Interpersonal Communication Topics
Unit I: Introduction to Communication
1. What is Communication?
a. Not communication or communications
i. communication: the process of communicating (whatever that means).
ii. Communications: the technological infrastructure that enables communication to take place.
b. Communication: the study of messages and meaning.
i. Message: a symbolic representation of a meaning. Meaning cannot be exchanged directly.
1. Sign & symbol systems include language, but can also include nonverbals as well as other things.
a. Signs physically represent what they signify. Not everything can be represented this way.
b. A symbol is abstract and arbitrary, people have agreed that the symbol represents what it is
supposed to represent (however, not all people share this meaning of a symbol, and thus
symbols can have multiple interpretations); symbols are very flexible and can express a
wide range of meanings (subject to the groups’ whims).
i. A fixed symbol: the meaning has been agreed upon.
ii. A floating symbol: the meaning is still being debated.
2. Messages have a) physical characteristics (size, shapes, color, speed, loudness, intensity…) and b)
conceptual characteristics (simplicity, complexity, clarity, relevance, persuasiveness…). These
characteristics can be strategically altered.
ii. Meaning: significance, importance, influence…?
1. Semiotics: the study of meaning.
2. Possible origins of meaning:
a. Meaning is in things (EXTERNAL: outside of the human mind). For example, the Bible is the
word of God. Meaning is in the Bible itself and needs to be discovered. Or, nature was
designed in a way that supersedes human ability to create, and scientists try to discover
what that meaning is.
b. Meaning is in people’s minds (INTERNAL). The brain is a meaning making organism and
reality is constructed in the human brain in human terms for human purposes. Meaning is
dependent upon perception and hard wiring (how the brain works: attention, prior
knowledge, information processing…). As people change, meaning changes.
c. Meaning is between people (SHARED); a socially constructed phenomena. People co-
construct meaning though interaction and interpretation. Meaning is shared.
d. Meaning is internal (created in the mind) and external (discovered outside of us) and is
modified through our interactions with others (DYNAMIC).
c. Powers (1995) Article: On Communication Research
i. Tier 1: Message = how people create, disseminate, and receive messages. This includes the physical and
conceptual characteristics of messages as well as symbolism, perception, and channels.
ii. Tier 2: Individual Differences between People = how cultural (environment, nurture, gender, race, age,
cultural-historic time period) or biological (hardwired, nature, traits, personality, gender, race, age)
differences between people influence how messages are created, sent, and received. We can compare
people based on similarities and differences to try and capture the full range of the human experience.
iii. Tier 3: Number of Interactants: how the number of people involved in an interaction influences how
messages are created, sent, and received. Intrapersonal vs. interpersonal vs. small group vs. large group
vs. mass. We tailor messages based on the number of people involved and the quality of the relationship
we have with those people.
iv. Tier 4: Context: how the context in which an interaction occurs influences how a message is created, sent,
and received. Contexts include: family, business, school, politics, health, online, religion, romance… We
tailor messages based on the context in which communication is taking place.
Learning Log Entries: Unit 1
1. Read the following definitions of communication (https://www2.mcdaniel.edu/rtrader/com1102/definitions.html). Briefly
discuss these definitions, and then decide which definition of communication resonates with your own thoughts. Explain
why logically, clearly, and persuasively.
2. Briefly describe what a Communication scientist studies according to Powers (1995). Explain your answer with specific
examples. What would you as a Communication scholar be interested in learning if you had the opportunity to become a
Unit II: Theory and Interpersonal Communication
1. Theory: a statement about the relationship(s) between 2 or more constructs.
a. A construct is an idea, a variable, a concept; a defined aspect of the phenomenological [real] world. [The
metaphysical world is the spiritual world. The phenomenological world is the physical world.]
b. Relationships include:
i. Correlations: there is some relationship between the 2 constructs though this relationship is not well
1. Positive: as A , B
2. Negative: as A , B
ii. Causation: A B (A makes B happen).
1. A precedes B in time.
2. A and B significantly correlate.
3. There is not other possible explanation for B than A.
iii. Conditions: perhaps the relationship only exists under certain conditions (among certain groups of people,
at certain times, at certain places, when something else is happening…)
c. Naïve Theory: not tested, based on intuition. These are used in everyday life, and include the assumptions we
make about how the world works and how we should behave.
d. Scientific Theory: systematically tested, research based, tentative, and based on metatheoretical assumptions.
e. Research must be rigorous and systematic.
i. Rigorous = all possible explanations are considered (no stone is left unturned).
ii. Systematic = there is a defined and established methodology. The method used will actually test the
hypothesis or research question.
2. Characteristics of Theories
a. They are tentative (needing empirical verification) and change over time (based on research findings).
b. They are generally based upon logic.
c. They are based on certain assumptions about the world and about human beings/behavior.
d. Some theories are grand theories attempting to explain in a more general sense. These theories lack precision.
Some theories are mid-range theories and some are micro-theories (specific). The more specific the theory, the
less generalizable. The more generalizable, the less specific.
3. Metatheoretical Assumptions
a. Epistemology: (knowledge) how do we know what we know, what is real, is reality imposed upon from some
external agency such as God or heredity (Truth) or socially constructed by humans for human purposes (truths)?
i. Three sources of knowledge: 1) reason (rationalism), 2) observation (empiricism), and 3) experience
b. Ontology: (free will) determinism vs. free will, are people actors or reactors? Can people make choices and
control their own destinies or are they acting as heredity/God has programmed them?
c. Axiology: (morals) objectivity vs. emancipation; is research value neutral or value laden? Do researchers have a
responsibility for the research they do (value laden) or is it knowledge for knowledge’s sake (value neutral)? Just
because we can research something does not mean that we should. What moral and ethical obligations do we
have to the people that we do research on?
4. Different paradigms (world views) view the world and human behavior from different metatheoretical assumptions. The
main 4 paradigms in Communication and their metatheoretical assumptions are:
PARADIGM EPISTEMOLOGY ONTOLOGY AXIOLOGY GOALS
Objective Empiricist Truth Reactors Value neutral Universal laws
Hermeneutic Empiricist truths Actors Value laden Rules
Truths are created by People have the ability
Emancipation, to give
Critical those in power and can to emancipate Value laden
voice to the voiceless
be changed. themselves.
There are both Truth Sometimes actors and Holistic view, to
Systems Value neutral
and truths. sometimes reactors. improve the system
5. Why do we need theories?
a. Organization: creating order out of chaos, help us define our world and ourselves.
b. Organizes our research, our inquiries into human nature and the nature of the universe. Our research becomes
c. Organizes our thinking on some aspect of the phenomenological world. Agenda setting.
6. Early Theoretical Perspectives on Communication (pdf)
a. Shannon & Weaver (1949): Mathematical Model of Communication. Really an engineer’s view of the
communication problem that tries to figure out how to transmit a message from one place to another. Views
communication as linear and basically passive.
b. Weiner (1950’2): the Cybernetic Perspective. Added a feedback loop to Shannon & Weaver’s model. Recognized
the symbiotic relationship necessary in communication.
c. Shramm (1954): The Transaction Model. People can be both sender and receiver (exchange information).
Recognized the relational component of communication.
d. Berlo (1960’s): SMCR Model. (Sender, message, channel, receiver). People, and thus communication, are
influenced by a variety of cultural and biological factors. Recognized the complexity of communication.
e. Recent views: Communication is simultaneous, non-linear, interactive, complex, and bounded by cultural-historic
7. Interpersonal Communication
a. Simple definition: the study of messages and meaning among 2 or 3 people. Traditionally the focus has been on
b. What do interpersonal communication scholars study?
i. Early research focused on rhetoric (oratory and persuasion); how people influence one another (deception,
compliance, control, conflict…).
ii. Since the 70’s, the focus has shifted toward relationship development (initiating relationships, maintaining
relationships, ending relationships, repairing relationships, and the factors influencing relationship
iii. A blend of the first two: how people influence one another relationally.
iv. Contexts: health, organizations, education, family, romance, religion, sports, legal…
v. Constructs of interest: verbal/nonverbal aggressiveness, attraction, similarity, cohesion, communication
apprehension, reticence (willingness to communicate), talkaholics…
Learning Log Entries: Unit 2
1. What is a scientific theory and how does it differ from a naïve theory? Why is theory an important tool for scholarship?
2. Discuss the four Communication research paradigms, and specify which of the four resonates the most with you. What
about the paradigm makes the most sense to you?
Unit 3: Communication Competence
1. What does it mean to be a good communicator? Is competence universal or culturally dependent? Do factors such as
race, gender, or traits make a difference? The debate is still on.
2. Noam Chomsky (1950's): linguist, made the claim that language is a genetic potential in all humans. Thus, competence
is to some degree a universal. Chomsky was the first to make a distinction between linguistic competence (the ability to
form grammatically correct sentences) and performance (not clearly defined).
3. Linguistics: the study of language
a. Phonology: the study of sound.
b. Morphology: the study of sound combinations [morphemes].
c. Syntax: the study of sentence structure.
d. Semantics: the study of meaning.
4. Dell Hymes (1966) made the distinction between linguistic competence (grammatically correct) and communicative
competence (used appropriately).
5. Canale and Swain (1980) defined communicative competence in terms of four components:
a. grammatical competence: words and rules
b. sociolinguistic competence: appropriateness
c. discourse competence: cohesion and coherence
d. strategic competence: appropriate use of communication strategies
6. Dr. Brian Spitzberg became interested in the idea of relational communication competence in the early 1980’s. This
interest eventually lead to the formation of the Component Model of Relational Competence (Spitzberg & Cupach, 1984).
Theory: The Component Model of Relational Competence (Spitzberg & Cupach, 1984)
1. Relational competence is based on four variables (components):
1) Motivation: motivation (the affective aspects of interpersonal communication competence such as feelings and
attitudes) is the desire to engage in conversation (trait orientation: an individual’s approach or avoidance
orientation in various social situations) and the perceived costs or rewards of communicating in a context with a
2) Knowledge: knowledge (cognition) is a trait-like construct referring to knowledge of context, other, and subject.
3) Skills: skill (psychomotor skills) is defined as the successful performance of a communication behavior. The five
skill areas are:
i. anxiety (fear of [public] speaking and how to overcome it)
ii. immediacy (psychological closeness and how to establish it)
iii. expressiveness (animation and passion and how to say what you want to say)
iv. interaction management (turn taking, response latency… and how to structure interactions)
v. other orientation (focus on others rather than self centeredness)
4) Outcomes: “Outcomes” refers to level of satisfaction with the communication act (how one knows one has
competent relational communication is through the degree of satisfaction that one has with the outcome of an
2. Interpersonal communication competence is appropriate and effective communication leading to satisfactory outcomes
in interpersonal interactions.
3. Factors in Communication Competence (based on the existing research: Spitzberg & Dillard, 2002)
1) Latency: the number of seconds between the end of one person’s utterance and the other person’s response
2) Gaze: the number of seconds a person appears to be looking toward the face of a speaker/listener (positive).
3) Eye contact: the number of seconds a person appears to be looking in the eyes of a speaker/listener (positive).
4) Smiles: the frequency with which people smile (positive).
5) Gestures: the number of gestures per minute (positive).
6) Head movements (positive).
7) Adaptors: fidgeting (negative).
8) Volume: loudness (positive).
9) Talk time (positive).
10) Questions (positive).
11) Compliments (positive).
12) Minimal encouragements: uh huh, go on, yes… (positive)
4. Four General Categories of Competence (summary of the 12 above)
1) Composure: calm, confident, professional
2) Altercentrism: focus on the other people rather than one’s self
3) Expressiveness: animated, showing reactions and enthusiasm
4) Coordination: turn taking, pacing, flow…
5. Dr. Spitzberg specifies five myths of competence:
1) the myth of clarity
2) the myth of adaptability
3) the myth of creativity
4) the myth of assertiveness
5) the myth of competence or “skilled incompetence” (Spitzberg, 1998).
6. The reason that these five are called myths is twofold: 1) people generally accept that clarity, adaptability, creativity,
assertiveness, and competence are good qualities to have (especially within an organizational context), and 2) there are
times when ambiguity, stability, conformity, passivity, and incompetence are more appropriate or effective methods of
communication (Spitzberg, 1998). Thus, it is difficult to argue that any of these categories lead to successful outcomes
in all situations.
Theory: Constructivism (Delia, 1977)
Main Idea: Constructivism views communication competence as contingent upon cognitive complexity. The more developed
one's mental model of a phenomenon, the more strategies one has at one’s disposal, and thus the likelihood that one can
devise strategic messages to get what one wants increases. Cognitive complexity is the degree of conceptual knowledge one
has about something: how well one knows the language associated with something, the rules and expectations, the strategies
and thought processes involved.
Constructivism argues that competence is contingent upon:
1. Social perception: the ability to acquire, retain, manipulate, and use information about the social world.
2. Message production: the ability to generate verbal and nonverbal messages that efficiently and effectively accomplish
various personal and social goals.
3. Message reception: the ability to fully comprehend the meaning of others’ messages and, when appropriate, go beyond
those messages to understand the source’s intentions and motives.
Social perception is largely dependent upon what we have stored in our heads as well as our ability to take others’ perspectives
and acquire social information. Social perception is formed through a process of interpretation leading to the development of
interpersonal constructs (schemas [models of reality] based on appearances, behaviors, roles, attitudes, and traits or
dispositions). Things attract us more or less in the social world and the things that we are more aware of (our ability to
differentiate) we have a better understanding of, and thus we have a greater ability to represent (communicate in some
medium). Thus, competence is contingent upon social perception which is related to our skills with message reception which in
turn influence our skills at message production.
The theory relies heavily upon Crockett’s Role Questionnaire to determine one’s cognitive complexity.
1. Basic Assumptions
a. Humans behavior is goal directed. We always have a reason for doing things. The reason can be:
i. Implicit – implied, unconscious, unintended.
ii. Explicit – conscious, aware, intended.
iii. Pre-conceived – planned.
iv. Discovered In hindsight – we realize why we did it after we did it.
b. Most behavior/communication is indeed mindless = performed through the activation of mental models
(primitives), schemas (social situations), scripts (dialogs), and MOP’s (memory organization packets).
i. Interactions are scripted, internalized, performed without much thought or planning.
ii. Mindless behavior/communication is faster, more efficient, and requires less cognitive load (mental effort).
iii. People are motivated to make the least amount of effort possible in the attainment of goals.
c. To make improvements in our interactions, to better get what we want (reach our goals), we must make implicit
(unconscious) processes, behaviors, actions… explicit. Once improvements have been made, the new structures
should once again be internalized to increase speed of execution and reduce effort.
2. Strategic communication is characterized by three processes
a. Goals: desired end states that are either present directed/future directed, concrete/abstract, implicit/explicit.
People have multiple goals at the same time. These goals may conflict with each other.
b. Plans: cognitive representations of action sequences created to fulfill goals. Plans can also be present
directed/future directed, concrete/abstract, implicit/explicit, specific/vague, well formulated/ill conceived, and can
be created to address a variety of contingencies.
c. Actions: what people actually do. The assumption is that actions are heavily influenced by goals and plans in
conjunction with performance skills.
3. Strategic communication is more effective than mindless communication usually depending on performance. And other
Learning Log Entries: Unit 3
1. What is a competent communicator? Consider the Component Model and Constructivism. How much of what these 2
perspectives hold true makes sense to you? If you were hired by a company to train its workers to be more
communicatively competent, what would you do?
2. Are most people strategic in their communicative interactions? Does strategic communication result in more competent
communication? How so? In what situations? Is there a time when this wouldn’t be true? Why or why not?
Unit 4: Intrapersonal Communication
Basically, intrapersonal communication is the messages we give ourselves. Intrapersonal communication is in some ways the
(often) invisible substrata upon which all other forms of communication are built. Intrapersonal communication includes:
1. Dreaming: messages from the “unconscious” to the “conscious”.
2. Monitoring: the awareness of what we say or do; for example when we are performing an action such as writing a
paper, drawing a painting, or doing anything else that requires concentration.
3. Internal monologue: the voice in our head that interprets what is happening in relation to what we already know.
The sense making or meaning making function.
4. Self concept or identity: who we think we are or who we think others perceive us to be.
5. Beliefs, values, & attitudes: what we believe to be true/false, good/bad, right/wrong…
6. Needs, drives, & motivations: biological or perhaps cultural predilections that influence our actions and behaviors.
7. Expectations, scripts, schemas, & mental models: what we have stored in long term memory about how the world
works, a process works, or that enables us to predict what will happen.
8. Prayer, meditation, witchcraft, positive thinking, & neurolinguistic programming: messages we give ourselves in
order to influence outcomes both internal and external.
Intrapersonal Communication has received less attention from Communication scholars than other forms of communication
though psychologists are, of course, interested in this domain. There are several theories that inform our understanding of
Intrapersonal Communication. Symbolic Interactionism has been primarily concerned with self concept and identity formation.
Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theory focus on how identity is formed through a categorization process.
Attribution Theory is mostly concerned with our beliefs, values, and attitudes. Social Exchange Theory focuses on needs, drives,
and motivations. Finally, Imagined Interactions Theory deals mainly with the development of schemas, scripts, and mental
Theory: Symbolic Interactionism (Blumer, 1969 based on the thoughts of Mead, 1934)
“The term "symbolic interaction" refers, of course, to the peculiar and distinctive character of interaction as it takes place
between human beings. The peculiarity consists in the fact that human beings interpret or "define" each other's actions instead
of merely reacting to each other's actions. Their "response" is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is
based on the meaning which they attach to such actions. Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols, by
interpretation, or by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions. This mediation is equivalent to inserting a process of
interpretation between stimulus and response in the case of human behavior” (Blumer, 1969, p. 180).
Key Idea: Reality is constructed through social interaction (communication) using symbols.
Three Main Constructs
1. Meaning: humans act toward people and things based upon the meanings that they have ascribed to those people or
things. Symbolic Interactionism holds the principal of meaning as central in human behavior. It doesn't matter what is
actually true or not true. People react based on what they believe to be true (and thus meaning is symbolic and not
2. Language: the means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. We give things, and events names (labels) and it
is through engaging in speech acts with others, symbolic interaction, that humans come to identify meaning, or naming,
and develop discourse. In other words, because meaning is symbolic, it changes, adjusts, and adapts based on our
interactions with other people. Our knowledge is constrained by our ability to name, and thus define (negotiate the
meaning), ourselves and the world we live in.
3. Thought (taking the role of the other): modifies each individual's interpretation of symbols. Thought, based-on language,
is a mental conversation or dialogue that requires role taking, or imagining different points of view. We have an inner
monologue that is in constant conversation with ourselves to interpret and reflect upon what is happening.
More Specific Constructs
1. The looking glass self = I + me. Identity is formed through a process of looking in as well (how I perceive myself) as
looking out (how others perceive me).
2. The generalized other: part of the “me” is the generalized other--a composite view of community expectations.
3. Name calling: labeling someone as "dumb", "sick", "evil", and so on can have negative effects. Consider the harmful
effects of stereotyping upon self-esteem, self perception, identity, and subsequent behavior (such as psyching one's self
4. Self-fulfilling prophecy: if you believe you can't, then you won't be able to. If you think you can't do something, these
expectations will be reflected in the people around you becoming a mutually reinforcing system making it less and less
likely that you will be able to do something.
STIMULUS INTERPRETATION RESPONSE
Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and Self-Categorization Theory (Turner, 1987)
Individual ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Group
I ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We
Personal Identity --------------------------------------------------------- Social Identity
Sometimes we interact with people on an individual basis without consideration of any social memberships. Sometimes we
interact with people as members of groups (us vs. them). In the desire to have a positive self-concept, people tend to favor
their own group over any competing groups and thus behave in ways that reinforce this conception of their group as being
better than competing groups.
What happens when one belongs to a low status group? One tries to build a positive group image. Options include leaving the
group (either physically or psychologically), making downward intergroup comparisons that are more flattering to the ingroup,
focusing only on dimensions that make the ingroup look relatively good, devaluing dimensions that reflect poorly on the ingroup,
and engaging in social change to try to overturn the existing status hierarchy.
Individual ---------------------- Social ------------------------- Human
Self-categorization theory claims there are three levels of categorization: 1) individual self, 2) social self, and 3) one’s identity
as a human being. The level of categorization used is dependent on perceiver readiness and fit. Fit is the degree to which
categories reflect social reality while emphasizing ingroup similarities (this is how we are the same) and outgroup differences
(this is how they differ from us). Comparative fit is changes that occur when the categories change. For example, comparing
the French with the Spaniards will change if the Chinese are also tossed into the mix. Normative fit is the degree to which a
group is currently exhibiting expected behaviors (a typical of a group). Perceiver readiness is the degree to which people tend
to categorize in certain ways (past history). If they categorized things in a certain way in the past, they will be more likely to do
so again in the future. Categorization is inherently a meaning making process. People are motivated to categorize based on a
need for distinctiveness and the desire to better understand and define themselves. In a sense, categorization is a process of
All intergroup processes are somewhat dependent upon power (who has it), status (who has it), legitimacy (whether power and
status are deserved), and stability (consistency over time). Group differences that are legitimate and long standing are
accepted (such as the difference between a surgeon and a nurse).
Attribution Theory (Heider, 1958; Weiner, 1974)
This theory is mainly concerned with how people attribute success or failure to the life events of self and others. Success or
failure can have either internal (blame the individual) or external (blame the circumstances) attributions. Consider how people
express the following. These attributions generally include:
1. Effort (internal, unstable, controllable): the degree to which someone has prepared (studied for an exam, rehearsed for a
2. Ability (internal, stable, uncontrollable): the degree of skill one is believed to have (first timer vs. experienced doer…).
3. Task difficulty (external, stable, uncontrollable): how hard it is to perform the action.
4. Luck (internal or external, stable or unstable, controllable or uncontrollable): perceptions of one’s luckiness or the fatedness
of an occurrence (I am a lucky person, The universe is out to get me).
1. People tend to hold others more responsible for when things go badly that when things go well. Success is attributed
to one's own actions, and failure to external factors.
2. People tend to hold others more responsible for not trying than incompetence.
3. People tend to hold others more responsible when they aim to improve their position than those who try to avoid loss.
4. People tend to hold someone more responsible for an outcome when they fear that the same outcome could happen
5. People tend to hold others more responsible than they hold themselves responsible.
6. People tend to hold those that they disagree with to higher standards than those one agrees with.
Social Exchange Theories (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959; Homans & Blau, 1964)
People always offer reasons for starting and ending relationships, as well as the various other decisions they make. Social
Exchange theory indicates that these decisions and actions are made based on “perceptions of costs versus rewards” (Baxter,
Braithwaite, p. 377). More simply stated, decision making is rooted in self-interest and the calculation of costs/benefits.
The minimax principle: people try to minimize costs while maximizing benefits.
Key Idea: Social Exchange theory is used to explain ways in which people act and make decisions based on perceived potential
personal gain or sacrifice. The foremost purpose of this theory is to predict and explain behavior.
Three Main Constructs
1. Social in Social Exchange: “social exchange” can be compared to “economic exchange” in that decisions are made based
on rewards and costs. Three main factors set it apart from economic exchange:
a. Flexible time frame (rewards/costs can be delayed)
c. Requires a connection with a human
2. Self-interest and Interdependence
a. Self interest: an individual is motivated to interact with others in ways that serve their personal needs, interests,
b. Interdependence: an individual’s costs and rewards are influenced by another person. For instance, in a
relationship, what one person gets out of the relationship relies heavily on the other person in the relationship.
3. Costs, Rewards and Resources: give and take of resources.
4. Types of resources: includes money, goods, status, love, services and information. Resources are not always tangible.
More Specific Constructs
1. Interdependence Theory
a. CL (Comparison Levels): The standard that one uses to determine how beneficial a relationship is. For example,
what one believes one should be receiving from someone based on one’s expectations for relationships.
b. CLalt (Comparison Levels of alternatives): Lowest level of rewards determined acceptable. For example, one
continues in a relationship because they don’t believe there are better alternatives. In short, one weighs what
they believe they should be receiving compared to what they believe they could be receiving out of any given
2. Equity Theory- Considers the importance of fairness in relationships. There are three possible types of relational (in)
a. Ratio of rewards/costs for both partners.
b. The exchange relationship you and your partner have with a third party.
c. Comparing the relationship to others in similar circumstances.
3. Communication serves in 2 ways
a. Means though which theory occurs: social exchange is a communication process.
b. Can be the resource that is exchanged, whether a cost or a reward: communication can be a reward or
*Interpersonal conflict is often a result of different meanings and values placed on the resources exchanged.
Imagined Interaction Theory (Honeycutt, Zagacki, & Edwards, 1989)
Key idea: Individuals can internally rehearse for future encounters as well as evaluate past encounters in their minds. This
theory is based on Symbolic Interactionism and Cognitive Scripts. It is a process of social cognition (defined as computation
about social interaction).
1. Nonverbal Imagery – visual imagery reflecting the scene or context of a situation
2. Verbal Imagery – reflecting lines of dialogue imagined by the self and by others
3. Characteristics of Imagined Interactions:
a. Frequency – how often imagined interactions occur
b. Emotional Valence – how enjoyable or uncomfortable the interaction makes you feel
c. Discrepancy – degree to which imagined interactions differ from actual interactions
d. Dominance – amount that self/others dominate dialogue in an imagined interaction
e. Proactivity – imagined interaction precedes actual encounter (rehearsal)
f. Retroactivity – imagined interaction occurs after actual encounter (replay)
6 Basic Functions of Imagined Interactions:
1. Maintaining relationships – imagine conversing with important people to strengthen bond.
2. Managing conflict – replay prior conflicts to improve for next time.
3. Rehearsing messages – improve efficiency of a future encounter.
4. Aiding to better understand self – helps to internally talk through thoughts and feelings.
5. Providing emotional catharsis by relieving tension – alleviates stress felt by carrying a burden (one can get something
off his or her chest without actually vocalizing a complaint).
6. Compensating for lack of real interaction – replaces confronting someone, helps to meet social needs.
Notes about Human Memory:
1. Sensory memory – stimuli replicated in the brain for less than a second
2. Short-term/Working Memory – limited capacity
a. G.A. Miller (1950’s) – 7 ± 2 digits
b. Cohan (2000) – 3 ± 2 digits or 4 chunks
3. Long-term Memory – infinite capacity; subject to erosion over time
To enhance long-term memory, we use:
1. Scripting – leads to efficient communication, less cognitive dissonance.
2. Mental Models – more general social expectations.
3. MOPs – Memory Organization Packets; even more specific than scripting.
*** Imagined Interaction Theory can be described as writing, rehearsing, and editing scripts stored in long term memory.
Learning Log Entries: Unit 4
1. Why should Communication scholars study intrapersonal communication? How does it increase our understanding of
communication? Be specific. What aspects of intrapersonal communication should be more developed? Why?
2. Take one of the 5 theories from this unit and use it as a framework for analyzing one of the stories below.
Consider how the story exemplifies concepts/claims from the theory enhancing our understanding of intrapersonal
communication, human relationships, and interpersonal communication. Provide specific examples from the story to
support your arguments. Use page numbers as follows (p. #) to cite the specific place where the example is located.
3. How are the five theories in this unit related or unrelated? What metatheoretical assumptions do they share? Where do
they converge? Do the theories draw upon similar constructs (ideas and/or labels) or view similar phenomenon (aspects
of human behavior or aspects of the phenomenological universe)? Elaborate.
Unit 5: Relationships
1. Relationship: an emotional connection between 2 or more people.
2. Relationships by the number (pdf)
3. Relationship characteristics
a. Degree of intimacy
stranger --- server --- acquaintance ---- friend ---- family member --- best friend --- partner…
work --- school --- family --- romance --- sexual --- neighborhood --- interests/activities --- culture…
information --- trust --- vulnerability --- physical --- monetary --- sexual --- stories --- experiences…
meeting --- pick/hook up --- uncertainty reduction…
i. Why do we form relationships?
1. Attraction? (animal magnetism, bonding, safety…)
2. Similarity? (shared interests/activities, safety, minimal effort…)
3. Motivation? (self interest, gain, cost/benefit, drives/urges/needs, social animal…)
4. Circumstances? (convenience, necessity…)
i. How do we keep relationships going?
1. Time together? (quantity)
2. Shared activities/tasks? (common purpose)
3. Share information? (communication)
4. Give and take? (balance)
5. Understanding? (forgiveness)
i. How do we end relationships?
1. Fade away/drift apart?
2. Closure/chose to end it/mutual decision?
3. Fighting/firing/divorce/formal dissolution?
4. Change jobs/locations/schools…?
5. Are relationships different for different types of people?
a. F --- F, F --- M, M --- M, F, M…
b. Sexual Orientation: Gay, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender…
c. Ethnicity: African American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, biracial, multiracial, in different countries….
d. SES (social economic status): rich, middle class, poor…
e. Age: old, middle age, young, kids, teens…
f. Personality Types: aggressiveness, IQ (cognitive complexity), willingness to communicate, extrovert…
Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger & Calabrese, 1975)
When meeting someone for the first time, there is a great deal of uncertainty (lack of information). We don’t know how the
other person will behave, react, or connect with us. We aren’t sure how to behave, what to say, or how to proceed. This lack of
uncertainty is stressful and unpleasant, and so we try to reduce the uncertainty by exchanging information.
1. There are 2 main types of uncertainty:
a. Behavioral: what the self or other will do, how to behave, how to react…
Reduced by using scripts/following social norms/procedures.
b. Cognitive: what kind of person am I dealing with and what do they want from me?
Reduced by acquiring information (asking and answering questions).
2. 3 motives for reducing uncertainty in initial interactions:
a. Anticipated future interaction (we will need to deal with the person again in the future).
b. Incentive value (we gain something from the interaction).
c. Deviance (people act in weird or unexpected ways and we want to know why [curiosity]).
3. Stages of initial interactions:
a. Entry stage: obtain information about the other person’s sex, age, economic or social status, and other
demographic information (factual/biographical information). Much of the interaction in this entry phase is
controlled by communication rules and norms.
b. Personal stage (begins when communicators begin to share attitudes, beliefs, values, and more personal data):
during this phase, the communicators feel less constrained by rules and norms and tend to communicate more
freely with each other (likes/dislikes, light opinions on non-controversial subjects).
c. Exit phase: during this phase, the communicators decide on future interaction plans. They may discuss or
negotiate ways to allow the relationship to grow and continue, or they may decide not to pursue a relationship.
4. Strategies to cope with uncertainty and to reduce risk:
a. Seeking information passively (observation), actively (ask others about), or interactively (ask someone directly).
b. Planning: like imaginary interactions, how detailed a plan is and the number of contingencies (see Planning
Theory) may reduce or increase uncertainty and anxiety.
c. Hedging (face saving): planning ways for people to save face if miscommunication occurs.
d. Hierarchy principle: when individuals cannot obtain a goal, the first response is to alter lower-level elements of
their message (such as raising one’s voice when someone doesn’t understand what one has said).
Social Penetration Theory (Altman & Taylor, 1973)
The theory explains how relational closeness develops over time through stages. The basic idea is that closeness develops only
if individuals proceed in a gradual and orderly fashion from superficial to intimate levels of information exchange (disclosure) as
a function of both immediate and forecast outcomes (cost/benefits analysis).
The theory uses an onion metaphor to explain personality.
1. Personality (identity) is like a multilayered onion.
2. The outer layer is the public self and the inner core is one's private domain.
a. The public self consists of factual information.
b. The inner self consists of beliefs, attitudes, and feelings.
c. The inner core consists of values, self-concept, and deep emotions.
3. The depth of penetration (relational closeness/intimacy) represents the degree of personal disclosure. People are less
likely to disclose information closer to their inner core because of increased perceptions of vulnerability. The theory
a. Peripheral items are exchanged more frequently and sooner than private information.
b. Self-disclosure is reciprocal, especially in early stages of relationship development.
c. Penetration is rapid at the start but slows down quickly as the tightly wrapped inner layers are reached.
d. Societal norms prevent too much early self-disclosure.
e. Most relationships stall before a stable intimate exchange is established.
f. Genuine intimate exchange is rare but when it is achieved, relationships become meaningful and enduring.
g. Depenetration is a gradual process of layer-by-layer withdrawal.
h. For true intimacy, depth (detail) and breadth (variety) of penetration are equally important.
4. Penetration Stages
a. Orientation stage: Here, we play it safe with small talk and simple, harmless clichés like ‘Life’s like that’, following
standards of social desirability and norms of appropriateness.
b. Exploratory affective stage: We now start to reveal ourselves, expressing personal attitudes about moderate
topics such as government and education. This may not be the whole truth as we are not yet comfortable to lay
ourselves bare. We are still feeling our way forward. This is the stage of casual friendship, and many relationships
do not go past this stage.
c. Affective stage: Now we start to talk about private and personal matters. We may use personal idioms. Criticism
and arguments may arise. There may be intimate touching and kissing at this stage.
d. Stable stage: The relationship now reaches a plateau in which personal things are shared and each can predict
the emotional reactions of the other person.
e. Depenetration: When the relationship starts to break down and costs exceed benefits, then there is a withdrawal
of disclosure which leads to termination of the relationship.
5. Closeness is regulated on the basis of rewards and costs.
a. If perceived mutual benefits outweigh the costs of greater vulnerability, the process of social penetration will
b. People are able to predict the outcomes of interactions, and to plan accordingly.
Relational Maintenance Strategies (Canary & Stafford, 1991)
This theory is interested in the strategies people use to keep a relationship going. Does the use of these strategies vary
depending upon the type of relationship, individual characteristics, cultural background, and so on of the participants?
Relational maintenance strategies:
1. Assurances: expressing commitment, faithfulness, love...
2. Network: involvement with social networks...
3. Openness: disclosure and other communication...
4. Positivity: being upbeat and cheerful...
5. Shared Tasks: sharing household chores...
6. Joint Activities: shopping, going out, watching a movie...
7. Contact: writing messages, phone calls...
8. Avoidance: avoiding topics that may cause conflict, separate activities...
9. Anti-social: direct or indirect rude, unfriendly, and/or coercisive behavior...
10. Humor: jokes, sarcasm, teasing...
Strategy use tends to vary depending on the type of relationship.
The following strategies are suggested for effective communication in a romantic relationship:
1. Assure your partner of your affection.
2. Be open about your feelings.
3. Be positive and cheerful.
4. Pay attention to your partner; mind the relationship.
5. Think in relational terms, such as “we,” instead of individual terms, or “you” and “me.”
6. Balance self-disclosure with privacy.
7. Make it a rule not to keep secrets.
8. Keep your nonverbals positive (e.g., don’t frown or roll your eyes).
9. If you want more intimacy, increase your eye contact.
10. Take your partner’s perspective.
11. Only interrupt your partner to agree with him or her.
12. Be a good listener.
Expectancy Violations Theory (Burgoon, 1978)
Main Idea: People have expectations (social norms [scripts], personal history) about how someone behaves in a given
situation. Sometimes the expected response/behavior is not as effective as an unexpected one. This is dependent on the
valence attached to the action.
Implications: Expectancy violation is effective as a communication strategy when:
1. The type of violation is appropriate (less than expected if the valence is negative OR more than expected if the valence
2. The person performing the violation is seen as having some kind of rewardingness (can give one power, money, sex...).
The theory extends Uncertainty Reduction Theory and Social Exchange Theory. Violations create uncertainty (what does this
mean, why did this person do this) and arousal (the uncertainty questions bring focus to the violators characteristics) in the
individual's mind. A cost/benefit analysis is performed about whether the relationship is worth pursuing.
Nine Violation Types:
1. Support or confirmation is an act that provides social support in a particular time of need, such as sitting with a friend
who is sick.
2. Criticism or accusation is critical of the receiver and accuse the individual of an offense. These are violations because
they are accusations not expected.
3. Relationship intensification or escalation intensifies the commitment of the communicator. For instance, saying “I love
you,” signifies a deepening of a romantic relationship.
4. Relationship de-escalation does the opposite. An example might be spending more time apart.
5. Relational transgressions are violations of the perceived rules of the relationship. Examples include having an affair,
deception, or being disloyal.
6. Acts of devotion are unexpected overtures that imply specialness in the relationship. Buying flowers for no particular
occasion falls into this category.
7. Acts of disregard show that the partner is unimportant.
8. Gestures of inclusion are actions that show an unexpected interest in having the other included in special activities or life.
Examples include invitations to spend a special holiday with someone or disclosure of personal information, or inviting
the partner to meet one’s family.
9. Uncharacteristic relational behavior is unexpected action that is not consistent with the partner’s perception of the
relationship. A common example is one member of an opposite-sex friendship demanding a romantic relationship of the
Relational Dialectics (Baxter & Montgomery, 1988)
A critical theory based on the work of Russian philosopher Mihkail Bakhtin. The main idea is that there are no perfect
relationships, but rather relationships are always oscillating between opposing forces. People would be happier in their
relationships if they admitted that these tensions are natural and inevitable.
This theory rejects the assumption that human relationships are based on logic or scientific laws. Rather, it assumes
relationships are inherently flawed and will never be perfected. Thus, Contradiction is a core concept of relational dialectics.
Contradiction refers to the dynamic interplay between unified oppositions. Every interpersonal relationship faces the tension
between intimacy and independence for example. Paradoxically, bonding occurs in both interdependence with and
independence from the other.
While there are internal dialectics within the heads of individuals, Relational Dialects focuses on the dialectics that occur
between couples and to a lesser degree between couples and outsiders. Relationships are in constant flux adapting to opposing
contradictory forces. These dialectics are:
i. Autonomy/closeness: Integration and separation. The desire to be with someone and the desire to be independent.
ii. Certainty/novelty (uncertainty): Stability and change. Routine vs. excitement.
iii. Privacy/openness: Expression and nonexpression. Keeping something to one’s self vs. sharing.
How to deal with dialectical tension in relationships (whether helpful or harmful):
1. Denial: when we respond to one pole of the dialectic while ignoring the other.
2. Disorientation: a nonfunctional response that arises from an utter feeling of helplessness. Feeling overwhelmed by
3. Spiraling inversion: respond to one pull now and then the other pull later (the ebb and tide of dialectics).
4. Segmentation: compartmentalizing aspects of a relationship (some things are revealed/some become taboo).
5. Balance: a compromise approach (usually doesn't work because of the conflicting demands of the dialectics).
6. Recalibration: reframe the situation so that the dialectics no longer appear to be in opposition (a temporary resolution).
7. Integration: a response to opposing forces that is not delusional nor dilutional (ie. certainty/uncertainty: agreeing to do
something new every Friday night).
8. Reaffirmation: active recognition by both partners that dialectical tensions never go away --> celebrate the complexity
of human relationships.
Learning Log Entries: Unit 5
1. Watch Sophie's Revenge (Fei Chang Wan Mei), 2008 on Netflix. Analyze the movie using one of the 5 theories from this
unit as a theoretical framework. Use specific examples from the movie to show how the theory is supported or
unsupported by the communicative interactions of the actors.
2. You are considering a career as a relationship counselor. Based on the theories in this unit, what are 3 main problems
you would expect a young couple in a romantic relationship to have? (Make sure to state from which theory each
problem derives.) Would these problems only be problems for certain people in certain places or would they be basically
universal? Provide examples to illustrate your points.
3. Which of the 5 theories from this unit did you find best resonates with your own experiences or understanding of
relationships? Explain why including discussion of: a) the type(s) of relationship(s) to which you are referring, b) the
specific claims or concepts from the theory that were particularly edifying, and c) the situations or conditions under
which the claims of the theory seem to hold true. You may also write this entry from the opposite approach (the least
Unit 6: Persuasion
1. Persuasion defined: rhetoric, the attempt to positively or negatively change someone's opinions, attitudes, beliefs,
behavioral intentions (what people say they will do), and/or actual behavior (what people do). Every act of
communication is potentially persuasive (influences someone else).
2. How does persuasion differ from propaganda?
a. Propaganda: the persuasion is hidden and people are somewhat unaware that they are being influenced.
Persuasion through the removal of other choices.
b. Persuasion: influence through the comparison of one point of view with another. Often involves the use of
argument (argument based on evidence).
3. Types of Evidence
4. If you believe in free will that people are more than amoebas merely reacting to environmentally stimuli, then you will
be pleased to hear that it is actually more difficult to persuade someone in any deep or lasting way than people assume.
Simply, persuasion is subject to erosion. People are rather flexible, adaptable, and fluid and can change quite easily and
then change again. Thus, persuasion is always subject to erosion (people revert back to their original state).
Interpersonal Deception Theory (Buller & Burgoon, 1996)
One way people influence one another is through deception. IDT seeks to understand the process of deception in interpersonal
interactions and accepts that deception is a strategic behavior relying on image management and information manipulation. IDT
finds that people are poor lie detectors. People expect to be able to judge when someone is lying based on some set of
nonverbal indicators. This set of nonverbal indicators hasn’t emerged from the research literature. The argument goes:
deception requires the use of more mental resources. This cognitive overload results in leakage (deception cues). These
deception cues take the form of nonverbal signals. These signals can be read to detect deception. Zuckerman’s four-factor
model explains why this leakage occurs.
1. The intense attempt to control information can produce too-slick of the deceiver’s overall performance.
2. Lying causes psychological arousal.
3. The emotions that accompany deceit are guilt and anxiety.
4. The complex cognitive factors involved in deception can tax the brain leading to unintended nonverbal disclosure.
Buller and Burgoon move beyond micro-behaviors to focus on the decline of the deceiver’s overall performance, but whether or
not the deceiver “pulls off” the deception depends on how suspicious the respondent actually is. Buller and Burgoon believe that
deception requires manipulation of information (truth). Findings from the theory include:
1. People are poor lie detectors. The leakage that occurs (nonverbal cues) could have multiple interpretations and reasons
2. If you are suspicious of someone, the other person will get nervous or otherwise aroused and leak similar nonverbals as
3. The easiest people to deceive are the people that one is closest to because these people are the least suspicious (we
tend to expect the people we know to tell us the truth).
4. People are more likely to be able to detect deception if they are suspicious.
5. Deception is a part of life, and is not always evil.
Every deceptive act has at least one of three aims:
1. To accomplish a specific task or instrumental goal.
2. To establish or maintain a relationship with the respondent.
3. To “save face” or sustain the image of one or both parties.
The three types of interpersonal deception:
1. Falsification: not telling the truth.
2. Concealment: hiding the truth.
3. Equivocation: dodging issues.
Coordinated Management of Meaning (Pearce & Cronen, 1980)
Main Idea: The theory builds off of Symbolic Interactionism and Speech Acts Theory, and asserts that meaning is the essence
of communication. People simultaneously co-construct meaning through communication even as the communication influences
the construction of their own personal identity. Communication is not only descriptive (talking about something), but also
performative (acting). The theory is in some ways a moralistic theory and holds that 1) change is inevitable and 2) that we
strive to make a better self as well as a better world. To help us do this, CMM offers some theoretical tools.
Meaning is modeled on 6 levels with each level of the hierarchy influencing every other level. Part of determining someone’s
meaning is understanding which level of the hierarchy is being emphasized.
1. Content: messages in whatever form. The information/data being exchanged. Content is not enough to establish
2. Speech Act: language rules.
a. Illocutionary: speech designed to inform someone.
b. Perlocutionary: speech designed to affect someone’s behavior.
3. Episode: setting (time & place) of an interpersonal interaction (context).
4. Relationship: the relationship between the communicators.
5. Self-concept: who one is. How one defines one’s self (identity).
6. Cultural Patterns: social norms/expectations/paradigms.
CMM agrees with Symbolic Interactionism that people co-construct reality through communication. The goal is to improve upon
the reality co-constructed (to end or resolve unnecessary conflict in a world in which people of many different backgrounds
come into contact with one another).
1. CMMers are curious about the world/communication rather than certain.
2. CMMers are participants in research rather than spectators.
3. CMMers live in pluralist worlds rather than seek a singular Truth.
4. CMMers advocate community-based action research, a collaborative approach to investigation that seeks to engage
community members as equal and full participants in the research process.
Stories Lived and Stories Told
Stories lived are the co-constructed actions we perform with others. Stories told are the narratives that we use to make sense
of our stories lived. Coordination takes place when we fit our stories lived into the stories lived by others in a way that makes
life better. The management of meaning involves the adjustment of our stories told to fit the reality of stories lived—or vice
Coherence and Mystery
Coherence: meaning, direction, purpose. Mystery: a world bigger and more complex than any one individual can understand,
and we cannot know the future. Advice for constructing better social worlds:
1. Treat all stories, your own as well as others, as incomplete, unfinished, biased, and inconsistent.
2. Treat your own stories as “local,” dependent on your own perspective, history, and purposes.
3. Treat stories that differ from your own as “valid” within the framework of the other person’s perspective, history, and
4. Be curious about other people’s stories.
Coordination is the process by which persons collaborate in an attempt to bring into being their vision of what is necessary,
noble, and good and to preclude the enactment of what they fear, hate, or despise. People do not need to agree on what is
good etc. Advice for better coordination:
1. Be mindful that you are participating in a multiturn process.
2. Be mindful that you are part of, but only one part of, a multiperson process.
3. Be mindful that the process involves reciprocally responding to and eliciting responses from other people.
4. Be mindful that this process creates the social world in which we all live.
Advice for becoming a good communicator:
1. Develop sufficient self-awareness of the “localness” of your own stories to treat other peoples’ stories with curiosity and
2. Develop habits and skills of articulating what you think, know, believe, and value in ways that enable and encourage
others to articulate what they think, know, believe, and value, particularly if they disagree with you.
3. Assume responsibility for authoring the most important stories in your interactions with others instead of allowing those
stories to author you. Sometimes this will require changing your stories and/or the way you tell those stories.
4. Develop abilities to think in terms of patterns, relationships, and systems, not just in terms of specific acts, your own
intentions, and the way the world appears from your own perspective.
5. Develop habits and skills of listening to other people so that you understand them and that they know that you have
listened to and understood them.
6. Develop sufficient understanding of yourself, and confidence in your abilities, to be able to enter into high-quality
relationships with others, even under less than optimal conditions.
7. Realizing that you as a person are made by the same process that you are a part of making, be committed to improving
existing social worlds, preventing the realization of unwanted social worlds, and calling into being better social worlds.
8. Develop the ability to move among perspectives, understanding situations from the perspective of other people involved
and from the perspective of observers as well as from your own, first-person, perspective.
Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986)
The basic idea: there are two routes to persuasion when someone encounters a message or set of messages, the central route
and the peripheral route. People are more likely to be deeply persuaded if they elaborate (add to the messages they hear by
thinking about them deeply, activating their own brains, thinking of examples, comparing messages with what they already
know, adding to the message received…) on the arguments they hear.
The two routes to persuasion:
1. The central route = the argument (long lasting change); CONTENT.
a. Motivation for elaboration:
i. Cost/benefit analysis
1. people are motivated to hold correct attitudes
2. when issues are personally relevant
3. individual difference – varying needs for cognition/sensation
4. must be able to attend the message
2. The peripheral route = verbal and nonverbal cues outside of the message (short term change); PACKAGING. Example:
i. Self-interest & tangible rewards (i.e. brown nosing)
ii. Liking/affinity (belonging, social desirability)
iii. Authority/credibility (obedience)
b. Six types of peripheral cues
i. reciprocation -"I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine"
ii. consistency - "This is the way it's always been done"
iii. social proof -"Everyone does/knows it"
iv. liking -"You like me and my idea"
v. authority -"Because I said so"
vi. scarcity -"This offer ends in five minutes"
Persuasion has occurred if:
1. The change is persistent over time.
2. It resists counter persuasion.
3. It predicts future behavior.
Learning Log Entries: Unit 6
1. Watch TEDTalks: Head Games (2011) Episode 1: Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar on Netflix. Discuss the video in
terms of findings from Interpersonal Deception Theory. Is Pamela Meyer convincing in arguing that liars can be
2. You’ve been hired by the US government to design a message encouraging teenagers to drive safely. Based on what the
Elaboration Likelihood Model tells us about how persuasion works, tell us what messages would likely be effective.
Search youTube for safe driving PSA’s and see if any of them are soundly designed based on ELM considerations. Don’t
forget to cite the videos you’ve watched.
3. Can a CMM perspective be used to make a better world or is it totally unrealistic? Will we ever experience a planet not in
conflict? Will we be able to peacefully resolve the issues facing us as a species? Is this a noble goal to aspire to or just a