5.1 Person Perception
The process of perception enables us to understand the physical world and respond to it in a meaningful way. However, besides the physical environment, perceptual processes are also involved in our understanding of people, which in turn shape our social interactions in various situations in life. We are constantly assessing and perceiving the feelings and intentions of other people and our responses are determined by these perceptions. The term ‘person perception’ refers to the processes by which we form impressions of other people. The impressions and evaluations of other people may not be formed through direct sensory information alone. Our subjective judgements and inferences also play a role in it. For example when we meet a person briefly, we form an impression of that individual. Such initial assessments of personality are often based mainly on the physical appearance, verbal behaviour as well as other expressive behaviours. In such a situation, even though the available information is limited, we do form a definite impression about the personality of the person. These impressions are strong and lasting. Often we assign attributes to a person based on class or category to which he or she belongs. This phenomenon is known as ‘stereotyping.’ That is, we first categorize a person and put in a particular class or category based on immediate physical inputs. Then we assign characteristics which we come to associate with that class. Thus person perception generally includes subjective judgements and inferences about a person that go beyond direct sensory information.