Perceptual Barriers

Perceptual Barriers to Effective Communication

The way an individual perceives a subject or an event affects the way in which his/her thoughts about it are converted while communicating—sending, receiving, interpreting or analyzing a message.

Perceptual barriers are the mental blocks that we create because of the perceptions that we have of certain people, situations or events around us.

Perceptual barrier is one of numerous barriers within the subclass of intra-personal barriersOpens in new window.

The problem in communicating with others occurs because we all perceive things differently based on each individual’s unique experience—we are made and groomed differently due to our varied socio-cultural background, educational level, and value system. Everything we interpret is subject to this experience, good or bad.

The perceptual process determines what messages Opens in new window we select or screen out, as well as how the selected information is organized and interpreted.

Therefore, the way one perceives a subject or an event affects the way in which his/her thoughts about it are converted while communicating—sending, receiving, interpreting or analyzing a message. If the senders’ and receivers’ perceptions are not aligned, it can be a significant source of barrier in the communication process Opens in new window.

Perceived factors act as filters on our experiences of people, events and information around us. If one has had negative experiences with a friend, everything the friend does or says will be filtered through this perception.

Seeing things through the lens of our own unique life experiences or conditioning may lead to assumptions, stereotyping and misunderstandings of others whose experiences differ from our own.

This leads to different interpretations of a message and make us the victim of the perceptual barrier.

The determinant factors of perceptual barriers include:

1.     Education

Educated people are often perceived as being more intelligent than those who are not educated or who do not have formal qualifications.

This could lead to a breakdown in communication because people may feel they are not equipped or not educated enough to understand the message being sent by a more educated or qualified person.

2.     Occupation

The occupation of the sender can affect the way in which the receiver understands the message. people’s attitudes towards certain occupations can slow down the communication process and can lead to a negative understanding of the message.

This can also work in reverse. For example, we trust doctors and will listen to what they say.

3.     Needs

Different people have different needs. Some people might need security in life more than money. The communication process Opens in new window is influenced by the needs of both the sender and the receiver.

For example, misunderstanding and conflict between management and employees of an organization of ten arises because of different needs.

Management might need employees to meet a tight deadline and employees might need more time to complete the task. Employees might feel that demands set by management are too high or that they are unreasonable.

4.     Age

Different age groups will react differently to a specific message. In most instances, respect or disrespect for an older person plays a major role in the communication process.

Younger individuals tend to respect the judgment of older people. They believe that the older people are knowledgeable, but will sometimes challenge the approach or a statement made by the older person. A technical message, such as how to use the Internet could be received better by a younger audience because they have been more exposed to technology in recent years.

5.     Dimension of skill

Background and hierarchical differences of sender and receiver play a significant role in the interpretation of the message. The difference in background is often overlooked.

The fact is that an event can be perceived differently by different people. To make the communication effective, it is essential that the mental faculty or level of experience of the speaker and the listener should match.

When compared to other groups, it is easier to communicate among peer groups. If there is a lot of difference between the sender and the receiver by virtue of their knowledge, or position or even experience which neither has attempted to bridge different frames of reference would come to the fore.

In the interaction process, trying to comprehend ideas posited within one’s own frame of reference would lead to discrepancies in the understanding of the message. As a result there arises mismatch in the transmission and reception of the message.