From the Instructors Manual
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Chapter 2—Talk About Theory
- Behavioral scientists are scholars who apply the scientific method to describe, predict, and explain recurring forms of human behavior.
- Rhetoricians are scholars who study the ways in which symbolic texts can be used to identify with people, or to persuade people towards a certain view. They interpret texts.
- Two communication scholars view a heartwarming ad.
- Glenn: An objective approach.
- Social scientists wonder why the commercial produced such a positive sentiment and whether it resulted in action.
- They want to explain and predict human behavior.
- For scientists, it’s not enough to identify a theory that seems to apply to the situation. We want an objective test to find out if a theory is faulty.
- In science, theory and research walk hand in hand.
- Marty: An interpretive approach.
- The entire ad is structured by an archetypal mythic pattern of birth-death-rebirth.
- The ad activates emotions by incorporating the form of the cycle within a mini-narrative.
- Objective or interpretive: Sorting out the labels.
- The objective and interpretive approaches to communication study differ in starting point, method, and conclusion.
- Scholars who do objective study are scientists concerned with behavior and attitudes.
- Scholars who do interpretive study are concerned with meaning, and reflect a range of ideological and methodological positions. As a result, there is no single unifying or accepted label, although the authors uses the term “interpretive scholars” to apply to the entire groups and specific labels for subgroups as appropriate.
- Ways of knowing: Discovering truth or creating multiple realities?
- Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge.
- Scientists assume that truth is singular.
- Reality is accessible through our senses.
- No one person can know it all, so individual researchers pool their findings and build a collective body of knowledge about how the world works.
- Good theories are mirrors of nature, true as long as conditions remain the same.
- Interpretive scholars seek truth as well, but many interpreters regard that truth as socially constructed through communication.
- Truth is largely subjective and meaning is highly interpretive.
- Knowledge is always viewed from a particular standpoint.
- The knower cannot be separated from the known.
- Texts never interpret themselves.
- Multiple meanings or multiple versions of truth are acceptable.
- Successful interpretations are those that convince others.
- Human nature: Determinism or free will.
- Scientists stress the forces that shape human behavior; interpretive scholars focus on conscious choices made by individuals
- Determinists argue that heredity and environment determine behavior.
- Behavioral scientists usually describe human conduct as occurring “because of” forces outside the individual’s awareness..
- Behavior is the response to a prior stimulus.
- In contrast, interpretive scholars tend to use explanatory phrases such as “so that” or “in order to” because they attribute a person’s action to conscious intent.
- They focus on conscious choices of individuals, not on why choices are made.
- They believe that significant decisions are value laden.
- As individual freedom increases, predictability of behavior decreases.
- The highest value: Objectivity or emancipation?
- When we talk about values, we are discussing priorities, questions of relative worth.
- Social scientists value objectivity; personal values should not distort human reality.
- Interpretive scholars seek to expand the range of free choice; knowledge is never neutral.
- Scientists seek effectiveness; interpreters focus on participation.
- The purpose of theory: Universal laws or guides for interpretation?
- Scientists seek universal laws; interpreters strive to interpret individual texts.
- Scientists test theories; interpreters explore the web of meaning constituting human existence.
- Scientists seek prediction; interpretive scholars strive for meaning.
- Objective or interpretive: Why is it important?
- You cannot fully understand a theory without knowing its assumptions about truth, human nature, the purpose of theory, and its values.
- It is helpful when thinking through theories to have a way of organizing them into objective and interpretive worldviews.
- Understanding objective and interpretive points can help you decide what direction to take your coursework.
- Theorists in both camps believe their area of work will improve relationships and society.
- Plotting theories on an objective-interpretive scale: A metatheoretical way of comparing theories featured in the book. Objective and interpretive labels anchor the ends of a continuum, with many theories in between.
You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:
- Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
- To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
- You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
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