Perception vs Attitude – What is the difference?

I decided it was time to think about two more words that are close in meaning but different. I think they are so close in meaning that people often use them interchangeably. Those words are “attitude” and “perception”. After thinking about these words for a long time, I came up with the following. Wait, I should be more scientific and give you Webster’s version first. Attitude: “a mental position with regard to a fact or state; a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state; a position assumed for a specific purpose (e.g. threatening)”. Perception: “a mental image, concept; physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience; consciousness”. Does that help? If you are like me, the answer would be – not much.

Webster aside, here is what I came up with on my own, which is not remotely scientific but based solely on what my mind and experience are telling me. Feel free to share your thoughts. Perception to me is how I see things. It could be objective, as in I perceive this to be a rainy day. Or it could be subjective, I perceive this to be a lousy day due to the weather. But it all boils down to how I see the world. My attitude is reflected in my behavior, i.e., because I perceive it to be a lousy day, I am going to complain to anyone who will listen. So is perception what you see through your own personal glasses (unlike anyone else’s) and attitude is how you react to your perception and show the world what you think about what you have seen?

Certain employees are often told that they have a bad attitude at work. To me that means that they go around complaining about their job, their tasks or the hours they are working. This is because they perceive their jobs to be unfair, overly taxing, burdensome, etc. Does that make sense? Perception comes first, and then the attitude, or behavior based on the perception, comes later.

I often tell myself that perception is everything. I believe that is a direct quote from my book. Remember the story of the four or five blind men who were touching an elephant for the first time? Depending on where their hands went, they each perceived a different animal. I say that life is like that. Because of our own individual brains and experiences in life, we see things differently. When I lived in Portland, Oregon (where it rains a lot), I perceived the rain coming down as a potential disaster. Our basement flooded almost every time we had heavy rain. I would be in bed in the middle of the night and if I heard it rain I would get a sick feeling in my stomach. I perceived the rain as “bad”. My attitude about the rain led me to go down into the basement in the middle of the night to check and see if the water was coming in through the small window over the washing machine, or through cracks in the walls. Perception – rain bad, dangerous. Attitude – I must save my house!

When we moved back to Southern California and flooding basements were left behind, I loved the rain! Rain was not a cause to panic or stress any longer. My attitude went from survival mode to relaxing to the sound of it outside my window.

How you perceive your world at any given time is very, very important. It is vital to a happy life. If you perceive someone is out to get you, your attitude will reflect that and you will behave accordingly. If you perceive life as your friend, your attitude will be more positive and your behavior will bring joy to those around you.

Perception leads to attitude which effects behavior which creates either a joyful life or a life of misery. Again, we are at choice. So much control over our own lives. Do you see a theme here?

17 thoughts on “Perception vs Attitude – What is the difference?

  1. i really liked it because the examples are simple but so perfect to show the difference. those words r not just words but life determining. thanks.

  2. Waw, it’s an amazing explanation. You know, I’m looking for example of perception and attitude because my lecturer asked me to make paper of our topic in class “cultural perspective”. I get some insight from you, thank you. 🙂

  3. This article is very useful in helping me to figure out the difference between perception and attitude! because I am confused on using which word for setting dissertation topic…

    Thank you so much for writing this useful, meaningful and encouraging article!!

  4. It’s funny because I was thinking about life in the biggest yet simplist picture I could and then I came up with thinking about perception and attitude already knowing the difference. But what now?.. :/ I’ll just keep thinking..

    1. I was looking to get the real picture of perception and attitude and how they lead to behaviour (while amending research article of my PhD student). Then your nice explanation came up. I loved it 🙂
      Thank you very much.

  5. these examples are almost perfect. so, i agree with your simplified approach and explanation. because you have been able to see through the real difference. I share the same approach. #iconcur

  6. wow, it’s very clear explanation as well as the examples. Thank you now I understand they are and what comes first and lasts.

  7. u are explaining the the 2 words well, but still am confusing in paper writing whether can we use their tools/questionnaire/ interchangeably? please help me since i am on paper working now. thank you.


    1. Thank you for your question. Keep in mind this article is based on my experience and knowledge. That being said I would say “perception” and “attitude” cannot be used interchangeably. “Perception” creates your attitude. I perceive people to be mostly stupid therefore my attitude is “why bother engaging with them”? Perception creates attitude which creates behavior. My attitude is based on my perception. Hope this helps!

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