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Psychology | Perceptions

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My picture today is quite eerie. Different people with react to the picture differently; some people will think it’s quite spooky while others will think it’s artistic. These are perceptions, emotional reactions to what we encounter.  We tend to imagine that others perceive things the same as we do. They don’t obviously and this leads to different points of view. A woman’s perception of shopping for example can be quite different from that of a man. These perceptions are often manipulated by the media and by advertisers who constantly try to persuade us to see things their way.

The persuasive message can be quite devious and it can be suggested. I was watching television last night and the drama I was watching didn’t show a sexual act, but it was suggested. Showing it would have been considered obscene, but suggesting it was happening was acceptable. To many people that sexual act would be regarded as obscene and deviant. It was promoted by the media as being quite normal. The question we could ask is, if it’s normal why can’t they show it? Even normal behaviour can be of a private nature though, we don’t want our intimate behaviour to be public because it tends to be a little experimental and we make mistakes. I don’t mean swinging from the chandeliers experimental, but we don’t get provided with a handbook, so it’s all a bit experimental. If we don’t experiment, then it all gets a little boring…

Imagine for a moment that you are in charge of the wardrobe department for a play. You have to dress the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’. The good guy works in a bank and is perfectly normal to the point of boring and the bad guy is the type that robs banks rather than working in them. How would you manipulate the audience perception of your characters? What kind of hair style should the good guy have? Would it help to give the bad guy a shaved head and tattoos? How would the good guy be dressed? Smart casual or business suit? How would you dress the bad guy? Scruffy denim that looks like it’s seen better days? How would they speak? We could make the good guy softly spoken and polite and the bad guy brash and a bit obnoxious? We could even give him some piercings and make him a chain smoker to complete the image.

The way we dress, our behaviour, our general appearance and even the way we smell, all decides how people perceive us. We might not be able to do much about some things, we might draw the line at plastic surgery to change our appearance; although it worked for some people. We can at least, avoid the obvious things that might produce a negative perception. Of course, if we are really scared of people, we might want to look like a bad guy and send out the ‘stay away’ message. You might even want to project one message with your appearance and a totally different one with your behaviour. I have seen successful actors and pop stars do that. Wealthy people often project a image of poverty or look quite scruffy. If they turn up at an award ceremony in a tee shirt and jeans with holes in them; they are making a statement. They are saying, I’m so rich and famous, I can get away with this. The rich and famous sometimes show their arrogance in this fashion.

Little things can say a lot about you as every IPhone owner will attest. That small but distinctive designer label, says that you can afford it. In the UK, they say even the registration letter on the number  plate of your car says something about you and the make of the car you drive says even more. People who live in mansions, don’t use every room, but the mansion is a status symbol. The obvious status symbols aren’t always the ones that have the most perceptual impact. To many people the smaller items of dress like the make of wrist watch,  is more important; hence the popularity of Rolex and Cartier.

Far more important than the way you look is the way you behave. Quiet confidence appears to be more effective than loud arrogance. The way people speak is important, if they speak with conviction, they are more likely to be convincing. If you wanted someone with a voice that sounded convincing for a play, which famous actor would you choose? More importantly, which famous actress would you choose? That might be a more difficult choice. The ones, I chose both played the part of Captain of the Star-ship Enterprise in Star Trek!

Are you making the most of your appearance? Would you be more successful in life if you made subtle changes to your appearance or behaviour? Please comment and let us know.

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