The Self and Messages
Symbolic Interaction Theory (Mead)
People are motivated to act based on the
meanings they assign to people, things, and events. Further, meaning is created
in the language that people use both with others and in private thoughts. Language
allows people to develop a sense of self and to interact with others in the
Coordinated Management of Meaning (Pearce and Cronen)
In conversations, people
co-create meaning by attaining some coherence and coordination. Coherence occurs
when stories are told, and coordination exists when stories are lived. CMM
focuses on the relationship between an individual and his or her society. Through
a hierarchical structure, individuals come to organize the meaning of literally
hundreds of messages received throughout the day.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger)
The experience of dissonance (or incompatible
beliefs and actions) is aversive and people are highly motivated to avoid it.
In their efforts to avoid feelings of dissonance, people will avoid hearing
views that oppose their own, change their beliefs to match their actions, and
seek reassurances after making a difficult decision.
Expectancy Violations Theory (Burgoon)
This theory is concerned with the structure
of primarily nonverbal messages. It asserts that when communicative norms are
violated, the violation may be perceived either favorably or unfavorably, depending
on the perception that the receiver has of the violator. Violating another's
expectations may be a strategy used over that of conforming to another's expectations.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger and Calabrese)
When strangers meet, their
primary focus is on reducing their levels of uncertainty in the situation.
Their levels of uncertainty are located in both behavioral and cognitive realms.
That is, they may be unsure of how to behave (or how the other person will
behave), and they may also be unsure what they think of the other and what
the other person thinks of them. Uncertainty occurs at the individual and the
Social Penetration Theory (Altman and Taylor)
Interpersonal relationships evolve
in some gradual and predictable fashion. Penetration theorists believe that
self-disclosure is the primary way that superficial relationships progress
to intimate relationships. Although self-disclosure can lead to more intimate
relationships, it can also leave one or more persons vulnerable.
Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut and Kelley)
The major force in interpersonal
relationships is the satisfaction of both people's self-interest. Self-interest
is not necessarily bad and can actually enhance relationships. Interpersonal
exchanges are analogous to economic exchanges where people are satisfied when
they receive a fair return on their expenditures.
Relational Dialectics Theory (Baxter and Montgomery)
Relational life is always
in progress. People in relationships continue to feel the push and pull of
conflicting desires. Basically, people wish to have both autonomy and connection,
openness and protectiveness, and novelty and predictability. As people communicate
in relationships, they attempt to reconcile these conflicting desires, but
they never eliminate their needs for both members of the opposing pairs.
Communication Privacy Management Theory (Petronio)
Disclosure in relationships
requires managing private and public boundaries. These boundaries are between
those feelings that one wants to disclose and those one wants to keep private.
Disclosure in relationship development is more than revealing private information
to another. Negotiation and coordination of boundaries is required. Decisions
regarding disclosure require close monitoring.
Groups and Organizations
Groupthink occurs when highly cohesive groups fail to consider
alternatives that may effectively resolve group dilemmas. Group members frequently
think similarly and are reluctant to share unpopular or dissimilar ideas with
others. When this occurs, groups prematurely make decisions, some of which
can have lasting consequences.
Adaptive Structuration Theory (Giddens, Poole, Seibold, McPhee)
organizations create structures, which can be interpreted as an organization's
rules and resources. These structures, in turn, create social systems in an
organization. Groups and organizations achieve a life of their own because
of the way their members utilize their structures. Power structures guide the
decision making taking place in groups and organizations.
Organizational Culture Theory (Geertz, Pacanowsky, and O'Donnell-Trujillo)
are like animals who are suspended in webs that they created at work. An organization's
culture is composed of shared symbols, each of which has a unique meaning.
Organizational stories, rituals, and rites of passage are examples of what
constitutes the culture of an organization.
Organizational Information Theory (Weick)
The main activity of organizations
is the process of making sense of equivocal information. Organizational members
accomplish this sense-making process through enactment, selection, and retention
of information. Organizations are successful to the extent that they are able
to reduce equivocality through these means.
The Rhetoric (Aristotle)
Rhetorical theory is based on the available means
of persuasion. That is, a speaker who is interested in persuading his or her
audience should consider three rhetorical proofs: logic (logos), emotion (pathos),
and ethics (ethos). Audiences are key to effective persuasion as well. Rhetorical
syllogisms, requiring audiences to supply missing pieces of a speech, are also
used in persuasion.
Life is a drama. As in dramatic action, life requires an
actor, a scene, an act, some means for the action to take place, and a purpose.
A rhetorical critic can understand a speaker's motives by analyzing these elements.
Further, purging guilt is the ultimate motive, and rhetors can be successful
when they provide their audiences with a means for purging guilt.
The Narrative Paradigm (Fisher)
Humans are storytelling animals. Narrative
logic is preferential to the traditional logic used in argument. Narrative
logic, or the logic of good reasons, suggests that people judge the credibility
of speakers by whether their stories hang together clearly (coherence) and
whether their stories ring true (fidelity). A democratic judgment of speakers
exists because no one has to be trained in persuasion to make judgments based
on the concepts of coherence and fidelity.
Cultural Studies (Hall)
The media represent ideologies of the dominant class
in a society. Because media are controlled by corporations (the elite), the
information presented to the public is necessarily influenced and framed with
a profit in mind. The media's influence and the role of power must be taken
into consideration when interpreting a culture.
Cultivation Analysis (Gerbner)
Television (and other media) plays an extremely
important role in how people view their world. In today's society, most people
get their information from mediated sources rather than through direct experience.
Therefore, mediated sources can shape a person's sense of reality. This is
especially the case with regard to violence. Heavy television viewing cultivates
a sense of the world as a violent place.
Uses and Gratifications Theory (Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch)
and use particular media. Emphasizing a limited effects position, the media
are viewed as having a limited effect on their audiences because audiences
are able to exercise control over the media. Uses and Gratifications Theory
is primarily concerned with the following question: What do people do with
Spiral of Silence Theory (Noelle-Neumann)
Due to the enormous power of the
media, the media have a lasting effect on public opinion. Mass media work simultaneously
with majority opinion to silence minority beliefs on cultural issues. A fear
of isolation prompts those with minority views to examine the beliefs of others.
Individuals who fear being socially isolated are prone to conform to what they
perceive to be a majority view. Every so often, the silent minority raises
its voices into activism.
Media Ecology Theory (McLuhan)
Society has evolved as its technology has evolved.
From the alphabet to the Internet, we have been affected by and affect electronic
media. In other words, the medium is the message. The laws of mediaenhancement,
obsolescence, retrieval, and reversaldemonstrate that technology affects communication
through new technology.
Culture and Diversity
Face-Negotiation Theory (Ting-Toomey)
How do people in individualistic and
collectivistic cultures negotiate face in conflicts? Face-Negotiation Theory
is based on face management, which describes how people from different cultures
manage conflict negotiation to maintain face. Self-face and other-face concerns
explain the conflict negotiation between people from various cultures.
Standpoint Theory (Hartsock)
People are situated in specific social standpointsthey
occupy different places in the social hierarchy. Because of this, individuals
view the social situation from particular vantage points. By necessity, each
vantage point provides only a partial understanding of the social world. Yet,
those who occupy the low rungs of the hierarchy tend to understand the social
situation more fully than those on top.
Muted Group Theory (Kramarae)
Language serves men better than women (and perhaps
European Americans better than African Americans or other groups). This is
the case because the variety of experiences of European American men are named
clearly in language, whereas the experiences of other groups (namely women)
are not. Due to this problem with language, women appear less articulate than
men in public settings. As women create more language to express their experiences
and as men and women have similar experiences, this situation should change.
Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles)
This theory considers the underlying
motivations and consequences of what happens when two speakers shift their
communication styles. During communication, people will try to accommodate
or adjust their style of speaking to others. This is done in two ways: divergence
and convergence. Groups with strong ethnic or racial pride often use divergence
to highlight group identity. Convergence occurs when there is a strong need
for social approval, frequently from powerless individuals.