CONTINGENCY RULES THEORY, CONTEXT, AND COMPLIANCE BEHAVIORS

Authors

  • MARY JOHN SMITH

    1. Mary John Smith (Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, 1975) is an associate professor of communication at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.
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Abstract

The contingency rules theory assumes that: (1) compliance-gaining and compliance-resisting activities are governed antecedently by Jive varieties of self-evaluative and adaptive contingency rules; (2) the actual contexts where social influence agents interact determine the configuration of rules governing their persuasive actions; and (3) an actual context is a function of volitional behavior within fixed potential contextual boundaries. Two studies are reported that assessed the power of self-evaluative and adaptive rules to explain subjects' compliance behaviors as a function of actual and potential contexts. In the first study, the impact that the three volitional variables, intimacy, personal benefits, and rights has on the mix of contingency rules governing responses to compliance-gaining messages was assessed. The second study measured the combined effects of the fixed potential variable, sex role of message recipients, and two volitional dimensions, power and rights, on the rule structure governing compliance behaviors. The results of both studies supported the contingency rules theory, demonstrating that the configuration of rules governing subjects’ responses to persuasive requests varies sharply as a function of the interplay among the contextual dimensions of psychological sex-type, intimacy, personal benefits, power, and rights to resist persuasive messages. The advantages and limitations of the contingency rules theory's account of compliance-gaining behaviors are discussed.

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