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Chapter 7—Expectancy Violations Theory
- Personal space expectations: conform or deviate?
- Judee Burgoon defines personal space as the invisible, variable volume of space surrounding an individual that defines that individual’s preferred distance from others.
- The size and shape of our personal space depends upon cultural norms and individual preferences.
- Personal space is always a compromise between the conflicting approach-avoidance needs that we as humans have for affiliation and privacy.
- Edward Hall coined the term proxemics to refer to the study of people’s use of space as a special elaboration of culture.
- He believed that most spatial interpretation is outside our awareness.
- He believed that Americans have four proxemic zones.
- Intimate distance: 0 to 18 inches.
- Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet.
- Social distance: 4 to 12 feet.
- Public distance: 12 to 25 feet to infinity.
- He maintained that effective communicators adjust their nonverbal behavior to conform to the communicative rules of their partners.
- Burgoon suggests that under some circumstances, violating social norms and personal expectations is a superior strategy to conformity.
- An applied test of the original model.
- According to Burgoon’s early model, crossing over the “threat threshold” that forms the boundary of the intimate distance causes physical and psychological discomfort.
- Noticeable deviations from what we expect cause a heightened state of arousal and spur us to review the nature of our relationship with a person.
- A person with “punishing” power should observe proxemic conventions or stand slightly farther away than expected.
- An attractive communicator benefits from a close approach.
- Burgoon’s original experiments failed to confirm her theory, but she has continued to refine her approach to expectancy violations.
- The current version is an excellent example of ideas continually revised as a result of empirical disconfirmation.
- A convoluted model becomes an elegant theory.
- Burgoon dropped the concept of the threat threshold.
- She has substituted “an orienting response” or a mental “alertness” for “arousal.”
- Arousal is no longer a necessary link between expectancy violation and communication outcomes such as attraction, credibility, persuasion, and involvement, but rather a side effect of a partner’s deviation.
- She has dropped the qualifier “nonverbal” because she believes the principles of EVT apply to verbal interaction as well.
- Core concepts of EVT (expectancy violations theory).
- EVT offers a soft determinism rather than hard-core universal laws.
- Burgoon does, however, hope to link surprising interpersonal behavior and attraction, credibility, influence, and involvement.
- Expectancy is what is predicted to occur rather than what is desired.
- Expectancy is based on context, relationship, and communicator characteristics.
- Burgoon believes that all cultures have a similar structure of expected communication behavior, but that the content of those expectations differs from culture to culture.
- Violation valence.
- The violation valence is the positive or negative value we place on the unexpected behavior, regardless of who does it.
- If the valence is negative, do less than expected.
- If the valence is positive, do more than expected.
- Although the meanings of most violations can be determined from context, some nonverbal expectancy violations are equivocal.
- For equivocal violations, one must refer to the communicator reward valence.
- Communicator reward valence.
- The communicator reward valence is the sum of the positive and negative attributes that the person brings to the encounter plus the potential he or she has to reward or punish in the future.
- Puzzling violations force victims to search the social context for clues to their meaning and that’s when communication reward valence comes into play.
- Burgoon says that all things being equal, the nature of the violation will influence the response it triggers more than the reward potential of the one who did it.
- Communicator reward valence may loom large when it's especially strong either way (exceptionally positive or negative).
- Interactional Adaptation—Adjusting Expectations.
- Burgoon has recognized that “EVT does not fully account for the overwhelming prevalence of reciprocity that has been found in interpersonal interactions.”
- So she has reassessed EVT’s single-sided view of unexpected communication and now favors a dyadic model of adaptation.
- Interactional adaptation theory is an extension and expansion of EVT
- Interactional position encompasses three factors:
- Requirements—outcomes we all need to fulfill our basic needs to survive, be safe, belong, and have sense of self worth.
- Expectations—what we think really will happen.
- Desire—what we personally would like to see happen.
- Unlike EVT, IAT addresses how people adjust their behavior when others violate their expectations.
- Critique: A well-regarded work in progress.
- While we might wish for predictions that prove more reliable than a long-range weather forecast, a review of expectancy violations research suggests that EVT may have reached that point and be more accurate than other theories that predict responses to nonverbal communication.
- Despite problems, Burgoon’s theory meets five criteria for a good scientific theory (explanation, relative simplicity, testable, quantitative research, and practical advice) and recent research suggests improvement in the sixth criterion—prediction.
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