I attended a Bethel concert Saturday night ((it was fabulous, by the way)).
When the Brian and Jenn Johnson pulled out stools and a hightop table to share for a few minutes, the crowd eagerly sat down and soaked up their story like sponges under a faucet. Everyone there was not only thrilled to hear Bethel sing, but they also couldn’t wait to receive the couple’s message as well.
Social Judgment Theory is a COMS theory that attempts to explain how receivers respond and react to speakers’ messages. According to the theory, every person’s mind has an “attitude scale” that ranges from approval to disapproval. When a person hears a message, he or she immediately places that message on his or her attitude scale based upon their level of approval.
Our attitude scales have three zones: the latitude of acceptance, the latitude of rejection, and the latitude of non-commitment. If a message is placed in the latitude of acceptance, that means the receiver of the message deems the idea to be worthy of continued thought and consideration. If the message is placed in the latitude of rejection, the receiver deems the message to be unreasonable, objectionable, and unworthy of continued thought. Finally, messages placed in the latitude of non-commitment are deemed as being neither acceptable or objectionable. In other words, the receiver is ambivalent or apathetic towards the message.
As we place the messages we receive on our attitude scales, we also think through the Elaboration Likelihood Model. The Elaboration Likelihood Model places our thought patterns on two tracks: the central route and the peripheral route. If we allow a message to travel through our central route, we choose to elaborate on and think critically about that message. On the other hand, if we allow a message to travel through our peripheral route, we intentionally decide that we don’t want to think critically about the message we received.
When we think through the central route, we subconsciously ask ourselves three questions:
1. “Is this central to my well-being?”
2. “Do I think about it a lot?”
3. “Does my attitude toward this help define who I am?”
However, I would like to suggest that the aesthetic of culture (in this case, the aesthetic of concerts) encourages us to lean positively towards various messages before we even hear them.
When I went to the Bethel concert, pretty much everyone there had spent money from their paycheck on a ticket to hear the band perform live. They wanted to hear what the band had to say, and they wanted to listen to the words and messages of the songs and the story. The concert was split into three sections: a session of worship, a time of teaching/discussion, and another session of worship. With your favorite worship songs bookending a time of spiritual sharing, who wouldn’t be inclined to listen to the message at hand?
As both speakers and listeners, we must learn to steward the aesthetic around us when we speak and when we listen. We must notice that music affects our emotions, and we must recognize that our status and position affect our credibility. Think about the concerts you’ve attended; most artists use transition times to share their stories and their life lessons with the crowds, building up to key songs and key messages they hope to share. Because people come to the event ready to listen and participate, they are incredibly likely to place the messages they receive on their latitude of acceptance simply because they want to be part of the movement, a representative and a fan of the artist they love so much ( think about it- belonging to the cultural aesthetic of the music world is a key part of pop culture- music influences EVERYTHING). There’s nothing wrong with being inclined to listen to some messages over others, but whether you’re at a concert on in a classroom, be wary of accepting messages before thinking critically about them.