SOCIAL JUDGMENT THEORY

SOCIAL JUDGMENT THEORY MUZAFER SHERIF

ATTITUDES AS LATITUDES; ACCEPTANCE, REJECTION, NONCOMMITMENT

Social judgment theory happens in our head

  1. We hear a message
  2. We weigh every new idea by comparing it with a present point of view
  3. Immediately judge where it should be placed on the attitude scale in our mind. A type of mental yardstick

 

 

 

Reference groups or "conformity pressure" also influences individuals.

Perceptions are altered dramatically by group membership. Different people may take a similar position or stand on something but may differ considerably in their tolerance around the point. Called LATITUDE OF ACCEPTANCE

Opinions you find that are objectionable lie in the second zone or LATITUDE OF REJECTION

Left over statements, if any fall into the category LATITUDE OF NONCOMMITTMENT. The same as marking undecided or no opinion on a traditional attitude survey.

EGO INVOLVEMENT - THE CERTAINTY OF THOSE WHO CARE

Ego involvement refers to how crucial an issue is in our lives. Is it important? Does it mater in our life. Does our attitude on the matter define who we are? If it does not matter, usually have what Sherif calls LOW EGO INVOLVEMENT

Sherif defines high ego involvement as having "a membership in a group with a known stand".

People who donít care usually have wide latitude of NONCOMMITMENT. Are at neither end of the spectrum

People who have a strong stand at either end of the spectrum have wide latitude of rejection, which is a sign of high ego involvement or wide latitude of acceptance, which is also indicated by high ego involvement

Sherif says our position on an issue anchors all our other thoughts about the topic. So a heavy anchor that can not be dragged farther along the scale usually marks a deep-seated belief. People who hold extreme issues usually care deeply.

 

Sherif talks about the conception of the cognitive structure of attitudes

Reflects the mental processes that social judgment theory says occur when a person takes notice of a message

Sherif says it is a two step process

1. Hear or read a message and automatically evaluate where it fits vis-à-vis their own position. (Perceptual part of social judgment theory)

2. People then adjust their attitudes toward or away from the message they have heard

JUDGING THE MESSAGE: CONTRAST AND ASSIMILATION ERRORS

CONTRAST is a perceptual distortion that leads to the polarization of ideas. It happens only within the latitude of rejection

ASSIMILATION is the opposite error of judgment. It is the rubber effect that draws the person into the latitude of acceptance (For drunk driving. Measure degree by the appropriate penalty? $100? Jail term?)

DISCREPANCY AND ATTITUDE CHANGE

1. Judging how close or far a message is from our own-anchored position is the first stage of attitude change

2. Shifting our anchor to the response is the second.

Sherif claims that both processes usually take place below the level of consciousness.

We may not travel the whole distance on the LIKERT scale but there will be some measurable movement towards the speakerís perceived position.

Since people who are highly ego involved in a topic have broad ranges of rejection, most messages aimed to persuade often drive them further away. This predicted BOOMERANG EFFECT suggests that people are often driven rather than drawn to the attitude positions they occupy?

PRACTICAL ADVISE TO THE PERSUADER

If we talk to an open-minded person with broad latitude of acceptance, a bigger shift would be possible. Like the undecided votes

But when dealing with a high ego involver, we have a narrower range to work in to persuade or change the persons opinion. According to social judgment theory, smaller amounts of persuasion will work better. Persuasion is a series of small, successive movements and is a gradual process.

 

It is also a social process. The lack of interpersonal bonding affects dramatic changes in attitudes. Like a spouse disagreeing or a sister, father etc. The most dramatic cases of attitude change are those involving changes in reference groups with differing values.

EVIDENCE THAT ARGUES FOR ACCEPTANCE:

Stances on pro-choice or pro-life?

Attitude of public disclosure of HIV test results

1. A highly credible speaker can stretch a listenerís latitude of acceptance

2, Ambiguity can often serve better than clarity. Intentionally vague messages appeal to wider audiences

3. Some people are dogmatic on every issue. They have chronically wide latitude of rejection or tolerance

 

 

SOURCES:

 

Griffin, EM. (1997) A First Look at Communication Theory. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

McClish, Glen. (1997). Instructor's Manual to Accompany EM Griffin's A First Look at Communication Theory McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Wood, Julia. (1997) Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction Wadsworth Publishing Company.

http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~sa745096sasj.html