“SECOND‐GUESSING”: Message Interpretation in Social Networks

DEAN E. HEWES, MAUDIE L. GRAHAM, JOEL DOELGER, CHARLES PAVITT

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-334
Number of pages36
JournalHuman Communication Research
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1985

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