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Perceived Reality as a Social Process

Lyn Van Swol


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Research on small group communication has a long history of examining how participation in groups affects perceived reality. Groups often create a shared reality in which to work, interact, and complete their tasks. As Herbert J. Simon (1976 , 23) states, “A man does not live for months or years in a particular position in an organization, exposed to some streams of communication, shielded from others, without the most profound effects upon what he knows, believes, attends to, hopes, wishes, emphasizes, fears, and proposes.” There are three major approaches that address how the perception of reality is a social process within groups: social comparison theory, social proof, and shared mental models (→  Social Perception ). Research on social comparison examines how people check their perceptions of reality against similar others in order to establish a social consensus of the correct interpretation of an event or opinion (→  Festinger 1954 ; →  Social Comparison Theory ). Many issues people face do not have an objective or correct answer. Therefore, perceptions of the correct view often will be based on communicating with others to learn their positions. Social corroboration from one's group often increases one's confidence in one's view of reality. However, lack of validation from the group often leads people to abandon their view and conform to the majority opinion. The desire ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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