Frequently Used Shortcuts in Judging Other

We use a number of shortcuts when we judge others. Perceiving/interpreting what others do is burdensome. As a result, individuals develop technique for making the task more manageable. These techniques are frequently valuable they allow us to make accurate perceptions rapidly and provide valid data for making predictions. However, they are not foolproof. They can and do get us into trouble. Some of these shortcuts are

Selective perception

Any characteristic that makes a person, object or event stand out will increase the probability that it will be perceived. Why? Because it is impossible for us to assimilate everything we see. Only certain stimuli can be taken in. Since we can’t observe everything going- on about us, we engage in selective perception.

A group’s perception of organizational activities is selectively altered to align with the vested interests they represent. But how does selectivity work as a shortcut in judging other people? Since we cannot assimilate all that we observe, we take in bits and pieces. But those bits and pieces are not chosen randomly rather, they are selectively chosen according to our interests, background experience and attitudes. Selective perception allows us to “speedread” others, but not without the risk of drawing an inaccurate picture.

Because we see what we want to see, we can draw unwarranted conclusions from an ambiguous situation. If there is a rumour going around the office that your company’s sales are down and that large layoffs may he coming, a routine visit by a Senior Executive from Headquarters might be interpreted as the first step in managements’ identification of people to be fired, when in reality such an action may be the farthest thing from the mind of the Senior Executive.

Halo effect

When we draw a general impression about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic, such an intelligence, sociability or appearance, a halo effect is operating

E.g: students appraise their classroom instructor by giving prominence to a single trait such as enthusiasm and allow their entire evaluation to be tainted by how they judge the instructor or that one trait. Thus, an instructor may be quiet, assured, knowledgeable and highly qualified, but if his style lacks zeal, those students would probably give him a low rating.

The reality of halo effect was confirmed in a classic study in which subjects were given a list of traits such as intelligent, skillful, practical. industrious. determined and warm and were asked to evaluate the person to whom those traits apply. When these traits were used, the person was judged to be wise, humorous, popular and imaginative.

When the same list was modified to cold as substituted for warm a complete different set of perceptions was obtained. Clearly the subjects were allowing a single trait to influence their overall impression of the person being judged. The propensity for the halo cited to operate is not random. Research suggests that it is likely to be most extreme when the traits to be perceived are ambiguous in behavioural terms. When the trails have moral overtones, and then the perceiver is judging traits with which he or she has had limited experience.

Contrast effects

We don’t evaluate a person in isolation. Our reaction to one person is influenced by other persons we have recently encountered. An illustration of how contrast effects operate is an interview situation in which one sees a pack of job applicants. Distortions in any given candidates evaluation can occur as a result of his or her place in the interview schedule. The candidate is likely to receive a more favourable evaluation if preceded by strong applicants.


It’s easy to judge others if we assume that they’re similar to us. E.g : if you want challenge / responsibility in your job, you assume that others want the same or, you’re honest and trustworthy, so you take it for granted that other people are equally honest and trustworthy. This tendency to attribute one’s own characteristics to other people which is called projection can distort perceptions made about others.

People who engage in projection tend to perceive others according to what they themselves are like, rather than according to what the person being observed is really like.

When observing others who actually are like them, these observers are quite accurate not because they are perceptive but because they always judge people as being similar to themselves.

So when they finally do find someone who is like them, they are naturally correct. When managers engage in projection, they compromise their ability to respond to individual differences. They tend to see people as more homogeneous than they really are


When we judge someone on the basis of our perception of the group to which he or she belongs, we are using the shortcut called stereotyping. Generalization, of course, is not without advantages. It’s a means of simplifying a complex world, and it permits us to maintain consistency. It’s less difficult to deal with an unmanageable number of stimuli if we use stereotypes. In organizations, we frequently hear comments that represent stereotypes based on gender, age. race, ethnicity and even weight.

From a perceptual standpoint, if people expect to see these stereotypes, that is what they will perceive, whether they are accurate or not. One of the problems of stereo types is that they are widespread, despite the fact that they may not contain a shred of truth or that they may be irrelevant. They being widespread may mean only that many people are making the same inaccurate perception on the basis of a false premise about a group.

Read More Topics
Objectives of performance appraisal
Methods of executive development
Need for employee training

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