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Observation error

A perception or observation error is understood to be a failure to observe behavior that can be traced back to the subjective perception or evaluation of an observer in the context of aptitude diagnostic procedures.

Whenever human behavior is observed and / or assessed by another person (= observer), observation errors can occur. The construct to be observed (e.g. a competence), is then not perceived in its reality / objectivity, but influenced or falsified by the subjective perception of the observer. What and how something is perceived depends, among other things, on the respective expectations, feelings and attitudes of the observer. For example, information is interpreted differently, perceived selectively or even supplemented.

Different types of observation and evaluation errors are known:

  • Flare effect (halo effect): A certain characteristic "outshines" several others, so that conclusions can be drawn from it about several other characteristics or about the overall personality (e.g. linguistic dexterity).
  • Sympathy effect: Observers usually see people who are sympathetic to them (e.g. people who are similar to them) in a particularly favorable light. It is easier for them to overlook inappropriate behavior or to reinterpret it in a positive way.
  • Wrong scale: The assessor compares the person to be observed in an unreliable way with himself, which is often unjustified (e.g. due to lack of professional experience), or with other outstanding candidates.
  • Overestimation of negative information: Negative information is noticed much more often and has a greater impact on the assessment than positive information
  • Selective perception: Observers use subjectively selected information, while they overlook others. Usually this is information that confirms your own "hypothesis".
  • Primacy Recency Effect: The first or last pieces of information about a person are best remembered.
  • Stereotypes and prejudices: Prejudices against a certain population group (e.g. "Rhinelander are ...", "Psychologists are ...") can influence the perception of a person belonging to this group.
  • Implicit personality theories: Based on one characteristic of a person, other characteristics are derived that are often not related to it (e.g. "Extroverts are more emotional than others.")

If observations are rated using a scale, the so-called also plays a role Evaluation behavior or the subjective Valuation trend a role. Some people tend to judge rather strictly and use the lower scores on the scale (Strict tendency), with others typically using the middle values ​​on the scale (Tendency towards the middle) and others tend to be at the "upper" end of the scale (Mild tendency).

Avoidance of observation errors:

  • Make yourself aware of the possible sources of error.
  • Focus on observable behavior without interpreting it.
  • Reflect on the assessment standard and consistently orient it towards the respective requirements.
  • Separate observation and assessment.
  • Competenciesevaluate independently.
  • Test against your own hypothesis.
  • Make continuous, as concrete and detailed notes as possible.
  • Have several people observe the exercises.

In order to avoid observation errors, aptitude diagnostic methods are often carried out by a Observer trainingaccompanies with the aim of stimulating the observer to examine their own subjectivity. Typical contents of observer training courses are the basics of diagnostics and theoretical knowledge about observation errors, but also strategies for dealing with distorting perception effects, dealing with observation instruments or something constructive feedback.