War of Perception

This is in continuation to previous article ‘The Candle Problem’, research has made it clear that there’s far more behavior than the carrot and the stick. All said, this is still need to be put in practice at corporations and business school classrooms around the world, businessmen are in still in search of magic wand – incentive that will make people do exactly what businesses want.
According to Josh K, human behavior is much like a thermostat. A thermostat consists of – a sensor, a set point, and a switch. The function of sensor is to measure the temperature of the surrounding environment, if the temperature is within a given range, thermostat does nothing. If the temperature is below the set point, the switch turns the heater on and in case the temperature is above the set point, the switch turns the heater off. Josh continues to describe this relationship as Perceptual Control.

This behavior is seen in living organisms, they are complex perceptual control systems: we act in ways to keep our perceptions of the world within acceptable boundaries. To give few examples, first one: Students in school and colleges often act based on the acceptable boundaries of school authorities, being in time, pampering, dress code etc. Second example: While I was at Holland (The Netherlands), people asked me, ‘Why I am not wearing winter coat?’ for temperature of 16 degree Celsius. We don’t put on a coat or jacket because cold weather forces us to – we put on a jacket because we feel cold and we do not want to feel cold, right? Third example: The scorching heat makes to pull down the blinds on the windows, or use sunglasses – the action controls the perception, and this is depends on the environment we find ourselves in at the time.

This theory explains why the same stimuli often produce different responses. If an employer wants his hourly employee to work more, the employer should pay more overtime, do you agree? Unfortunately, that not necessarily true. If an employee is trying to control income i.e. someone needs more – will be open to work overtime, but what about employee’s they are making enough money or have set some other priorities that are perhaps more important than work? Example, a faculty teaching in a college likes to teach in tutorials in the vacations or off time. A few of such employee’s will work exactly the same amount of time, and some will actually work less. As some of the employee’s would like to reach that point quickly by raising overtime pay, so they will spend less time at work. The carrot and stick mechanisms (overtime incentives) will produce three different results, two of which are complete opposites – working more or working less. This is one of the strong example classic incentive of many employers – represents a fundamental shift in understanding why people do the things they do. One needs to understand that people act to control their perception; this will help one to be better equipped to influence how they act.


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