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Social Judgment Theory
Sherif & Sherif

SOCIAL INFLUENCE: PERSUASION


Chapter Outline 11th Edition

  1. Three latitudes: Acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment.
  1. Social judgment theory says that at the instant of perception, people compare messages to their present point of view.
  2. Individuals’ opinions are not adequately represented as a point along a continuum because degrees of tolerance around their positions must also be considered.
  3. Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif established three zones of attitudes.
  1. The latitude of acceptance represents ideas that are reasonable or acceptable.
  2. The latitude of rejection includes items that are unreasonable or objectionable.
  3. The latitude of noncommitment represents ideas that are neither acceptable nor objectionable.
  1. A description of a person’s attitude structure must include the location and width of each interrelated latitude.
  2. In order to craft a more persuasive message, social judgment theory recommends that a communicator try to figure out the location and breadth of the other person’s three latitudes before further discussion.
  1. Ego-involvement: How much do you care?
  1. Ego-involvement refers to how central or important an issue is in our lives.
  2. The favored position anchors all other thoughts about the topic.
  3. People who hold extreme views on either side almost always care deeply.
  4. Messages are compared or judged against one’s own position.
  1. Judging the message: Contrast and assimilation errors.
  1. The Sherifs claimed that we use our own anchored attitude as a comparison point when we hear a discrepant message.
  2. Contrast occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of rejection as being more discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point.  This perceptual distortion leads to polarization of ideas.
  3. Assimilation, the opposite of contrast, occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of acceptance as being less discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point.
  4. Although Sherif is unclear as to how people judge messages that fall within the latitude of noncommitment, most interpreters believe the message will be perceived as intended.
  1. Discrepancy and attitude change.
  1. Judging a message relative to our own position and shifting our anchor accordingly usually takes place below the level of consciousness.
  2. If individuals judge a new message to fall within their latitude of acceptance, they adjust their attitude to accommodate it.
  1. The persuasive effect will be positive but partial.
  2. The greater the discrepancy, the more individuals adjust their attitudes.
  3. The most persuasive message is the one that is most discrepant from the listener’s position, yet still falls within his or her latitude of acceptance or latitude of noncommitment.
  1. If individuals judge a new message to be within their latitude of rejection, they will adjust their attitude away from it.
  1. For individuals with high ego-involvement and broad latitudes of rejection, most messages that are aimed to persuade them that fall within a latitude of rejection have an effect opposite of what the communicator intended.
  2. This boomerang effect suggests that individuals are often driven, rather than drawn, to the positions they occupy.
  1. Sherif’s approach is quite automatic.
  1. He reduced interpersonal influence to the issue of the distance between the message and the hearer’s position.
  2. Volition exists only in choosing the message the persuader presents.
  1. Practical advice for the persuader.
  1. For maximum influence, select a message right on the edge of the audience’s latitude of acceptance or noncommitment.
  2. Ambiguous messages can sometimes serve better than clarity.
  3. Persuasion is a gradual process consisting of small movements.
  4. The most dramatic, widespread, and enduring attitude changes involve changes within reference groups where members have differing values.
  1. Empirical and anecdotal support for SJT
  1. Research on the predictions of social judgment theory requires highly ego-involved issues where strong resistance to some messages is likely.
  2. Sufficient sleep
  1. People will be swayed until they begin to regard a message as patently ridiculous.
  2. A highly credible speaker can shrink the listener’s latitude of rejection.
  1. Asking for money
  1. Application of the theory raises ethical problems.
  2. Is it okay to adapt your message based on the recipient’s latitude of acceptance?
  1. Ethical Reflections: Kant’s categorical imperative.
  1. Social judgment theory focuses on what is effective. But, before we adjust what we say so that it serves our ends and seems reasonable to others, we should consider what’s ethical.
  2. German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that any time we speak or act, we have a moral obligation to be truthful.
  3. He held an absolutist position, based on his categorical imperative, which is “act only on that maxim which you can will to become a universal law.”
  4. There are no mitigating circumstances. Lying is wrong—always. So is breaking a promise.
  5. Kant would have us look at the difference between what we plan to say to influence others and what we truly believe.
  6. We should then ask, What if everybody did that all the time? If we don’t like the answer, we have a solemn duty not to do the deed.
  7. The categorical imperative is a method for determining right from wrong by thinking through the ethical valence of an act, regardless of motive.
  1. Critique: A useful theory with unanswered questions.
  1. The theory offers specific predictions and explanations about what happens in the mind when a message falls within someone’s latitude of acceptance or rejection.
  2. It is a relatively simply prescription that guides practitioners.
  3. It’s well supported with quantitative research.
  4. But the theory’s explanation of why this works is not as compelling.
  5. Like all cognitive explanations, social judgment theory assumes a mental structure and process that are beyond sensory observation.
  6. Testing the theory’s hypotheses about cause and effect will be somewhat problematic.
  7. Despite these questions, social judgment theory is an elegant, intuitively appealing approach to persuasion.

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resources. Read more





VIDEOS








Archived chapters (PDF)
from previous editions
are available in
Resources by Type.
See list

New to Theory
Resources?

Find out more in this short
video overview (3:01).


Social Judgment Theory
Sherif & Sherif

SOCIAL INFLUENCE: PERSUASION


Chapter Outline 11th Edition

  1. Three latitudes: Acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment.
  1. Social judgment theory says that at the instant of perception, people compare messages to their present point of view.
  2. Individuals’ opinions are not adequately represented as a point along a continuum because degrees of tolerance around their positions must also be considered.
  3. Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif established three zones of attitudes.
  1. The latitude of acceptance represents ideas that are reasonable or acceptable.
  2. The latitude of rejection includes items that are unreasonable or objectionable.
  3. The latitude of noncommitment represents ideas that are neither acceptable nor objectionable.
  1. A description of a person’s attitude structure must include the location and width of each interrelated latitude.
  2. In order to craft a more persuasive message, social judgment theory recommends that a communicator try to figure out the location and breadth of the other person’s three latitudes before further discussion.
  1. Ego-involvement: How much do you care?
  1. Ego-involvement refers to how central or important an issue is in our lives.
  2. The favored position anchors all other thoughts about the topic.
  3. People who hold extreme views on either side almost always care deeply.
  4. Messages are compared or judged against one’s own position.
  1. Judging the message: Contrast and assimilation errors.
  1. The Sherifs claimed that we use our own anchored attitude as a comparison point when we hear a discrepant message.
  2. Contrast occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of rejection as being more discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point.  This perceptual distortion leads to polarization of ideas.
  3. Assimilation, the opposite of contrast, occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of acceptance as being less discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point.
  4. Although Sherif is unclear as to how people judge messages that fall within the latitude of noncommitment, most interpreters believe the message will be perceived as intended.
  1. Discrepancy and attitude change.
  1. Judging a message relative to our own position and shifting our anchor accordingly usually takes place below the level of consciousness.
  2. If individuals judge a new message to fall within their latitude of acceptance, they adjust their attitude to accommodate it.
  1. The persuasive effect will be positive but partial.
  2. The greater the discrepancy, the more individuals adjust their attitudes.
  3. The most persuasive message is the one that is most discrepant from the listener’s position, yet still falls within his or her latitude of acceptance or latitude of noncommitment.
  1. If individuals judge a new message to be within their latitude of rejection, they will adjust their attitude away from it.
  1. For individuals with high ego-involvement and broad latitudes of rejection, most messages that are aimed to persuade them that fall within a latitude of rejection have an effect opposite of what the communicator intended.
  2. This boomerang effect suggests that individuals are often driven, rather than drawn, to the positions they occupy.
  1. Sherif’s approach is quite automatic.
  1. He reduced interpersonal influence to the issue of the distance between the message and the hearer’s position.
  2. Volition exists only in choosing the message the persuader presents.
  1. Practical advice for the persuader.
  1. For maximum influence, select a message right on the edge of the audience’s latitude of acceptance or noncommitment.
  2. Ambiguous messages can sometimes serve better than clarity.
  3. Persuasion is a gradual process consisting of small movements.
  4. The most dramatic, widespread, and enduring attitude changes involve changes within reference groups where members have differing values.
  1. Empirical and anecdotal support for SJT
  1. Research on the predictions of social judgment theory requires highly ego-involved issues where strong resistance to some messages is likely.
  2. Sufficient sleep
  1. People will be swayed until they begin to regard a message as patently ridiculous.
  2. A highly credible speaker can shrink the listener’s latitude of rejection.
  1. Asking for money
  1. Application of the theory raises ethical problems.
  2. Is it okay to adapt your message based on the recipient’s latitude of acceptance?
  1. Ethical Reflections: Kant’s categorical imperative.
  1. Social judgment theory focuses on what is effective. But, before we adjust what we say so that it serves our ends and seems reasonable to others, we should consider what’s ethical.
  2. German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that any time we speak or act, we have a moral obligation to be truthful.
  3. He held an absolutist position, based on his categorical imperative, which is “act only on that maxim which you can will to become a universal law.”
  4. There are no mitigating circumstances. Lying is wrong—always. So is breaking a promise.
  5. Kant would have us look at the difference between what we plan to say to influence others and what we truly believe.
  6. We should then ask, What if everybody did that all the time? If we don’t like the answer, we have a solemn duty not to do the deed.
  7. The categorical imperative is a method for determining right from wrong by thinking through the ethical valence of an act, regardless of motive.
  1. Critique: A useful theory with unanswered questions.
  1. The theory offers specific predictions and explanations about what happens in the mind when a message falls within someone’s latitude of acceptance or rejection.
  2. It is a relatively simply prescription that guides practitioners.
  3. It’s well supported with quantitative research.
  4. But the theory’s explanation of why this works is not as compelling.
  5. Like all cognitive explanations, social judgment theory assumes a mental structure and process that are beyond sensory observation.
  6. Testing the theory’s hypotheses about cause and effect will be somewhat problematic.
  7. Despite these questions, social judgment theory is an elegant, intuitively appealing approach to persuasion.

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