Every day we encounter many people, observe their behavior, listen to what they say, think about them, try to understand them. We often think that mental characteristics of man - his position, aspirations and feelings - are perceived by us as well as his physical data. Most people believe that the perception occurs automatically, and as a result, they clearly can answer the question: what constitutes one or the other person? In order to better understand how the perception occurs, we need to understand the three basic elements of this phenomenon:
1) the identity of the perceived person, at whom we look and who we are trying to understand
2) the identity of the perceiver, the one who looks and cognizes
3) a situation in which the process of cognition and perception occur.
Very often not individuals but social groups are subjects and objects of perception. Two sports teams, encountered in one game, not just fight for victory, but also try to get an idea about the opponent, such as its strengths and weaknesses. A similar thing happens with various other groups, for example, organizations and even entire nations.
There are many factors that influence the perception and understanding of other people. Among them: age, gender, occupation, individual personality characteristics, such as "I" - the image and level of acceptance of himself. There is a widespread view that the older the person, the better he understands the other. This view, however was not confirmed in an experimental study.
I think that features associated with individual characteristics and personality traits are more important than gender and age. An important role plays, for example, the image of "I" and self-esteem, as they are the psychological foundation, on which the various factors affecting the relationships with people base. I mean those thoughts, evaluations, judgments and beliefs about yourself that are relevant to external and visible manifestations of personality, about which a person can speak calmly. I mean also evaluations that a person makes to his own hidden from others, but accessible to him, features, and the feelings that he is not fully aware of, but which disturb and excite him. Often these elements of the image of "I", from which a person wants to get rid or even forget, become a source of difficulties and problems in the perception and understanding of another people.
The soul of each of us has its own special crannies in which we do not want and do not like to look; each of us has bad perceived reasons for the greater or lesser concern. Most often it is the various internal conflicts, which are too difficult to resolve. It may be the conflicts associated with some desires that can not be satisfied and evaluated negatively. We try to overcome these desires, but it is ineffectual, and when they once again assert themselves, we experience anxiety and fear. That is why the perception of similar desires and the associated with them experiences may be significantly impaired.
Such internal conflicts and unresolved issues take away attention and energy that could be directed to a full and complete perception of other people. It is in this sense often used the expression "people are too focused on themselves". Usually this means that such a person is burdened with conflicts, problems, issues that are constantly demanding the care and attention from his side. If this condition is prolonged, it can be assumed that the method, by which a person wants to resolve his problems, is unsuccessful. He does not clearly perceive and understand himself to cope with his own difficulties. Naturally, this condition prevents adequate perception of the people with whom he communicates.
One of the most serious obstacles to the adequate and deep self-knowledge is a system of psychological defense of "I". Most often it is a set of unconscious means developed by each of us in order to ensure the safety of their identity in the face of real or imagined threats. The effectiveness of these means is based mainly on the fact that with their help the subject alters the image of external or internal reality, that incentives which cause feelings of anxiety or fear are left on the sidelines. Each of us uses these "protective" distortions in the perception of self and others, as if forgetting some information, not noticing anything, exaggerating or underestimating something, attributing own traits to others, and vice versa, etc. This frequently helps us to cope with everyday difficulties, to avoid painful collisions with reality, and so on.
Among the many factors that influence the perception and cognition of people a special role plays based on dogmatic installations the ingrained stereotypes of thinking, evaluations and actions. Dogmatism usually coexists with psychological phenomena such as hostility towards members of other groups, the pursuit to well-structured hierarchy of power and influence, the need for conformism and obedience to authorities, recognized in one group or another, distrust of the people, reluctance to analyze yourself, etc. If all these qualities are inherent to one person, we can talk about the authoritarian personality.
Dogmatism is primarily manifested in how the others are perceived and understood. It is possible to list several forms of manifestation of dogmatism:
- Various opinions and beliefs of a dogmatist are not interconnected, but on the contrary isolated from each other. Due to this circumstance he has contradictory views, for example, condemning the use of brute force, he can accept and even approve the violence in specific situations or on the contrary, declaring that he believes the man and his capabilities, at the same time argues that human nature is weak and needs to be constantly monitored from the outside.
- Dogmatists tend to exaggerate the differences and understate the similarities between the provisions that, in their opinion, correspond to the reality, and those that seem to them to be false. For example, they may argue that there is nothing in common between Catholicism and other religions. etc.
- The person can know very much about some things that he approves and accepts, but he can also know very small and quite inaccurate about something that he does not like. Dogmatists do not want to learn something, to which they have a negative attitude.
- People or views that dogmatist does not accept, seem similar to each other, even if in reality there is a fundamental difference between them. They with suspicion and hostility refer to those whose views disagree with their ones.
- The surrounding world and relationships, in which dogmatists act with others, seem to them a source of real or potential threat.
As a dogmatic thinking is expressed in the presence of entrenched stereotypes and difficulties in perception and assimilation of new information, it is clear that it prevents deep and diverse understanding of others, helps to perpetuate the simplified schemes of perception and evaluation. In addition, the dogmatists hardly enrich their life experience with new information. Such people are reluctant to innovate in the relationship with others, to make some changes in their life style.
In my reflections on the perception and understanding of others, I have repeatedly reminded of the role of certain schemes and stereotypes that affect the process of social perception. In most cases, these schemes either distort or restrict the nature of perception. However, it is important not to forget that the various categories and stereotypes that we use when communicating with others, have a double burden. On the one hand, they may be the cause of excessive simplification and even the distortion of perception, and on the other - help us to perceive the information that we constantly receive from the outside. We use certain categories in order to better distinguish the important information from less important, to quickly understand the essence of what is perceived in order to deeper and better perceive the others with help of our past experience.
However, the final result of perception and cognition is influenced not only by the factors associated with the peculiarities of the perceiver, but also by features of perceived individuals and communication situations. The problem of perception and understanding of others arises before us, as a rule, when we make and maintain contact with them. How we are understood by the surroundings depends largely on our behavior - we can help or hinder others to perceive us correctly. The best and the most immediate form of assistance here is our own openness.
Each person is only partially aware of everything that makes up the content of his "I". We can also say that the people around us only partially understand us. In order to hide from others and from ourselves some important information we need to spend our attention and energy, therefore, the more we are open, the more information are available and known, the more likely that our communication with others will be complete and deep, expressive and efficient.
The perception of a person depends on how the perceived person looks like, how he behaves in the communication process and what are his "personal" data. In general, it may seem wrong with abstract or idealistic point of view. However, it is a reality that exists, which can not be eliminated by homilies, regulations and orders, which must be recognized and be reckoned with, as we might wish that this difference in perception of a person did not exist.
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