Social Judgment Theory

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Social Judgment Theory (Sherif)Definition Social Judgment Theory? Meaning.

Social Judgment Theory is a communication model that explains when a persuasive communication messages is most likely to result in attitude change. The theory specifies the conditions under which this change takes place and predicts the direction and extent of the attitude change.

The Social Judgment Theory was formulated by Muzafer Sherif in 1961 and explained in numerous of his publications and books. The theory it is also known as Latitude of Acceptance and Rejection. The same concept has been lately argued also by Donald Granberg in his 1982 book “Social Judgment Theory”, and by Em Griffin in his 1991 book “A First Look at Communication Theory”.

The theory proposes the idea that persuasion is a stepwise process. The first step involves individuals hearing or reading a message and immediately evaluating where the message falls within their own position (Level of Ego-Involvement) and in what latitude. The final step involves individuals adjusting their particular attitude either toward (assimilation effect) or away (contrast effect) from the message they heard.

The aim of the theory is to explain how attitudes (the stands the individual upholds and cherishes about objects, issues, persons, groups, or institutions) may change in the communication process, as are also Balance Theory and Congruity Theory. According to Sherif, the attitude change will be less likely to occur if the gap, between an attitude a person already has and the attitude advised by the message, is big. The theory holds that any person hearing a message will position it on an attitude scales based on his personal judgment. The attitude scale is pre-set in our mind prior to receiving the message and it is composed by three different zones.

  1. Latitude of Acceptance. Comprised of the range of positions a person is ready to accept or agree. They tend to remain in that area due to the assimilation effect.
  2. Latitude of Non-Commitment. It contains the range of ideas and opinions neutral or indifferent to the individual's mindset. Messages falling within this latitude are the ones most likely to achieve the desired attitude change.
  3. Latitude of Rejection. In this area fells all ideas and opinions which an individual finds objectionable (unacceptable). The greater the rejection latitude, the more involved the individual is in the issue and thus will be harder to persuade. Due to the contrast effect idea present in this area tend to be perceived as more hostile then they really are. Attitude change is therefore unlikely.

One interesting consequence of the continuum created by this 3 latitudes is that even though two people may seem to hold identical attitudes, their “most preferred” and “least preferred” alternatives may differ. Someone’s attitude on an issue can not be summed up with a single point but instead consists of varying degrees of acceptability for discrepant positions. A listener's latitude of acceptance can be stretched by a credible speaker (see also: Balance Theory). And finally, when you'd like to change the attitude of a person or a group or an audience, aim for their latitude of non-commitment and certainly avoid their latitude of rejection.

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Compare with: Cognitive Dissonance  |  Congruity Theory  |  Employee Attitude Survey  |  Theory of Planned Behavior  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Appreciative Inquiry  |  Hawthorne Effect  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring

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