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Perceptual Styles

  • What are Perceptual Styles?

  • Perceptual Style is the way you take in information through your five senses and make that information meaningful to you.

It’s a fact. People truly do perceive the world differently, and this differing perception leads to different conclusions about what is important, how things should be done, and what is the “truth” of any situation.  For example, do you see a young woman or an old lady in the picture above? Maybe both (but not at the same time).

Perceptual Style Theory, created by Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. and Lynda-Ross Vega, defines six unique Perceptual Styles.

Perceptual Style represents a unique grouping of fundamental aspects of being human that results in a distinctive perceptual experience and characteristic behaviors.

The more you know about your Perceptual Style, the more you can tap into your natural strengths and potential. That’s because there’s a very broad but finite set of skills and behaviors that naturally align with each Perceptual Style.

The alignment of skills and behaviors with Perceptual Style exists because people naturally see the things associated with their Perceptual Style and those things are easy for them to grasp, understand and use.

Awareness of the other five Perceptual Style and how they differ from you provides incredible insights about your relationships with family and friends.

The truth is what you see is real for you but what others see is real for them. We all use the filter of perception to make meaning for ourselves.

All six Perceptual Style are normal and healthy ways of perceiving the world. None is better than or more accurate in its perception than any other. Each has unique strengths and specific blind spots. All shine in some situations and struggle in others.

Here is a brief look at the six Perceptual Styles (presented in alphabetical order):


People with the Activity Perceptual Style jump into life with both feet. They fully engage with the confidence that the details will sort themselves out. Direction, ideas, and pursuits emerge as the result of constant action and involvement with others and their surroundings. They engage until some new possibility or interest emerges to capture their attention. They cultivate extensive networks of friends and associates.

Activity people develop an intense fascination with things that captivate their imagination, and they seek to share the excitement of their experience within their personal network. They are uninterested in things they find tedious or no longer hold their curiosity. They move rapidly from one experience to the next.

They draw on knowledge and previous experience from seemingly unrelated sources to create original and distinctive approaches and results. They find more enjoyment in activities that include members of their personal network. Positive response from their personal network is what drives them, and to that end they pay attention to cultivating and sustaining that network.

Activity people bring energy and vitality to their actions and are often instrumental in getting things started. They believe that life should be fun as well as productive.

They get easily bored with repetitive and routine tasks and resist details and analysis. They are always ready to jump into something new, and they lose interest in activities that do not deliver attention-grabbing results. They quickly abandon anything they find boring and will wander off in search of other groups or activities that need energizing.

Activity people function best in settings that require interaction and allow them to get involved, share insight, tell stories, provide help, and communicate their perspective to others.


People with the Adjustments Perceptual Style see the world as an objective reality that can be known if they take the time to gather complete information about its intricacies and complexities. They pursue the acquisition and application of knowledge as the basis for their life experience. They enjoy sharing their knowledge with others and gathering new information from research or conversation. They have a strong sense of diplomacy and project a calm certainty.

The actions of Adjustments people reflect their skills in collating, analyzing, and sharing what they know in useful ways. They create intricate systems for the storage and retrieval of their knowledge.

The greatest satisfaction for Adjustments people comes from being an information resource for others rather than only applying the information themselves. As such, they are good at explaining and describing complex, detailed, or technical information.

Their thoroughness, patience with repetitive tasks, and desire for perfection allow them to spot where information is missing or fuzzy. They edit the written work of others effectively.

Adjustments people actively polish and hone their knowledge, their systems, and their processes to increase elegance and accuracy. They are at their best when given the time to do things carefully and systematically.

Time pressure, competition, and a drive for the bottom-line all violate their view of the world. They believe these conditions lead to a false sense of urgency and impulsive actions that are based on incomplete understanding. They are intrigued by the exploration of ideas when the exploration is characterized by careful and comprehensive analysis that leads to steady evolutionary change.


People with the Flow Perceptual Style are instinctive advocates for the natural rhythms of life. They see the complex connectivity among seemingly unrelated people, environments, and situations. They intuitively integrate and harmonize their actions within a broadly defined community that provides them and others with a sense of belonging. They honor the continuity between past, present, and future.

They create and sustain powerful but subtle relationships that form the glue of a community (family, friends, work groups, social groups, etc). They move smoothly and easily between daily events as their awareness emerges and recedes. They attend, in proper proportion, to events and people that require their attention, trusting that what needs to be done will be done.

Flow people facilitate the development of an environment that is comfortable, one that fosters and encourages people. When their environment shifts away from people centered community, they quietly influence its realignment, putting their personal needs aside if necessary to bring it back into harmony.

Flow people welcome new events that support their traditions and values. They use relational communities to gather and transmit informal information, after they have decided what to pass on and what to withhold. Their information sharing is so subtle that others experience the contribution Flow people make to create connection within the community but are often unaware of its source.

Flow people provide aid and assistance to the members of a community by serving as a listening post, encouraging development and growth, and empathizing with those who are struggling.

They are excellent administrators who interpret policy and procedure for their community. It is important to them that the value of the community is accurately perceived by outsiders. They are keepers of community history and tradition and provide continuity between the past, present, and future. They use the history of the community to keep it grounded.


People with the Goals Perceptual Style stride through life focused on the accomplishment of specific results and well-defined objectives. They experience a sense of urgency and clarity of purpose. They believe achievement is primary and method or process secondary – the end justifies the means. They evaluate all activities based on possible contribution towards the achievement of the results they expect.

Goals people distrust complexity, subtlety, and solutions that evolve slowly over time. They believe that if a problem needs a solution, there is no time like the present to solve it.

They approach the world with intense energy and have a high level of endurance that allows them to push themselves well after others have given up. They take action with personal intensity and urgency, and they are always anxious to get on to the next task even before the current one is complete. What needs to be done next is obvious to them, so they do not understand why others around them do not see and act on it.

Goals people are very outcome oriented and as such prefer to focus on the accomplishment of goals on which they can see immediate progress. They have no loyalty to current processes or methods and will abandon them quickly if progress towards a solution is slowing down and stagnating. They make high achievement demands on others but never more than they demand from themselves.

They approach life as a competition, and if they find no other worthy competitor they will compete with themselves to see how far they can push themselves in terms of speed, quantity, and endurance.

Goals people are decisive in crises and adept at bringing structure out of chaotic situations. Their single-minded focus allows them to see the fundamental issues in problem situations, to determine the most important task, and to prioritize the steps necessary to accomplish their goal.


People with the Methods Perceptual Style approach life in a practical, matter-of-fact manner. They focus on how things need to be done. They believe that ordered processes, properly followed, will produce the desired results. They will discern the best process or technique to apply to any specific situation in order to produce reliable, repeatable outcomes. They impose order and they believe that everyone prefers to use well known and proven methods.

Methods people follow an ordered set of steps that when performed in a repeatable, logical sequence, inevitably end with the achievement of their objectives. They believe there is a correct method by which each problem, undertaking, or objective can be best handled. Discovering and applying this method is what drives them.

Once the desired result has been determined Methods people do not question it. Instead, they seek to find the steps that will produce the desired outcome with the most efficient use of time, money, and energy. They believe that failure of a solution to work is due to human error in the application of a correctly designed course of action.

Methods people analyze, manipulate, and apply facts. They use a rational application of empirical data to make decisions and solve problems, and they are confident that through this method they will arrive at the correct conclusion.

They avoid becoming overly involved on a personal or emotional level and view both as distractions from the objectivity necessary to function effectively.

Methods people are matter-of-fact and consistent in high-pressure environments. Their ability to see structure and impose order allows them to help others function in the face of chaos and uncertainty.


People with the Vision Perceptual Style approach life as a singular experience, a journey toward the future. They face the realities of a situation with serious intent, an optimistic perspective that a solution will be found, and confidence that if one is not, there are always other alternatives to explore.

Vision people intuitively see new directions that others do not and make the most of this advantage by moving decisively. This ability to intuit new, useful directions and to take swift advantage of opportunities as they arise, gives them a strategic edge over others.

They are unafraid of taking risks and accept that the possibility of high rewards carries with it an equal possibility of failure. However, they view failure as only a temporary setback. They love to play with, explore, and develop new ideas, and they examine all aspects, possible outcomes, and consequences without preconception or judgment.

Vision people change direction when progress towards achievement of their vision is slow or blocked, and as they move forward, they constantly tinker, experiment, and improvise with their actions in order to increase the likelihood of success. They are strongly committed to achieving their vision but are extremely flexible about the path taken to get there.

They think non-linearly about problems, use their intuition, and try multiple possible solutions as they troubleshoot. When focused on an issue they work it to the exclusion of all else, often until they are exhausted.

Vision people are highly persuasive and easily convince others that the current topic is most important. They enlist others to join them with equal excitement and commitment.

Vision people see multiple successful scenarios, and they coordinate complex information and activities so that all efforts lead towards success.

Explore your Perceptual Style and tap into the myriad of natural skills you possess! Start with the Volume 1 of the Owners Manual Series!

Curious about the practical application of Perceptual Style in your life? Check out some of the practical uses! 

  • Scale
  • Vision
  • Goals
  • Methods
  • Adjustments
  • Flow
  • Activity
  • Alpha
  • .85
  • .97
  • .92
  • .87
  • .92
  • .92

These findings show that the internal consistency of the Perceptual Styles scales within the PSA exceed the generally accepted levels of .70 commonly used to establish reliability.

Assessment Reliability – Natural Action Capacities (Recognized Strengths)

The PST NAC scales and the RSP were not established until 1991 and, therefore, were not included in the two studies conducted prior to 2003. These scales were included in the 2003 study.

The Cronbach’s alpha correlations in the 2003 study resulted in a median reliability of .81, and five roles had alpha coefficients less than .70. Subsequent analysis revealed that some adjectives in the inventory used to determine capacity preference were more commonly understood in wider definitions then was useful for the inventory assessment. As a result, the adjectives list was reformed to replace those adjectives with words more narrowly perceived, and additional comparative items were added to make the inventory more robust against the natural variances in understanding.

A preliminary investigation was conducted in 2004 using 50 subjects to determine if reliability had improved as a result of the modifications to the inventory. The results of this study are presented in the table below, which shows that all of the 18 scales have acceptable alpha coefficients. Given that small sample sizes generally understate reliability, we believe this investigation indicates the modified inventory is sufficiently reliable.

  • Alpha Reliability Coefficients
  • 2004 Sample 
  • Scale
  • Initiator
  • Orchestrator
  • Strategist
  • Director
  • Delegator
  • Advisor
  • Negotiator
  • Implementer
  • Expert
  • Mediator
  • Proceduralist
  • Researcher
  • Liaison
  • Maintainer
  • Enroller
  • Representative
  • Arranger
  • Connector
  • Alpha
  • .88
  • .76
  • .80
  • .84
  • .86
  • .81
  • .76
  • .87
  • .88
  • .79
  • .86
  • .91
  • .90
  • .71
  • .84
  • .85
  • .70
  • .83

Assessment Validity

The validity of an instrument refers to the extent to which it measures what it is intended to measure. Psychologists have established three types of test validity – Content, Construct, and Criterion (consisting of concurrent and predictive).

The properties of the numbers produced by type indicators (as opposed to trait indicators) require a focus on construct and criterion validity.

Construct validity refers to the extent to which an instrument’s measurements correlate to a theoretical construct.

The first construct of PST to be validated is the relationship of the six Perceptual Styles to each other. While the six Perceptual Styles describe six distinct psychological realities, the PST model asserts a circular relationship between them as shown in the table below. This implies a specific pattern of correlation among the six Perceptual Style scales. This pattern should exhibit a circumplex structure, which is to say that the score of a particular Perceptual Style should exhibit a strong positive correlation with the scores of adjacent Perceptual Styles and minimal or negative correlation with the scores of opposite Perceptual Styles.


Note that the six Perceptual Styles do not lend themselves to overlaying on two mathematical axes (x and y). Therefore, a traditional circumplex plot is not possible. However, the existence of the circular ordering can be demonstrated by plotting every pair-wise correlation in a hexagonal structure in which the center point equals a correlation of -1.00, the outer edge equals a correlation of +1.00, and the midpoint between the two equals a correlation of 0.00.

If a circumplex relationship exists, correlations will decrease as the distance between the two pairs of Perceptual Styles increases.

The table below shows the pair-wise plot for the six Perceptual Styles from the 2003 study of 227 subjects and reveals the predicted structure.


Prior studies did not include construct validity measures for the NACs. This was due, in part, to the complex nature of the theoretical relationship between them. As the Perceptual Styles form a circle, the NACs form a torus.

Criterion validity refers to the extent to which an instrument’s measurements correlate to a concurrent or predicted measure. A review of the 2004 research project by independent test construction experts determined that, as PST is an original styles theory, there are no comparable measures with which to establish concurrent validity. However, PST does lend itself to a measure of predictive validity. Discussions with test construction experts have resulted in the definition of an acceptable methodology, which will be employed in a future research project. The process will use a selected group of approximately 50 individuals who will be interviewed on video using standardized interview questions. These questions will be designed to elicit data that can be assessed by PST subject matter experts for Perceptual Style, and the NACs. The subject matter expert assessments will be performed independently and the results correlated with inventory results.

Research Updates

For information about the content of this page or regarding current or future research activities, please contact Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. using one of the following methods:

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  • Keller, Texas 76248