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Societal Influences on Communication and Perception Essay

In today’s society it would appear that we are communicating more as time passes with the addition to social media into individual lives. With applications such as Twitter, YouTube, and Face book, people are able to communicate with people around the world almost instantly as well as see the things that are being experienced in other countries. However, even though this has somehow made the world seem a bit smaller, communication has not gotten better. Miscommunication is actually now more readily noticeable because of the amount of social media that is available. We begin to see the societal and cultural factors that lead to misunderstandings resulting in miscommunication.

When we communicate most of us receive the information based off our sense of perception at that time. What we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch is all based on how we perceive it. This perception is developed at infancy and because of this many people forget that others were raised completely different than they may have been raised. During our childhood we begin to organize things in our mind by our experiences so that we can categorize them, interpret what it is, and then make a sound decision on how to respond to what has just been perceived. Often times our parents or lack of has a huge effect on how this information is interpreted.

If the parents are used to labeling things to describe them then the child is more likely to be used to labels in order to categorize things. Unfortunately these labels also lead to stereotypes which in turn attributes to loss in communication. People often consider themselves as multidimensional so to label someone or stereotype them could instantly make them less receptive to the message being given. For example, if a person is interested in computers he may be labeled a ‘nerd’. Or if a person is interested in sports he may be labeled a ‘jock’.

This can have a negative connotation because both labels put the person in one category and states that they are only this one way which is often times not true. Because of having this label people begin to only listen to certain portions of the conversation because it is assumed that if you start speaking about a certain subject then you will only think a certain way because of the label that has been assigned to you.

Labels and stereotypes are also derived from physical differences which also play a huge part in the perception factors that affect our abilities to communicate. Physical differences such as height, weight, sex, or race plays a huge part in people’s perception. Often times the color of a person skin will change the perception of another person based off of stereotypes. The person could be considered overweight or disabled and these physical traits often effect people’s perception of what that person can accomplish. Physical traits often play a part in perception because of the societal and cultural factors that influence people.

In today’s society it is often expressed that if one doesn’t hold a position of power then there opinion doesn’t hold much importance however, many people will disagree with that statement. Although, the hierarchy in societies usually depict that those in power largely determine a society’s understandings of its current reality. You can see the same structure in most business models. It is perceived that the higher up you are in the company the better you are treated and the more your opinions actually hold weight. You also see the power structure in the classes in which our society is broken up into such as high class, middle class, and lower class.

There are also cultural factors that influence perception and communication between individuals. Each culture has its own sensory model that it follows and what a culture emphasizes affects what its members pay attention to and prefer. So one culture may prefer one thing while another prefers something different and if the individuals from that culture weren’t raised to be open minded the communication could falter. Speech is also affected by ones cultural background.

You may have a person that remains more reserved when holding a conversation because of not trusting you just yet. However, someone from a different cultural background may feel that it is best to strike up a conversation with a stranger in order to get to know them and even this can change depending on that person’s age. An elderly person from the same culture might view an issue completely different from a younger person which definitely influences communication.

These societal and cultural differences are what create the perception factors that affect communication today. Depending on what level or status you hold in society determines how you feel about certain things as well as how you view others. Individual characteristics, along with one’s cultural background, as well as their cognitive ability to understand the situation determines how people of today communicate. Even though social media has expanded the avenue for communication people still need to allow themselves to be open minded so that communication can get better.


Alberts, J., Nakayama, T., & Martin, J. (2007). Communicating Identities/ Communicating Perceiving and Understanding. In Human communication in society (3rd ed., pp. 54-102). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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