Relational Judgments in an Influence Context


  • We are grateful to Kyle Tusing for his assistance with stimulus development and data collection and to Mike Cruz for his comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was supported by grants #135–3176 and #135–3398 to the first author from the Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


We contend that communication episodes tend to focus interactants’attention on one or the other of two relational judgments: dominance or affiliation. Further, when one judgment is relatively more salient, individuals will use the salient judgment as the basis for inferring other aspects of the relationship. To test that notion, a judgment study was conducted in which participants viewed a set of influence messages that varied in degree of dominance and explicitness. The influence context was chosen because it naturally highlighted dominance. After viewing the messages, participants provided ratings of dominance, explicitness, and two aspects of affiliation: liking and involvement. When the resulting data were submitted to a structural equation analysis, it was found that judgments of liking depended on judgments of explicitness and dominance. Judgments of involvement depended on judgments of liking and dominance. Both findings support the claim that one relational judgment may provide the basis for another.