Refusals and Rejections Designing Messages to Serve Multiple Goals


  • This article is based on Mimako Saeki's master's thesis, completed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


This experiment was conducted to test a rational model of the elaboration of themes found in rejection messages. The experiment involved a situation in which a candidate for membership in an organization must be rejected by an agent of the organization. The model proposed that five themes would be found in the rejection messages, elaborated selectively as a function of the relationship between organizational agent and candidate (friend vs. stranger) and the basis for the rejection (qualified vs. unqualified candidate). The experiment was replicated with American and Japanese participants in the role of organizational agent; no differences due to nationality were anticipated. Results showed partial support for the initial rational model, but the findings also pointed toward two key revisions of the hypothesized model: First, two new themes in rejection messages were identified; and second, there were substantial differences in the way Americans and Japanese elaborated themes to serve their goals.