“SECOND-GUESSING”

Message Interpretation in Social Networks

Authors

  • DEAN E. HEWES,

    1. Dean E. Hewes (Ph.D., Florida State University) is an Associate Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Search for more papers by this author
  • MAUDIE L. GRAHAM,

    1. Maudie L. Graham (M.A., University of Northern Colorado) and Joel Doelger (M.A., University of Nebraska) are doctoral students in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Search for more papers by this author
  • JOEL DOELGER,

    1. Maudie L. Graham (M.A., University of Northern Colorado) and Joel Doelger (M.A., University of Nebraska) are doctoral students in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Search for more papers by this author
  • CHARLES PAVITT

    1. Charles Pavitt received his Ph.D. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Messages received from other social actors cannot always be taken at face value. When people have reason to question such messages, it is hypothesized that they engage in a cognitive process called “second-guessing,” wherein they reevaluate the literal interpretation of the message to determine its veridicality. Should they determine that it is not veridical, they generate an alternative, potentially more plausible interpretation. We assessed the frequency and importance of situations that might provoke reinterpretation of messages. Such situations were seen as occurring frequently and were of some importance. Social actors revealed sophisticated knowledge concerning the strengths and weaknesses of information obtained about people or events outside their direct experience. They also claimed to be able to “debias”such information, winnowing a “correct” interpretation from one judged to be “incorrect.” Preliminary data suggest that naive social actors are quite good at delecting scientifically documented sources of bias and making reasonable adjustments in their judgments to correct for those biases when plausibly present.

Ancillary