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Social perception

Social perception

Social perception also referred to as attribution is the process of forming impressions about other people by using the information available to us. People use social perception to assess and decide what people are like. The information that people use is what they look like from their non verbal communication as well non verbal communication. People tend to make a lot of conclusions about people by basing on their gestures, tonal variation, body positions and movements and many other ways.

Attribution is the concept of accurately determining a person’s state of being by looking at various indicators around them. For example, at a funeral you will assume that the person is sad because they are mourning the loss of their loved one. In this way you have used a given context or situation to determine the person’s state of being. How people make attributions is guided by their cognitive load capacity, motivation and emotions.

Attribution theory

This theory was proposed by Fritz Heider. Heider suggested that individuals perceived others based on what they have observed about them. The concept of social perception is largely attribution. Later studies by other scientists including Bernard Weiner and Harold Kelley brought forth other angles to the theory.

According to the attribution theory people do not always make the right conclusions about people when they are observing. The mistake that people make in such cases is referred to as the fundamental attribution error.

Fundamental attribution error is realised when for example a wife is angry at her husband and the husband assumes it is something they did and so they go to great lengths to device an apology strategy. Only to later realise that it is was her birthday the day before and he totally forgot about it.

Attribution is something that is learnt as well as in born. Even infants know that when you smile at them you are happy or that you are being loving towards them. However, there are some other things that we all have to learn as we grow up. For example, when someone looks sad but claims to be happy, you will know that they are actually not happy. Different cultures also have different ways of expressing themselves and if you find yourself in a different cultural setting you may have to learn afresh how to attribute.

Implicit personality theory

This s another theory that informs social perception. This theory states that individuals make inferences about people based on their peripheral and central traits.  The central traits are what are important and the peripheral traits tend to be tainted by the central traits.

For example, if you meet a rough person on the train back home who shoves you and steps on you without any apology, you will walk away with the impression that he or she is a rude person. If someone asks you what you remember about that person that is all you will remember. The fact that they may have been beautiful or smart will not be registered in your mind.


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