Group Contributors: Jennifer Levine, Chera Marshall, Amy Wright, Lauren Wood, Maryellen Elliott

Social Judgment Theory

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By Muzafer Sherif (1906-1978)


Our class presentation can be viewed online at:

Key Terms:
Latitude of Acceptance, Latitude of Rejection, Latitude of Noncommitment, Social Judgement Theory, Ego-involvement.

Key Terms Defined:
Latitude of Acceptance: A range of positions on an issue that you find acceptable
Latitude of Rejection: A range of positions on an issue that you do not agree with or find objectionable
Latitude of Noncommitment: Information which is neither acceptable or objectionable
Ego-involvement: Defines the importance or centrality of an issue in a persons life.
Social judgment-involvement: Perception and evaluation of an idea by comparing it with current attitudes.
Reference groups: Groups that members use to define their identity.
Contrast: When people judge messages that fall within their latitude of rejection as further from their anchor than they really are.
Assimilation: When people judge messages which fall within their latitude of acceptance as less discrepant from their anchor than they really are.
Boomerang Effect:** Attitude change in the opposite direction of what the message advocated; listeners driven away from rather than drawn to an idea.

Theory Specifics:
Social judgment theory describes the internal processes of an individual's judgment of a communicated message. The theory suggests that upon hearing a message, individuals place the message on an attitude scale. The attitude scale is preset in our minds, is based on personal judgments, and consists of three zones:

1. The latitude of acceptance
2. The latitude of rejection
3. The latitude of noncommitment

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The 5 Basic Principals of Social Judgement Theory:
1) People have categories of judgment with which they evaluate oncoming information.When presented with a situation in which a person must make a judgment, a range of possible positions can be taken in response.
For example, being asked to donate money a person's possible positions range from " absolutely not" to "most certainly".

2) As individuals evaluate incoming information, they decide which category of latitude it belongs.
Therefore, in the example of donating money, individuals who favour the charities cause will locate their attitude within the latitude of acceptance. Conversely, those who hold an unfavourable view of the charity will locate their attitude within the latitude of rejection. Those with no opinion will locate their attitude within the latitude of noncommitment.

3) The size of the latitudes is determined by the level of involvement or ego involvement one has with the issue at hand.

4) People tend to alter incoming information to fit their categories of judgment. When a piece of information is presented with a persuasive message that falls within the latitude of acceptance, and is closest to the individual's anchor. People will accept and adapt the new information and create a new position. The closer the information is to one's own anchor the more readily accepted and perceived to be the original position all along. Conversely, if the message is so far away from the anchor it will be rejected.

5) In order for persuasion to occur the discrepancies between the anchor and the advocated position are so small to moderate that contrasting will not occur allowing for the consideration of the communicated message. Under these conditions persuasion or change is possible.