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.

Ryan Watkins