to show his affection, or does he do that will all girls he dates? How would you know?

Assignment

Think of a situation with a person in which you formed initial impressions and then ended up changing them over time, or perhaps, you still maintain those early impressions.

With what impressions did you start? What are your impressions now? What type of inference error [ situational attribution or dispositional  attribution] did you make, if any? Define the terms and explain your reasoning. What do you think caused you to change your thinking? If you did not make any inference errors, how do you account for that Explain your reasoning. Think of several other situations where you think you have observed the two type of inference, or attribution errors, described above. What could you do to minimize error in your perception?

     1.  Don E .Hamachek, Encounter with Others: Interpersonal Relationships and You, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,1982 , p. 18

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Copyright 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.