Hello again, web-surfers!
Have you ever had someone say something to you to try and persuade you on some topic that you found so wildly apropos and outrageous you rejected it straight off the bat? Because it happens to me a lot. Probably more than it should…It’ll make sense when I explain I promise.
You know how people always say “there’s an app for that”? Well, in communication, there’s a theory for that! It’s called Social Judgement theory. According to theorist, we judge messages to see where they fall in relation to our own position – our ‘anchored’ attitude – on our latitude of attitude, then decide whether or not (and how far) we will move it.
We decide whether we’ll be stubborn pirate captains, or if we’ll be more agreeable and hoist the anchor and progress in any given direction. Although I don’t know that there was a such thing as agreeable pirates…they all seemed frustrated to me.
You’re probably wondering what geography has to do with communication, but the latitude of attitude is essentially a fancy way of saying the extent to which we agree or disagree with a message.
If we find a message objectionable or unreasonable, it falls within our latitude of rejection. Conversely, if we find it acceptable, it falls within the latitude of acceptance. In these cases, we adjust our attitude away from or towards (respectively) what the message advocates.
Right in the middle of the latitudes of acceptance and rejection is that of non-commitment. This ‘zone’ encompasses the range of ideas we find to be neither acceptable nor objectionable.
But we also have to look at how important the issue is to a person. High ego involvement means a big anchor, and that we flat out reject any point divergent from our perspective. It’s very difficult to assuage or appease highly ego-involved people.
In the Real World…
I really hate avocado pears. Not like little kids hate broccoli simply because it’s a vegetable hate. I’m talking about the adults hate paying taxes kind of hate. It’s simply icky. So my latitude of attitude towards the nasty thing probably looks a little something like this
I am not ashamed. They’re absolutely disgusting. I throw up every time I taste the thought of them. Okay, that’s over-dramatic…but…yuck! Let’s talk about what this means.
My anchor is big because of the strength of my dislike for avocados. I promise I tried to like them, but they always disagreed with me. I’ve had oodles of experiences where at the taste of them, any food I’d eaten prior tried to do an encore performance. Sorry for that image, but since I don’t react to much else like that, it’s obvious avocado ain’t for me. That’s my anchor – it tastes terrible, and makes me throw up.
Don’t you dare say it has no taste. (Yes, I’m highly ego-involved, sue me)
I pretty much accept any idea that makes avocados look bad. Avocados, though, can apparently help you lose weight. I don’t really care either way because I don’t need to lose any weight. All the statements that fall in my latitude of rejection are things people have tried to tell me to convince me avocados are great.
The way I see it, (as Barbadians would say), there’s more than one way to skin a cat. That is, there are most definitely other ways to prevent cancer and lower risk of heart disease and get antioxidants. And I can almost guarantee they’re much tastier ways too!
Judgement in favour of no avocados please!
Back in the realm of the scientific, this theory falls under the sociopsychological tradition. It predicts outcomes of structured behaviours based on patterns found in having applied the rudimentary notions of the theory. It’s pretty easy to follow (reminds of Geico and their “so easy a caveman can do it” campaign, really). And of course it’s testable! See if it works when you try it! 🙂
It’s practical utility to me lies in its ability to be used to persuade. You know when you communicate with someone what messages are likely to be in their latitudes of acceptance, rejection and non-commitment, and you use that information to your advantage. This reminds me a bit of the rhetorical tradition and methods of persuasion.
Sherif explains through the concepts of contrast and assimilation what happens when we judge an objectionable incoming message. Either it is viewed as further away from the anchored attitude than it really is, or closer respectively.
Sherif pretty much thought of just about everything….except maybe how to get me to eat avocados, but I suppose that wasn’t his job.
Cyndi, the Theory Analyst