Belief Bubbles: How Latitudes of Acceptance Shape Social Decisions

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An individual’s “latitude of acceptance”—defined as the range of opinions that an individual considers to be acceptable for a specific issue—was first used by proponents of social judgment theory to predict susceptibility to attitude change; however, latitudes may also have implications for interpersonal relations. In six studies (total N=1816), we adapted traditional latitude measures to predict an interpersonal outcome. Studies 1a and 1b found that traditional latitude measures did not predict willingness to associate with another individual who held a divergent viewpoint. Study 2 developed a method for measuring “contextualized” latitudes, which consisted of judgments about opinions held by individuals. In comparing “contextualized” latitudes to traditional “decontextualized” latitudes for opinions in the abstract, Study 2 identified that contextualized latitudes tend to be wider, which suggests individuals underestimate their tolerance toward others’ views. Studies 3a-3c found that unlike the decontextualized latitudes in Studies 1a and 1b, contextualized latitudes were significant predictors of an interpersonal outcome: narrow latitude individuals were more likely to avoid associating with someone who held a different viewpoint, though this meant foregoing hypothetical money. This work suggests latitudes of acceptance may have far-reaching consequences for interpersonal relations. In addition to being used as indexes of susceptibility to attitude change, they may also be useful measures of openness to others in social contexts.