Selected Edition:  
   
Follow us on     

Theory Resources—by Type

Change to View by Theory
















 
Share:

Theory Overviews (9th Edition)

Abstracts appear in Appendix A of the text

Interpersonal Communication: Interpersonal Messages

Symbolic Interactionism (Chapter 5)

Humans act toward people, things, and events on the basis of the meanings they assign to them. Once people define a situation as real, it has very real consequences. Without language there would be no thought, no sense of self, and no socializing presence of society within the individual. (Socio-cultural tradition)

Coordinated Management of Meaning (CCM) (Chapter 6)

Persons-in-conversation co-construct their own social realities and are shaped by the worlds they create. Communication is a two-sided process of making and managing meaning and coordinating our actions. What we say matters because we get what we make. If we get the pattern right, the best possible things will happen. (Socio-cultural and phenomenological traditions)

Expectancy Violations Theory (Chapter 7)

Violating another person's interpersonal expectations can be a superior strategy to conformity. When the meaning of a violation is ambiguous, communicators with a high reward valence can enhance their attractiveness, credibility, and persuasiveness by doing the unexpected. When the violation valence or reward is negative, they should act in a socially appropriate way. (Socio-pyschological tradition)

Interpersonal Communication: Relationship Development

Social Penetration Theory (Chapter 8)

Interpersonal closeness proceeds in a gradual and orderly fashion from superficial to intimate levels of exchange as a function of anticipated present and future outcomes. Lasting intimacy requires continual and mutual vulnerability through breadth and depth of self-disclosure. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Chapter 9)

When people meet, their primary concern is to reduce uncertainty about each other and their relationship. As verbal output, nonverbal warmth, self-disclosure, similarity, and shared communication networks increase uncertainty decreases—and vice versa. Information seeking and reciprocity are positively correlated with uncertainty. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Social Information Processing Theory (Chapter 10)

Based solely on the linguistic content of computer-mediated communiction (CMC), parties who meet online can develop relationships just as close as those formed face-to-face—thogh it takes longer. Because online senders select, receivers magnify, channels promote, and feedback enhances favorable impressions, CMC may create hyperpersonal relationships. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Interpersonal Communication: Relationship Maintenance

Relational Dialectics (Chapter 11)

Social life is a dynamic knot of contradictions, a ceaseless interplay between contradictory or opposing tendencies such as integration-separation, stability-change, and expression-nonexpression. Quality relationships are constituted through dialogue, which is an aesthetic accomplishment that produces fleeting moments of unity through a profound respect for the disparate voices. (Phenomenological tradition)

Communication Privacy Management Theory (Chapter 12)

People believe they own and have a right to control their private information; they do so by using personal privacy rules. When others are told, they become co-owners of the information. If co-owners don’t effectively negotiate mutually agreeable privacy rules about telling third parties, boundary turbulence is the likely result. (Socio-cultural and cybernetic traditions)

The Interactional View (Chapter 13)

Relationships within a family system are interconnected and highly resistant to change. Communication among members has a content component and a relationship component that centers on issues of control. The system can be transformed only when members receive outside help to reframe their metacommunication. (Cybernetic tradition)

Interpersonal Communication: Influence

Social Judgment Theory (Chapter 14)

The larger the discrepancy between a speaker’s position and a listener’s point of view, the greater the change in attitude—as long as the message is within the hearer's latitude of acceptance. High ego-involvement usually indicates a wide latitude of rejection. Messages that fall there may have a boomerang effect. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Elaboration Likelihood Model (Chapter 15)

Message elaboration is the central route of persuasion that produces major positive attitude change. It occurs when unbiased listeners are motivated and able to scrutinize arguments that they consider strong. Message-irrelevant factors hold sway on the peripheral path, a more common route that produces fragile shifts in attitude. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Chapter 16)

Cognitive dissonance is an aversive drive that causes people to (1) avoid opposing viewpoints, (2) seek reassurance after making a tough decision, and (3) change private beliefs to match public behavior when there is minimal justification for an action. Self-consistency, a sense of personal responsibility, or self-affirmation can explain dissonance reduction. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Group and Public Communication: Group Communication

Functional Perspective on Group Decision Making (Chapter 17)

Groups make high-quality decisions when members fulfill four requisite functions: (1) problem analysis, (2) goal setting, (3) identification of alternatives, and (4) evaluation of positive and negative consequences. Most group communication disrupts progress toward accomplishing these functional tasks, but counteractive communication can bring people back to rational inquiry. (Socio-psychological and cybernetic traditions)

Symbolic Convergence Theory (Chapter 18)

Dramatizing messages are group members’ expressed interpretations of events other than those in the here-andnow. Message content becomes a group fantasy theme when it spontaneously chains out among members. The sharing of group fantasies creates symbolic convergence—group consciousness and often cohesiveness. Fantasy theme analysis across groups can reveal a rhetorical vision. (Rhetorical and sociopsychological traditions)

Group and Public Communication: Organizational Communication

Cultural Approach to Organizations (Chapter 19)

Humans are animals suspended in webs of significance that they themselves have spun. An organization doesn’t have a culture, it is a culture—a unique system of shared meanings. A nonintrusive ethnographic approach interprets stories, rites, and other symbolism to make sense of corporate culture. (Socio-cultural tradition)

Communicative Constitution of Organizations (Chapter 20)

Communication calls organization into being. Such constitutive communication is patterned into four flows: membership negotiation, self-structuring, activity coordination, and institutional positioning. All four fl ows are necessary for organization to occur, although time and space often separate where each fl ow appears. (Sociocultural tradition)

Critical Theory of Communication in Organizations (Chapter 21)

The naïve notion that communication is merely the transmission of information perpetuates managerialism, discursive closure, and the corporate colonization of everyday life. Language is the principal medium through which social reality is produced and reproduced. Managers can further a company’s health and democratic values by coordinating stakeholder participation in corporate decisions. (Critical and phenomenological traditions)

Group and Public Communication: Public Rhetoric

The Rhetoric (Chapter 22)

Rhetoric is the art of discovering all available means of persuasion. A speaker supports that probability of a message by logical, ethical, and emotional proofs. Accurate audience analysis results in effective invention; arrangement; style; delivery; and, presumably, memory. (Rhetorical tradition)

Dramatism (Chapter 23)

Life is drama. The dramatistic pentad of act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose is the critic’s tool for discovering a speaker’s motives. The ultimate motive of rhetoric is the purging of guilt. Without audience identification with the speaker, there is no persuasion. (Rhetorical and semiotic traditions)

Narrative Paradigm (Chapter 24)

People are storytelling animals; almost all forms of human communication are fundamentally narrative. Listeners judge a story by whether it hangs together and rings true with the values of an ideal audience. Thus, narrative rationality is a matter of coherence and fidelity. (Rhetorical tradition)

Mass Communication: Media and Culture

Media Ecolgy (Chapter 25)

The media must be understood ecologically. Changes in communication technology alter the symbolic environment—the socially constructed, sensory world of meanings. We shaped our tools—the phonetic alphabet, printing press, and telegraph—and they in turn have shaped our perceptions, experiences, attitudes, and behavior. Thus the medium is the message. (Socio-cultural tradition)

Semiotics (Chapter 26)

The significant visual sign systems of a culture affirm the status quo by suggesting that the world as it is today is natural, inevitable, and eternal. Mythmakers do this by co-opting neutral denotative signs to become signifiers without historical grounding in second-order connotative semiotic systems. (Semiotic tradition).

Cultural Studies (Chapter 27)

The mass media function to maintain the ideology of those who already have power. Corporately controlled media provide the dominant discourse of the day that frames interpretation of events. Critics should seek not only to interpret culture, but to change it. Media audiences do have the capacity to resist hegemony. (Critical tradition)

Mass Communication: Media Effects

Uses and Gratifications (Chapter 28)

The media-effects tradition focuses on what media do to people. Uses & grats focuses on what people do with media. Media consumption is a deliberate choice designed to satisfy particular needs. Media don't have uniform effects on the audience; effects vary according to the individual reasons for media use. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Cultivation Theory (Chapter 29)

Television has become society's storyteller. Heavy television viewers see a vast quantity of dramatic violence, which cultivates an exaggerated belief in a mean and scary world. Mainstreaming and resonance are two of the processes that create a homogeneous and fearful populace. (Socio-cultural and socio-psychological traditions)

Agenda-Setting Theory (Chapter 30)

The media tell us (1) what to think about, and (2) how to think about it. The first process (agenda setting) transfers the salience of items on their news agenda to our agenda. The second process (framing) transfers the salience of selected attributes to prominence among the pictures in our heads. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Cultural Context: Intercultural Communication

Communication Accommodation Theory (Chapter 31)

People in intercultural encounters who see themselves as unique individuals will adjust their speech style and content to mesh with others whose approval they seek. People who want to reinforce a strong group identification will interact with those outside the group in a way that accentuates their differences. (Socio-psychological tradition)

Face-Negotiation Theory (Chapter 32)

People who have an interdependent self-image in a collectivistic culture are concerned with giving other-face or mutual-face, so they adopt a conflict style of avoiding or integrating. People who have an independent self-image in an individualistic culture are concerned with protecting self-face, so they adopt a conflict style of dominating. (Socio-cultural and socio-psychological traditions)

Speech Codes Theory (Chapter 33)

Through ethnography of communication we know all cultures have multiple speech codes that involve a distinctive psychology, sociology, and rhetoric. The meaning of a speech code is determined by speakers and listeners, and is woven into speech itself. Artful use of the code can explain, predict, and control talk about talk. (Socio-cultural tradition)

Cultural Context: Gender and Communication

Genderlect Styles (Chapter 34)

Male-female conversation is cross-cultural communication. Masculine and feminine styles of discourse are best viewed as two distinct cultural dialects rather than as inferior or superior ways of speaking. Men's report talk focuses on status and independence; women's rapport talk seeks human connection. (Semiotic and socio-cultural traditions)

Standpoint Theory (Chapter 35)

Different locations within the social hierarchy affect what is seen. The standpoints of marginalized people provide less false views of the world than do the privileged perspectives of the powerful. Strong objectivity requires that scientific research start from the lives of women, the poor, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities. (Critical tradition)

Muted Group Theory (Chapter 36)

Man-made language aids in defining, depreciating, and excluding women. Women are less articulate in public because the words and the norms for their use have been devised by men. As women cease to be muted, men will no longer maintain their position of dominance in society. (Critical and phenomenological traditions)

Back to top