The Social Judgment/Involvement theory is based on a listener’s current attitude and position on any given topic. This theory also factors in how important the topic itself is to the listener. The scale measures the listener’s current attitude before the persuasive message and the listener’s attitude after they received the message. This scale has three different latitudes that depict a range of opinions on a topic.
A listener’s latitude of acceptance is the range of opinions that are certainly agreeable to that listener. There can only be one latitude of acceptance per issue; however, this acceptance can be very narrow or relatively broad. Persuasive messages that fall into this latitude are often assimilated, or perceived as the listener’s current opinion; therefore, this message would not persuade the listener to change their attitude on the topic because it would seem that no change is needed.
Outside of the latitude of acceptance is the latitude of non-commitment. This latitude contains opinions that the listener might find either acceptable or disagreeable. In other words, this latitude is where the most persuasion can happen. This latitude can fall on both sides or one side of the latitude of acceptance. When a persuasive message falls into this latitude, there is a chance that the listener’s opinion will shift towards the opinion held by the persuader because of its moderate nature. Because there is no commitment in this latitude, there is also a change that the listener would decide to shift their idea further away from the message.
One is not likely to be persuaded when a message falls into one’s latitude of rejection. The opinions in this latitude are completely unacceptable, so when a persuasive message falls into that latitude, it seems too extreme and distant from the listener’s attitude. The message can be rejected due to the contrasting error, which means it is perceived even further away from the listener’s current attitude no matter how close it is to their latitude of non-commitment. This latitude lies on either side of the latitude(s) of non-commitment depending on the direction of one’s opinion.
All of this persuasion matters based on current attitudes, but how we rank a topic’s importance is also a key factor. This 2012 advertisement from a South African ad agency (DDB) is titled “Billy,” and it is advertising McDonald’s as a host for birthday parties. For example, this ad might convince someone who finds it very important to have a party for their child’s birthday but who is also unsure of where to throw this party. The scale to represent this can range from a party at home to an extravagant hosted party. Their latitude of acceptance is in the range of wanting to have the party at home; however, their latitude of non-commitment is small and bleeds into the part of the scale that wishes to have someone else host the party. Finally, their latitude of rejection is large and against having an extravagant party hosted by someone.
In this ad, Billy is one of the child’s friends who the parent might not have considered when deciding where to have the party. By taking this unique element and adding that possibility into the situation, this ad tries to convince parents that having McDonald’s host their child’s party will alleviate the caution of having that little monster in their home. Because this ad portrays a less stressful, financially feasible, and an equally entertaining option for the parent, this ad would fall into the listener’s latitude of non-commitment and therefore could shift their opinion on where their child’s party should be held.