Content development Door

Published on March 11th, 2015 | by Rahel Bailie


 Social judgement and customer engagement

A common catch phrase today is “customer engagement”. Engagement is based on trust, and a component of trust is about social judgement.

Theorists Muzafer Sherif, Carolyn Sherif, and Carl Hovland describe social judgement theory this way: “Social Judgement theory states that you have a statement or message and you accept it or reject it based on your cognitive map. You accept or reject a message based on one’s own ego-involvement and if it falls within their latitude of acceptance.”

In other words, individuals make decisions based on their own set of values, experiences, preferences, and biases. This is sometimes called the “anchor position”. Their personal mental models determine whether an attempt at engagement is legitimate or not, and whether to follow up on the offer or not. They process the information that comes in and then interpret (distort) it to fit their mental models. Shifting an individual’s anchor position involves making incremental changes. People generally don’t adjust their belief systems in response to a change so large that it is outside of their comfort ones. However, small changes can be incorporated and eventually changed.

Pascal Vrticka, a social neuroscientist who writes for the Hufington Post, discusses some of the costs and benefits of belonging to a social species. Humans have developed complex social behaviours, and a large part of the brain is involved in social cognition – Vrticka cites conscious thought, language, behavioural and emotional regulation, empathy, and the ability to understand the feelings and intentions of others.

Interesting, then, that human brains are wired in a way that provide people to experience reward from social interactions: positive rewards when the interaction is good, or sensations like physical pain when the interaction is disapproving or they feel rejected. This applies to online as well as offline interactions. It’s wise to keep social judgement in mind during our interactions with customers.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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