Perception Meaning, Definition, Components and Factors Influencing

Table of Contents:- 

  • Meaning of Perception
  • Definition of Perception
  • Components of Consumer Perception
  • Factors Influencing Perception
  • Influence of Perception on Consumer Behaviour

Meaning of Perception 

Perception is the stimuli our senses receive from our surroundings and is the process of interpreting and making sense of the world around us. However, perception includes analysing the environmental stimuli and determining the appropriate course of action to be taken accordingly.

The perceptual process helps people understand the ecological components essential for survival. Perception comprises five senses: smell, touch, taste, sight and sound. Further, it includes cognitive processes for extracting information, such as detecting the face of an individual or recognising his voice.

Perception is the mechanism that enables individuals to understand and structure their thoughts and ideas from their environment. This complex psychological process may vary between individuals. An individual’s behaviour is influenced more by their perception of reality, than the actual reality itself.

Hence, perception plays an important role in an organisation’s overall setup. Individuals within an organization often respond according to their perception of the facts rather than objective facts. As a result, this can lead to biased judgments and decisions.

Definition of Perception

According to S.P. Robbins, “Perception may be defined as a process by which individuals organise and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment”.

According to Joseph Reitz, “Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling”.

Components of Consumer Perception

The components of perception include sensation, sensory threshold, and subliminal perception. Each component of perception is explained in detail.

Components of Consumer Perception are:

  1. Sensation
  2. Sensory Thresholds
  3. Subliminal Perception

Sensation (Exposure to Stimuli) 

Sensation refers to the initial reaction or impulse that arises in consumers when they are exposed to marketing stimuli or a commercial. For example, upon encountering an attractive advertisement for the Audi A3 on the cover of a magazine, people’s first reflex may be respect and admiration.

Similarly, a person’s mouth might start watering upon entering a bakery shop and being greeted by the aroma of freshly baked cookies. While sensation is the manner of response to stimuli received through any of the five senses, perception refers to the extent to which sensation aligns with an individual’s personality and needs.

Therefore, product advertisements are strategically targeted to appeal to consumers’ senses. Such advertisements aim to leave an impression on consumers’ minds while providing cues for perceiving the product in a specific manner.

For example, Rin detergent uses a thundering light effect to convey the idea of superior cleaning capabilities offered by the product.

Marketing Implications

Marketing implications are the effects or consequences of marketing strategies and decisions on various aspects of a business. These implications can shape a company’s market positioning, consumer perception, sales, and overall success. Music has multiple implications for marketing and related aspects.

For example, fast music in aerobics classes energizes participants, while slower music creates a calming and soothing atmosphere. 

Customers’ shopping behaviour can also be influenced by the type of music played in retail stores. Research has shown that fast-paced music can generate higher customer traffic, whereas sales can increase by up to 38% when slower-paced music is played.

However, it is essential to understand that customers may need to recognize this effect consciously. Fast-paced music favours restaurants, encouraging customers to finish their meals more quickly, leading to higher turnover and increased sales.

Additionally, music impacts people’s moods. Positive emotions can be elicited by playing pleasant and familiar music, while negative emotions may arise from dissonant sounds and music. 

Sensory Thresholds

The sensory threshold represents the minimum level of power or strength required for a stimulus to be detected by our sensory systems. Psychologists study sensory thresholds to understand the mechanism through which humans and animals process sensory information.

It is an abstract concept that is explored within the field of psychophysics. It helps to understand the relationships between physical stimuli, sensations and perceptions they produce. Stimuli less in intensity than the critical sensory threshold limit will not evoke any noticeable effects. The concept of sensory thresholds was first systematically studied by German psychologist Ernst Weber at the University of Leipzig, Germany.

The study of sensory thresholds allows companies to thoroughly analyze their stimuli, which are essential to their marketing strategies. Through this analysis, they can determine the relevant impact on consumer buying behaviour and purchases. It helps a company decide whether or not it is effectively reaching consumers’ sensory threshold limits. 

A real-life application of the sensory threshold concept uses an audio message played in a supermarket with the words, “I must not steal.” Although the message is well below the sensory threshold to impact the conscious mind, it subconsciously affects the listener. Because the message does not affect the conscious mind, the receiver is less likely to erect psychological barriers. In such cases, the receiver may even react as intended by the message.

Sensory thresholds can vary among individuals.

On a broad level, they can fall into the following categories:

1) Absolute Threshold

This can be defined as the minimum level of the stimuli that can be noticed by an individual. It can be defined as the minimum intensity of the stimuli that helps the recipient to differentiate between a stimulus and no stimulus.

For example, in advertising, the size of the text on a highway billboard plays an important role. If the text size is too small, no matter how creative the content may be, it will be lost on passing motorists as they will not be able to read and understand the message. In this context, the point at which the text on the billboard becomes visible to the motorist is known as the absolute threshold. Before this moment, the intensity of the billboard was not sufficiently noticeable and, hence, fell below the absolute threshold.

In this context, the threshold refers to the minimum intensity of a stimulus noticeable to a sensory receptor. The absolute threshold is the minimum stimulation level capable of being detected by a sensory receptor. For example, the sound of a dog whistle is beyond the range of human auditory perception and surpasses the absolute threshold. The absolute threshold has significant implications for designing messages for marketing communication. Schiffman has defined the absolute threshold as the minimum intensity required for an individual to experience a sensation, also called the lower threshold.

It is the level at which an individual can perceive a difference between something and nothing. In simpler terms, it is the level at which an individual can distinguish between a stimulus and no stimulus. The noticeability of a stimulus decreases with prolonged exposure to it. 

Marketing Implications

An obvious outcome from this understanding is that customers will notice marketing stimuli only if they surpass the absolute threshold. Suppose the images in an advertisement are too small or the voiceover volume is too low. In that case, consumers’ sensory receptors will not be triggered, and the stimulus will not impact auditory perception. As a result, the message will not be consciously perceived.

2) Differential Threshold/Just-Noticeable-Difference

The Just Noticeable Difference (JND) refers to the minimum difference that can be discerned between two similar stimuli. This phenomenon was first discovered by a German scientist named Ernst Weber. According to Weber, the JND between two stimuli is not an absolute amount; instead, it is relative and depends on the strength of the initial stimulus. This concept is now recognized as Weber’s Law, which states that the greater the initial stimulus, the greater the additional intensity needed to distinguish the second stimulus from the first. For individuals to perceive a difference between the first and second stimuli, a stimulus equivalent to the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) must be provided.

Examples of Just-Noticeable-Difference

i) If the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) for a car model is 750,000, then the price of the car must be changed by at least ₹50,000 for the consumer to notice the difference.

ii) Marketers use the concept of Just Noticeable Difference (JND) to determine pricing strategies, packaging designs, and promotional tactics. For example, a decrease of ₹10 on a packet of Taj Mahal Tea may be perceived by customers as significant, while a decrease of ₹5,000 on a car that costs ₹10 lakh may not be perceived as a substantial change by consumers.

Application of Just-Noticeable-Difference to Consumer Behaviour

There are two main reasons marketers and manufacturers seek to discover the pertinent Just Noticeable Difference (JND) for their products and services. These reasons are as follows:

1) Any negative changes, such as price increases or pack reductions, are implemented to keep them below the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) threshold, ensuring that the customer does not notice any changes in the product or pricing.

2) Any positive changes, such as price reductions or quality improvements, are implemented in a way that exceeds the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) threshold. This ensures they significantly impact the customer without adding to the producer’s cost burden.

Subliminal Perception

To understand the concept of subliminal perception, it is essential to be familiar with the idea of the perceptual threshold. This threshold represents the minimum level of stimulus required to elicit a perception.

Subliminal messages are stimuli that fall below the threshold level of one’s awareness, leading to what is known as subliminal perception. Such stimuli are so momentary that individuals are not consciously aware of them.

For example, one common form of subliminal messaging is the appearance of advertisements for products such as popcorn and Coke at movie theatres. These advertisements are designed to influence people’s perceptions without conscious awareness.

There exists a difference between subliminal perception and pre-attentive processing. In subliminal perception, the main focus of attention remains on stimuli that are so subtle or presented so quickly that they are very challenging to perceive consciously. In contrast, pre-attentive processing occurs when attention is directed to something other than the stimuli at hand.

For example, a person might focus on an article in a newspaper rather than an advertisement outside their field of vision. Furthermore, the stimulus is fully presented when the billboard or advertisement is easily seen by the customer, who then shifts their focus from the article.

Marketing Implications

There has been much debate regarding the implications of subliminal perception in the field of nursing. Advertising agencies strictly prohibit the use of subliminal messages such as “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coke” in movie theatres.

However, a fake study, which was later dishonoured, claimed that the customers are exposed to such messages leading to an influence on their purchasing decisions for popcorn and Coke, this practice is not condoned in the industry.

Despite all these factors, many customers believe that subliminal messages are effective and marketers use them to create and influence customer purchasing decisions. Such subliminal perceptions are often influenced by the availability of self-help tapes containing subliminal messages that claim to help the consumers in quitting smoke, losing weight etc.

Factors Influencing Perception

Perception of individuals differs from person to person. Below are some factors that influence and shape the perception of individuals. They are:

1) Factors in the Perceiver – Internal Factors

i) Needs and Motives: A need can be defined as a feeling of concern or discomfort that arises when an individual perceives a lack of something essential. An individual’s perception is determined by their inner needs. Different stimuli are experienced by individuals with different requirements and preferences as such, they choose and recall different objects.

ii) Self-concept: This refers to the concept or image individuals hold about themselves, which determines how they perceive the world around them. It is essential in shaping an individual’s perceptual selectivity and understanding of their environment. Self-concept is primarily based on a person’s psychological makeup and personality traits. This method can also be considered an internal technique for gaining attention.

iii) Beliefs: The perception of individuals is greatly affected by their beliefs, leading them to potentially alter stimuli inputs to maintain consistency with their existing beliefs. Thus, facts are not considered based on their objective reality but on the individual’s subjective beliefs.

iv) Past Experience: Individuals’ perceptions of a current situation are greatly influenced by their past experiences. For example, a person whose friends have cheated him may struggle to trust others.

v) Current Psychological State: An individual’s emotional and psychological state often influences the perception of things. For example, an individual’s perception of a situation can vary depending on whether they are happy or sad.

vi) Expectations: Expectations are the anticipated behaviours, beliefs, assumptions, or actions we hope to see from an individual. Their expectations influence the perception of an individual. For example, non-technical people in an organization might need to pay more attention to a technical feature of a product, which a technical manager may perceive as ignorance.

2) Factors in the Target or Perceived – External Factors

i) Size: Size plays a vital role in capturing an individual’s attention, improving perception selection, and creating a sense of supremacy. Therefore, a more significant stimulus is more likely to be noticed and received by individuals.

ii) Intensity: The chances of perceptual selection are boosted by high-intensity stimuli. An intense stimulus is more likely to capture attention. Therefore, brightening the message and underlining the sentences will capture the reader’s attention more effectively.

iii) Frequency: The frequency of stimuli plays a vital role in shaping an individual’s perception. The more frequently a sensory stimulus is presented, the greater the chances it will capture attention. Therefore, a repetitive external stimulus will attract attention by increasing alertness and responsiveness.

iv) Status: Status plays a vital role in shaping perception. Individuals with higher status hold more significant influence over others than those with lower status.

v) Contrast: According to the principle of contrast, external stimuli that are more unexpected and prominent than others are more likely to attract attention.  A contrasting stimulus tends to attract more attention compared to a non-contrasting one. Thus, a stimulus can be more contrasting by altering size, colour, and other elements.

3) Factors in the Situation: Considering the situation in which one observes events and objects is essential, as these external factors greatly influence perception. Situational factors such as time, temperature, light, and location can impact an individual’s level of focus and attention.

Influence of Perception on Consumer Behaviour

Given below are some ways in which perception influences consumer behaviour. 

1) Forms Decision about Company or Product

This refers to the process through which individuals decide whether to engage with a company or purchase its products. Customers continuously gather and process information about a firm, considering factors such as product quality, price, brand reputation, customer service, and social responsibility to determine its worth. Firms mainly present their best selves to shape customers’ perceptions.

For example, the quality and convenience of a product or service are highlighted in advertisements to improve customer perception, which can benefit firms through increased sales. However, sometimes, they resort to deception, fraud, and dishonesty to manipulate customers.

2) Perception of Risks

Consumers are less likely to purchase when higher risks are involved. They often must evaluate the risks associated with a new brand or product. For example, the product may contain defects or be more expensive than its alternatives. Therefore, such risks can be minimised by providing maximum product information in advertisements and encouraging positive product reviews. Risk perception can also be further reduced by allowing customers to handle the products in stores or test them out in their own homes through a flexible return policy.

3) Increases Brand Loyalty

Once customers have had the opportunity to try a product, the next step is to maintain a good reputation and foster customer loyalty to the brand. This can be achieved with the help of good customer service support, as it will create a customer-centric perception in customers’ minds.

Companies consistently generate regular revenue by engaging in such activities as customers become loyal to the brand. This makes it challenging for competitors to attract these customers.

4) Helps in Noticing the Difference

Customers can differentiate between the features of various alternatives based on perception to assess multiple options’ attributes, qualities, and benefits. Thus, customers’ attention can be attracted by unique or differentiating stimuli that are known and observable to them.

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