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Social Judgement Theory

Explanation of Theory:

Social Judgement theory states that you have a statement or message and you accept it or reject it based on your cognitive map. You accept or reject a message based on one's own ego-involvement and if it falls within their latitude of acceptance.

Theorist: Muzafer Sherif, Carolyn Sherif, Carl Hovland 

Date:  1961

Primary Article:

      Sherif, M., & Hovland, C.I. (1961). Social Judgement. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Individual Interpretations:

My interpretation of this theory is that when people receive messages (verbal or nonverbal) they immediately judge where the message should be placed on a scale in their mind through comparing the message with currently held views.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Social Judgement theory is a scientific theory.  Epistemologically there is one universal interpretation (one truth) in that people judge the messages they receive.  Ontologically, this theory is deterministic in that an individuals behavior can be predicted.  Axiologically, Social Judgement theory is value-neutral in that the theoretical propositions are objective and not biased.  This theory explains how individuals judge the messages they receive.  It predicts that individuals accept, or reject specific attitudes and messages.  Social Judgement theory has relative simplicity in that it is a fairly simple study.  It can be tested and proved false in that an individual can test the theory through reflecting on statements, which evoke various opinions.  The theoretical propositions within the theory are consistent with one another.  Social Judgement theory generates new hypotheses, expanding the range of knowledge, and it also has organizing power through organizing our existing knowledge about attitudes in our mind.

Social Judgement theory proposes the idea that persuasion is a two-step process.  The first step involves individuals hearing or reading a message and immediately evaluating where the message falls within their own position.  The second step involves individuals adjusting their particular attitude either toward or away from the message they heard.

Ideas and Implications:
Individuals have three zones in which they accept or reject specific messages or attitudes. The latitude of acceptance zone is where individuals place attitudes they consider acceptable.  The latitude of rejection zone is where individuals place attitudes they consider unacceptable or objectionable.  The latitude of noncommitment is where people place attitudes they find neither acceptable nor rejectable.

Example of Social Judgement theory:
Read through these statements and recognize the variety of opinions they represent;
1. Student athletes should be given extra time to complete assignments.
2. Student athletes are for the most part lazy when it comes to schoolwork.
3. Student athletes should receive more time to complete assignments because their schedule is more hectic than the average student.
4.Student athletes should be treated like every other student.
5. Athletes should be able to skip class because they are tired from practices or games.
6. Professors should take extra time to tutor those student athletes who miss class.
Now, reread through these questions again and underline the statement that most closely represents your opinion, and run a line through the statement that is most objectionable.  Circle the statements you think are reasonable, and cross out the statements you reject.  Social Judgement theory predicts that people hear a message and they immediately decide whether they accept, reject, or remain noncommitted on the message. 

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

      Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  p. 126-128, 134.

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. p. 12

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. p. 49,109,177,179-188,193,476-477,481

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. p.195-205, 218,377,476,477,484,494.

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. p. 164-167.

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. p. 148

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A