COMM 101 - Fundamentals of Communication

Dr. Lee McGaan  

  Office:  WH 308  (ph. 309-457-2155);  email
  Home:  418 North Sunny Lane (ph. 309-734-5431, cell 309-333-5447)

Fall 2016 Office Hours:   MWF:  9:30 - 10am, 11am - Noon & 1 -2pm TTh:  2-3pm & by apt.  |  copyright (c) by Lee McGaan, 2006-2016


Communication and Perception

 What is Perception?


"Perception is the (active) process of assessing information in your surroundings."   It involves becoming aware of one's environment in a way that is unique to the individual and is strongly influence by communication.


Factors that cause perceptions to vary between people

  1. Physiology

  2. Past experiences and roles

  3. Culture (and co-culture)

  4. Present feelings

 Communication and Perception:  Explaining differences in the way we see, feel, hear, etc



1.                  Stimulation We select sensory cues  -- we only notice some of the sensory information we receive.  The “figure-ground” experience illustrates this (example – the vase OR two faces picture)


2.                  Organize selected cues --  We always place the sensory cues we notice into some sort of familiar pattern in order to “recognize” what we are sensing.  Schemata (pattern recognition) is the name for the patterns we use to organize our perceptions


3.                  Interpret --> We typically give a name to the recognized perceptual pattern in order to understand the meaning of what we are sensing (within a culture). 

Selective perception:  [ selective perception, selective exposure ]  When you attend to some stimuli/cues and not others, consciously or not.


Organization:    schemata - familiar patterns we use regularly)


     Types of Schemata:  Cultural, Situational, Self, State, Interpersonal, Relational

     Perceptiual Organizational Processes

  1. Figure Ground - what's the object / what's the context?

  2. Closure - filling in what's not there

  3. Proximity - grouping elements

  4. Similarity - guides and routines of interaction, often repeated



  1. Generalization: recognizing categories of similarity

  2. Stereotyping:  a generalization that is inaccurate, overgeneralization

  3. Attributions - explanations of why people do what they do.

    • attributions often depend on communicated patterns and concepts, like motive.

    • The Fundamental Attribution Error -- attributing "positive" explanations for our behaviors and less positive explanations for the behaviors of others.  (e.g. "I earned an A; you got lucky.")

  4. Self serving bias -- we attribute positives to ourselves and sometimes negatives to others, esp. unknown or disliked others.

Perceptual Biases

Halo Effect:  Using perceptions to make similar interpretations about matters not actually perceived.  (e.g. using one favorable trait to infer others about a person.

Perceptual accentuation:  Perceiving what we expect to "see."  (Primacy and recency grow out of this effect.)


1.        The self-fulfilling prophecy - Believing something is true makes it come true when it otherwise would not.   (e.g.,  Believing "I'm bad at tests." (a part of self concept) causes a low score.)

2.   1st impressions are important but can be wrong.


 View the Video

o the BusAnswers to the business man story quiz inessman story

Discussion Questions for Monday 1/20

  1. Think of an example of how a self-fulfilling prophecy has affected you and share it with the class

  2. Think of a time when you became nervous in facing a new situation.  What perceptions/ expectations led to the nervousness?

  3. Identify two or three examples of differences between people's perceptions caused by culture or co-culture.  Use your own experience or ideas you have from media, courses, reading.  What was the result?

  4. Identify two or three examples of differences between people's perceptions caused by state ("present feelings.")  What was the result?

  5. Go to the link below and read the essay.  How does the advice in the essay and in the additional links connect with the material in Chapter 2 on perception (summarized above)?  Be specific.  (Note: there are a number of connections in  my view.)

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