Guidelines for overcoming bias in social perception

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As you might imagine, people are far from perfect when it comes to making judgments of others. In most cases, people’s biased perceptions of others are not a result of any malicious intent to inflict harm. Instead, biases in social perception tend to occur because we as perceivers, are imperfect processors of information.

In general people tend to assume that others are internally responsible for their own behavior because we can not be aware of all  the situational factors involved – hence, we make attribution errors. Furthermore, it is highly impractical to be able to learn everything about someone that may guide our reactions – hence we use stereotypes.

This does not mean however, that we cannot minimize the impact of these biases. I have put several strategies that can be used to help promote accurate perception of others in the workplace.

  • Do not overlook external cause of other’s behavior: Ask yourself if anyone else may have performed just as poorly under the same conditions. If the answer is yes, then you should not automatically assume that the poor performer is to blame. Good managers need to make such judgement accurately so that they can decide whether to focus their efforts on developing employees or changing work conditions.
  • Identify and confront you stereotypes: Although it is natural to rely on stereotypes, erroneous perceptions are bound to result and possibly at the expense of someone else. For this reason, it’s good to identify the stereotypes you hold. Doing so will help you become more aware of them, taking a giant step toward minimizing their impact on your behavior.
  • Evaluate people based on objective factors: The more objective the information you use to judge others, the less your judgements will be subject to perceptual distortion.
  • Avoid making rash judgments: It is human nature to jump to conclusions about what people are like, even when we know very little about them. Take the time to get to know people better before convincing yourself that you already know all you need to know about them. What you learn may make a big difference in the opinion you form.


Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.




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