In This Article Person Perception

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Specialized Overviews
  • Face Processing

Psychology Person Perception
by
Sheila Cunningham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0136

Introduction

“Person perception” is an element of social psychology concerning how we process information about people. The term is somewhat misleading because person perception does not deal with perception per se. Rather, it concerns social processing issues like what information we extract when we see other people, how we interpret what we see, and how this interpretation influences our subsequent behavior. Research in person perception has focused on the social and cognitive biases that influence our interpretation of others, particularly of people we do not know (rather than intimate others). For example, models of person perception can offer accounts of what we remember about the person who serves us coffee, our impression of the couple sitting behind us on the bus, and how we feel when someone in our social group performs poorly on a task. Research has highlighted the nonveridical nature of person perception, revealing a number of biases that are relied upon in order to cope with the enormous complexity of social information processing. These biases include Attribution Errors, Context Effects, and the most widely studied element of person perception: social categorization. Social categories, or stereotypes, can have a significant influence on person perception, providing a framework through which the processing of stereotype-consistent information is facilitated. Dual-process models predict the situations in which social cognition is dominated by categorization, rather than individuation. Social categories also influence our sense of identity. The tendency to identify with particular “in-groups” and denigrate “out-group” members is modeled in Social Identity Theory (see Social Identity: Us and Them) and the related Self-Categorization Theory. More recent work has focused on identifying the neural correlates of social processing, highlighting roles for prefrontal and limbic areas in the brain. These wide-ranging aspects of person perception are addressed in this article.

Textbooks

Most social psychology textbooks will cover person perception in some depth, as this topic is at the heart of social cognition. The four listed here are particularly good examples. An early-21st-century classic, Aronson 2011 is the most readable introduction to social psychology available, with chapters dealing with person perception issues like attributions and social categorization. (There are many previous editions to this textbook, all of which are worthwhile.) Although highly accessible, Aronson provides important empirical examples and real-world applications of theory. Moskowitz 2005 provides a similar overview with good examples, suitable for more advanced readers. Smith and Mackie 2007 is a more conventional textbook, clearly presenting up-to-date and classic social psychology, with an emphasis on person perception. Hewstone, et al. 2012 is a more up-to-date textbook.

  • Aronson, E. 2011. The social animal. 11th ed. New York: Worth.

    E-mail Citation »

    An engaging and very accessible introduction to social psychology in general, covering all aspects of person perception. Ideas are explained with insightful examples from both real-life situations and empirical studies. Suitable for all stages, from undergraduate to academic.

  • Hewstone, M., W. Stroebe, and K. Jonas. 2012. An introduction to social psychology. 5th ed. Chichester, UK: BPS Blackwell.

    E-mail Citation »

    Accessible to beginners, this textbook provides a good introductory-level overview of person perception as well as other aspects of social psychology.

  • Moskowitz, G. B. 2005. Social cognition: Understanding self and others. New York: Guilford.

    E-mail Citation »

    Integrates experimental work with illustrative real-world examples. Suitable for readers from undergraduate students to academics.

  • Smith, E. R., and D. M. Mackie. 2007. Social psychology. 3d ed. New York: Psychology Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    An introductory textbook on social psychology with an emphasis on person perception processes, written from a sociocognitive perspective.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down