The Costs and Benefits of Arguing: Predicting the Decision Whether to Engage or Not

  • Dale Hample
  • Fabio Paglieri
  • Ling Na
Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA, volume 22)


When a situation makes an interpersonal argument possible, sometimes people engage in arguing and sometimes they avoid it. This empirical study (N = 509) construed the engagement decision as being based on the type of argument topic (personal, public, or workplace), individual differences (argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness), and the anticipated costs and benefits of arguing. Costs and benefits included projections of appropriateness, civility, other’s reasonableness, likelihood of winning, the argument’s apparent resolvability, and more general measures of costs and benefits. Each topic type produced a somewhat different set of influential costs and benefits. The individual differences did not strongly affect the engagement decision. Across topic types, the most important costs and benefits were appropriateness and likelihood of winning. About two-thirds of the variance in intention to engage in argument was successfully modeled.


Latent Variable Behavioral Intention Exogenous Variable Situational Variable Topic Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Benoit, P. J. (1982, November). The naïve social actor’s concept of argument. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Speech Communication Association, Louisville, KY.Google Scholar
  2. Bippus, A. M., Boren, J. P., & Worsham, S. (2008). Social exchange orientation and conflict communication in romantic relationships. Communication Research Reports, 25, 227–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  4. Gilbert, M. A. (1997). Coalescent argumentation. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  5. Hamilton, M. A., & Hample, D. (2011). Testing hierarchical models of argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness. Communication Methods and Measures, 5, 250–273. doi: 10.1080/19312458.2011.596991.Google Scholar
  6. Hample, D. (2005). Arguing: Exchanging reasons face to face. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. Hample, D. (2009, June). Commentary on: F. Paglieri’s “Ruinous arguments: Escalation of disagreement and the dangers of arguing.” Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation, Windsor, ON.Google Scholar
  8. Hample, D., Warner, B., & Young, D. (2009). Framing and editing interpersonal arguments. Argumentation, 23, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Infante, D. A., & Rancer, A. S. (1982). A conceptualization and measure of argumentativeness. Journal of Personality Assessment, 46, 72–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Infante, D. A., & Wigley, C. J. (1986). Verbal aggressiveness: An interpersonal model and measure. Communication Monographs, 53, 61–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johnson, A. J. (2002). Beliefs about arguing: A comparison of public issue and personal issue arguments. Communication Reports, 15, 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Johnson, K. L., & Roloff, M. E. (1998). Serial arguing and relational quality: Determinants and consequences of perceived resolvability. Communication Research, 25, 327–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Johnson, A. J., Becker, J. A. H., Wigley, S., Haigh, M. M., & Crait, E. A. (2007). Reported argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness levels: The influence of type of argument. Communication Studies, 58, 189–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kim, M.-S., & Hunter, J. E. (1993). Relationships among attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behavior: A meta-analysis of past research, Part 2. Communication Research, 20, 331–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lave, C. A., & March, J. G. (1975). An introduction to models in the social sciences. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  16. Levine, T. R., Beatty, M. J., Limon, S., Hamilton, M. A., Buck, R., & Chory-Assad, R. M. (2004). The dimensionality of the verbal aggressiveness scale. Communication Monographs, 71, 245–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Marek, C. I., Wanzer, M. B., & Knapp, J. L. (2004). An exploratory investigation of the relationship between roommates’ first impression and subsequent communication patterns. Communication Research Reports, 21, 210–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Paglieri, F. (2009, June). Ruinous arguments: Escalation of disagreement and the dangers of arguing. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation, Windsor, ON.Google Scholar
  20. Paglieri, F., & Castelfranchi, C. (2010). Why argue? Towards a cost-benefit analysis of argumentation. Argument and Computation, 1, 71–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ramirez, A., Jr., Sunnafrank, M., & Goei, R. (2010). Predicted outcome value theory in ongoing relationships. Communication Monographs, 77, 27–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rancer, A. S., & Avtgis, T. A. (2006). Argumentative and aggressive communication: Theory, research, and application. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Uehara, E. (1990). Dual exchange theory, social networks, and informal social support. The American Journal of Sociology, 96, 521–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. van Eemeren, F. H., & Grootendorst, R. (2004). A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Vuchinich, S., & Teachman, J. (1993). Influences on the duration of wars, strikes, riots, and family arguments. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 37, 544–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, Consiglio Nazionale delle RicercheRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of CommunicationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkCanada

Personalised recommendations