Psychological Frame of Reference
Psychological frame of reference refers to people's perceptual frame of mind (e.g., their perception), say, when they enter a communication environment. Three major factors determine people's perception: 1) physiology, 2) past experience, and 3) needs.
The physiological condition within which a person perceives the world. The assumption is that, on one level, people in different physiological conditions have different ways in relating to the world around them. For example, while a blind person may not see anything visually, his or her senses of touch and smell are typically much stronger than those who are not blind.
Past experience also plays a vital role in determining one's perceptual frame of reference particularly about the same class of experience. As the saying goes, you would be frightened by the feeling of a rope touching you if you have been bitten by a snake. Bad experience perceptually "prepares" us to anticipate and interpret the same kind of experience in a negative light. People in such a mind-set tend to be tense, uptight, and skeptical about things or occurrences in the communication process that have had created some unpleasant experiences before.
On the other hand, good past experience tends to facilitate a more positive as well as receptive perception and attitude in people. Of course, it may also keep people more relaxed, off-guarded, or overly optimistic about the outcome of a communication; and this may produce unpleasant result unexpectedly because good past experience does not guarantee that it will always repeat itself.
Meanwhile, the lack of any personal experience with the real thing, people, or occurrence in question can also determine people's perception. For example, many people in the U.S. hold a stereotypical view of certain minority people as being lazy or thugs--partly the result of distorted representation in the media--even though they personally do not have any real first-hand experience with the minority people they are up against. And this has created and helped perpetuate a lot of inter-racial conflicts.
People's need, be it sexual, social, financial, political, spiritual, or otherwise, is the third and equally important factor that determines our perceptual frame of reference. The ideological need of racists to maintain their sense of supremacy over people of races other than their own, for instance, often, if not always, prevents themselves from "seeing," let alone acknowledging, the achievements of the people the racists are up against. On another, more overt level, people's needs determine their motivation for engaging in a communication process.