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Transcript
Instructor’s Manual
and
Test Bank
to accompany
A First Look at
Communication Theory
Sixth Edition
Em Griffin
Wheaton College
prepared by
Glen McClish
San Diego State University
and
Emily J. Langan
Wheaton College
Published by McGraw­Hill, an imprint of The McGraw­Hill Companies, Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Copyright Ó 2006, 2003, 2000, 1997, 1994, 1991 by The McGraw­Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. The contents, or parts thereof, may be reproduced in print form solely for classroom use with A First Look At Communication Theory provided such reproductions bear copyright notice, but may not be reproduced in any other form or for any other purpose without the prior written consent of The McGraw­Hill Companies, Inc., including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.
PREFACE
Rationale
We agreed to produce the instructor’s manual for the sixth edition of A First Look at
Communication Theory because it’s a first-rate book and because we enjoy talking and
writing about pedagogy. Yet when we recall the discussions we’ve had with colleagues about
instructor’s manuals over the years, two unnerving comments stick with us: “I don’t find them
much help”; and (even worse) “I never look at them.” And, if the truth be told, we were often
the people making such points! With these statements in mind, we have done some serious
soul-searching about the texts that so many teachers—ourselves included—frequently malign
or ignore.
As we have considered our quandary, we have come face-to-face with the central
paradox that characterizes the genre: Teaching manuals tend to be distant, mechanical,
impersonal, and lifeless, when in fact good teaching is immediate, flexible, personal, and
lively. In this manual, therefore, we have attempted to communicate to fellow teachers as
directly and vigorously as possible our advice for teaching with A First Look at
Communication Theory. The best way to talk about teaching, of course, is to do just that—
talk. In lieu of such conversation, we offer the manual as a sort of extended letter, or a series
of epistles within a larger correspondence about teaching. We’ve done our best not to be
concise, but expansive. Rather than merely hinting at pedagogical possibilities, we’ve
attempted to flesh out classroom discussion and activities. In Chapter 1, Griffin features
Glenn Sparks, a social scientist, and Marty Medhurst, a rhetorician, whose differing vantage
points result in distinct readings of the Monster.com advertisement. For this edition of the
manual, an empiricist (Emily) and a humanist (Glen) are collaborating and our hope is that
our combined effort will be useful to you by suggesting novel approaches to complement
your existing strengths and proposing ideas for how to approach areas in which you are not
as proficient. Combining our experiences and insights with those of the author of the book
and other teachers/scholars of communication theory, we’ve done our best to provide a
genuinely helpful resource as you steel yourself to teach this exciting—and extremely
challenging—material.
The Contents of This Manual
In order to help you teach the theories in Griffin’s book as effectively as possible,
we’ve included a wide variety of material in this manual. After this prefatory essay and the
sample course schedules that follow, we move chapter by chapter through the textbook,
providing information to help you plan for class discussion and activities, assignments,
review, and examinations. In keeping with Griffin’s basic approach, we have for the most part
treated each chapter as a discrete entity, thus allowing you to alter the sequencing of the
theories or omit whole sections as needed.
Each unit of the manual begins with an “Outline.” As closely as possible, these
outlines follow the contours of Griffin’s prose, and in most cases his principal headings
vii generate the titles of the sections designated by Roman numerals. For the sake of efficiency,
we have omitted most of Griffin’s examples from life, literature, and the screen. In addition to
helping you present the material and lead discussion, the “Outline” may function as a study
guide for your students. If your students seem to be having difficulty understanding A First
Look at Communication Theory, require them to bring their own outlines of the assigned
reading to class. Whether you collect and evaluate their work or simply circulate the outline
provided here and ask the students to compare the two, this exercise will help them
understand the structure of academic prose and the level of detail for which they are
responsible. (The concise chapter summaries in Appendix A may also serve as study guides
and checks on reading comprehension.) Please note that these outlines should never serve
as substitutes for the text itself. As basic summaries, they necessarily sacrifice the depth and
development of the original.
Next comes “Key Names and Terms,” a concise list of the principal theorists and
concepts covered in the chapter. A good way to use this list to help students prepare for class
is to circulate the names and terms without the definitions before the chapter is to be read.
Have students supply all the definitions and submit them before the relevant class
discussion. Whether you “correct” each entry and assign precise point totals to their work or
simply give students full credit if they complete the exercise in good faith, your interest in
their comprehension of the material will positively affect their study habits. This activity is
particularly useful early in the semester, when it is important to reinforce careful reading.
The third section, “Principal Changes,” has been included primarily for those
instructors who have worked with the fifth edition of A First Look at Communication Theory.
Here, we concisely summarize the major differences between the sixth edition and its
predecessor.
“Suggestions for Discussion” and “Exercises and Activities” are designed to assist you
help students explore and apply the theory introduced in the chapter. This material
supplements the Questions to Sharpen Your Focus included in the textbook. Some of the
exercises and activities are intended as in-class work; others require advanced preparation by
the students. Some may be used as graded assignments. Under “Exercises and Activities,”
we’ve related many of Em Griffin’s favorite techniques for stimulating student learning.
Please note that we include far more suggestions than you’ll want or be able to use—pick and
choose as you desire. In addition, we would like to confess at the outset that the line between
“suggestions for discussion” and “exercises and activities” is often somewhat arbitrary.
Between “Suggestions for Discussion” and “Exercises and Activities,” we’ve included “Sample
Application Logs,” brief essays written by Em Griffin’s students in response to his application
log assignment. (Below, we have included Griffin’s description of this popular assignment.)
Many of the logs we selected can also be found at Griffin’s website (described below), but
others are unique to the manual. Please note that these samples have not been chosen for
the purpose of advocating particular political, religious, or ideological positions. Selection was
based solely on the student writer’s ability to respond insightfully to the assignment. Many of
these texts may be used to illustrate key points in class.
Supplementary bibliography has been provided under the heading “Further
Resources.” These references are meant to augment, rather than to supplant, those already
viii
listed in the Second Look sections of A First Look at Communication Theory. Many of the
books and articles we recommend are well known in the field; others are familiar to much
smaller circles of scholars. Every reference, though, is connected to the central theory in ways
that can enrich your teaching. As you work through this manual, you’ll notice that many of
the readings listed as “Further Resources” tend more toward application than development
or explication of theory. They have been included to help you create a ready store of
examples. It is also our opinion that good discussions of theory lead inevitably to application;
and, correspondingly, intriguing applications necessarily raise theoretical questions. You’ll
find, not surprisingly, that Griffin’s textbook moves easily and productively between these two
poles. Most of these selections may be assigned as auxiliary reading projects for individuals
or groups of students. Incidentally, you’ll notice that we have more to suggest for some
chapters than for others. This lack of uniformity is due largely to the unevenness of our
knowledge, rather than deliberate bias or intentional neglect. It is our hope that you’ll help us
out in the areas in which we need to expand our reading. If a source is recommended in more
than one chapter treatment, all subsequent citations after the first are abbreviated.
The final section of each chapter treatment, entitled “Sample Examination Questions,”
contains a series of multiple choice, true-false, and essay questions designed to assess
various levels of mastery. We admit at the outset that the multiple choice and true-false
questions were particularly difficult for us to write. First, we do not use such assessment
strategies in our own teaching, so we are less familiar with these forms than other forms of
examination. Second, to write such questions, one must produce—or at least suggest—
misinformation. Since potentially credible yet false or incomplete answers appear in print
along with correct ones, the author of such material is indirectly encouraging students to
embrace what is untrue. We realize, of course, that instructors who face huge sections must
necessarily rely on such questions, and therefore we have provided them. Nonetheless, we
are somewhat conflicted about doing so.
In most chapters, Integrative Essay Questions have been included to bring together
material from two or more chapters. Because instructors tend to assign chapters in the order
Griffin presents them, most of the Integrative Essay Questions ask students to look back to
previous material, rather than forward to theories not yet covered. (Please note that in essay
questions the request to “compare” theories or concepts is meant to include the treatment of
both similarities and differences.)
To avoid redundancy and potential confusion, we’ve made an effort not to repeat
questions. For this reason, you should feel welcome to use any question or exercise in any
pedagogical context you believe is effective. If a discussion question looks appropriate for an
examination, use it that way. If an examination question would make a good study guide,
apply it in that manner. Ultimately, the categories we’ve established are meant simply to
suggest possibilities, rather than to restrict your imagination. It’s also important to mention
that some questions ask students to respond to current events, such as the destruction of the
World Trade Center or to public figures such as Hillary Clinton, that may lose their relevancy
as the semesters roll on. You may wish to substitute new events or figures as is appropriate.
ix
In addition to these full chapter treatments, we have provided briefer accounts of
Griffin’s general Introduction, each specific section introduction (“Interpersonal Messages,”
“Cognitive Processing,” and so forth), and each set of Ethical Reflections.
Lecture or Discussion?
In addition to establishing a comfortable and appropriate pace, we urge you to
conduct your class primarily as a discussion, rather than a lecture. A First Look at
Communication Theory ably assumes the lecturer’s role, laying out the material in an orderly,
engaging manner. In addition, Griffin employs a personal, down-to-earth writing style that can
be seriously undermined by an instructor’s overly formal presentation. Come to class ready to
ask and answer a wide variety of questions, to present and meet diverse challenges, and to
offer intriguing exercises and activities that apply, supplement, and test the theoretical
material presented in the book, and your course will shine.
It’s far easier, of course, simply to prepare and present detailed notes about the
material each day, but unless your charisma level is significantly higher than ours, you’ll run
the risk of boring your audience and yourself. (The most meaningful moments in teaching,
like those in all complex human interactions, transcend the script.) Worse yet, you’ll let your
students off the educational hook. At least half of the responsibility for what happens each
day ought to be theirs, and if you lecture, they’ll become passive participants in the process.
Paulo Freire is right, after all—the most valuable education treats students not as passive
vessels to be filled, but as thinking beings who must learn to ask questions and solve
problems relating to issues that truly matter—issues such as how we communicate with one
another. (If you’re not familiar with Freire, we recommend his classic work, The Pedagogy of
the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos [New York: Continuum, 1970].)
We realize, of course, that economic realities of educational institutions may
necessitate large, impersonal classes that diminish the likelihood of fruitful discussion (see
Ed McDaniel’s treatment of teaching theory to the large lecture class, below). Nonetheless,
we encourage you to do everything in your power to get your audience involved in the
process. Student participation, we’ll wager, will be the single best indicator of pedagogical
success in this class, and the best way to inspire students to assume their rightful role is to
relinquish some of the privilege, power, and predictability of the podium.
It has been said that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it. In this spirit, you
may wish to relinquish some of the responsibility of presenting the material and leading
discussion to the students themselves. With a little coaching from you and with additional
material from the Second Look and “Further Resources” sections, students can succeed in
this role. When making the assignment, challenge students to teach as they would like to be
taught. If the class size or other considerations prevent the assignment of one student to one
chapter, consider assigning chapters as group projects. For the sake of variety, we would
encourage you not to place all your student-led classes in a clump in the course schedule. Mix
it up.
x
SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
We recommend that you periodically supplement your presentation of communication
theory with literary or cinematic examples. Throughout the semester, take time to assign and
then discuss feature films, short stories, plays, or novels that illustrate the theories your
students have been studying. Appendix B of A First Look at Communication Theory provides
an excellent list of cinematic choices, organized by theoretical category. For a full treatment
of the use of film, see Russell F. Proctor II, Communication in Film: Teaching Communication
Courses Using Feature Films (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1996), and Communication in Film
II: Teaching Communication Courses Using Feature Films (International Thompson
Publishing, 1997). Ronald Adler’s “Teaching Communication Theories with Jungle Fever,”
Communication Education 44 (April 1995): 157-64 aptly demonstrates how an instructor can
elucidate a number of theoretical perspectives with one film. A good stockpile of useful short
stories can be found in Beverly Whitaker Long and Charles H. Grant III, “The ‘Surprising
Range of the Possible’: Families Communicating in Fiction,” Communication Education 41, 1
(January 1992): 89-106. Most short-story anthologies are filled with excellent tales for
illustrating theory. Over the course of this manual, we’ll suggest additional options for you to
consider.
The advantage to short stories, plays, and movies is that they can be read or watched
and then discussed over the course of a few hours, efficiently vivifying a key theoretical point
or two. To interweave multiple theories and recreate complex communication contexts,
however, it may be more effective to assign full-length novels. Rather than reading and
discussing the novel straight through, we recommend dividing it into several sections and
interspersing them among chapters of the textbook. Students will find that the movement
back and forth between the two different kinds of books breaks monotony and keeps them
fresh. Almost any novel that is accessible to students and that features human relationships
will do the job. Judith Guest’s Ordinary People, for example (which was first recommended to
us by Roger Smitter, who is now Executive Director of the National Communication
Association), effectively illustrates many of the theories presented in Chapters 4-15, as does
Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, which also provides some interesting material for
Chapters 33-35. Like Beloved, which Griffin uses to exemplify principles of standpoint theory
in Chapter 34, Morrison’s earlier novel Song of Solomon includes extraordinary dialogue and
narrative commentary that are ripe for analysis. Song of Solomon has the advantage of
featuring more contemporary dialogue set in the mid-twentieth century. Both novels, of
course, are particularly powerful sources of examples concerning issues of gender and power.
More challenging and complex than novels such as Ordinary People and Waiting to Exhale,
Song of Solomon or Beloved should easily hold the attention of your students and provide
ample material for careful analysis. Novels with substantial intercultural components such as
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson
Before Dying, and Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club are well suited for Chapters 4-15 as well as
30-32. A novel from another century such as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility provides an
intriguing platform for discussing cultural context. Of course any story can be analyzed in the
terms of Burke’s dramatism (Chapter 23) or Fisher’s narrative paradigm (Chapter 24).
xi A particularly exciting supplementary text to A First Look is Arthur Berger’s
Postmortem for a Postmodernist (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 1997). This insightful,
accessible, humorous account of postmodernism is a pleasure for students to read. If you
devote about a week of class to this text early in the term, you can set up many of the larger
theoretical issues that frame Griffin’s account of communication theory. Matters of ethics,
feminism, power, meaning, intentionality, and media are especially well treated by Berger.
The book’s rather harsh assessment of postmodernism is intriguing to us, and we’re curious
to know how your students will respond to it.
Because every writer has unique strengths and limitations, we also recommend
consulting other communication theory textbooks. James Neuliep’s (unfortunately out of
print) Human Communication Theory: Applications and Case Studies (Boston: Allyn and
Bacon, 1996), for example, has extensive examples and does an outstanding job of covering
rhetorical theory, particularly its complicated history. John Cragan and Donald Shields’s
Understanding Communication Theory: The Communicative Forces for Human Action (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1998) provides aggressive defenses of its six key or “general” theories
(these defenses are entitled “Withstanding the Critics”). In contrast with Griffin, who critiques
each theory rather objectively, Cragan and Shields assume the role of advocates, vigorously
refuting the criticisms one by one. Although we prefer Griffin’s more circumspect approach,
we enjoy—and have learned from—Cragan and Shields’s spirited advocacy. Stephen
Littlejohn’s Theories of Human Communication, 7th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001), the
senior textbook in the field, may be more appropriate for beginning graduate students than
the undergraduates we teach, but it is an excellent resource. James Anderson’s
Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations (New York: Guilford, 1996), which is
deliberately pitched to graduate students and their professors, is also a good place to go for
sophisticated supplements. Julia Wood’s Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction,
3rd ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2003) is particularly good on relational and gender issues.
Richard L. West and Lynn H. Turner have a relatively recent contribution to the field,
Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application, 2nd ed. (New York:
WCB/McGraw-Hill, 2003). And so it goes.
In addition to consulting other communication theory textbooks, we would like to
encourage you to check out Griffin’s user-friendly website for A First Look at Communication
Theory.
www.afirstlook.com
The site has been designed primarily as a companion to the textbook and this instructor’s
manual. On the left side of the site are links to resource materials for the texts: a description
of Conversations with Communication Theorists, (introduced below), film clips illustrating key
components of the theories, primary resources, application logs (see below), thorough
comparisons to other communication theory textbooks (including those we mention above),
the publisher’s website, and information about the authors of the textbook and the manual,
including e-mail addresses. At the top of the site are links to the theories featured in the
book, as well as links to complete chapters from earlier editions that covered theories not
included in the current text. If you want your students to read about Bandura’s social learning
theory, Heider’s attribution theory, or a dozen other theories no longer featured in A First
xii
Look, the resources are available online. The search at the top left of the site is an easy way
to find information in the current edition, instructor’s manual, archives, and the FAQ.
An important new feature on the site for this edition is the chapter on Marshall
McLuhan’s media ecology theory. We are fascinated by the move of the chapter-length
treatment into a digital format and are pleased that this classic theory and its contemporary
manifestation is still a critical part of A First Look. It will be available on the website in early
September 2005. Along with Professor Griffin, we invite our students to use the site.
Under McGraw-Hill’s sponsorship, Griffin produced Conversations with Communication
Theorists, a video/CD comprised of interviews with 15 of the theorists featured in A First
Look. This resource gives you a chance to personalize the theorists you introduce to your
students. Its value, though, goes beyond helping students put faces and voices to names.
Griffin asks provocative questions that frequently illuminate—or problematize—key
theoretical issues raised in the book. In addition, the questions we wrote for the “User’s
Guide” that accompanies the interviews encourage syntheses, applications, and
extrapolations that complement—and, we hope, stretch—what goes on when one reads the
book itself. In effect, Conversations with Communication Theorists should be seen not as
peripheral to, but as an extension of, A First Look at Communication Theory.
Another intriguing resource is the NCA-sponsored listserv, CRTNET, the
Communication Research and Theory Network. Lively, free-ranging discussions on a wide
variety of topics are featured, and all readers are invited to join the conversations.
Instructions for a complimentary subscription are available at the following address:
http://lists1.cac.psu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=crtnet&A=1
One of the simplest yet most powerful ways to supplement the text is to take a cue
from its author and bring your own cartoons to class. These additional pedagogical artifacts
are terrific for illustrating concepts that may seem otherwise abstract or irrelevant to
students. Furthermore, you’ll find that if you make it a practice to enliven discussion with
pieces you’ve discovered, students will begin to bring in their own. It is a delight to see them
taking responsibility for their own educations. “Dilbert” is a particularly popular choice for
communication instructors. In addition, Ed McDaniel, formerly from San Diego State
University, recommends “Luann” and “Non Sequitur.” No doubt you’ll develop your own
favorites.
Constructing Quizzes and Examinations
As mentioned above, each chapter treatment in this manual concludes with “Sample
Examination Questions.” The easiest require only a basic understanding of the material; the
most difficult demand careful critical thinking and sophisticated synthesis. Beyond these
questions, there are several other fruitful ways to test your students’ comprehension.
Information listed under “Key Names and Terms” can form the basis of short answer or
matching-type examination questions. Every multiple choice question can be altered to form
a true-false question. When using true-false questions, consider requiring students to explain
why any false statement is false—or to correct the statement so that it is true. Many of the
xiii
Questions to Sharpen Your Focus included in the text make excellent quiz or examination
questions. Assigning these questions for quizzes has the added benefit of encouraging
students to prepare them in advance of class discussion. You may also wish to consider
integrating the cartoons and other visuals featured in the text into your examinations.
Because this book is so tightly packed with provocative ideas, we recommend scheduling at
least three exams over the course of the term. Even with three exams, students may request
additional tests in order to decrease the amount of material they’re responsible for on a
given day.
Student Reports and Papers
Students’ responses to exams are easy to quantify, and they provide useful measures
of some kinds of learning, but most exams bear little resemblance to the professional
activities our students will perform once they complete their formal education. Furthermore,
the chapter-by-chapter mastery of material that examinations foster is crucial, but other
kinds of understanding come only when one looks past the boundaries of such artificial units
to the broad scope of knowledge. In many educational settings, thus, a course such as the
one developed around A First Look at Communication Theory would include student oral
reports and/or papers, assignments that would transcend the scope of the “Sample
Examination Questions,” and the Questions to Sharpen Your Focus provided in the manual
and the text, respectively. Although such assignments are difficult to assign and evaluate
within the structure of some departments and institutions, we highly recommend them
because—as we have suggested—they require students to synthesize and apply theories in
complex ways. Furthermore, such assignments help students to improve the very public
speaking and writing skills or competencies that communication programs claim to promote.
One of the best ways to approach oral reports and papers is to assign individualized
readings from the Second Look sections or the Ethical Reflections featured in the text. Ask
students to summarize the key material presented in the source, place it within the context
of the course, and critique its value. Of course, Griffin’s chapters provide excellent models for
each step in the process. Many of the texts listed in the “Further Resources” sections of the
manual will also serve this purpose. You can also encourage students to search out relevant
articles in our profession’s scholarly journals—Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication
Monographs, Communication Quarterly, Communication Studies, Communication Theory,
Southern Communication Journal, Western Journal of Communication, Rhetoric Society
Quarterly, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Media, Culture & Society, Signs: Journal of
Women in Culture and Society, Women’s Studies in Communication, Human Communication
Research, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Cultural Studies, and so forth.
Another approach is to ask students to evaluate the theoretical significance of movies
from Appendix B of the text or of movies, short stories, plays, or novels mentioned in this
manual. (Students may also generate their own candidates for analysis.) Once again, A First
Look at Communication Theory provides fine sample analyses of literary and cinematic texts.
This kind of assignment is particularly useful for the more creative or applied student.
A third strategy is to have students investigate theories, theoretical topics, and
general approaches to communication not explicitly featured in the text. Theories that fall in
xiv
this category include Plato’s dialectic (particularly as presented in the Phaedrus); Richard
Weaver’s ethical rhetoric; Robert Scott’s epistemic rhetoric; Stephen Toulmin’s model of
argument; Wayne Booth’s rhetoric of assent; Albert Mehrabian’s immediacy theory; Dolf
Zillman’s mood management theory; Eric Berne’s transactional analysis, performance theory,
and conversation analysis; Peter Anderson’s cognitive valence theory of intimate
communication; Howard Giles’s communication accommodation theory; Wayne Brockreide’s
notion of arguer as lover (which resembles, but is not identical, to Griffin’s topology of false
lovers on page 242); Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction; John Stewart and Milt Jackson’s
dialogic listening; John Bowlby’s attachment theory; Mary Ann Fitzpatrick’s theory of
relationships; Caryl Rusbult’s equity theory; Mikhail Bakhtin’s heteroglossia; Carl Rogers’s
empathic arguer; Mark Knapp’s theory of relational stages; Jack Webb’s theory of defensive
communication; John Fiske’s consumer-oriented approach to media, uses, and gratifications
theory, and diffusion of innovation theory; Frank Dance’s inner speech theory; Donald
Cushman’s rules theory; Robert Sommer’s environmental approach; Susan B. Shimanoff’s
rules theory; Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics; Joshua Meyrowitz’s theory of mediated
place; William Stephenson’s play theory; Steven McCornack’s information manipulation
theory; James Grunig’s situational theory of publics; Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural
adaptation theory; Jurgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere; and Joseph Luft and
Harrington Ingham’s Johari Window. Each is worthy of investigation by the right student or
group of students.
You may also consider assigning theories that were covered in the earlier editions of A
First Look at Communication Theory but not in the current version: William Schutz’s FIRO
theory; John O. Greene’s action assembly theory; Charles Osgood’s mediational theory of
meaning; Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Fritz Heider’s attribution theory; Aubrey
Fisher’s interact system model of decision emergence; Albert Bandura’s social learning
theory; Irving Janis’s groupthink; and Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass’s media equation. This
strategy gives you an easy method for suggesting avenues of research.
One way to approach the assignment is to ask students to write their reports as
potential chapters for inclusion in a seventh edition of A First Look at Communication Theory.
Require them to include Critique, Second Look, Questions to Sharpen Your Focus sections, as
well as comics that bring to life key theoretical issues. Encourage them to keep in mind the
principal virtues of Griffin’s text—a down-to-earth prose style, extended examples, careful
organization, concision, and humor—as they write. This assignment works particularly well
with students who are concurrently enrolled in other communication courses.
Finally, you may wish to have students investigate their own communicative practice
or the practices of people they know. Some of the finest student papers we’ve read have
been analyses of communication that the author had either participated in or directly
observed. Such papers are typically vivid and specific, and they have the extra advantage of
encouraging students to think critically about their own lives and the quality of the
communication in which they participate. One way to help students develop material for such
papers is to encourage or require them to keep weekly journals in which they record the ways
in which the theories they are studying apply to their lives or the lives of people they know.
You can collect and grade this journal periodically or have students share their insights orally
in class. If you are more concerned with process than formal writing and final product, these
xv
journals will serve as an end in themselves. To encourage this self-disclosure process, you
may wish to keep your own journal and share selected entries with your class. One word of
warning—you may encourage but should never require students to write formal papers about
their personal experiences. Some students consider such assignments invasions of privacy
and professorial voyeurism. To protect your students and yourself, always make this genre of
essay optional, rather than compulsory.
You may be interested to know that Griffin requires each student to write a paragraph
of application for each theory. He collects a random sample of these writings each week.
Over the course of the term, he grades five submissions from each student. Here is how he
describes the “application log” assignment:
Consistent with Kurt Lewin’s famous maxim that there is nothing as practical
as a good theory, I ask students to apply each theory to their own lives. I
collect a random sample of the logs each week and with the permission of the
writer (obtained privately beforehand) read some of the best at the start of the
next class session. I find that the entries increase the interest level of the
course and provide a mini review of some parts of each theory.
Even if you don’t make a similar assignment, you might consider using some
of the entries available to validate Lewin’s claim. They are actual student
entries responding to the following instructions:
After you read a chapter on a theory in the First Look text, you are to write a
paragraph making a specific application of the theory to your own life. Please
type or write very clearly. Keep these applications bound together in a secure
way and bring them to class each Thursday. I will collect a random sample of
the logs each week and return them the following Tuesday. You will be asked
to submit your log five different times during the semester. The logs will
provide you with an opportunity to show that you understand the theories and
see their practical implication for your communication interpretation and
behavior.
Teaching Theory to the Large Lecture Class*
Teaching an introductory theory class can be a somewhat daunting task. Teaching
theory as a required course to a classroom with as many as 180 students, drawn from a
variety of communication majors (e.g., advertising, journalism, public affairs, intercultural
communication, etc.), offers even greater challenges.
Each semester, San Diego State University School of Communication offers two
sections of communication theory at the upper-division level. The course is required for all
communication majors, and each section normally ranges from 120 to 180 students. This
number of students more or less mandates a lecture format. However, lectures can be *
The following remarks were graciously provided by Ed McDaniel, who until recently taught
communication theory at San Diego State University.
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infused with a variety of demonstrative activities and contextual relevance, which will help
elicit and sustain student interest while furthering understanding.
Theory, by nature, is abstract and often difficult for some to grasp. This difficulty can
be exacerbated by equally abstract presentations offered to an audience with an inherently
short attention span and an expectation that they should be amused. However, one way to
kindle interest and promote understanding is by presenting the information in a context
relevant to the audience’s interests and personal experiences. This will, of course, require a
degree of familiarization with the lifestyle of students in your locale (i.e., where and how do
they spend their leisure time, how many are employed, what are the student body social
norms, what is on MTV, what are the current age-relevant movies, and so forth). This
information, gained through reading the university paper, casual conversations with students,
channel surfing, and simply being observant, can then be used to construct a context for the
various theories taught. For example, local social events and frequented nightspots can be
used to enliven your illustrations. The trials and tribulations normally encountered in dating
will help exemplify interpersonal relations theories. The local newspaper is often a source of
examples for various theories, which can then be shown in the classroom (but don’t expect
the students to have read the paper!).
When teaching theory to a large audience, it is tempting to adhere to a regimented
lecture format. That procedure is also a sure way to lose your students’ attention and
dampen their enthusiasm. Lecture materials can, and should be, enhanced through what I
consider performance activities. These activities will involve only a few (volunteer) students
and, frequently, the instructor. Although large lecture sections generally preclude small group
interactions, there are activities (e.g., the elevator exercise discussed in Chapter 6 on
expectancy violations theory, as well as others noted in this manual) that can be used to
demonstrate a theory. In these instances, try to select only those students who will provide
the greatest level of expression, yet not become personally embarrassed or defensive. It is
important to remember that each class is different and has a personality of its own. What
works for Monday’s class may not succeed with Tuesday’s section and vice versa.
The administrative aspects of teaching a large lecture section are as important as
pedagogical considerations. Managing a classroom with over 120 students requires
considerable structure and drastically reduces the flexibility normally enjoyed with 25-30
students. The syllabus should clearly define what is to be covered on each class date and
deviations must be kept to the absolute minimum. Test dates should be established at the
beginning of the semester and strictly observed. Once you have announced a policy, stick to it
and avoid making exceptions except in the case of verifiable emergencies.
Dealing with almost 300 students each semester, I have encountered a wide variety
of personal difficulties, including deaths, rape, and life-threatening disease. Sensitivity to
these situations is mandatory, yet I find little need to provide an early or makeup exam
because someone has, without prior consultation, purchased a cheap airline ticket home, is
scheduled to go to Cancun for a family reunion, or simply overslept. Administering makeup
exams can become a serious time drain. Accordingly, I only give makeup exams in the event
of a verifiable emergency. To introduce some level of flexibility into the experience, though, I
offer five exams during the semester, and the lowest score is dropped.
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Distribution of exams must also be considered. After two years, I finally acknowledged
that returning individual Scantrons was too time intensive, and I now post grades. Going over
the exam in class can also be a challenging endeavor. With such a large number of students,
there will inevitably be points of contention. Unless handled correctly, the class can easily
turn into a feeding frenzy as students try to gain that one additional point that will boost their
score to the next letter grade. I now require students to come to my office to review exams.
This has also reduced the number of lost (i.e., compromised) exam copies.
There is also the question of student attendance—should attendance be mandatory or
not? If required, then a method must be devised to rapidly assess who is present and who is
absent, but taking role in a class of 180 students requires considerable time. From my
experience, not requiring attendance is the best course of action. This helps eliminate those
students who would come if required but would not be attentive and would probably create
distractions for other students, as well as yourself.
With large lecture sections, your class presentations must have a very discernable,
easy-to-follow structure. This helps students, many of whom have probably not yet read the
chapter, to better organize their notes. I use a document projector to display a lecture outline
and ensure that students know when I move from topic to topic. Remember, not only is the
material abstract, but each theory contains its own vocabulary marked by contextualized
definitions. Often, students will find these situated definitions as confusing as the theory
itself.
Peer pressure and concern over self-embarrassment tend to inhibit many students in
large classes from asking questions. To overcome these impediments, I normally conclude
class about 10 minutes early and indicate I am available for questions. This provides the
students an opportunity to ask questions, clarify their notes, or even discuss personal matters
that would otherwise require an office visit.
If structured and executed correctly, stepping in front of 180 students to explain a
communication theory can be an exciting and rewarding experience. One only needs to tailor
the environment to their style and maintain control of the situation. Personally, I have
encountered considerable success by infusing lectures with humorous examples and offering
frequent self-deprecating illustrations related to the theory. Not only does this approach help
explain the concepts; it can serve to reduce the professor-student intimidation barrier.
Large enrollment classes tend to dictate the use of objective examinations, which
heighten students’ concerns about how tests are scored and the treatment of seemingly
ambiguous questions or confusing answers. I have found much of this anxiety is reduced or
eliminated by using Parscore software to grade the exams and by thoroughly explaining in
class how the system works.
Parscore is a software system that optically scans answer sheets (Scantrons) and
statistically analyzes each test question. The statistics provided allow identification of a host
of testing shortfalls, such as bad or misleading questions, poor answer choices, insufficiently
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covered materials, and so forth. Once identified, the exam answer key can then be adjusted
as desired before the grades are printed and posted.
Additionally, test questions need to be presented in a syntax and style similar to that
used in the classroom. Accordingly, if questions are drawn from the test bank in this
instructors’ manual, they might need rephrasing to ensure congruence with your lecture
presentation style and vocabulary.
If your institution has an online course delivery and management system (San Diego
State University uses Blackboard), you can ease your administrative burden and
concomitantly save the department money by reducing copy costs. I use the Blackboard
system to post the course syllabus, class schedule, study tips, and, about a week before each
exam, study guides. Lecture outlines and notes can also be uploaded.
I am particularly fond of this system because it instills in the students a degree of selfreliance. They become responsible for the contents of material placed on the web, which
tends to eliminate excuses such as “I never got a syllabus,” “I didn’t know an exam was
scheduled for that date,” or “I was absent when the study guide was handed out.”
A Pitch for Pluralism
As you construct your syllabus and prepare for the first day of the course, we want to
encourage you to think as pluralistically as possible about communication theory. All of us
come to such teaching assignments with our professional biases, developed over years of
specialized graduate training, specific research programs, and pedagogical practice. The goal
of A First Look at Communication Theory, however, is to reveal the full spectrum of
theoretical possibilities, a goal that can only be achieved if the instructor facilitates openminded investigation of all perspectives. Glen, for example, comes to this material with years
of work in the field of rhetoric. He’s extremely comfortable talking about Richards, Aristotle,
and Burke, but must work especially hard to present the more scientific theories of Burgoon,
Berger, and Gudykunst with proper care and consideration. Emily, whose background is in
interpersonal and nonverbal communication, approaches this material as an empiricist.
While she is at ease teaching the chapters on Burgoon, Baxter and Montgomery, and Petty
and Cacioppo, she must be more vigilant on Weick, Hall, and Philipsen. Griffin, whose
graduate training was more empirical than rhetorical, reports to us that he has become much
more pluralistic over the course of writing and revising A First Look at Communication Theory.
We believe that the text reflects his growing commitment to multiple perspectives.
Writing about the intellectual foment of the late-nineteenth century in his famous
essay, “The Will to Believe,” William James described rules of engagement for a proper
“intellectual republic” that still serve as appropriate guidelines for classroom practice: “No
one of us ought to issue vetoes to the other, nor should we bandy words of abuse. We ought,
on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another’s mental freedom” (The Will
to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy [New York: Dover, 1956], 30).
What we’ve learned about pluralism, of course, is that it’s not just a matter of fairness,
etiquette, or of being a good sport—it facilitates a greater understanding of truth. Glen is
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reminded of an analogy a professor of his once marshaled in a graduate course to explain
how a multiplicity of diverse critical readings of a complex work of literature promotes, rather
than confuses, our overall understanding of the text. Place a coin under a piece of paper and
draw a pencil over it. Then again, and again, and again. Each stroke creates a limited picture
of the coin below, but after many lines are drawn, a reproduction of the hidden image begins
to emerge. After considering many critical perspectives, even James Joyce’s Ulysses begins
to come into focus.
Communication theory, as well, resembles this child’s diversion. Any one theory,
bound by its inherent limitations, reveals only a slice or stroke of overall reality. The more
theories we know and can apply, however, the clearer and broader our perspective becomes.
Your students—like you and us—will not find each theory equally illuminating, but taken as a
whole the approaches presented in the book provide a richer view of human communication
than any subset offers. We’re sufficiently postmodern to believe that an entirely objective,
complete understanding of reality is beyond our comprehension, but—like that coin beneath
the paper—its rough image gradually takes shape if we work our critical pencils dutifully. The
goal of achieving the best picture possible of the human condition, it seems to me, lies at the
very heart of A First Look at Communication Theory.
Closely related to pluralism is the value of partial theoretical applicability. Many
students will be tempted to reject a theoretical construct if it does not fit perfectly with their
perception of reality. Others become suspicious when they see well-known theories rigorously
questioned in the Critique sections of this book. Em Griffin himself once shared with us the
classic student lamentation: “Well, if every theory has something wrong with it, why bother
studying the stuff?” Just as pluralism helps students see that many different theoretical
paths lead to truth, the willingness to accept some aspects of a theory while reserving
judgment on—or even rejecting—others allows us to avoid simple either/or judgments,
judgments that may cause us to throw the theoretical baby out with the bathwater. We
provide a specific example of the importance of partial applicability in our coverage of
Chapter 24, but it is an approach that may be widely applied across the theoretical terrain.
The notion of partial theoretical applicability may be another way of getting at the issue
addressed by Karl Weick’s clock-face model, featured in the “communication theory” section
of the textbook.
Good Luck, Take Heart, and Go to It!
Having taken care of the preliminaries, there’s not much more for us to say here
except “good luck” and “go to it.” We know the assignment seems overwhelming at times,
but remember that as you face the task of teaching this daunting course, no one on earth is
really qualified for the job. No one has the breadth of knowledge necessary to fully
understand every theory covered in the field. The president of the NCA, Em Griffin, you, and
we are ultimately all in the same boat. So take heart. If you prepare carefully, are willing to
admit that you don’t know everything, and are able to make frequent trips to the library and
the Internet to track down answers to the questions that you and your students will inevitably
raise, you’ll do fine. Remember, as well, that our opening comments about desiring dialogue
are genuine. This manual—or set of letters, or whatever we choose to call it—can’t really talk
or write back to you, but we can, even if we’re temporarily buried in work and need some
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time to dig out. If you want to communicate with us about anything we’ve presented here, email us. We look forward to hearing from you.
Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon
bacon-mcclish@cox.net
Emily J. Langan
emily.j.langan@wheaton.edu
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Supplementary Material
We recommend that you periodically supplement your presentation of communication
theory with literary or cinematic examples. Throughout the semester, take time to assign
and then discuss feature films, short stories, plays, or novels that illustrate the theories your
students have been studying. Appendix B of A First Look at Communication Theory provides
an excellent list of cinematic choices, organized by theoretical category. For a full treatment
of the use of film, see Russell F. Proctor II, Communication in Film: Teaching Communication
Courses Using Feature Films (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1996), and Communication in Film
II: Teaching Communication Courses Using Feature Films (International Thompson Publishing,
1997).
Ronald Adler’s “Teaching Communication Theories with Jungle Fever,”
Communication Education 44 (April 1995): 157-64 aptly demonstrates how an instructor can
elucidate a number of theoretical perspectives with one film. A good stockpile of useful short
stories can be found in Beverly Whitaker Long and Charles H. Grant III, “The 'Surprising Range
of the Possible': Families Communicating in Fiction,” Communication Education 41 (1992):
89-106. Most short-story anthologies are filled with excellent tales for illustrating theory.
Over the course of this manual, we'll suggest additional options for you to consider.
The advantage to short stories, plays, and movies is that they can be read or watched
and then discussed over the course of a few hours, efficiently vivifying a key theoretical point
or two. To interweave multiple theories and recreate complex communication contexts,
however, it may be more effective to assign full-length novels. Rather than reading and
discussing the novel straight through, we recommend dividing it into several sections and
interspersing them among chapters of the textbook. Students will find that the movement
back and forth between the two different kinds of books breaks monotony and keeps them
fresh. Almost any novel that is accessible to students and that features human relationships
will do the job. Judith Guest's Ordinary People, for example (which was first recommended to
me by Roger Smitter who is now Executive Director of the National Communication
Association), effectively illustrates many of the theories presented in Chapters 4-15, as does
Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale, which also provides some interesting material for
Chapters 33-35. Like Beloved, which Griffin uses to exemplify principles of standpoint theory
in chapter 34, Morrison’s earlier novel Song of Solomon includes extraordinary dialog and
narrative commentary that are ripe for analysis. Song of Solomon has the advantage of
featuring more contemporary dialog set in the mid twentieth century. Both novels, of course,
are particularly powerful sources of examples concerning issues of gender and power. More
challenging and complex than novels such as Ordinary People and Waiting to Exhale, Song of
Solomon or Beloved should easily hold the attention of your students and provide ample
material for careful analysis. Novels with substantial intercultural components such as Ralph
Ellison’s Invisible Man, E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before
Dying, and Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club are well suited for Chapters 4-15 as well as 30-32. A
novel from another century such as Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility provides an intriguing
platform for discussing cultural context. Of course any story can be analyzed in the terms of
Burke's dramatism (Chapter 23) or Fisher's narrative paradigm (Chapter 24).
A particularly exciting supplementary text to A First Look is Arthur Berger’s
Postmortem for a Postmodernist (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 1997). This insightful,
xi accessible, humorous account of postmodernism is a pleasure for students to read. If you
devote about a week of class to this text early in the term, you can set up many of the larger
theoretical issues that frame Griffin’s account of communication theory. Matters of ethics,
feminism, power, meaning, intentionality, and media are especially well treated by Berger.
The book’s rather harsh assessment of postmodernism is intriguing to us, and we’re curious
to know how your students will respond to it.
Because every writer has unique strengths and limitations, we also recommend
consulting other communication theory textbooks. James Neuliep’s (unfortunately out of
print) Human Communication Theory: Applications and Case Studies (Boston: Allyn and
Bacon, 1996), for example, has extensive examples and does an outstanding job of covering
rhetorical theory, particularly its complicated history. John Cragan and Donald Shields’s
Understanding Communication Theory: The Communicative Forces for Human Action (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1998) provides aggressive defenses of its six key or “general” theories
(these defenses are entitled “Withstanding the Critics”). In contrast with Griffin, who critiques
each theory rather objectively, Cragan and Shields assume the role of advocates, vigorously
refuting the criticisms one by one. Although I prefer Griffin’s more circumspect approach, I
enjoy—and have learned from—Cragan and Shields’s spirited advocacy. Stephen Littlejohn’s
Theories of Human Communication, 7th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001), the senior textbook
in the field, may be more appropriate for beginning graduate students than the
undergraduates we teach, but it is an excellent resource. James Anderson’s Communication
Theory: Epistemological Foundations (New York: Guilford, 1996), which is deliberately pitched
to graduate students and their professors, is also a good place to go for sophisticated
supplements. Julia Wood’s Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction, 3rd ed.
(Belmont: Wadsworth, 2003) is particularly good on relational and gender issues. Richard L.
West and Lynn H. Turner have a relatively recent contribution to the field, Introducing
Communication Theory: Analysis and Application, 2nd ed. (New York: WCB/McGraw-Hill,
2003). And so it goes.
In addition to consulting other communication theory textbooks, we would like to
encourage you to check out Griffin’s user-friendly website for A First Look at Communication
Theory.
www.afirstlook.com
The site has been designed primarily as a companion to the textbook and this instructor's
manual. On the left side of the site are links to resource materials for the texts: a description
of Conversations with Communication Theorists, (introduced below), film clips illustrating key
components of the theories, primary resources, application logs (see below), thorough
comparisons to other communication theory textbooks (including those we mention above),
the publisher’s website, and information about the authors of the textbook and the manual,
including e-mail addresses. At the top of the site are links to the theories featured in the
book, as well as links to complete chapters from earlier editions that covered theories not
included in the current text. If you want your students to read about Bandura’s social learning
theory, Heider’s attribution theory, or a dozen other theories no longer featured in A First
Look, the resources are available on line. The search at the top left of the site is an easy way
to find information in the current edition, instructor's manual, archives, and the FAQ.
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An important new feature on the site for this edition is the chapter on Marshall
McLuhan’s media ecology theory. We are fascinated by the move of the chapter-length
treatment into a digital format and am pleased that this classic theory and its contemporary
manifestation is still a critical part of A First Look. It will be available on the web site early
September 2005. Along with Professor Griffin, we invite our students to use the site.
Under McGraw-Hill’s sponsorship, Griffin produced Conversations with Communication
Theorists, a video/CD comprised of interviews with 15 of the theorists featured in A First
Look. This resource gives you a chance to personalize the theorists you introduce to your
students. Its value, though, goes beyond helping students put faces and voices to names.
Griffin asks provocative questions that frequently illuminate—or problematize—key theoretical
issues raised in the book. In addition, the questions we wrote for the “User’s Guide” that
accompanies the interviews encourage syntheses, applications, and extrapolations that
complement—and, we hope, stretch—what goes on when one reads the book itself. In effect,
“Conversations with Communication Theorists” should be seen not as peripheral to, but as an
extension of, A First Look at Communication Theory.
Another intriguing resource is the NCA-sponsored listserv, CRTNET, the
Communication Research and Theory Network. Lively, free-ranging discussions on a wide
variety of topics are featured, and all readers are invited to join the conversations.
Instructions for a complimentary subscription are available at the following address:
http://lists1.cac.psu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=crtnet&A=1
One of the simplest, yet most powerful ways to supplement the text is to take a cue
from its author and bring your own cartoons to class. These additional pedagogical artifacts
are terrific for illustrating concepts that may seem otherwise abstract or irrelevant to
students. Furthermore, you'll find that if you make it a practice to enliven discussion with
pieces you've discovered, students will begin to bring in their own. It is a delight to see them
taking responsibility for their own educations. “Dilbert” is a particularly popular choice for
communication instructors. In addition, Ed McDaniel formerly from San Diego State
University recommends “Luann” and “Non Sequitur.” No doubt you’ll develop your own
favorites.
Constructing Quizzes and Examinations
As mentioned above, each chapter treatment in this manual concludes with Sample
Examination Questions. The easiest require only a basic understanding of the material; the
most difficult demand careful critical thinking and sophisticated synthesis. Beyond these
questions, there are several other fruitful ways to test your students' comprehension.
Information listed under Key Names and Terms can form the basis of short answer or
matching-type examination questions. Every multiple choice question can be altered to form
a true-false question. When using true-false questions, consider requiring students to explain
why any false statement is false—or to correct the statement so that it is true. Many of the
Questions to Sharpen Your Focus included in the text make excellent quiz or examination
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questions. Assigning these questions for quizzes has the added benefit of encouraging
students to prepare them in advance of class discussion. You may also wish to consider
integrating the cartoons and other visuals featured in the text into your examinations.
Because this book is so tightly packed with provocative ideas, we recommend scheduling at
least three exams over the course of the term. Even with three exams, students may request
additional tests in order to decrease the amount of material they’re responsible for on a
given day.
Student Reports and Papers
Students' responses to exams are easy to quantify, and they provide useful measures
of some kinds of learning, but most exams bear little resemblance to the professional
activities our students will perform once they complete their formal education. Furthermore,
the chapter-by-chapter mastery of material that examinations foster is crucial, but other
kinds of understanding come only when one looks past the boundaries of such artificial units
to the broad scope of knowledge. In many educational settings, thus, a course such as the
one developed around A First Look at Communication Theory would include student oral
reports and/or papers, assignments that would transcend the scope of the Sample
Examination Questions and the Questions to Sharpen Your Focus provided in the manual and
the text, respectively. Although such assignments are difficult to assign and evaluate within
the structure of some departments and institutions, we highly recommend them because—as
we have suggested—they require students to synthesize and apply theories in complex ways.
Furthermore, such assignments help students to improve the very public speaking and
writing skills or competencies that communication programs claim to promote.
One of the best ways to approach oral reports and papers is to assign individualized
readings from the Second Look sections or the Ethical Reflections featured in the text. Ask
students to summarize the key material presented in the source, place it within the context
of the course, and critique its value. Of course, Griffin's chapters provide excellent models for
each step in the process. Many of the texts listed in the Further Resources sections of the
manual will also serve this purpose. You can also encourage students to search out relevant
articles in our profession’s scholarly journals—Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication
Monographs, Communication Quarterly, Communication Studies, Communication Theory,
Southern Communication Journal, Western Journal of Communication, Rhetoric Society
Quarterly, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Media, Culture & Society, Signs: Journal of
Women in Culture and Society, Women’s Studies in Communication, Human Communication
Research, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Cultural Studies, and so forth.
Another approach is to ask students to evaluate the theoretical significance of movies
from Appendix B of the text or of movies, short stories, plays, or novels mentioned in this
manual. (Students may also generate their own candidates for analysis.) Once again, A First
Look at Communication Theory provides fine sample analyses of literary and cinematic texts.
This kind of assignment is particularly useful for the more creative or applied student.
A third strategy is to have students investigate theories, theoretical topics, and general
approaches to communication not explicitly featured in the text. Theories that fall in this
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category include Plato's dialectic (particularly as presented in the Phaedrus); Richard
Weaver's ethical rhetoric; Robert Scott's epistemic rhetoric; Stephen Toulmin's model of
argument; Wayne Booth's rhetoric of assent; Albert Mehrabian's immediacy theory; Dolf
Zillman's mood management theory; Eric Berne's transactional analysis, performance theory,
and conversation analysis; Peter Anderson’s cognitive valence theory of intimate
communication; Howard Giles’s communication accommodation theory; Wayne Brockreide's
notion of arguer as lover (which resembles, but is not identical to, Griffin's topology of false
lovers on page 242); Jacques Derrida's deconstruction; John Stewart and Milt Jackson's
dialogic listening; John Bowlby’s attachment theory; Mary Ann Fitzpatrick's theory of
relationships; Caryl Rusbult’s equity theory; Mikhail Bakhtin's heteroglossia,; Carl Rogers's
empathic arguer; Mark Knapp's theory of relational stages; Jack Webb's theory of defensive
communication; John Fiske's consumer-oriented approach to media, uses and gratifications
theory, and diffusion of innovation theory; Frank Dance's inner speech theory; Donald
Cushman's rules theory; Robert Sommer's environmental approach; Susan B. Shimanoff's
rules theory; Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics; Joshua Meyrowitz's theory of mediated
place; William Stephenson's play theory; Steven McCornack's information manipulation
theory; James Grunig's situational theory of publics; Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural
adaptation theory; Jurgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere; and Joseph Luft and
Harrington Ingham's Johari Window. Each is worthy of investigation by the right student or
group of students.
You may also consider assigning theories that were covered in the earlier editions of A
First Look at Communication Theory, but not in the current version—William Schutz's FIRO
theory; John O. Greene's action assembly theory; Charles Osgood's mediational theory of
meaning; Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs; Fritz Heider's attribution theory; Aubrey
Fisher's interact system model of decision emergence; Albert Bandura's social learning
theory; Irving Janis’s groupthink; and Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass’s media equation. This
strategy gives you an easy method for suggesting avenues of research.
One way to approach the assignment is to ask students to write their reports as
potential chapters for inclusion in a seventh edition of A First Look at Communication Theory.
Require them to include Critique, Second Look, Questions to Sharpen Your Focus sections, as
well as comics that bring to life key theoretical issues. Encourage them to keep in mind the
principal virtues of Griffin's text—a down-to-earth prose style, extended examples, careful
organization, concision, and humor—as they write. This assignment works particularly well
with students who are concurrently enrolled in other communication courses.
Finally, you may wish to have students investigate their own communicative practice
or the practices of people they know. Some of the finest student papers we've read have
been analyses of communication that the author had either participated in or directly
observed. Such papers are typically vivid and specific, and they have the extra advantage of
encouraging students to think critically about their own lives and the quality of the
communication in which they participate. One way to help students develop material for
such papers is to encourage or require them to keep weekly journals in which they record the
ways in which the theories they are studying apply to their lives or the lives of people they
know. You can collect and grade this journal periodically or have students share their
insights orally in class. If you are more concerned with process than formal writing and final
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product, these journals will serve as an end in themselves. To encourage this self-disclosure
process, you may wish to keep your own journal and share selected entries with your class.
One word of warning—you may encourage but should never require students to write formal
papers about their personal experiences. Some students consider such assignments
invasions of privacy and professorial voyeurism. To protect your students and yourself,
always make this genre of essay optional, rather than compulsory.
You may be interested to know that Griffin requires each student to write a paragraph
of application for each theory. He collects a random sample of these writings each week.
Over the course of the term, he grades five submissions from each student. Here is how he
describes the “application log” assignment:
Consistent with Kurt Lewin’s famous maxim that there is nothing as practical
as a good theory, I ask students to apply each theory to their own lives. I
collect a random sample of the logs each week and with the permission of the
writer (obtained privately beforehand) read some of the best at the start of the
next class session. I find that the entries increase the interest level of the
course and provide a mini review of some parts of each theory.
Even if you don’t make a similar assignment, you might consider using some
of the entries available to validate Lewin’s claim. They are actual student
entries responding to the following instructions:
After you read a chapter on a theory in the First Look text, you are to write a
paragraph making a specific application of the theory to your own life. Please
type or write very clearly. Keep these applications bound together in a secure
way and bring them to class each Thursday. I will collect a random sample of
the logs each week and return them the following Tuesday. You will be asked
to submit your log five different times during the semester. The logs will
provide you with an opportunity to show that you understand the theories and
see their practical implication for your communication interpretation and
behavior.
Teaching Theory to the Large Lecture Class*
Teaching an introductory theory class can be a somewhat daunting task. Teaching
theory as a required course to a classroom with as many as 180 students, drawn from a
variety of communication majors (e.g., advertising, journalism, public affairs, intercultural
communication, etc.), offers even greater challenges.
Each semester, San Diego State University School of Communication offers two
sections of communication theory at the upper-division level. The course is required for all *
The following remarks were graciously provided by Ed McDaniel, who until recently taught
communication theory at San Diego State University.
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communication majors, and each section normally ranges from 120 to 180 students. This
number of students more or less mandates a lecture format. However, lectures can be
infused with a variety of demonstrative activities and contextual relevance, which will help
elicit and sustain student interest while furthering understanding.
Theory, by nature, is abstract and often difficult for some to grasp. This difficulty can
be exacerbated by equally abstract presentations offered to an audience with an inherently
short attention span and an expectation that they should be amused. However, one way to
kindle interest and promote understanding is by presenting the information in a context
relevant to the audience’s interests and personal experiences. This will, of course, require a
degree of familiarization with the life style of students in your locale (i.e., where and how do
they spend their leisure time, how many are employed, what are the student body social
norms, what is on MTV, what are the current age-relevant movies, and so forth). This
information, gained through reading the university paper, casual conversations with students,
channel surfing, and simply being observant, can then be used to construct a context for the
various theories taught. For example, local social events and frequented nightspots can be
used to enliven your illustrations. The trials and tribulations normally encountered in dating
will help exemplify interpersonal relations theories. The local newspaper is often a source of
examples for various theories, which can then be shown in the classroom (but don’t expect
the students to have read the paper!).
When teaching theory to a large audience, it is tempting to adhere to a regimented
lecture format. That procedure is also a sure way to lose your students’ attention and
dampen their enthusiasm. Lecture materials can, and should be, enhanced through what I
consider performance activities. These activities will involve only a few (volunteer) students
and, frequently, the instructor. Although large lecture sections generally preclude small
group interactions, there are activities (e.g., the elevator exercise discussed in Chapter 6 on
expectancy violations theory, as well as others noted in this manual) that can be used to
demonstrate a theory. In these instances, try to select only those students who will provide
the greatest level of expression, yet not become personally embarrassed or defensive. It is
important to remember that each class is different and has a personality of its own. What
works for Monday’s class may not succeed with Tuesday’s section and vice versa.
The administrative aspects of teaching a large lecture section are as important as
pedagogical considerations. Managing a classroom with over 120 students requires
considerable structure and drastically reduces the flexibility normally enjoyed with 25-30
students. The syllabus should clearly define what is to be covered on each class date and
deviations must be kept to the absolute minimum. Test dates should be established at the
beginning of the semester and strictly observed. Once you have announced a policy, stick to
it and avoid making exceptions except in the case of verifiable emergencies.
Dealing with almost 300 students each semester, I have encountered a wide variety of
personal difficulties, including deaths, rape, and life-threatening disease. Sensitivity to these
situations is mandatory, yet I find little need to provide an early or makeup exam because
someone has, without prior consultation, purchased a cheap airline ticket home, is scheduled
to go to Cancun for a family reunion, or simply overslept. Administering makeup exams can
become a serious time drain. Accordingly, I only give makeup exams in the event of a
xvii
verifiable emergency. To introduce some level of flexibility into the experience, though, I offer
five exams during the semester, and the lowest score is dropped.
Distribution of exams must also be considered.
After two years, I finally
acknowledged that returning individual Scantrons was too time intensive, and I now post
grades. Going over the exam in class can also be a challenging endeavor. With such a large
number of students, there will inevitably be points of contention. Unless handled correctly,
the class can easily turn into a feeding frenzy as students try to gain that one additional point
that will boost their score to the next letter grade. I now require students to come to my
office to review exams. This has also reduced the number of lost (i.e., compromised) exam
copies.
There is also the question of student attendance—should attendance be mandatory or
not? If required, then a method must be devised to rapidly assess who is present and who is
absent, but taking role in a class of 180 students requires considerable time. From my
experience, not requiring attendance is the best course of action. This helps eliminate those
students who would come if required but would not be attentive and would probably create
distractions for other students, as well as yourself.
With large lecture sections, your class presentations must have a very discernable,
easy-to-follow structure. This helps students, many of whom have probably not yet read the
chapter, to better organize their notes. I use a document projector to display a lecture outline
and ensure that students know when I move from topic to topic. Remember, not only is the
material abstract, but each theory contains its own vocabulary marked by contextualized
definitions. Often, students will find these situated definitions as confusing as the theory
itself.
Peer pressure and concern over self-embarrassment tend to inhibit many students in
large classes from asking questions. To overcome these impediments, I normally conclude
class about 10 minutes early and indicate I am available for questions. This provides the
students an opportunity to ask questions, clarify their notes, or even discuss personal matters
that would otherwise require an office visit.
If structured and executed correctly, stepping in front of 180 students to explain a
communication theory can be an exciting and rewarding experience. One only needs to tailor
the environment to their style and maintain control of the situation. Personally, I have
encountered considerable success by infusing lectures with humorous examples and offering
frequent self-deprecating illustrations related to the theory. Not only does this approach help
explain the concepts; it can serve to reduce the professor-student intimidation barrier.
Large enrollment classes tend to dictate the use of objective examinations, which
heighten students’ concerns about how tests are scored and the treatment of seemingly
ambiguous questions or confusing answers. I have found much of this anxiety is reduced or
eliminated by using Parscore software to grade the exams and by thoroughly explaining in
class how the system works.
xviii
Parscore is a software system that optically scans answer sheets (Scantrons) and
statistically analyzes each test question. The statistics provided allow identification of a host
of testing shortfalls, such as bad or misleading questions, poor answer choices, insufficiently
covered materials, and so forth. Once identified, the exam answer key can then be adjusted
as desired before the grades are printed and posted.
Additionally, test questions need to be presented in a syntax and style similar to that
used in the classroom. Accordingly, if questions are drawn from the test bank in this
instructors’ manual, they might need rephrasing to ensure congruence with your lecture
presentation style and vocabulary.
If your institution has an online course delivery and management system (San Diego
State University uses BlackBoard), you can ease your administrative burden and
concomitantly save the department money by reducing copy costs. I use the BlackBoard
system to post the course syllabus, class schedule, study tips, and, about a week before each
exam, study guides. Lecture outlines and notes can also be uploaded.
I am particularly fond of this system because it instills in the students a degree of selfreliance. They become responsible for the contents of material placed on the web, which
tends to eliminate excuses such as “I never got a syllabus,” “I didn’t known an exam was
scheduled for that date,” or “I was absent when the study guide was handed out.”
A Pitch for Pluralism
As you construct your syllabus and prepare for the first day of the course, we want to
encourage you to think as pluralistically as possible about communication theory. All of us
come to such teaching assignments with our professional biases, developed over years of
specialized graduate training, specific research programs, and pedagogical practice. The
goal of A First Look at Communication Theory, however, is to reveal the full spectrum of
theoretical possibilities, a goal that can only be achieved if the instructor facilitates openminded investigation of all perspectives. Glen, for example, comes to this material with years
of work in the field of rhetoric. He’s extremely comfortable talking about Richards, Aristotle,
and Burke, but must work especially hard to present the more scientific theories of Burgoon,
Berger, and Gudykunst with proper care and consideration. Emily, whose background is in
interpersonal and nonverbal communication, approaches this material as an empiricist.
While she is at ease teaching the chapters on Burgoon, Baxter and Montgomery, and Petty
and Cacioppo, she must be more vigilant on Weick, Hall, and Philipsen. Griffin, whose
graduate training was more empirical than rhetorical, reports to us that he has become much
more pluralistic over the course of writing and revising A First Look at Communication Theory.
We believe that the text reflects his growing commitment to multiple perspectives.
Writing about the intellectual foment of the late nineteenth century in his famous
essay, “The Will to Believe,” William James described rules of engagement for a proper
“intellectual republic” that still serve as appropriate guidelines for classroom practice: “No
one of us ought to issue vetoes to the other, nor should we bandy words of abuse. We ought,
xix
on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another's mental freedom” (The Will
to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy [New York: Dover, 1956], 30).
What we've learned about pluralism, of course, is that it's not just a matter of fairness,
etiquette, or of being a good sport—it facilitates a greater understanding of truth. Glen is
reminded of an analogy a professor of his once marshaled in a graduate course to explain
how a multiplicity of diverse critical readings of a complex work of literature promotes, rather
than confuses, our overall understanding of the text. Place a coin under a piece of paper and
draw a pencil over it. Then again, and again, and again. Each stroke creates a limited picture
of the coin below, but after many lines are drawn, a reproduction of the hidden image begins
to emerge. After considering many critical perspectives, even James Joyce's Ulysses begins
to come into focus.
Communication theory, as well, resembles this child's diversion. Any one theory,
bound by its inherent limitations, reveals only a slice or stroke of overall reality. The more
theories we know and can apply, however, the clearer and broader our perspective becomes.
Your students—like you and we—will not find each theory equally illuminating, but taken as a
whole the approaches presented in the book provide a richer view of human communication
than any subset offers. We’re sufficiently postmodern to believe that an entirely objective,
complete understanding of reality is beyond our comprehension, but—like that coin beneath
the paper—its rough image gradually takes shape if we work our critical pencils dutifully. The
goal of achieving the best picture possible of the human condition, it seems to me, lies at the
very heart of A First Look at Communication Theory.
Closely related to pluralism is the value of partial theoretical applicability. Many
students will be tempted to reject a theoretical construct if it does not fit perfectly with their
perception of reality. Others become suspicious when they see well-known theories
rigorously questioned in the Critique sections of this book. Em Griffin himself once shared
with us the classic student lamentation: “Well, if every theory has something wrong with it,
why bother studying the stuff?” Just as pluralism helps students see that many different
theoretical paths lead to truth, the willingness to accept some aspects of a theory while
reserving judgment on—or even rejecting—others allows us to avoid simple either/or
judgments, judgments that may cause us to throw the theoretical baby out with the
bathwater. We provide a specific example of the importance of partial applicability in our
coverage of Chapter 24, but it is an approach that may be widely applied across the
theoretical terrain. The notion of partial theoretical applicability may be another way of
getting at the issue addressed by Karl Weick's Clock-Face Model, featured in the
“communication theory” section of the textbook.
Good Luck, Take Heart, and Go to It!
Having taken care of the preliminaries, there's not much more for me to say here
except “good luck” and “go to it.” We know the assignment seems overwhelming at times,
but remember that as you face the task of teaching this daunting course, no one on earth is
really qualified for the job. No one has the breadth of knowledge necessary to fully
understand every theory covered in the field. The president of the NCA, Em Griffin, you, and
xx
we are ultimately all in the same boat. So take heart. If you prepare carefully, are willing to
admit that you don’t know everything, and are able to make frequent trips to the library and
the Internet to track down answers to the questions that you and your students will inevitably
raise, you’ll do fine. Remember, as well, that our opening comments about desiring dialogue
are genuine. This manual—or set of letters, or whatever we choose to call it—can't really talk
or write back to you, but we can, even if we’re temporarily buried in work and need some
time to dig out. If you want to communicate with us about anything we've presented here, email us. We look forward to hearing from you.
Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon
bacon-mcclish@cox.net
Emily Langan
emily.j.langan@wheaton.edu
xxi
SAMPLE COURSE SCHEDULES
While constructing your course schedule, the single most important point to keep in
mind—a point emphasized by Griffin in his Preface for Instructors—is that each chapter is
designed to be covered in a minimum of approximately sixty minutes. Take our word for it—
it’s true. We strongly urge you not to attempt to exceed the speed limit of one chapter per
hour. Although the chapters are brief, the material is thought provoking. Books such as A
First Look at Communication Theory, which summarize vast quantities of information in very
short spaces, must necessarily leave out far more than they include. (In saying this, we do not
mean to imply that Griffin’s text truncates theoretical explanation more drastically than
others. All communication theory books are similarly space challenged.) Thus, the kind of
brevity Griffin achieves requires the instructor to “unpack” and elaborate upon key
paragraphs and sentences. In order to give these theories their due, do not rush through the
book. If your course meets twice a week in ninety-minute sessions, of course, then you can
reasonably expect to cover more than one chapter per class meeting. With ninety-minute
sessions, in fact, it’s prudent to alternate between assigning two chapters and one chapter
per class session. The material unfinished from the first day can be covered on the second
before moving on to the third and final chapter. Correspondingly, courses that meet once a
week in three-hour sessions can handle three chapters at a time.
Griffin’s innovative Ethical Reflections—which raise some of the most enduring
questions about communication and help to connect our discipline with other important
fields of human inquiry such as philosophy and religion—are short enough to be effectively
assigned along with the final chapter of each section. We have found the Ethical Reflections
useful for reviewing and synthesizing the diverse theories that are grouped in each section of
the textbook. Ultimately, though, you will discover that the contribution of each ethical
theorist transcends the section in which it has been placed. The point of giving each a specific
home within a particular set of chapters is not to compartmentalize but to offer a jumping-off
point for discussion. The final destination is up to you and your students.
Below, we have supplied six sample course schedules: three for a fifteen-week term
and three for a ten-week term. For the fifteen-week schedules, we have included readings
from Judith Guest’s novel Ordinary People, which we discussed in our Preface, above. You’ll
note that only schedules #1 and #3 cover all of A First Look at Communication Theory (and
for schedule #3 we had to break our one-chapter-per-hour rule to make it). When necessary,
we’ve tried to reduce the book prudently, but a certain degree of arbitrariness is involved in
any such cutting. Of course you’ll make your own choices.
Ed McDaniel provides the following practical advice about selecting theories to teach
in your class:
Due to a combination of time available, complexity of the material, and large class
size, I have found it very difficult to cover the entire textbook. Accordingly, I am
selective about which theories I teach. This raises the question of which theories to
teach and which to ignore. Of course one factor is personal preference. Those theories
xxii that I have studied in the past and understand well are always at the top of the
candidate list.
However, another criterion to consider is which theories will benefit the students in
their future studies. In other words, which theories will they encounter in the specific
topic courses (i.e., Public Affairs, Interpersonal, Intercultural, Persuasion, etc.). To help
determine this, I periodically ask those faculty members teaching specific topic
courses to identify what they consider the most important communication theories. I
then incorporate these theories into my syllabus and at the start of class inform the
students, “Professor Soandso, who teaches Public Affairs 450, has indicated this is an
important theory. If you plan on taking that course, you will see this theory again, only
in greater depth.”
ESSENTIAL THEORIES
If you include supplementary texts and adhere to the one-hour, one-chapter guideline,
of course, you may not be able to complete A First Look at Communication Theory over the
course of the term. You’ll have to make some hard choices about what to cover and what to
leave to other courses within your curriculum. In our experience, though, it is better to
introduce fewer theories and reinforce them well than to include more theories and skimp on
discussion and application. What you sacrifice in breadth you’ll gain in depth of
understanding and appreciation for theoretical nuance. Again, we refer to Freire; teaching
that challenges students to think for themselves is more valuable than instruction that
merely fills their heads with “education.” The first time Glen taught A First Look at
Communication Theory, he used a novel to illustrate and vivify the theory, and he introduced
other aspects of his program’s curriculum into the course. As a result, he did not finish the
book over the course of the semester. Students were so enthusiastic about the text, though,
that several took it home over the summer to read further. The point is that teaching the
book well is more important than covering every word of it.
In 1998, the American Film Institute began producing a yearly “top 100” list featuring
the best of their industry, starting with the top 100 films. If you wanted to be well-versed in
American movies, that would be a good place to start. The films that made the list did so by
having achieved critical acclaim and sustained popular approval, and are considered to have
historical significance and enduring cultural impact. In like fashion, we’ve created our own list
of essentials—theories we believe are indispensable in a course on communication theory.
Along with Em, we each created a set of two lists—our top 15 and top 20. If the demands of
your semester require you to scale back the number of theories you can teach, these lists
may be helpful in determining what to include and what to leave out. In addition, we consider
Chapters 1-3 and 36 essential, no matter how many theories are taught, and believe that
every section introduction should be assigned, even if only one theory from that context is
covered. In addition, Em would push for five ethical reflections to be incorporated (Kant,
Buber, Aristotle, Habermas, and Gilligan). Not surprisingly, our lists have many similarities but
also points of departure based on our own experiences, pedagogical practices, and personal
xxiii
ideologies. The ultimate decision is up to you, but we hope these lists will stimulate
discussion.
xxiv
Our Essential Theories
Em
Emily
Glen
Symbolic Interactionism (Mead)
µ
µ
µ
5
Coordinated Management of Meaning (Pearce & Cronen)
µ
µ
µ
6
Expectancy Violations Theory (Burgoon)
µ
20 20
7
Interpersonal Deception Theory (Buller & Burgoon)
8
Social Penetration Theory (Altman & Taylor)
9
Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger)
µ
µ
µ
10
11
Social Information Processing Theory (Walther)
Relational Dialectics (Baxter & Montgomery)
µ
µ
µ
12
The Interactional View (Watzlawick)
µ
20
13
14
Constructivism (Delia)
Social Judgment Theory (Sherif)
µ
µ
15
16
Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo)
Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger)
µ
µ
µ
17
Functional Perspective on Group Decision Making (Hirokawa & Gouran)
µ
µ
µ
18
19
Adaptive Structuration Theory (Poole)
Information Systems Approach to Organizations (Weick)
20
21
Cultural Approach to Organizations (Geertz & Pacanowsky)
Critical Theory of Comm. Approach to Organizations (Deetz)
20 µ
µ
20
22
The Rhetoric (Aristotle)
µ
µ
µ
23
Dramatism (Burke)
20 20 µ
24
Narrative Paradigm (Fisher)
25
26
Semiotics (Barthes)
Cultural Studies (Hall)
µ
µ
27
Media Ecology (McLuhan) [Online]
Cultivation Theory (Gerbner)
µ
µ
µ
28
Agenda-Setting Theory (McCombs & Shaw)
20 20 20
29
30
Spiral of Silence (Noelle-Neumann)
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory (Gudykunst)
20
31
32
Face-Negotiation Theory (Ting-Toomey)
Speech Codes Theory (Philipsen)
µ
µ
µ
33
34
Genderlect Styles (Tannen)
Standpoint Theory (Harding & Wood)
µ
35
Muted Group Theory (Kramarae)
µ
Ch.
4
20
µ
20
µ
µ
µ
µ
µ
20
µ Denotes a “top 15” ranking
20 Denotes a “top 20” ranking
xxv
µ
µ
Schedule #1
Three One-Hour Meetings per Week for Fifteen Weeks
Covers Every Chapter
(Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Introduction to Course
Open
2.
Talk about Theory
“Introduction” & Chapter 1
3.
Mapping the Territory
Chapter 2
4.
Weighing the Words
Chapter 3
5.
Symbolic Interactionism
“Interpersonal Messages” & Chapter 4
6.
Coordinated Management of Meaning
Chapter 5
7.
Expectancy Violations Theory
Chapter 6
8.
Interpersonal Deception Theory,
Kant, Augustine & Bok
Chapter 7 & Ethical Reflections
9.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp. 1-85
10.
Social Penetration Theory
“Relationship Development” & Chapter 8
11.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Chapter 9
12.
Social Information Processing Theory
Chapter 10
13.
Relational Dialectics
“Relationship Maintenance” & Chapter 11
14.
Interactional View
Chapter 12
15.
Constructivism
“Cognitive Processing” & Chapter 13
16.
Midterm Exam #1
Open
17.
Social Judgment Theory
“Influence” & Chapter 14
18.
Elaboration Likelihood Model
Chapter 15
xxvi
19.
Cognitive Dissonance,
Buber & Nilsen
Chapter 16 & Ethical Reflections
20.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp.86-171
21.
Functional Perspective
“Group Decision Making” & Chapter 17
22.
Adaptive Structuration Theory
Chapter 18
23.
Information Systems Approach
“Organizational Comm.” & Chapter 19
24.
Cultural Approach to Organizations
Chapter 20
25.
Critical Theory of Organizations
Chapter 21
26.
Rhetoric
“Public Rhetoric” & Chapter 22
27.
Dramatism
Chapter 23
28.
Narrative Paradigm, Aristotle & West
Chapter 24 & Ethical Reflections
29.
Semiotics
“Media and Culture” & Chapter 25
30.
Cultural Studies
Chapter 26
31.
Midterm Exam #2
Open
32.
Media Ecology
“Media Effects” & Media Ecology (online)
33.
Cultivation Theory
Chapter 27
34.
Agenda-Setting Theory
Chapter 28
35.
Spiral of Silence,
Habermas & Christians
Chapter 29 & Ethical Reflections
36.
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management
“Intercultural Comm.” & Chapter 30
37.
Face-Negotiation Theory
Chapter 31
38.
Speech Codes Theory
Chapter 32
39.
Genderlects Styles
“Gender & Comm.” & Chapter 33
40.
Standpoint Theory
Chapter 34
xxvii
41.
Muted Group Theory,
Benhabib & Gilligan
Chapter 35 & Ethical Reflections
42.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp. 172-263
43.
Integration
“Communication Theory”
44.
Integration
Chapter 36
45.
Final Exam
xxviii
Schedule #2
Two Ninety-Minute Meetings per Week for Fifteen Weeks
Covers 30 Theories
(Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Introduction to Course
Open
2.
Talk about Theory &
Mapping the Territory
“Introduction” & Chapters 1-2
3.
Weighing the Words
Chapter 3
4.
Symbolic Interactionism &
Coordinated Management of Meaning
“Interpersonal Messages” &
Chapters 4-5
5.
Expectancy Violations Theory
Chapter 6
6.
Interpersonal Deception Theory,
Ethical Reflections
Chapter 7 & Kant, Augustine & Bok
7.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp. 1-85
8.
Social Penetration Theory &
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
“Relationship Development &
Chapters 8-9
9.
Midterm Exam #1
Open
10.
Relational Dialectics &
Interactional View
“Relationship Maintenance” &
Chapters 11-12
11.
Constructivism
“Cognitive Processing” & Chapter 13
12.
Social Judgment Theory
“Influence” & Chapter 14
13.
Elaboration Likelihood Model,
Cognitive Dissonance &
Buber & Nilsen
Chapters 15-16 & Ethical Reflections
14.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp. 86-171
15.
Functional Perspective &
Adaptive Structuration Theory
“Group Decision Making” & Chapters 17-18
xxix
16.
Information Systems Approach
“Organizational Comm.” & Chapter 19
17.
Cultural Approach to &
Critical Theory of Organizations
Chapters 20-21
18.
Rhetoric
“Public Rhetoric” & Chapter 22
19.
Narrative Paradigm,
Aristotle & West
Chapter 24 & Ethical Reflections
20.
Midterm Exam #2
Open
21.
Semiotics & Media Ecology
“Media & Culture,” Chapters 25 & Media
Ecology (online)
22.
Cultural Studies & Cultivation Theory
“Media Effects” & Chapters 26-27
23.
Agenda-Setting Theory,
Habermas & Christians
Chapter 28 & Ethical Reflections
24.
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management &
Face-Negotiation Theory
“Intercultural Comm.” & Chapters 30-31
25.
Speech Codes Theory
Chapter 32
26.
Genderlects Styles, Standpoint Theory
“Gender & Comm.” & Chapters 33-34
27.
Muted Group Theory,
Benhabib & Gilligan
Chapter 35 & Ethical Reflections
28.
Literary Application
Ordinary People, pp. 172-263
29.
Integration
“Communication Theory” & Chapter 36
30.
Final Exam
xxx
Schedule #3
One Three-Hour Meeting per Week for Fifteen Weeks
Covers Every Chapter
(Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Introduction and Overview
“Introduction” & Chapters 1-3
2.
Interpersonal Messages
“Interpersonal Messages” & Chapters 4-7
3.
Kant, Augustine & Bok,
Literary Application &
Relationship Development
Ethical Reflections, Ordinary People, pp. 1-85
“Relationship Development” &
Chapters 8-10
4.
Relationship Maintenance
& Cognitive Processing
“Relationship Maintenance,” “Cognitive
Processing” & Chapters 11-13
5.
Influence, Buber & Nilsen
“Influence,” Chapters 14-16 & Ethical
Reflections
6.
Group Decision Making &
Literary Application
“Group Decision Making,” Chapters 17-18,
& Ordinary People, pp. 86-171
7.
Midterm Exam
Open
8.
Organizational Communication
“Organizational Comm.” & Chapters 19-21
9.
Rhetoric, Aristotle & West
“Public Rhetoric,” Chapters 22-24 &
Ethical Reflections
10.
Media & Culture
“Media & Culture” & Chapters 25-26
11.
Media Effects, Media Ecology,
Habermas & Christians
“Media Effects,” Chapters 27-29, Media
Ecology (online) & Ethical Reflections
12.
Intercultural Communication
“Intercultural Comm.” & Chapters 30-32
13.
Gender & Communication,
Benhabib & Gilligan
“Gender & Communication,”
Chapters 33-35 & Ethical Reflections
14.
Integration & Literary Application
“Communication Theory,” Chapter 35 &
Ordinary People, pp. 172-263
15.
Final Exam
xxxi
Schedule #4
Three One-Hour Meetings Each Week for Ten Weeks
Covers 24 Theories
(No Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Introduction to Course
Open
2.
Talk about Theory
“Introduction” & Chapter 1
3.
Weighing the Words
Chapter 3
4.
Symbolic Interactionism
“Interpersonal Messages” & Chapter 4
5.
Coordinated Management of Meaning
Chapter 5
6.
Expectancy Violations Theory,
Kant, Augustine & Bok
Chapter 6 & Ethical Reflections
7.
Social Penetration Theory
“Relationship Development” & Chapter 8
8.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Chapter 9
9.
Relational Dialectics
Chapter 11
10.
Interactional View
“Relationship Maintenance” & Chapter 12
11.
Constructivism
“Cognitive Processing” & Chapter 13
12.
Social Judgment Theory
“Influence” & Chapter 14
13.
Elaboration Likelihood Model,
Buber & Nilsen
Chapter 15 & Ethical Reflections
14.
Functional Perspective
“Group Decision Making” & Chapter 17
15.
Adaptive Structuration Theory
Chapter 18
16.
Midterm Exam
Open
17.
Cultural Approach to Organizations
“Organizational Comm.” & Chapter 20
18.
Critical Theory of Organizations
Chapter 21
xxxii
19.
Rhetoric
“Public Rhetoric” & Chapter 22
20.
Narrative Paradigm, Aristotle & West
Chapter 24 & Ethical Reflections
21.
Media Ecology
“Media & Culture” & Media Ecology (online)
22.
Cultural Studies
Chapter 26
23.
Agenda-Setting Theory,
Habermas & Christians
“Media Effects,” Chapter 28 &
Ethical Reflections
24.
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management
“Intercultural Comm.” & Chapter 30
25.
Face-Negotiation Theory
Chapter 31
26.
Speech Codes Theory
Chapter 32
27.
Standpoint Theory
“Gender & Communication” & Chapter 34
28.
Muted Group Theory,
Benhabib & Gilligan
Chapter 35 & Ethical Reflections
29.
Integration
“Communication Theory” & Chapter 36
30.
Final Exam
xxxiii
Schedule #5
Two Ninety-Minute Meetings per Week for Ten Weeks
Covers 24 Theories
(No Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Introduction to Course
Open
2.
Talk about Theory &
Weighing the Words
“Introduction” & Chapters 1-3
3.
Symbolic Interactionism
“Interpersonal Messages” & Chapter 4
4.
Coordinated Management of Meaning
& Expectancy Violations Theory
Chapters 5-6
5.
Kant, Augustine & Bok
Social Penetration Theory
Ethical Reflections, “Relationship
Development” & Chapter 8
6.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
& Social Information Processing Theory
Chapters 9-10
7.
Relational Dialectics
& Interactional View
“Relationship Maintenance”
& Chapters 11-12
8.
Constructivism &
Social Judgment Theory
“Cognitive Processing,” “Influence” &
Chapters 13-14
9.
Elaboration Likelihood Model,
Buber & Nilsen
Chapter 15 & Ethical Reflections
10.
Midterm Exam
Open
11.
Functional Perspective &
Adaptive Structuration Theory
“Group Decision Making” & Chapters 17-18
12.
Cultural Approach to Organizations
“Organizational Comm.” & Chapter 20
13.
Critical Theory of Organizations
& Rhetoric
Chapters 21-22 & “Public Rhetoric”
14.
Narrative Paradigm, Aristotle & West
Chapter 24 & Ethical Reflections
xxxiv
15.
Media Ecology & Cultural Studies
“Media & Culture,” Media Ecology (online) &
Chapter 26
16.
Agenda-Setting Function,
Habermas & Christians
“Media Effects,” Chapter 28,
& Ethical Reflections
17.
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management
& Face-Negotiation Theory
“Intercultural Communication” & Chapters
30-31
18.
Standpoint Theory
“Gender & Communication” & Chapter 34
19.
Muted Group Theory,
Benhabib & Gilligan & Integration
Chapters 35-36, Ethical Reflections &
“Communication Theory”
20.
Final Exam
xxxv
Schedule #6
One Three-Hour Meeting per Week for Ten Weeks
Covers 21 Theories
(No Supplementary Literary Reading Included)
Day Topic
Reading Assignment
1.
Talk about Theory, Weighing the
Words & Symbolic Interactionism
“Introduction,” Chapters 1, 3-4
& “Interpersonal Messages”
2.
Coordinated Management of Meaning,
Expectancy Violations Theory,
Kant, Augustine & Bok
& Social Penetration Theory
Chapters 5-6, 8, Ethical
Reflections & “Relationship
Development”
3.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory,
Relational Dialectics
& Interactional View
“Relationship Maintenance”
& Chapters 9, 11-12
4.
Constructivism, Social Judgment
Theory, Elaboration Likelihood Model,
Buber & Nilsen
“Cognitive Processing,” “Influence,”
Chapters 13-15 & Ethical Reflections
5.
Midterm Exam
Open
6.
Functional Perspective, Cultural
Approach to & Critical Theory of
Organizations
“Group Decision Making,” “Organizational
Communication” & Chapters 17, 20-21
7.
Rhetoric, Narrative Paradigm,
Aristotle & West
& Media Ecology
“Public Rhetoric,” Chapters 22, 24,
Ethical Reflections, “Media & Culture”
& Media Ecology (online)
8.
Cultural Studies, Agenda-Setting
Function, Habermas & Christians,
Anxiety/Uncertainty Management
“Media Effects,” “Intercultural
Communication,” Ethical Reflections &
Chapters 26, 28, 30
9.
Face-Negotiation Theory, Muted
Group Theory, Benhabib & Gilligan,
Integration
Chapters 31, 35, 36, “Gender &
Communication,” Ethical Reflections
& “Communication Theory”
10.
Final Exam
xxxvi
INTRODUCTION
Outline
I.
Theory helps us understand and improve human communication.
II.
Theories are maps of reality.
A. Some depict objective facts “out there.”
B. Others depict subjective meanings inside our heads.
III.
Theories are categorized according to the primary context in which they operate.
A. Division I, overview, introduces the nature and scope of the field.
B. Division II, interpersonal communication, focuses on one-on-one interaction.
C. Division III, group and public communication, covers face-to-face involvement in
collective settings.
D. Division IV, mass communication, explores the electronic and print media.
E. Division V, cultural context, considers systems of shared meaning so pervasive that
their impact is easily overlooked.
IV.
Since communication isn’t value-free, ethical reflections are included.
V.
Division VI, integration, compares theories according to their basic assumptions.
VI.
Hints for more effective reading.
A. Every communication issue has multiple interpretations.
B. The link between theorist and theory is useful.
C. Consider the questions at the end of each chapter.
D. The cartoons both amuse and test your comprehension.
E. Theory enriches and clarifies, rather than depletes or confuses, life.
VII. The text’s website offers student “Application Logs” and other features.
Suggestions for Discussion
A few suggestions may be in order. On page 5, Griffin makes a brief pitch for
pluralism, declaring, “Just as there is more than one effective way to deliver a speech, every
communication issue has multiple interpretations.” We suggest that you push this point as
hard as you can. This, in fact, may be a good place to bring up the penny analogy we feature
in the Preface to this manual.
We would also offer a word of caution about Griffin’s abiding commitment to his onechapter, one-theorist approach to organizing the book. We agree that this is a highly effective
method of structuring this complex, diverse material. There is an undeniable elegance to this
approach that encourages students to engage and recall communication theory. We’re also
aware of the danger of creating a great man/woman mythology for the discipline. It’s true,
for example, that Stuart Hall is the leading proponent of cultural studies, but it’s also a fact,
1 as Chapter 26 clearly points out, that Hall works out of a long tradition of critical theory that
stretches back to Karl Marx and is shaped and refined by the work of the Frankfurt School,
Roland Barthes, and Michel Foucault. Many other important cultural critics have contributed
to this burgeoning field, offering important insights and challenges. Be sure, therefore, that
your students understand that although there have been—and continue to be—giants among
us, influence is the name of the game. Everyone stands on the shoulders of those who come
before, and the territory—to anticipate the metaphor of Chapter 2—is densely populated.
A secondary caution related to the one-chapter, one-theory structure Griffin adopts
concerns his tendency to discuss the development of each theory over time. In many
chapters, we learn not only the essential elements of a theoretical position, but also the
theory’s evolution, from original questions and claims to state-of-the-art constructs and
conclusions. This historical approach enriches the experience of learning theory and helps
students understand the process of theory building, but it adds layers of explication that
increase the possibilities for confusion. It’s easy to mistake early and late theoretical
developments, particularly when so much attention is paid to the first steps of theory
construction. Be sure to caution your students against skimming or sampling the text—they
must read each chapter through, page by page, and pay careful attention to chronology.
Since these chapters read as stories, students must follow the plots diligently.
Finally, we’d like to add an additional endorsement of Griffin’s closing point—that
learning about theory won’t take the life out of one’s communication, but will in fact enhance
it. For our students, we draw analogies to music and spirituality. Devotees of music seldom
lose their love for their subject by serious study. Furthermore, highly spiritual people rarely
lose interest in issues of religion, philosophy, and faith by pondering the great texts of our
religious and philosophical traditions. In our experience, learning deepens the fundamental
passions of our lives. Our affection for communication theory has only grown in the decades
we’ve studied the subject.
2
CHAPTER 1
TALK ABOUT THEORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Theorists grounded in behavioral science approach communication objectively
(observing behavior).
B. Theorists grounded in the humanities approach communication through
interpreting texts.
C. Theory encompasses all careful, systematic, and self-conscious discussion and
analyses of communication phenomena.
II.
Objective or interpretive: a difference that makes a difference.
A. The objective approach and the interpretative approach to communication study
differ in starting point, method, and conclusion.
B. Scholars who do objective study are scientists.
C. Scholars who do interpretive study are concerned with meaning.
D. Objective and interpretive scholars are passionately committed to their
approaches.
E. Readers will benefit from understanding the distinction between the approaches.
III.
Ways of knowing: discovering truth or creating multiple realities?
A. Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge.
B. Scientists assume that truth is singular.
1. Reality is accessible through our senses.
2. Collectively, scientists can understand the world.
3. Good theories are mirrors of nature, true as long as conditions remain the
same.
C. Interpretive scholars also seek truth, but they are more tentative about the
possibility of revealing objective reality.
1. Truth is largely subjective; meaning is highly interpretive.
2. The knower cannot be separated from the known.
3. Multiple meanings are acceptable.
4. Successful interpretations are those that convince others.
IV.
Human nature: determinism or free will.
A. Determinists argue that heredity and environment determine behavior.
1. Scientists favor this stance.
2. They stress behavior shaped by forces beyond our control or individual
awareness.
B. Free will proponents maintain that human behavior is voluntary.
1. Interpretive scholars endorse this position.
2. They focus on conscious choices of individuals, not on why choices are
made.
3 C.
3. They believe that significant decisions are value laden.
As free choice increases, predictability of behavior decreases.
V.
The highest value: objectivity or emancipation?
A. Social scientists value objectivity; personal values should not distort human
reality.
B. Interpretive scholars seek to expand the range of free choice; they bring values to
bear upon texts.
C. Scientists seek effectiveness; humanists focus on participation.
VI.
The purpose of theory: universal laws or guides for interpretation?
A. Scientists seek universal laws; humanists strive to interpret individual texts.
B. Scientists test theories; humanists explore the web of meaning constituting
human existence.
C. Scientists seek prediction; humanists strive for interpretation.
VII. Methods: quantitative or qualitative?
A. Scientists favor quantifiable experiments and surveys.
1. Through experiments, scientists seek to establish a cause-and-effect
relationship by manipulating an independent variable in a tightly controlled
situation in order to determine its effect on a dependent variable. Results
are measured.
2. Surveys rely on self-report data to discover who people are and what they
think, feel, and intend to do.
3. It is difficult to support cause-and-effect relations with surveys, but survey
data more closely resemble “real life” than experimentation does.
B. Interpretive scholars use qualitative textual analysis and ethnography.
1. Textual analyses describe and interpret messages.
2. Increasingly, textual analyses expose and publicly resist dominant social
ideologies.
3. Through ethnography, participant-observers experience a culture’s web of
meaning.
VIII. Objective and interpretive labels anchor ends of a continuum, with many theories in
between.
Key Names and Terms
Ernest Bormann
Emeritus theorist at the University of Minnesota who posits the broad definition of
communication theory listed below. His theory of symbolic convergence is featured in
Chapter Three.
Tony Schwartz
An advertising guru who developed the resonance principle of communication.
Resonance Principle of Communication
Broadcast messages are most effective when they strike a responsive chord in
members of the audience, thus evoking stored experiences from the past.
4
Stanley Deetz
Communication scholar from the University of Colorado who believes that every general
communication theory has two priorities—effectiveness and participation. His theory of
organizational communication is featured in Chapter 20.
Communication Theory
An umbrella term for all careful, systematic, and self-conscious discussion and analysis
of communication phenomena.
Behavioral/Social Scientist
Theorist who assumes truth is singular and accessible through the senses, who
assumes behavior has identifiable causes, who values objectivity and universal laws,
and who relies on quantifiable experiments and surveys. Used interchangeably with
objective scholar.
Interpretive Scholar
Theorist who is concerned with the web of meaning that constitutes human existence;
who assumes multiple meanings are accessible and meaning is connected to the
knower’s values; who believes human behavior is voluntary; who seeks to expand the
range of free choice; and who uses textual analysis and ethnography to establish
meaning. Closely related to the humanist.
Interpretive Scholarship
The work of assigning meaning or value to communicative texts.
Epistemology
The study of the origin, nature, method, and limits of knowledge.
Determinism
The assumption that behavior is caused by heredity and environment.
Free Will
The assumption that behavior is predominantly voluntary.
Experiment
A research method that manipulates an independent variable in a tightly controlled
situation in order to judge its effect on a dependent variable and thus establish a
cause-and-effect relationship.
Independent Variable
In a scientific experiment, the factor that the researcher systematically alters in the
quest to discover its effect on one or more dependent variables; the cause in a
hypothesized cause-and-effect relationship.
Dependent Variable
In a scientific experiment, a measured outcome that presumably is influenced or
changed by the independent variable; the effect in a hypothesized cause-and-effect
relationship.
Survey Research
A research method that employs questionnaires and face-to-face interviews to collect
self-report data demonstrating what people think, feel, and intend to do.
Textual Analysis
A research method that describes and interprets the characteristics of any text.
Ethnography
A method of participant observation designed to help a researcher experience a
culture’s complex web of meaning.
5
Principal Changes
The material in this chapter has been edited for clarity and precision and Griffin has
added the depiction of the objective-interpretive scale (19).
Suggestions for Discussion
Theory, what’s it good for?
For many students, this may be their first foray into the world of theory and as such, you
will need to lay some groundwork. In the past, we have found it productive to ask students
what they know about “theory” in general. What connotations does the word, “theory” have for
them? Many times, theory is seen as impotent (i.e. “only in theory”) or derogatory (“well, it’s a
nice theory but…”). You might want to spend a few minutes discussing the purpose of a theory,
a topic that will re-emerge in Chapter 3. Theories can focus attention, clarify observations,
provide a framework, predict outcomes, trigger social change, and spark research. During your
discussion, ask students the capacities of a good theory. Starting with a conversation about
why develop and study theory may prove fruitful in future class sessions when discussing the
virtues of any given theory.
The dichotomy on a continuum
The principal challenge in presenting this material is to communicate the important
characteristics of the objective-interpretive dichotomy without oversimplifying, exaggerating, or
polarizing the discipline in absolute terms. Students need to understand that fundamental
differences exist between the two theoretical positions, but if they are seen as entirely
separate and mutually exclusive, then the nuances of the theories discussed throughout A
First Look at Communication Theory will be compromised. The theoretical continuum
presented in the final chapter (Chapter 36) will bewilder students who have learned to stick
too rigidly to this initial dichotomy. In discussion, therefore, remind students that the camps
are themselves theoretical constructs designed to approximate, but not to straightjacket,
reality. Make sure that students don’t characterize humanists as raving relativists or solipsists
utterly uninterested in shared truths, common understanding, and the world “out there.” Nor
should scientists be pictured as cold, impersonal beings that entirely forsake their values
when they step into the lab. Remind your class that even the seemingly objective choices
involved in pursuing a particular line of scientific inquiry or conducting one experiment and not
another are inherently value laden. Stan Deetz’s terms “effectiveness” and “participation,”
which Griffin presents on page 14, may be usefully considered the primary emphases of
objective and interpretive theorists, respectively, but it would be simplistic to consider such a
dichotomy as anything other than a general trend. It is no accident that when Griffin discusses
the level of commitment present in the communication theorists he has met, he uses the word
“passionate” (10) to describe both interpretive and objective scholars. As we suggest in our
treatment of the elaboration likelihood model below, the attempt to separate reason and
emotion in argument and in scholarship may be illusory.
When discussing this chapter, be sure students understand that although Griffin uses
the terms scientific and objective interchangeably, he notes that not all interpretive scholars
are humanists and/or rhetoricians. You may want to explain and discuss why some
6
postmodern communication scholars, for example, reject humanists’ emphasis on tradition or
why some interpretive scholars mistrust rhetoricians’ emphasis on argument and conscious
intentionality.
Textual analysis
In the past few decades, textual analysis—which has been aptly described by Michael Leff
as “the close reading and rereading of the text, the analysis of the historical and biographical
circumstances that generate and frame its composition, the recognition of basic conceptions
that establish the co-ordinates of the text, and an appreciation of the way these conceptions
interact within the text and determine its temporal movement” (“Textual Criticism: The Legacy
of G.P. Mohrmann,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 72 [1986]: 380)—has been characterized by
various theoretically minded scholars as atheoretical, inadequately theorized, and of
secondary importance to contemporary rhetorical criticism. We contend, however, that such
conclusions are far from inevitable. Robust textual analysis, David Henry maintains, goes
beyond “the textual dynamics of discrete suasionary tracts” to “explor[e] broader theoretical
issues, particularly rhetoric’s power to shape and to influence political philosophy, political
culture, and political judgment” (“Text and Theory in Critical Practice,” Quarterly Journal of
Speech 78 [1992]: 221). Leff asserts that “attention to the text” does not preclude
“perception of larger discursive developments” that allow us to “understand the text as an
assimilative social product” constituting “a productive moment in the unending process of
interpreting and re-interpreting the social world” (“Lincoln Among the Nineteenth-Century
Orators, Rhetoric and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century America, T.W. Benson, ed. [East
Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1997], 134). Conducting textual analysis does not require a
choice between theory and close reading or questions about specific textual elements and
larger ideological developments. To put a complex matter in simple terms, textual analysis is
seen my many scholars as inherently theoretical.
Theory and research
Be sure to emphasize the intimate relationship between theory and research. Although
the official subject of the book is the former, highlight how Griffin marshals methodology in his
treatment of scientific and humanist theory. Remind your students to look for the connection
throughout the text.
Exercises and Activities
Ad analysis
A good exercise is to ask students to bring their own print or television advertisements
to class the day you discuss the chapter. Depending on the size of your class, require each
student to write or present orally a short explanation of how the piece they’ve chosen would be
analyzed by an objective and an interpretive communication scholar. They’ll appreciate the
fine analyses produced by Sparks and Medhurst much more after they’ve tried their own, and
you’ll be able to gauge their level of comprehension. The problems they encounter with this
assignment will help you to see what concepts require further explanation.
To help students see how diverse the realm of theory building can be, we like to have
them scrutinize the two different explanations offered by Sparks and Medhurst, then offer
alternatives. Sparks focuses on “resonance” with past experiences. Medhurst believes that
7
Kenneth Burke’s guilt-purification-redemption cycle and his concept of perspective by
incongruity best explain the ad’s communicative power. There are, however, other
explanations for the ad’s persuasive force. One might argue, for example, that the key to its
power is its ability to play on our fear of negatively influencing children. How did these kids
develop such low esteem? Could it have been through their exposure to their parents and
other adults with dead-end jobs? Are we reproducing such expectations in the children that
populate our lives? After all, many of us care more about our influence than our own selfperception. No doubt your students can come up with equally plausible explanations. Such
hypothesizing will help them understand the origins of theory. It’s also useful to speculate
about how alternative hypotheses could be shaped and molded by both objective and
interpretive scholars.
Lining up along the continuum
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he works through the components of the
objective and interpretative perspectives systematically with his students, making sure that
they understand each binary set: truth vs. multiple realities, determinism vs. free will,
objectivity vs. emancipation, and so forth. With each pair, he asks the students to indicate
which element they are more comfortable with. For example, a student may choose truth over
multiple realities, or free will over determinism. After this territory has been mapped, Griffin
creates a continuum across the blackboard or one wall of the classroom, with strong
objectivism at one extreme and strong interpretivism at the other. He then asks the students
to array themselves along the continuum. If students tend to bunch up on one end or the
other, he plays the devil’s advocate in an effort to spread them a bit, but ultimately the choice
is theirs. This exercise compels students—quite literally—to take a stand about communication
theory in the early goings of the class. As the course develops and their knowledge of the field
develops, this initial stand serves as a useful reference point. In addition, Griffin asks students
to suggest where other courses in the major might be placed along the continuum. This activity
helps contextualize the overall discipline for students.
A simpler activity is to ask your students—at the close of the class period—to write one
paragraph explaining why they consider themselves to be objectivists or interpretivists. Revisit
these texts at the end of the course. Have their beliefs changed? If so, why? Essay Question
#2 aims at this general territory.
NOVA
When Ed McDaniel teaches this class, he uses the following exercise to vivify theory
construction and application while involving his students in the process:
This class is often a student’s initial introduction to theory as a subject and some may
find the abstractness of the material to be stultifying. One way of breaching this barrier
is to demonstrate early on how application of theory can bring understanding and
insight to a longstanding mystery. A method I have found particularly effective is the
use of a video. NOVA has created a series of videos titled “Secrets of the Lost Empires”
for PBS. In these videos, scientists, engineers, anthropologists, and so forth endeavor
to recreate a historical event or a structure/devise whose origins remain unknown. I
use “Easter Island,” which details an actual attempt to replicate how the original
statutes may have been moved and erected. The video lasts approximately 55 minutes
8
and demonstrates the formulation and application of over 10 theories. Information on
the NOVA series can be obtained from WGBH Boston Video at 1-800-949-8670 or
www.wgbh.org.
Further Resources
§
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times
to the Information Age, ed. Theresa Enos (New York: Garland, 1996), see Stephen W.
Littlejohn, “Communication Theory,” 117-21.
§ For a good collection of general essays on communication theory, see Fred L. Casmir,
ed., Building Communication Theories: A Sociological Approach (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum, 1994).
§ In “The Third Way: Scientific Realism and Communication Theory,” Communication
Theory 9 (May 1999): 162-88, Charles Pavitt further clarifies—and complicates—the
“scientific” approach to communication theory.
§ If you’d like to read more about Em Griffin’s view of communication research, we
recommend “Journal of Communication and Religion: A State-of-the-Art Review,”
Journal of Communication and Religion 21 (1998): 108-40.
§ For essays on theory and research in interpersonal communication, see Barbara
Montgomery and Steve Duck, eds., Studying Interpersonal Interaction (New York:
Guilford, 1991).
§ For discussion of the ways in which science is inherently interpretive or rhetorical, see:
o Alan Gross, Joseph Harmon, and Michael Reidy, Communicating Science: The
Scientific Article from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2002);
o Charles Bazerman, Shaping Written Knowledge: Genre and Activity of the
Experimental Article in Science (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988);
o Alan G. Gross, The Rhetoric of Science (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1990);
o Greg Myers, Writing Biology: Texts in the Social Construction of Scientific
Knowledge (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990);
o Herbert W. Simons, ed., Rhetoric in the Human Sciences (Newbury Park, CA:
Sage, 1989);
o Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science, ed.
Alan Gross and William Keith (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997).
Differences between the interpretive and the objective perspectives on communication
§ For additional discussion, see Glen’s article, “Humanist and Empiricist Rhetorics: Some
Reflections on Rhetorical Sensitivity, Message Design Logics, and Multiple Goal
Structures,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 23 (Summer/Fall 1994): 27-45. Because he
tries to offer a way in which interpretive scholars (whom he calls humanists) can learn
from their objective (whom he calls empiricists) colleagues, you may wish to revisit this
article as you prepare to teach the final chapter, which further explores the relationship
between the two camps.
Multiple interpretations of text
§ For further discussion, see Leah Ceccarelli, “Polysemy: Multiple Meanings in Rhetorical
Criticism,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 84 (November 1998): 395-15.
Free will and determinism
9
§
One of the finest discussions we know of the debate over free will and determinism is
William James’s “The Dilemma of Determinism,” in The Will to Believe and Other
Essays in Popular Philosophy (New York: Dover, 1956), 145-83. James’s analogy of the
chess game between the novice and the expert demonstrates a kind of resolution or
middle ground between the free will argument and the determinist argument (181-82).
The fact that James works religion into the discussion makes his position even more
interesting.
Science and subjectivity
§ Two intriguing discussions of science and subjectivity are James Watson’s classic
expose, The Double Helix (New York: NAL, 1969), and David Raup’s The Nemesis Star:
A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science (New York: Norton, 1986).
Evidence
§ For discussion of the issue of what constitutes appropriate evidence in communication
research, see:
o The symposium “The Dialogue of Evidence: A Topic Revisited,” Western Journal
of Communication 58 (1994): 1-71;
o Stuart J. Sigman, “Question: Evidence of What? Answer: Communication,”
Western Journal of Communication 59 (1995): 79-84;
o Leslie Baxter and Lee West, “On ‘Whistler’s Mother’ and Discourse of the Fourth
Kind,” Western Journal of Communication 60 (1996): 92-100.
Ethnography
§ A good basic ethnography text is Wendy Bishop’s Ethnographic Writing Research:
Writing It Down, Writing It Up, and Reading It (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999).
§ See also H. Lloyd Goodall, Writing the New Ethnography (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira
Press, 2000).
§ One of the finest ethnographic studies we’ve encountered recently is David
Sutherland’s Frontline documentary, The Farmer’s Wife. This approximately six-hour
film explores the lives of Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter, a Nebraska couple who
struggle to save their farm and their marriage. In addition to serving as a profound
example of “thick description,” the film can be used to discuss many of the theories
presented in A First Look.
§ Another intriguing ethnographic effort is H. Lloyd Goodall’s trilogy, Casing a Promised
Land: The Autobiography of an Organizational Detective as Cultural Ethnographer
(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989), Living in the Rock n Roll
Mystery: Reading Context, Self, and Others as Clues (Carbondale: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1991), and Divine Signs: Connecting Spirit to Community (Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996).
§ For recent work on ethnography, see:
o Lyall Crawford, “Personal Ethnography,” Communication Monographs 63
(1996): 158-70;
o Dwight Conquergood, “Rethinking Ethnography: Towards a Critical Cultural
Politics,” Communication Monographs 58 (1991): 179-94;
o AltaMira Press’s Ethnographic Alternatives series, particularly Carolyn Ellis and
Arthur P. Bochner’s Composing Ethnography: Alternative Forms of Qualitative
Writing (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1996);
o John Van Maanen, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1988).
10 §
For specific discussion of power and ethics in ethnographic research, see:
o Julian McAllister Groves and Kimberly A. Chang, “Romancing Resistance and
Resisting Romance: Ethnography and the Construction of Power in the Filipina
Domestic Worker Community in Hong Kong,” Journal of Contemporary
Ethnography 28 (June 1999): 235-65.
o In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Annie-Marie Hall,
“Ethnography,” 241-43.
11 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
12
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
13
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
14
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
15
CHAPTER 2
MAPPING THE TERRITORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Communication scholars hold widely divergent views as to what communication is.
B. Robert Craig suggests that communication should be viewed as a practical
discipline; theory is developed to solve real world problems.
C. Craig identifies seven established traditions of communication theory.
II.
The socio-psychological tradition—communication as interpersonal influence.
A. This tradition epitomizes the scientific perspective.
B. Carl Hovland was one of the founding fathers of experimental research on the
effects of communication.
C. Hovland’s Yale team studied the relationships among communication stimuli,
audience predisposition, and opinion change.
D. They explored three separate causes of persuasive variation.
1. Who—the source of the message.
2. What—the content of the message.
3. Whom—the audience characteristics.
E. Hovland and his colleagues discovered that source credibility is vital to opinion
shift.
1. They investigated two types of credibility—expertness and character.
2. Expertness was more important for boosting opinion change, but its effect
didn’t last.
III.
The cybernetic tradition—communication as information processing.
A. Norbert Wiener coined the term cybernetics to describe the field of artificial
intelligence.
1. Wiener’s concept of feedback anchored the cybernetic tradition.
2. Communication is the link separating the separate parts of any system.
B. Claude Shannon established the idea of communication as information
processing.
1. Shannon’s goal was to establish maximal line capacity with minimum
distortion.
2. He had little interest in the meaning of a message.
C. Shannon defined information as the reduction of uncertainty.
1. The less predictable a message, the more information it carries.
2. Noise reduces the information-carrying capacity of the channel.
D. Shannon regarded communication as the science of balancing predictability and
uncertainty.
E. Paired with Warren Weaver’s essay, Shannon’s diagram of information flow
appears in many communication textbooks.
16 F.
Although Weaver didn’t include feedback, other cybernetic theorists added it to
the model.
IV.
The rhetorical tradition—communication as artful public address.
A. Greco-Roman rhetoric was the main communication theory until the twentieth
century.
B. Six features characterize the tradition.
1. A conviction that speech distinguishes humans from other animals.
2. A confidence in the efficacy of public address.
3. A setting of one speaker addressing a large audience with the intention to
persuade.
4. Oratorical training as the cornerstone of a leader’s education.
5. An emphasis on the power and beauty of language to move people
emotionally and stir them to action.
6. Rhetoric was the province of males.
C. There exists an ongoing tension between the relative value of theory and practice
in the education of speakers.
V.
The semiotic tradition—communication as the process of sharing meaning through signs.
A. Semiotics is the study of signs.
B. Words are a special kind of sign known as a symbol.
C. I.A. Richards was an early scholar of semiotics.
1. His “proper meaning superstition” identifies the mistaken belief that words
have a precise meaning.
2. Meanings don’t reside in words or other symbols, but in people.
D. C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards’s semantic triangle demonstrates the indirect
relationship between a symbol and its referent.
E. Although Richards and Ferdinand de Saussure were fascinated with language,
many in the semiotic tradition focus on nonverbal communication.
VI.
The socio-cultural tradition—communication as the creation and enactment of social
reality.
A. Communication produces and reproduces culture.
B. Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf pioneered this tradition.
1. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity states that the structure
of a culture’s language shapes what people think and do.
2. Their theory counters the notion that languages are neutral conduits of
meaning.
C. It is through language that reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and
transformed.
VII. The critical tradition—communication as a reflective challenge of unjust discourse.
A. Critical theory derives from the German Frankfurt School.
B. The Frankfurt School rejected Karl Marx’s economic determinism, but embraced
the Marxist tradition of critiquing society.
C. The leaders of the Frankfurt School argued that all previous history has been
characterized by an unjust distribution of suffering.
17
D.
E.
Critical theorists challenge three features of contemporary society.
1. The control of language to perpetuate power imbalances.
2. The role of mass media in dulling sensitivity to repression.
3. Blind reliance on the scientific method and uncritical acceptance of
empirical findings.
Critical theorists share a common ethical agenda that emphasizes solidarity with
suffering human beings.
VIII. The phenomenological tradition—communication as the experience of self and others
through dialogue.
A. Phenomenology refers to the intentional analysis of everyday life from the
standpoint of the person who is living it.
B. The phenomenological tradition places great emphasis on people’s perceptions
and interpretations of their own subjective experiences.
C. Within the context of therapy, Carl Rogers established three conditions for
personality and relationship change.
1. Congruence—the match between an individual’s inner feelings and outer
display.
2. Unconditional positive regard—an attitude of acceptance that isn’t
contingent on performance.
3. Empathic understanding—the caring skill of entering into another’s world
without prejudice.
D. Rogers believed that his criteria applied to all interpersonal relationships.
E. Martin Buber emphasized authentic human relationships through dialogue.
IX.
Fencing the field of communication theory.
A. These seven traditions have deep roots in communication theory.
B. They have been mapped with respect to the objective/interpretive dichotomy.
C. Hybrids are possible across traditions.
D. They might not cover every approach to communication theory—thus the addition
of the ethical tradition.
X.
The ethical tradition—communication as people of character interacting in just and
beneficial ways.
A. Since ancient Greece, scholars have grappled with the obligations of the
communicator.
B. The NCA recently adopted a “Credo for Communication Ethics,” which includes the
conviction that ethical communication:
1. Advocates truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason.
2. Accepts responsibility for short-term and long-term consequences of
communication.
3. Strives to understand and respect other communicators before evaluating
and responding to their messages.
C. Concern for ethics spreads across the objective-interpretive landscape.
D. Craig’s framework of seven traditions helps us make sense of the great diversity in
the field of communication.
18
Key Names and Terms
Robert Craig
A communication scholar from the University of Colorado who has defined seven
traditions of communication theory.
The Socio-Psychological Tradition
An empirical approach to interpersonal influence that stemmed from media research.
Carl Hovland
A Yale University researcher who was one of the founding fathers of the sociopsychological tradition.
Sleeper Effect
The tendency for the impact of source credibility to dissipate over time, often because
the audience remembers the message but forgets the source.
The Cybernetic Tradition
The study of information processing, feedback, and control in communication systems.
Claude Shannon
A Bell Telephone research scientist who developed an influential mathematical model
for signal transmission that formed the basis of the cybernetic tradition.
Warren Weaver
A scholar whose interpretive essay applying the concept of information loss to
interpersonal communication was paired with Shannon’s diagram of information flow.
Information
The opportunity to reduce uncertainty.
Noise
Anything that reduces the information-carrying capacity of the channel.
Norbert Wiener
An MIT scientist who coined the term cybernetics and pioneered the concept of
feedback.
Feedback
Information that adjusts future behavior by introducing learning into the system.
The Rhetorical Tradition
An ancient approach to communication theory and practice that emphasizes
persuasion through artful public address.
The Semiotic Tradition
An approach to communication theory that emphasizes the process of sharing meaning
through signs.
Proper Meaning Superstition
The mistaken belief that words have precise definitions.
I.A. Richards
A Cambridge University literary critic who was one of the first in the semiotic tradition to
systematically describe how words work.
Sign
Anything that can stand for something else.
Symbol
A special type of sign (including most words) that has no natural connection with the
thing it describes.
Semantic Triangle
19
Richards and Ogden’s graphic depiction of the indirect relationship between a symbol
and its referent.
C.K. Ogden
Richards’s collaborator on the semantic triangle.
The Socio-Cultural Tradition
An approach to communication that emphasizes how language produces and
reproduces culture.
Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf
A University of Chicago linguist and his student who developed the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis.
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
The proposition that the structure of a culture’s language shapes what people think and
do.
The Critical Tradition
An approach to communication theory that emphasizes reflective challenge of unjust
discourse.
Frankfurt School
A group of German scholars lead by Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert
Marcuse who critiqued the way in which discourse is controlled to perpetuate power
imbalances.
Praxis
Theoretically reflective social action.
The Phenomenological Tradition
An approach to communication theory that emphasizes communication as the
experience of self and others through dialogue.
Carl Rogers
A psychologist who developed a theory of personal and relationship growth.
Congruence
According to Carl Rogers, the match or fit between an individual’s inner feelings and
outer display.
Unconditional Positive Regard
An attitude of acceptance of another person that is not contingent on his or her
performance.
Empathic Understanding
The active process of laying aside personal views and of entering into another’s world
without prejudice.
Martin Buber
A Jewish philosopher and theologian who emphasized authentic human relationships
through dialogue.
National Communication Association Credo for Communication Ethics
A collection of nine principles of ethical communication recently adopted by the
National Communication Association.
20
Principal Changes
The discussion of the seven traditions remains essentially the same with some light
editing for clarity.
Suggestions for Discussion
Pluralism
While teaching this chapter, be sure to emphasize Robert Craig’s point that it’s probably
a mistake to seek “some kind of grand theoretical overview that brings all communication
study into focus” (21). Griffin’s decision to feature Craig’s catholic approach to the discipline
reiterates the pitch for pluralism that anchors our Preface. Much of the pleasure—and, on
occasion, pain—of our field comes from the diversity of the terrain.
Cybernetic tradition of Shannon and Weaver
Each of the seven traditions presented in this chapter could easily warrant a booklength treatment. We’ll curb our desire to present exhaustive analyses of all seven here, but
we will provide sample discussion of the cybernetic tradition. The simplicity of Shannon and
Weaver’s approach makes it an easy target for criticism. In Chapter 21, in fact, Griffin asserts
that “a majority of human communication scholars now dismiss Shannon and Weaver’s
information theory” (302). Nonetheless, it is important for students to know that the premises
about communication underlying information theory still play important roles in the academy
and in our culture. Discuss with your students Shannon and Weaver’s general emphases and
goals: clear, efficient, linear transmission and reception of information, balance between
novelty and redundancy, and so forth.
With this theoretical foundation established, they will discover ample demonstrations of
its utility all around them. A good place to commence the search is with communication
pedagogy itself, particularly at the introductory level, where information theory remains the
predominant way of beginning the discussion about our discipline. Most communication
textbooks introduce their subject with ideas that stem directly from the information theory of
Shannon and Weaver, including diagrams similar to figure 2.1. This is particularly true of texts
covering public speaking and the fundamentals of communication. Stephen E. Lucas’s popular
public-speaking text, The Art of Public Speaking, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), for
example, presents “the speech communication process” in a format that draws heavily from
Shannon and Weaver. To drive the point home, bring several of these textbooks to class.
Better yet, have your students bring in the books they’ve used in their introductory courses.
Although your students may not realize it, much of the language we habitually use to
describe our speech and writing perpetuates the general perspective on communication
created by this theory. The conduit metaphors we marshal, for example, in which language
becomes a kind of pipeline for the efficient transfer of ideas from one mind to another, align
closely with Shannon and Weaver’s approach. In addition, many metaphors that characterize
communication as a journey also conform to their perspective. In fact, any time our
metacommunication emphasizes the way in which language functions (or fails to function) as a
medium for carrying our predetermined thoughts with fidelity and efficiency, we are
21
perpetuating the philosophy of communication advocated by information theory. Playing the
roles of transmitters and encoders, we talk about “putting our ideas into words”; “getting it all
down in writing”; or “bogging down in the middle of a paragraph.” On the receiving and
decoding end, we say, “His instructions are confusing”; “Her spelling errors are distracting”; “I
had a hard time following his line of reasoning”; “She kept repeating her basic point over and
over”; “His explanation lacks clarity”; “I was caught up in the flow of her description”; or “He
really laid it out for me.” As instructors, many to most of the metaphors and analogies we use
to evaluate student prose and speaking align with information theory. When you assign this
chapter, you may wish to ask students to look back over their paper and speech evaluations
from recently graded assignments for the presence of such metacommunication. Have them
bring examples to class of teachers’ comments that conform to Shannon and Weaver’s
approach to communication.
Another genre of communication that fits well with information theory is the basic
business transaction. Letters to and from one’s bank, accountant, and attorney often conform
to the mold, as do the words we speak when we use the drive-up window at a fast-food
establishment, give directions to a motorist who is new in town, or place a call to 911. Traffic
signals and road signs also qualify.
Comparing the traditions
After you have covered the widespread applicability of Shannon and Weaver’s
approach, it’s time to move to the other side of the theoretical fence—those communicative
situations in which the linear model is not an effective approximation of human
communication. The socio-psychological tradition shares Shannon and Weaver’s empiricism,
although its interest in influence differs from the cybernetic emphasis on information. The
rhetorical tradition, in which speakers and writers seek to change the feelings or beliefs of
their audiences through persuasion, does not align well with the approach of Shannon and
Weaver. The semiotic tradition is fairly compatible, but the socio-cultural approach, with its
emphasis on constitutive power of communication, is not. The critical tradition is overtly
suspicious of Shannon and Weaver’s sort of empiricism. Nor is the phenomenological
tradition—which emphasizes communication’s power to shape the self and human
relationships—particularly interested in messages beyond the specific context of persons-inconversation. Whereas the information model simply relays what is known by one person to
another, genuine dialogue can function epistemically and ontologically—generating knowledge
about the world and altering one’s sense of being. Of course communication designed to
support or reinforce that which is previously known or believed has little to do with the
reduction of uncertainty.
We’ve belabored the characteristics of the cybernetic tradition too much, perhaps, but
our intention has been to encourage you to inspire your students to spend a good deal of time
comparing the seven traditions Griffin presents as basic to our disciplinary territory. If students
master this material, and if they comprehend the essential differences and similarities among
these theoretical zones, they’ll have a wonderful foundation for successfully understanding the
entire book.
An alternate order for presenting the traditions
22
In this chapter, Griffin presents the seven traditions arranged according to where they
fall on the scientific-interpretivistic continuum. If you or your students have a predilection
toward history, you might consider presenting the traditions in a roughly chronological fashion,
which lends itself to a discussion of world events that have impacted communication. Starting
with the rhetorical tradition, communication has been a defining element of human history—
both the experience and the re-telling. Students who have had public speaking or rhetoric
classes may already have an understanding of early rhetoricians and may be able to explain
how and why rhetoric achieved its high standing in the academic settings of the Greeks,
Romans, Middle Ages, and Renaissance.
The critical tradition marks the first in the twentieth century, with its European
beginning between the first and second World Wars. Again, its historical context may help
students by placing the thought tradition with world events, political climates, and social
causes. Both the semiotic and socio-psychological tradition arose during the 1940s around the
time of WW2. Your students might be interested to know that many of the founding fathers of
the socio-psychological tradition (i.e., Harold Lasswell, Kurt Lewin, Paul Lazerfeld, Carl
Hovland) were working in the US to escape the war and the Nazi regime. In some cases, their
work was a direct result of wartime conditions (Lasswell’s studies of propaganda) or their
sponsoring agencies (Lewin’s work on small groups for the US military).
Cybernetics emerged toward the end of WW2 and reflects the emerging global interest
in technology. Ask your students what other technological advances occurred at this time, such
as the television, automobiles, and early computers, and how they might reflect the
cybernetics view regarding parts of a system. As for the socio-cultural tradition of the late
1940s, you might choose to discuss sociologists, missionaries or cultural anthropologists
(such as Margaret Mead) who lived and worked around the globe and emphasized tolerance
and understanding after the atrocities of WW2. With advances in technology making the world
“smaller,” people were exposed to places and populations previously unknown and these
circumstances help shaped the socio-cultural perspective.
Finally, the phenomenological tradition appears during the late 1950s and 1960s. Ask
your students how they would characterize this period of history. Be sure to note important
concepts such as encounter groups, the hippies, Vietnam War, peaceful and violent protest
movements, sit-ins, and the rise of women’s rights, affirmative action, and Gay rights. With this
backdrop, it may not surprise your students that academics were also thinking about the
perspective of the individual’s own lived experience and subjective reality.
Mapping the traditions
Figure 2.3, Griffin’s “survey map” of the seven traditions, deserves comment. Griffin
has done a fine job of placing the theories along the objective/interpretive continuum, and he
provides a reasonable rationale for his placements. Nonetheless, one could question the
positioning of particular traditions. We, for example, might extend the domains of semiotics
and rhetoric toward the interpretive pole. We would encourage you and your students to think
critically about any attempt to systematize our discipline.
23
The ethical tradition
Finally, it may be enlightening to invite students to discuss the principles of the NCA’s
“Credo for Communication Ethics,” which Griffin did not include in his summary of the
document on pages 34-35 (the complete text can be found in Appendix C). Griffin includes
ethical reflections in five places throughout the textbook, and if you plan on using them in later
discussions, you’ll likely want to pause and discuss his ethical tradition at this point.
Sample Application Logs
Jessie
This past summer I took a course in Israel. Our guide was a master at communicating his point
...
“Look with me to the left of us. Do you see the Mount of Temptation Hotel? Now look at the
roof. Do you see the set of colonnades? Move your eyes across the colonnade. Do you see the
one lone palm tree? Everyone see it? Look at the top of the palm and to the right. Do you see
the barren mound of earth? That is where Jericho’s hippodrome is.”
Rarely did we not know what our guide was speaking about. He had taken a landscape full of
“information” and “noise” and, through words, narrowed the wealth to one spot. That is the
reduction of entropy.
Alicia
A girl walked up to me once and told me that she loved theatre as much as I did. After a brief
conversation, I realized that she thought of theatre as sitting in an audience watching an
Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, while I thought theatre to be a group of friends working hard to
put on a piece by Tennessee Williams. The chapter and the incident both reminded me that
the thoughts I associate with words are not always what others mean.
Exercises and Activities
Your genealogy
To enrich your students’ understanding of and appreciation for the basic traditions of
the discipline, you may wish to share with them your own intellectual background as well as
the educational stories of some of your colleagues. Presenting selected branches of the
departmental “family tree” can be a concrete way to demonstrate the broad applicability of the
eight traditions of the discipline, as well as the objective/interpretive dichotomy that informs
the field. You could also require the students themselves to reconstruct the genealogy by
having them interview you and your colleagues before you cover the chapter in class.
Encourage students to ask questions about the topics and locations of key articles written by
your colleagues, their mentors, and perhaps even their mentors’ mentors.
24
Same topic, differing traditions
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he focuses students very specifically on the
definitions of communication favored by each tradition. As he did with the first chapter, he
asks students to indicate which territory is most comfortable to them. Once again, he
establishes an initial standpoint that can be referenced over the course of the semester.
Finally, he takes a research area with which he is familiar (in his case, friendship) and
discusses how each tradition would investigate the topic. For example, how would the sociopsychological tradition conduct research on friendship, and how would this research contrast
with study done by the cybernetic tradition, and so forth. If you’re not currently conducting
research on a communication topic, you could use your thesis as a sample area. This exercise
helps students to understand the richness and complexity of our field, since both topics and
perspectives differ so widely.
Further Resources
§
§
§
Bruce Gronbeck’s 1998 Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, “Paradigms of Speech
Communication Studies: Looking Back to the Future” (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999),
provides an alternative view of the discipline’s “territory.”
A perplexing, yet illuminating text is Richard Rodriguez’s autobiography, Hunger of
Memory (New York: Bantam, 1982), in which the author both celebrates and agonizes
over his one-way journey from the working-class, Spanish-speaking world of his
Mexican-born parents to the English-speaking, American upper-middle class he and his
siblings eventually enter. Rodriguez’s case is particularly intriguing because he denies
the importance of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Arguing that language itself is merely a
conduit, rather than a creator, of meaning, Rodriguez nonetheless chronicles his
growing distance from his parents, a distance that seems inevitably linked to
differences in communication.
For sources on the rhetorical tradition, see our treatment of public rhetoric.
Carl Rogers
§ Although Carl Rogers—whom Griffin features in the phenomenological tradition—was not
a communication scholar per se, his ideas have been extremely influential in our
discipline. It is not surprising, thus, that John Stewart includes him as a key theorist for
interpersonal communication in his popular communication anthology, Bridges Not
Walls, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 640-49.
§ A good discussion of his contribution to our field is provided by Kenneth Cissna and Rob
Anderson, “The Contributions of Carl R. Rogers to a Philosophical Praxis of Dialogue,”
Western Journal of Speech Communication 54 (1990): 125-47. Cissna and Anderson
compare the work of Carl Rogers and Martin Buber, who is featured in an Ethical
Reflection a bit later in the book.
§ For discussion of Rogers’s influence on rhetoric, see:
o Richard E. Young, Alton L. Becker, and Kenneth Pike, Rhetoric: Discovery and
Change (New York: Harcourt, 1970), 273-90;
o Doug Brent, “Rogerian Rhetoric: Ethical Growth through Alternative Forms of
Argument,” Argument Revisited; Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in
the Composition Classroom (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996), 73-96;
25
o Nathaniel Teich, “Rogerian Rhetoric,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and
Composition, 635-36; Nathaniel Teich, ed., Rogerian Perspectives: Collaborative
Rhetoric for Oral and Written Communication (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1992).
26 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
27
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
28
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
29
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
30
CHAPTER 3
WEIGHING THE WORDS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Not all theories are equally effective.
B. The utility of a theory may be judged by applying the appropriate criteria used by
behavioral scientists and a wide range of interpretive scholars to weigh the
theories of their colleagues.
II.
A test case: Ernest Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory.
A. Bormann maintains that the sharing of group fantasies creates symbolic
convergence.
B. During symbolic convergence, fantasy chain reactions build community or group
consciousness.
C. Fantasy themes voiced across many groups create a rhetorical vision.
III.
What makes an objective theory good?
A. Scientific standard 1: Explanation of the data.
1. A good theory makes sense out of disturbing situations or draws order out
of chaos.
2. It focuses attention on crucial variables and away from irrelevant data.
3. It explains what is happening and why.
4. It explains both the process and the results.
B. Scientific standard 2: Prediction of future events. Prediction in physical science is
more accurate than in social science, where it is based on probability.
C. Scientific standard 3: Relative simplicity. The rule of parsimony dictates that all
things being equal, we accept the simpler explanation over the more complex.
D. Scientific standard 4: Hypotheses that can be tested. If there is no way to prove a
theory false, then the assumption that it’s true is mere guesswork.
E. Scientific standard 5: Practical utility.
1. A good objective theory provides increased control.
2. Don’t dismiss a theory as impractical unless you understand it.
IV.
What makes an interpretive theory good?
A. Interpretive standard 1: New understanding of people.
1. Rhetorical theory elucidates texts.
2. It helps critics clarify complex communication.
3. It suggests universal patterns of symbol usage.
4. Whereas science wants objective explanation, humanism desires
subjective understanding.
5. Klaus Krippendorff’s Self-Referential Imperative: Include yourself as a
constituent of your own construction.
31 B.
C.
D.
E.
V.
Interpretive standard 2: Clarification of values.
1. Theorists acknowledge their own values.
2. They seek to unmask the ideology behind messages.
3. Many theorists value individual liberty and equality. Krippendorff’s Ethical
Imperative: Grant others that occur in your construction the same
autonomy you practice constructing them.
Interpretive standard 3: Aesthetic appeal.
1. A theory’s form can be as captivating as its content.
2. As an artist, the critic sparks appreciation.
Interpretive standard 4: A community of agreement. A theory must have
widespread scrutiny and usage.
Interpretive standard 5: Reform of society.
1. Theory challenges cultural assumptions.
2. It generates alternatives for social action.
Balancing the scale: similar weights and measures.
A. The two sets of five criteria are not as different as they might seem.
B. An explanation creates understanding by answering, Why?
C. Both prediction and value clarification look to the future.
D. Simplicity has aesthetic appeal.
E. Hypothesis testing is a way of achieving a community of agreement.
F.
Theories that reform are practical.
G. These parallels suggest important linkages between scientists and interpretive
scholars. Many communication theorists are grounded somewhere between the
two positions.
H. Although all theories featured in this book have merit, most have weaknesses
elucidated by the standards set forth in this chapter.
Key Names and Terms
Symbolic Convergence
Developed by Ernest Bormann, this theory posits that through the process of sharing
common fantasies, a collection of individuals is transformed into a cohesive group. This
theory draws from both the scientific and humanistic traditions.
Fantasy Theme Analysis
The study of the way in which groups use creative and imaginative interpretations of
events to fulfill psychological and rhetorical needs. Fantasy theme analysis is the
research method of Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory.
Rhetorical Vision
According to symbolic convergence theory, a collective view of social reality that
develops when the same set of fantasy themes is voiced across many group situations.
Falsifiability
Karl Popper’s requirement that a good scientific theory must be able to be proven false.
Karl Popper
The British philosopher responsible for the concept of falsifiability. He suggested that
theories are nets cast to catch what we call the world.
Rule of Parsimony
32
Relative simplicity; given two plausible explanations for the same event, scientists favor
the less complicated one.
Klaus Krippendorff
A theorist from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of
Pennsylvania who developed the Self-Referential Imperative and the Ethical Imperative
for humanistic communication research.
Self-Referential Imperative
The premise that theorists must include themselves as participants in their own
constructions; they affect and are affected by their ideas.
Ethical Imperative
The premise that theorists in their constructions must grant people they study the same
autonomy they grant themselves.
Principal Changes
This chapter remains the same with some light editing for clarity.
Suggestions for Discussion
Parsimony—is it always a good thing?
In discussion, you may wish to complicate the scientific standard of relative simplicity a
bit. Although the rule of parsimony (students who have had a philosophy course may have also
been introduced to this concept as “Occam’s razor”) dictates that we favor the simplest
explanation of a given phenomenon (41-42), it is also the case that complex phenomena often
require intricate theories. Therefore, expecting simplicity is not always useful (to invoke
another scientific standard for good theory). An economics professor once compared theory
building to magic. Some magicians pull big rabbits out of small hats, and some produce small,
refined rabbits from big hats. Bormann’s symbolic convergence—which provides a great deal of
bang for the theoretical buck (even though its power to predict is limited)—fits the former
category, it seems to us. Who would not be impressed by such necromancy? Sometimes,
though, it’s the refined rabbits we want, and we’re willing to reach into big hats to produce
them. And in fact, as theories build on one another, the move toward intricacy is inevitable.
Anxiety-uncertainty management theory, which we’ll meet in Chapter 30, exemplifies this
second category. Gudykunst strives for the fine distinctions and precision that may be missing
from a construct such as symbolic convergence, and thus he must develop extensive
theoretical machinery. His magic may not be bold, but it is useful, nonetheless. The key to
evaluating the worth of a big hat theory is to determine whether or not the added explanatory
and predictive potential merits the increased complexity. If it does not, then the theory is not
valuable.
Objective explanation/subjective understanding
When we teach this chapter, we pause very carefully over the objective
explanation/subjective understanding dichotomy that Griffin establishes between scientific
and interpretive theory. (It is located in his discussion of “Interpretive Standard 1,” page 44.)
We want students to understand that the “self-referential imperative” (45) does not exclude
the importance of developing understandings of texts that ring true to other readers. In fact,
33
we would go so far as to suggest that the most enduring rhetorical criticism has a tendency to
blur the line between explanation and understanding. Similarly, one can feel “the personal
thrill of discovery and creation” (45) in the accounts of science given us by many of our
colleagues in the sciences, including Watson and Raup, whose books we mention in the
Further Resources section of our treatment of Chapter One. To continue this line of discussion,
ask students for an objective definition of “utility,” which Griffin lists as a principal criterion of
good scientific theory. What they’ll find is that you cannot talk about this standard without
calling upon subjective values.
Evaluating well-known theories
To help solidify the standards presented in the chapter, it may be useful to choose one
or two well-known theoretical systems such as capitalism, Marxism, Darwinism, creationism, or
Freudianism and run them through the twin criteria for scientific and interpretive theories. In
particular, discuss falsifiability with respect to these theories; students may better understand
Popper’s concept if they consider, for example, why Marxism and creationism are not
falsifiable—yet Darwinism is. Discredited theories such as Lamarckian evolution, spontaneous
generation, or Ptolemaic geocentrism may be particularly illuminating.
Aesthetic appeal
We can’t help but pause for a moment on interpretive standard #3, “aesthetic appeal,”
which Griffin discusses on page 46. Although it’s true that many interpretive scholars view
their work as art, or at least as artistic (and we applaud this belief), many do not. Unfortunately
ponderous prose is prevalent in the theorizing of many of our best and brightest interpretive
scholars. Postmodernism, with its disdain for clarity, simplicity, and directness and its
skepticism about meaning and certain knowledge, is partially—but not exclusively— to blame.
Symbolic convergence theory
You may be interested to know that in Understanding Communication Theory (which we
introduced in the Preface to this manual), Cragan and Shields present symbolic convergence
theory as one of the six “general theories” of the discipline. Why is it that Griffin has demoted it
to a sample theory for this introductory chapter?
Sample Application Log
Robyn
I always wondered if the three of us were sort of sick. Whenever Jenn, Lynn and I would get
together and hang out, we would always talk about the past. I don’t know why, but all the funny
things we had shared in the past always seemed so much more exciting than anything we were
doing in the present. When one of us would start to share a common yarn, the other two would
immediately pick up the fantasy and create a chain reaction of energy. We had a million
fantasy themes that we would re-create through time. I always thought that we were pretty
weird, but Bormann declares that we are just natural symbol users and storytellers who voice
fantasies and create cohesiveness.
34
Exercises and Activities
Fantasy themes
To help explicate Bormann’s theory of symbolic convergence, Griffin asks his students
to discuss examples of group fantasies that they have helped create or perhaps witnessed. To
what extent did the fantasies chain out? Was symbolic convergence attained or perhaps even
a rhetorical vision? Such discussion helps to clarify and vivify what might otherwise be fairly
abstract concepts.
To increase your students’ grasp of fantasy theme analysis and symbolic convergence,
you might want to have them read an article using the technique and follow it up with an inclass discussion. We recommend Thomas G. Endres’s “Father-daughter dramas: A Qinvestigation of rhetorical visions” in Journal of Applied Communication Research, 25, 4
(1997): 317-41; “He’s in a New Neighborhood Now: Religious Fantasy Themes about Mister
Rogers’ Neighborhood” by Stephen D. Perry, and Amanda Roesch. Journal of Media & Religion
3, 4 (2004): 199-219; or “The World’s Nicest Grown-Up: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of News
Media Coverage of Fred Rogers” by Ronald Bishop, Journal of Communication, 53, 1 (2003):
16-32. The latter two work well especially if you want to simulate fantasy chaining by asking
students their recollections of Mr. Rogers.
If you want to explore further fantasy themes and symbolic convergence, you may wish
to extend the example Griffin presents of the Montana ranchers (38-39). To do so, have your
students imagine the conversation that their counterparts, the federal agents, might have
about them. Picture Mr. Clayton Rogers having dinner with a group of his fellow federal agents
in an upscale Washington restaurant. Taking advantage of a lull in the conversation, he begins
to tell the story of his encounter with a fiercely independent Montana rancher. “As I introduced
myself at his door,” Rogers says, “I noticed a sign over his gun rack declaring, ‘Shoot first, ask
questions later.’” How might that line create a fantasy chain reaction and symbolic
convergence? What sort of rhetorical vision could eventually emerge from such conversations?
Which standard is indispensable?
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he works through the ten standards of objective
and interpretative theory building (explanation of data or understanding of people, prediction
of future or clarification of values, and so forth) systematically with his students, making sure
that they understand both five-part sets and the relationship between them. Then he asks
each student to indicate which of the ten standards is, for him or her, indispensable to good
theory building. Next, if they could add a second essential standard, which would it be? Are the
first and second essential standards they chose from the same tradition, or have the students
drawn one standard from each set? As the students indicate their choices, Griffin tallies the
cumulative results on the board so that the students can visualize the class trend.
When Ed McDaniel teaches this chapter, he employs the following exercise to apply the
criteria for evaluating theories:
To supplement information in the text, I bring in news articles relating to the neverending debate on teaching evolution and creationism in the public schools. I then
engage the class in a discussion and ask them to determine what evolution and
35
creation are based on. This helps demonstrate that a good theory must meet a number
of empirical criteria, unlike a strictly faith-based concept.
Feature film example
The film Moonlight and Valentino, which centers on a tight circle of women whose
fantasy chains feature a hunksome house painter, cleverly exemplifies symbolic convergence.
Further Resources
Symbolic convergence theory
§ For further discussion of Bormann’s work, see Sonja Foss’s fifth chapter on “fantasytheme criticism” in Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice, 2nd ed. (Prospect
Heights: Waveland, 1996).
§ In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Bormann, “Fantasy Theme
Analysis,” 258-60; and Gary Layne Hatch, “Bormann,” 82-83.
§ For a provocative book-length application of Bormann’s notion of symbolic
convergence to the culture of a small group, see Moya Ann Ball, Vietnam-on-thePotomac (Westport: Praeger, 1992). A condensed version of this study is “Vacillating
about Vietnam: Secrecy, Duplicity, and Confusion in the Communication of President
Kennedy and His Advisors,” Group Communication in Context: Studies of Natural
Groups, ed. Lawrence R. Frey (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994), 181-98. We
say more about Ball’s work in our treatment of Griffin’s introduction to group decision
making.
§ For further application of Bormann’s theory, see:
o Susan Schultz, “Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Fuller, and Angelina Grimké:
Symbolic Convergence and a Nascent Rhetorical Vision,” Communication
Quarterly 44 (Winter 1996): 14-28.
o Thomas G. Endres, “Father-Daughter Dramas: A Q-Investigation of Rhetorical
Visions,” Journal of Applied Communication Research 25 (November 1997):
317-40.
o Margaret Duffy, “High Stakes: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of the Selling of
Riverboat Gambling in Iowa,” Southern Communication Journal 62 (Winter
1997): 117-32.
o Linda Putnam, Shirley A. Van Hoeven, and Connie A. Bullis, “The Role of Rituals
and Fantasy Themes in Teachers’ Bargaining,” Western Journal of Speech
Communication 55 (1991): 85-103.
o Christee Lucas Lesch, “Observing Theory in Practice: Sustaining Consciousness
in a Coven,” Group Communication in Context: Studies of Natural Groups, 5782.
o Mara B. Adelman and Lawrence Frey, The Fragile Community: Living Together
with AIDS (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1997), 41.
o Ernest Bormann, Ellen Bormann, and Kathleen C. Harty, “Using Symbolic
Convergence Theory and Focus Group Interviews to Develop Communication
Designed to Stop Teenage Use of Tobacco,” Innovations in Group Facilitation:
Applications in Natural Settings, ed. Lawrence Frey (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton
Press, 1995), 200-32.
36
o John Cragan and Donald Shields, “Using SCT-Based Focus Group Interviews to
Do Applied Communication Research,” Innovations in Group Facilitation:
Applications in Natural Settings, 233-56.
Critiques of SCT
§ For a critique of symbolic convergence theory, see Joshua Gunn’s article “Refiguring
Fantasy: Imagination and Its Decline in U.S. Rhetorical Studies,” in Quarterly Journal
of Speech 89, 1 (2003): 41-60. In the November 2003 issue of Quarterly Journal of
Speech 89, 4: 366-73, Bormann, John Cragan, and Donald Shields respond to
Gunn’s article followed by a one-page response from Gunn.
§ Donald Shields marshals symbolic convergence theory to attack a recent form of
communication scholarship in “Symbolic Convergence and Special Communication
Theories: Sensing and Examining Dis/Enchantment with the Theoretical Robustness
of Critical Autoethnography,” Communication Monographs 67 (March 2000): 392421.
37 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
38
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
39
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
40
INTERPERSONAL MESSAGES
Key Names and Terms
Interpersonal Communication
The interactive process of creating unique shared meaning.
Further Resources
For a feminist reading of interpersonal communication, see Julia Wood, “Enlarging
Conceptual Boundaries: A Critique of Research in Interpersonal Communication,”
Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques of Communication Studies, ed. Sheryl Perlmutter
Bowen and Nancy Wyatt (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 1993), 19-49.
41 CHAPTER 4
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. George Herbert Mead was an influential philosophy professor at the University of
Chicago, but he never published his ideas.
B. After his death, his students published his teachings in Mind, Self, and Society.
C. Mead’s chief disciple, Herbert Blumer, further developed his theory.
1. Blumer coined the term symbolic interactionism, and claimed that
communication is the most human and humanizing activity in which people
are engaged.
2. The three core principles of symbolic interactionism are concerned with
meaning, language, and thought.
3. These principles lead to conclusions about the formation of self and
socialization into a larger community.
II.
Meaning: The construction of social reality.
A. First principle: Humans act toward people or things on the basis of the meanings
they assign to those people or things.
B. Once people define a situation as real, it’s very real in its consequences.
III.
Language: The source of meaning.
A. Meaning arises out of the social interaction people have with each other.
B. Meaning is not inherent in objects.
C. Meaning is negotiated through the use of language, hence the term symbolic
interactionism.
1. Second principle: As human beings, we have the ability to name things.
2. Symbols, including names, are arbitrary signs.
3. By talking with others, we ascribe meaning to words and develop a
universe of discourse.
D. Symbolic naming is the basis for society—the extent of knowing is dependent on
the extent of naming.
E. Symbolic interactionism is the way we learn to interpret the world.
1. A symbol is a stimulus that has a learned meaning and a value for people.
2. Our words have default assumptions.
IV.
Thought: The process of taking the role of the other.
A. Third principle: An individual’s interpretation of symbols is modified by his or her
own thought process.
B. Symbolic interactionists describe thinking as an inner conversation, or minding.
1. Minding is a reflective pause.
2. We naturally talk to ourselves in order to sort out meaning.
42 C.
D.
Whereas animals act instinctively and without deliberation, humans are hardwired
for thought.
1. Humans require social stimulation and exposure to abstract symbol
systems to have conceptual thought.
2. Language is the software that activates the mind.
Humans have the unique capacity to take the role of the other.
V.
The self: Reflections in a looking glass.
A. Self cannot be found through introspection, but instead through taking the role of
the other and imagining how we look from the other’s perspective. This mental
image is called the looking-glass self and is socially constructed.
B. Self is a function of language.
1. One has to be a member of a community before consciousness of self sets
in.
2. The self is always in flux.
C. Self is an ongoing process combining the “I” and the “me.”
1. The “I” sponsors what is novel, unpredictable, and unorganized about the
self.
2. The “me” is the image of self seen through the looking glass of other
people’s reactions.
VI.
Community: The socializing effect of others’ expectations.
A. The composite mental image of others in a community, their expectations, and
possible responses is referred to as the generalized other.
B. The generalized other shapes how we think and interact within the community.
C. The “me” is formed through continual symbolic interaction.
D. The “me” is the organized community within the individual.
VII. A sampler of applied symbolic interaction.
A. Creating reality.
1. Erving Goffman develops the metaphor of social interaction as a
dramaturgical performance.
2. The impression of reality fostered by performance is fragile.
B. Meaning-ful research.
1. Mead advocated study through participant observation, a form of
ethnography.
2. Experimental and survey research are void of the meaning of the
experience.
C. Generalized other—the tragic potential of symbolic interaction: Negative responses
can consequently reduce a person to nothing.
D. Naming.
1. Name-calling can be devastating because it forces us to view ourselves
through a warped mirror.
2. These grotesque images are not easily dispelled.
E. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
1. Each of us affects how others view themselves.
43
2.
F.
Our expectations evoke responses that confirm what we originally
anticipated, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Symbol manipulation—symbols can galvanize people into united action.
VIII. Critique: A theory too grand?
A. Mead’s theory is hard to summarize and lacks clarity.
B. Mead overstates his case, particularly when distinguishing humans from other
animals.
C. Nonetheless, Mead’s theory has greater breadth than any in this book.
D. Most interpretive theorists featured in this book owe a great debt to Mead.
Key Names and Terms
George Herbert Mead
The University of Chicago philosophy professor whose teachings were synthesized into
the theory called symbolic interactionism.
Symbolic Interactionism
Coined by Herbert Blumer, this term is meant to express the essence of Mead’s theory:
The self is defined through the interconnection of meaning, language, and thought.
Herbert Blumer
Mead’s chief disciple, this University of California, Berkeley, professor coined the term
symbolic interactionism.
Default Assumption
Douglas Hofstadter’s term for a belief inscribed in language that limits our thinking.
Minding
An inner dialogue used to test alternatives, rehearse action, and anticipate reactions
before overtly responding.
Taking the Role of the Other
The process of placing yourself in another’s position and viewing the world as you
believe he or she would.
Looking-Glass Self
The mental image that results from taking the role of the other.
I
The spontaneous driving force that fosters all that is novel, unpredictable, and
unorganized in the self.
Me
The image of the self seen in the looking glass of other people’s reactions—the self’s
generalized other.
Self
The ongoing process of combining the “I” and the “me.”
Generalized Other
The composite mental image of others in a community, their expectations, and possible
responses to one’s self.
Erving Goffman
University of California, Berkeley, sociologist who developed the metaphor of social
interaction as a dramaturgical performance.
44
Participant Observation
Advocated by Mead, this ethnographically based approach requires the researcher to
adopt the stance of an interested, yet ignorant visitor who carefully notes what people
say and do in order to discover how they interpret their world.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
The tendency for our expectations to evoke responses that confirm what we originally
expected.
Symbol Manipulation
The process whereby symbols galvanize people into united action.
Principal Changes
This chapter has been edited for clarity and precision. The theoretical material remains
the same.
Suggestions for Discussion
The impact of symbolic interactionism
At the outset, it’s important to note that one cannot overemphasize the influence of this
theory on our specific subject of communication, as well as on the twentieth-century social
sciences and the humanities in general. Closing the chapter, Griffin presents a list of theorists
who owe a debt to Mead (63). Considering the extent of his impact on our field, though, it
might be easier and more revealing to provide a list of the few theorists he hasn’t touched. A
good indication of the enduring importance of this theory is the existence of the Society for the
Study of Symbolic Interaction. Both communication scholars and sociologists are active in this
organization.
One way to illustrate the tremendous influence of symbolic interactionism is to analyze
several of the interpersonal communication textbooks used in your department with your
students. In Bridges Not Walls, for example, John Stewart doesn’t explicitly reference the
founder of symbolic interactionism, but he demonstrates his debt to Mead when he argues,
“who we are—our identities—is built in our communicating. People come to each encounter
with an identifiable ‘self,’ built through past interactions, and as we talk, we adapt ourselves to
fit the topic we’re discussing and the people we’re talking with, and we are changed by what
happens to us as we communicate” (30). In the tenth edition of Looking Out, Looking In
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003), Ronald Adler and Neil Towne don’t mention Mead by name,
but their discussion of self-perception is based on his framework (48-53). In Everyday
Encounters: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996),
Julia T. Wood explicitly mentions Mead as she discusses “communication and the creation of
the self” (51-54) and symbols (107-08). Trenholm and Jensen, as well, credit Mead and the
symbolic interactionists as they build their notion of self-concept in Interpersonal
Communication, (3rd edition [Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996], 213-18). It seems to us that
important interpersonal concepts such as rhetorical sensitivity, perspective taking, and selfmonitoring can also be traced back to Mead’s ideas.
Mead in other classes
45
Often, students may have encountered symbolic interactionism concepts in previous
communication classes and, rather than have the overlap go unaddressed, it is may be useful
to discuss these now-commonplace ideas which were novel for Mead. A good starting place is
the concept of meaning as situated in people, not things. Asking students how they might
explain this concept to a young child often initiates a productive dialogue about what it means
to say that meaning is not inherent but socially constructed. Explaining this apparently
simplistic notion is quite challenging. It is also useful to discuss how an arbitrary symbol can
take on great significance based on a socially ascribed meaning. A recent Newsweek report
claimed that copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, had been flushed down the toilet at a
prison camp, and though the story was eventually retracted, it produced global outcry and
violence. The reaction was based on the belief that desecration of the manuscript was
evidence of disrespect for the religion. Other religious texts (i.e. the Bible, the Torah) might
produce a similar response. Challenge your students to think of objects that are important to
them for symbolic reasons. This conversation can often be resumed when discussing semiotics
and helps to illustrate the links between the theories.
Critique
As Griffin mentions in the Critique section for this chapter, Mead’s work suffers from a
lack of clarity. When introducing this rather amorphous theory, we like to give students a fairly
specific, concrete handle, something like the following: “Human realities are socially
constructed through communication.” A concise formulation such as this provides students
with a way to begin processing this material.
The self
Despite its current status as a reigning deity of the academy, symbolic interactionism
may provide quite a challenge to some of your students. Many college-age men and women
embrace a Romantic or essentialist conception of self that clashes with Mead’s fluid,
malleable, “deconstructed” approach to personhood. These students, who have—unknowingly,
most likely—adopted what David Darnell and Wayne Brockriede in Persons Communicating
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976) called a “noble self” (176), may be troubled by what
they may construe as the absence of a unique, individual, immutable human core. To them,
symbolic interactionism seems to turn everyone into “rhetorical reflectors” (178). Some
students may raise religious objections, claiming that Mead’s approach de-emphasizes what
often is called the soul. If these potential challenges aren’t presented, you very well may wish
to do so yourself. After all, there is a level of determinism in the interactionist orientation that
deserves careful scrutiny. One method of handling the challenge, it seems to us, is to
reexamine the function of the “I” element of the self. This, perhaps, is the component of the
self where an element of the “noble self”—and perhaps the soul—resides. Clearly, this is a
question that deserves discussion.
The self-fulfilling prophesy
Griffin’s treatment of self-fulfilling prophecy warrants further elaboration. Since he
specifically references George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (61), we like to introduce students to
the social scientists’ version, the Pygmalion effect (see sources, below).
46
Default assumptions
In this day of increased gender equality, we’re curious to see how students react to
Griffin’s example of the default assumption—the puzzle about the woman surgeon. Another
example to consider might be the seventies pop hit “You Light Up My Life.” Through default
assumptions of listeners, “you” was considered to be a reference to a person of the opposite
sex and “light up” was quickly assigned a romantic meaning, but it’s our understanding that
the original motivation of the song was religious. The Police’s hit song, “Every Breath You Take”
may evoke a similar response. While it is often interpreted as a love song and frequently used
by newlyweds as their wedding song, the writer (Sting) described the song as being about
unhealthy obsession and stalking. Challenge students to come up with their own examples of
default assumptions, particularly those outside the common category of gender stereotypes.
Sample Application Logs
Susan
The theatre is a world where you really do step into someone else’s shoes. You examine how
the character views herself and how she is viewed by others. My theatre professor suggests
some questions for studying a character—What do other people say about my character? How
do other people react to my character? These questions help examine how the character is
viewed by others and, thus, create the “looking-glass self.” To act the character you need to
understand her “me” (the “looking-glass self”). This understanding of the character should
allow the “I” to come naturally. The “I” is the spontaneous self, the source of motivation. It
defies study, as when it is closely examined, it disappears.
Glinda
A ring. A class ring. A guy’s class ring. In high school it was the ultimate sign of status, whether
dangling from a chain or wrapped with a quarter inch of yarn. Without ever speaking a word, a
girl could tell everybody that she was loved (and trusted with expensive jewelry), that she had a
protector (and how big that protector was, based, of course, on ring size—the bigger the better),
the guy’s status (preferably senior), and his favorite sport (preferably football). Yes, if you had
the (right) class ring, you were really somebody.
Exercises and Activities
“I am”: An exercise in the looking-glass self
You may wish to try the following exercise, which explores the connection between
personal identity and the judgments of others. The class period before you discuss this
chapter, ask students to write and turn in a short description of their personalities/characters.
The next class, after you’ve discussed the material, ask your students to complete the
following phrase with as many different endings as they are able: “My friends say I am . . .”
Then return the descriptions they wrote the class before and ask them to compare the two
documents. How do their own descriptions compare to those attributed to others? How would
Mead account for the data they’ve supplied? What do these results tell us about the self and
communication?
47
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he uses a simple fifteen-question survey to help
students better understand one’s sense of self and its relationship to communication.* After
the words “I am . . .” students supply fifteen terms that describe them: student, self-confident,
young, timid, boisterous, and so forth. After completing their fifteen-part lists, they are asked to
think about the elements as a whole. Nouns tend to indicate components of identity, and
adjectives indicate components of self-esteem. You can get an idea of a person’s relative selfesteem by the ratio of positive to negative adjectives. With each term, Griffin asks students to
speculate about when they began associating this word with themselves and how this
association was created. With respect to the latter speculation, Griffin pushes students to
ponder the role that communication played in creating the link between the student and the
term. Symbolic interactionism would suggest that the link is strong, although such
investigation may be difficult to conduct at the spur of the moment. After all, these
associations go deep.
The significant other
Students are often interested in a discussion of the term “significant other” which has
become a popular substitute for boy/girlfriend, same-sex companion, or any non-marital,
romantic partner. Mead, borrowing the term from Charles Horton Cooley, used it to describe
people whose opinions of us alter our own self-perceptions and distinguish them from those
who are only seen as a non-specific composite (the generalized other) and do not have the
same impact. It might be useful to ask students to think of who comprises their significant
others using this description. Be sure to note that from a Meadian perspective, the term
“significant other” did not necessarily mean a single person or exclusive distinction.
Literature and feature films
Since it is short and powerful, we recommend reading aloud and then discussing the
text of “Cipher in the Snow.” It’s also interesting to discuss how—to a certain extent, at least—
our treatment of that story exemplifies Mead’s approach. Because we read the piece in the
context of symbolic interaction, we are influenced by concepts such as self-fulfilling prophecy
and the looking-glass self, and thus we attribute the boy’s death to the negative image that is
continually reflected back to him by those in his environment. Our expectations, in this sense,
become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, and the events of his life come to mean what we
perceive them to signify. If the story were told emphasizing slightly different facts in a different
social context, the death might be attributed to very different causes. “Generalized other” (63),
Griffin’s heading for the paragraph describing “Cipher in the Snow,” is also a useful bit of text.
Why has he chosen this phrase to introduce the story? To test comprehension, ask students to
rename this application of symbolic interaction in more specific, practical terms.
There are a number of feature-length films that illustrate the power of communication
to shape self-concept including To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Billy Elliott,
*
Griffin’s survey derives from the work of Manfred Kuhn and his students. See, for example, L.
Edward Wells and Gerald Marwell, Self-Esteem: Its Conceptualization and Measurement
(Beverly Hills: Sage, 1976), 114-21; Chad Gordon, “Self-Conceptions: Configurations and
Content,” The Self in Social Interaction, ed. Chad Gordon and Kenneth J. Gergen (New York:
Wiley & Sons, 1968): 115-36.
48
The Full Monty, and Calendar Girls. The last two may be of particularly interest as both films
focus on body image from non-traditional angles and the perceptual shifts that are the result
of other’s feedback, illustrating—among other things—the principle of the looking-glass self.
An intriguing application of symbolic interactionism is offered by noted communication
theorist William Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing, which is readily available on video.
Sworn enemies Beatrice and Benedick fall deeply in love simply because of brief, contrived
conversations they are tricked into “overhearing.” The play vividly demonstrates the power of
language to create important social realities. Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, which is
also available on video (including creative adaptations such as Roxanne and The Truth about
Cats and Dogs), demonstrates the power of language to create social realities.
For a grim look at the widespread cultural damage done by processes of
communication aptly described by symbolic interactionism, we recommend Toni Morrison’s
Beloved (New York: Plume/Penguin, 1988), which is featured by Griffin in his treatment of
standpoint theory. For example, relatively late in the narrative, Morrison’s narrator describes
the devastating effect of white perceptions about race on both African-American and white
psyches:
Whitepeople believe that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle.
Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums
ready for their sweet white blood. . . . But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them
to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them.
And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites
who had made it. . . . The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red
gums were their own. (198-99)
Morrison’s predecessor Ralph Ellison provides one of the most powerful literary
examples of the substantial effects described by symbolic interactionism in his masterful novel
of dysfunctional race relations, Invisible Man (New York: Random House, 1952). The firstperson narrator, an African-American male whose name is never given, uses the term
“invisibility” to describe the way whites perceive him. In the following quote, notice how he
renders the mirror imagery so central to symbolic interactionism:
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless
heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded
by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my
surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and
anything except me. (3)
The narrator suggests that others either don’t see him as a human being, or view him as a
means toward political, social, and personal goals. Thus, his individuality or unique character is
“invisible.” The narrator pushes the point even further by suggesting that many African
Americans, particularly those who are complicit with the racist power structure that dominates
the country at the time, also render him invisible for their own purposes. Of course his
invisibility has a profound effect on his self-perception and his response to those who
perpetuate his marginalized status in society. Since many students read this novel in high-
49
school or college literature courses, you may be able to introduce it into your discussion, or
perhaps particular students may wish to pursue the novel as an individual project. Depending
on the racial/ethnic composition of your class, you may wish to discuss the extent to which the
narrator’s invisibility may still be felt by minorities in contemporary American society.
Responses may surprise, disturb, and enlighten white students—as Invisible Man has for over
half a century.
Further Resources
§
§
Good general texts are Joel M. Charon, Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, An
Interpretation, An Integration, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2000), and
John P. Hewitt, Self and Society: A Symbolic Interactionist Social Psychology (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1991).
Because Mead is a root, rather than a branch, of communication theory, symbolic
interactionism’s influence is pervasive in our field. Recent studies that owe a heavy
intellectual debt to Mead and Blumer include:
o William A. Donohue, “An Interactionist Framework for Peace,” Emerging Theories
of Human Communication, ed. Branislaw Kovacic (Albany: State University of
New York Press, 1997), 65-87;
o H. Lloyd Goodall, “A Cultural Inquiry Concerning the Ontological and Epistemic
Dimensions of Self, Other, and Context in Communication Scholarship,” Speech
Communication: Essays to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Speech
Communication Association, ed. Gerald Phillips and Julia Wood (Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1990), 264-92;
o Takie Sugiyama Lebra, “Culture, Self, and Communication in Japan and the
United States,” Communication in Japan and the United States, ed. William B.
Gudykunst (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 51-87;
o Shirley A. Staske, “Talking Feelings: The Collaborative Construction of Emotion in
Talk between Close Relational Partners,” Symbolic Interaction 19 (1996): 11135;
o Ralph LaRossa, “Stories and Relationships,” Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships 12 (1995): 553-58.
Applied Symbolic Interactionism
§ For a study that applies social interactionism to cross-cultural communication research,
see Peggy J. Miller, Heidi Fung, and Judith Mintz, “Self-Construction through Narrative
Practices: A Chinese and American Comparison of Early Socialization,” Ethos 24
(1996): 237-80.
§ For an interesting exploration of the connections between symbolic interactionism and
human sexuality, see Monica A. Longmore, “Symbolic Interactionism and the Study of
Sexuality,” Journal of Sex Research 35 (February 1998): 44-57.
§ If you or your students have an interest in the dramaturgical issues raised by Goffman,
we recommend recent work in performance theory. The journal Text and Performance
Quarterly is a good place to begin.
50
The Pygmalion effect
§ For discussion of the Pygmalion effect and self-fulfilling prophecy, see:
o Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, Pygmalion in the Classroom (New York:
Holt, 1968).
o Robert Rosenthal, “The Pygmalion Effect Lives,” Psychology Today 7 (1973): 5663.
o Paul M. Insel and Lenore Jacobson, What Do You Expect? An Inquiry Into SelfFulfilling Prophecies (Menlo Park, CA: Cummings, 1975).
o Mark Snyder, “Self-Fulfilling Stereotypes,” Psychology Today 16 (1982): 60-68.
51
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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55
CHAPTER 5
COORDINATED MANAGEMENT OF MEANING
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Barnett Pierce and Vernon Cronen hold that the quality of our personal lives and
of our social worlds is directly related to the quality of communication in which we
engage.
B. Their theory, coordinated management of meaning (CMM), is based on the
assertion that persons-in-conversation co-construct their own social realities and
are simultaneously shaped by the worlds they create.
C. They present CMM as a practical theory designed to improve life.
D. Instead of seeking truth claims, they seek to help real people enhance their
understanding and act more effectively.
II.
CMM in action: Stories from the field.
A. Mediation.
B. Family therapy.
C. Cupertino Community Project.
III.
Persons-in-conversation: Creating bonds of union.
A. As social constructionists, CMM users believe that the social world is not found or
discovered, but created.
B. The experience of persons-in-conversation is the primary social process of human
life.
C. The way people communicate is often more important than the content of what
they say.
D. The actions of persons-in-conversation are reflexively reproduced as the
interaction continues.
1. Reflectivity means that our actions have effects that bounce back and
affect us.
2. Pearce and Cronen are social ecologists who raise questions about the
long-term effects of our communicative practices.
E. As social constructionists, CMM researchers see themselves as curious
participants in a pluralistic world.
1. They are curious rather than certain.
2. They are participants rather than spectators.
3. They live in pluralist worlds rather than seek a singular Truth.
4. They 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.
IV.
Stories told and stories lived.
A. CMM theorists distinguish between stories lived and stories told.
56 1.
2.
B.
C.
Stories lived are the co-constructed actions we perform with others.
Coordination takes place when we fit our stories lived into the stories lived
by others in a way that makes life better.
3. Stories told are the narratives that we use to make sense of our stories
lived.
4. The management of meaning involves the adjustment of our stories told to
fit the reality of stories lived—or vice versa.
Bringing coherence to stories told.
1. The hierarchy model shows that all four contexts interact with every speech
act.
a. An episode is a communication routine that has boundaries and
rules.
b. A relationship between persons-in-conversation suggests how a
speech act might be interpreted.
c.
Identity addresses how the story might affect and be affected by
one’s self-concept.
d. Culture describes webs of shared meanings and values.
2. The contexts of episode, relationship, identity, and culture rarely have
equal importance.
3. The key to interpretation is to determine which context dominates a
particular conversation.
4. The serpentine model suggests that in interpersonal communication, both
parties affect—and are affected by—each other.
Coordination—the meshing of stories lived.
1. 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.
2. Coordination is possible without sharing a common interpretation.
3. CMM advocates want to function as peacemakers.
V.
Dialogic Communication: a new way to talk with others.
A. Pearce has used a variety of terms to describe communication he values.
1. Cosmopolitan communicators seek ways of coordinating with others with
whom they do not agree.
2. Dialogic communication means speaking in a way that makes it possible
for others to listen, and listening in a way that makes it possible for others
to speak.
B. Communicating dialogically involves an equal concern for one’s own identity and
for the relationship between communicators.
VI.
Critique: What does the language of CMM create for you?
A. CMM is an impressive macrotheory for face-to-face communication, yet the scope
of the theory makes its core ideas hard to pin down.
B. CMM suffers from somewhat inconsistent, unclear terminology and claims.
C. CMM is the most comprehensive statement of social construction crafted by
communication scholars.
57
Key Names and Terms
Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen
Communication scholars from the Fielding Institute and the University of
Massachusetts, respectively, who co-created the theory of coordinated management of
meaning (CMM).
Social Constructionism
The belief that persons-in-conversation co-construct their own social realities.
Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM)
A social constructionist theory of communication that seeks to explain how persons-inconversation negotiate meaning and coordinate action.
Persons-in-Conversation
A term used to designate interpersonal communication as seen from inside the
process.
Bond of Union
A lithograph by M.C. Escher that illustrates several key concepts about persons-inconversation, particularly their interrelatedness.
Stories Told
The narratives persons-in-conversation tell as they attain coherence in an attempt to
interpret the world and assign meaning to their lives.
Stories Lived
The narratives persons-in-conversation act out as they engage in coordination in an
attempt to mesh their lives with others.
Coherence
The process of interpreting the world and assigning significance to our lives; persons-incommunication who achieve coherence have created shared meanings.
Coordination
Joint action, 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.
Episode
The first and narrowest of the four contexts in which we interpret any given speech act,
an episode is a recognized communication routine that has definite boundaries and
rules—a recurrent language game.
Relationship
The second of the four contexts in which we interpret any given speech act.
Identity
The third of the four contexts in which we interpret any given speech act.
Culture
The fourth and broadest of the four contexts in which we interpret any given speech act.
Community-Based Action Research
A collaborative approach to investigation that seeks to engage community members as
equal and full participants in the research process.
Martin Buber
Featured in an “Ethical Reflection” below, a philosopher who developed the concept of
dialogic communication.
58
Dialogic Communication
Originally developed by Martin Buber, in CMM this term refers to speaking in a way that
others can and will listen, and listening in a way that others can and will speak.
Cosmopolitan Communicators
People who intentionally converse in a socially eloquent way that promotes respectful
dialogue and coordination, closely related to dialogic communication.
Principal Changes
Although many of the core concepts remain the same, Griffin has significantly revised
this chapter—once again. For the most part, we see an effort to simplify his treatment of this
complex, often unwieldy theory. He has cut or reduced the importance of the cosmopolitan
communicator and stories not yet told. In addition, two new figures (5.1 and 5.3) depict the
problem of coherence. The treatment of dialogical communication has been adjusted to reflect
Pearce’s conception. A CMM-inspired alternative response to September 11, 2001 has been
added and the Second Look references have been updated.
Suggestions for Discussion
A complex theory
We must emphasize from the outset that Pearce and Cronen’s material is exceedingly
difficult to summarize. This fact should come as no surprise; any theory borrowing heavily from
Ludwig Wittgenstein is bound to be challenging to present, whether one is succinct or verbose.
Because this is such complex material, you may need to go beyond the text to fill in some of
your students’ blanks.
As Griffin mentions in his Critique, Pearce and Cronen are not particularly consistent “in
how they define their terms or in the way they state their claims” (78). The founders of CMM
marshal a postmodern philosophical writing style that is stimulating but not always systematic
or linear. Thus, one is often entertained and enlightened, but just as frequently perplexed, by
their prose. As your students read Griffin’s chapter, some of that perplexity will no doubt visit
them, especially if they expect clear definitions and rock-solid central principles. As we prepare
students to read this chapter, therefore, we caution them not to expect to understand it
entirely. After all, Pearce and Cronen are still trying to get it right!
CMM and symbolic interactionism
Because both symbolic interactionism and CMM emphasize the ways in which
communication creates—rather than merely reflects—human realities, it’s easy to confuse the
two theories. As Griffin presents it, though, symbolic interactionism is more concerned with the
ways in which communication creates identity and self-perception. This might be considered
the ontological function of communication. In contrast, Griffin’s portrayal of CMM focuses more
on the ways in which communication fashions social realities that are shared among people.
You might start this discussion by asking students if they feel that their reality is affected by,
and in turn affects their interactions with others (a symbolic interactionists perspective) or if
the reality is created through interactions with others. It’s a subtle, but important distinction.
(Integrative Question #4, below, may set up such discussion.)
59
Real-life examples
Despite the inherent confusion and ambiguity that come with this chapter, CMM is
consistently provocative and revealing. Many principles will sink in and become increasingly
useful as the book unfolds. Several specific concepts can be solidified and enriched through
class discussion. For example, have students generate examples of common communicative
episodes from their own lives: the pre-class chat with a classmate, the plea for an extension on
the paper’s deadline with a professor, the phone call home, and so forth. Discuss how the
professor and student may have very sharply contrasting names for the discussion about the
extension, and the parent and child may also label the call differently. Since the student-tostudent pre-class chat is less hierarchical, though, the students are more likely to give it a
similar name. Such distinctions about status may reveal some important aspects of
coherence.
CMM in other classes
CMM’s influence on the field of communication can be observed in our textbooks, a
point that you may wish to make with your students. In Bridges Not Walls, for example, Stewart
refers to communication as “the continuous, complex, collaborative process of verbal and
nonverbal meaning-making through which we construct the worlds we inhabit” (22). His
discussion of “emphatic and dialogic listening” specifically refers to the concepts of the
cosmopolitan communicator, coordination, and coherence (219-20); and he includes an
extended section of Pearce and Stephen Littlejohn’s book, Moral Conflict, as well as a useful
summary of the material (503-18). In Looking Out/Looking In, Adler and Towne feature CMM
in their chapter on language (186-89).
Coordination without coherence
The notion that coordination can be achieved without coherence can be productively
illustrated in class. (Exercise #3 in the textbook under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus
relates to this issue.) Often, a good dialogue in class can be started by asking students to think
about a situation when two people or groups of people can coordinate action without holding
the same meaning (coherence). For example, although it can be a precarious way to pursue
happiness, many marriage partners enter into and coexist in unions for rather different
reasons. At the other end of the tunnel, many couples agree to divorce, yet ascribe very
different meanings to the dissolution of the bond. Two students may view their education in
entirely different ways, yet both willingly attend your class and study for the final together. One
of our favorite examples concerns religious services. People who join together to perform
rituals of faith may hold vastly different beliefs about the ultimate meaning of these events, yet
they gain strength through the common experience of worship. Thus, ten communicants at the
communion rail may hold ten different perceptions of the act of consuming the wine and the
wafer, yet they all participate in a uniform manner. Griffin marshals this example to make a
similar point about relational dialectics on page 69.
It’s also important to note that sometimes, even when persons-in-conversation engage
in dialogic communication in good faith, coordination is not possible when their premises,
values, and expectations differ significantly. In the powerful memoir Scribbling the Cat (New
York: Penguin Press, 2004), Alexandra Fuller describes an intense, but ultimately failed
friendship between a veteran of the Rhodesian war (whom she calls K) and herself, a
60
relationship that does not work because of their differing notions of coherence. Although both
participants were Africans who experienced the Rhodesian conflict, what they do not share
about that tragic war—and life in general—drives them apart. Marshaling ceramic metaphors,
she concludes,
K and I, each of us cracked in our own way by our participation on the wrong side of the
same war, gravitated to each other, each sure that the other had a secret balm—the
magic glaze—that would make us whole. I thought he held the shards of truth. He
thought I held love. . . . K and I met and journeyed and clashed like titans. And, at the
end of it all, he asked me not to contact him again. Instead of giving each other some
kind of peace and understanding, we had inflamed existing wounds. Far from being a
story of reconciliation and understanding, this ended up being a story about what
happens when you stand on tiptoe and look too hard into your own past and into the
things that make us war-wounded the fragile, haunted, powerful men-women we are. K
and I fell headlong—freefall—into terror, love, hate, God, death, burial.
It’s more than a body can take. (250-51)
Social injustice
It is important to note that injustice and oppression can be furthered by what appears
to be coordination. For example, the fact that many workers willingly toil under oppressive
working conditions does not justify the immoral labor practices administered by their bosses.
The joint action in which these workers and employers participate is hardly admirable. True
coordination is predicated on the belief that the mutual activity involved must uphold the worth
and dignity of all concerned. Furthermore, it should be emphasized that there are limits to
which persons-in-communication are able to co-construct social realities, particularly when
power imbalances persist. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, schoolteacher—a harsh slave owner who
systematically dehumanizes the men and women he owns—interrogates his slave Sixo about a
hog the latter man “stole” from this master. The slave politely and cogently makes the
argument that although he did indeed kill, butcher, and eat his owner’s animal, he did so not
out of disrespect, but in order to improve schoolteacher’s property: “Sixo plant rye to give the
high piece a better chance. Sixo take and feed the soil, give you more crop. Sixo take and feed
Sixo give you more work” (190). Nonetheless, “schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him
that definitions belonged to the definers—not the defined” (190). Griffin quotes this passage
as part of his treatment of standpoint theory in Chapter 34.
Reflexivity
The concept of reflexivity is new to many students and a solid understanding will assist
them with later chapters (most notably, Chapter 19, Weick’s information systems theory). We
use the analogy of playing a game or sport in turns, such as croquet. Each person’s turn is
really three things: it is a reaction to the turn that came before it, an action for that particular
turn, and finally, it sets up what the next turn will look like. In croquet, hitting another person’s
ball may be in retaliation for being previously knocked out while at the same time, it is my turn,
and may also make me a target for a future strike. The example works equally well with a host
of activities from checkers and chess to soccer and football.
61
Social action
If there is one idea we want students to take away from this chapter, it’s that Pearce
and Cronen are dedicated to helping people who disagree live in relative harmony and act in
concert. In a world burdened with mass deprivation, runaway technology, and diametrically
opposed fundamentalisms of every kind, it’s a crusade that deserves our attention and
support.
Mediation
A final consideration—be sure that students do not simplistically equate mediation with
CMM. The prevalence of examples featuring mediation in this chapter may give them this
mistaken notion. Although Pearce is becoming more and more interested in the process of
mediation, be sure your students understand that CMM has broad theoretical implications and
applicability.
Sample Application Log
Kerry
I stumbled into a conversation taking place between three of my girlfriends and one of our
mutual guy friends, Marty. They were attempting to define the word “sexy” as a combination of
a person’s attractiveness and unattainability. Their speech acts were coherent because they
were shaped by the episode of defining a word over dinner. The relationship between them,
their self-identities, and their culture helped them to be talking about the same thing and
understanding each other. The relationship between them is close and open, and not strained
by any romantic interest. Each of the four has good self-esteem and receives assurance of
their attractiveness from other friends. Thus, the conversants were less likely to be driven to
“prove” anyone sexy. Finally, our Christian college culture shaped what was said. The word
“sexy” was stripped of its emotional charge and defined as the more quantifiable “attractive
and unattainable.” This made the word safe to talk about, where it might otherwise have been
too carnal for Christian discussion.
Exercises and Activities
Analyzing art
An interesting exercise to begin this section is to have students view various pieces of
art and together create an interpretation of the piece. Reproduce the image (many are
available on the Internet) and ask students to discuss their impressions or understanding of
the piece. A good place to start is with a familiar piece (such as Monet’s Waterlilies, van
Gogh’s Starry Night, or Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte). Then,
move to pieces that may be more controversial in their reading, such as Pollock’s One or
Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie. Finally, end with a painting such as a Cubist piece by
Picasso (Guernica) or Braque (The Portuguese). Focus your discussion on how various
individuals can come together and co-create an interpretation although they may originally
have started from very different vantage points. This exercise blends nicely into a discussion
about coherence and coordination.
62
Escher’s Bond of Union
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he puts great emphasis on the reproduction of
M.C. Escher’s Bond of Union (70). He asks the students the following question: “If this image
were all you had to explain coordinated management of meaning, how would you do it?” And,
in fact, every major facet of the theory—as Griffin presents it in A First Look—can be glossed via
the image.
Persons-in-communication
In a metacommunicative manner, Griffin also enjoys asking his students, “What, as
persons-in-communication, are we creating in this class?” Since this chapter comes relatively
early in the semester, this question incites discussion that may be useful both in explicating
the theory and plotting the direction of the course. An intriguing follow-up question is following:
“What would we want to do differently?” This query should move the class into a productive
critique, particularly of power relations and their effect on the way meanings and relationships
are sculpted in conversation. Let’s hope you don’t respond like schoolteacher.
To demonstrate the dynamics of persons-in-conversation and to show how reality is
socially constructed through communication, Griffin particularly enjoys using a clip from the
beginning of the film Don Juan de Marco in class. This scene, which begins six minutes into the
film and runs for five minutes, features a psychiatrist who saves a man from suicide by
entering into his world through conversation. The rest of the film chronicles how the two men
co-construct one another. Life is Beautiful tells the story of a man who constructs an
alternative world for his son in order to help him survive a concentration camp.
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
For additional scholarship from Pearce, see:
o “Bringing News of Difference: Participation in Systemic Social Constructionist
Communication,” Innovations in Group Facilitation: Applications in Natural
Settings, 94-116.
o “Extending the Theory of the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM)
through a Community Dialogue Process,” by W. Barnett Pearce and Kimberly
Pearce, Communication Theory 10, 4 (2000): 405-24.
o “Looking for Justice in All the Wrong Places: On a Communication Approach to
Social Justice,” by Lawrence R. Frey and W. Barnett Pearce, Communication
Studies 47 (Spring/Summer 1996): 110-28.
For an applied CMM analysis, see Edith Montgomery, “Tortured families: A Coordinated
Management of Meaning Analysis,” Family Process 43, 3 (2004): 349-71.
For a thoughtful—if somewhat dated—critique of CMM, see Gerry Philipsen, “The
Coordinated Management of Meaning Theory of Pearce, Cronen, and Associates,” in
Watershed Research Traditions in Human Communication Theory, ed. Donald Cushman
and Branislav Kovocic (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995): 13-43.
An entire issue of Human Systems (Vol. 15, 2004) is devoted to CMM. It’s available
online at http://www.cios.org/www/opentext.htm.
63
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
64
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
66
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
67
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
68
CHAPTER 6
EXPECTANCY VIOLATIONS THEORY
Outline
I.
Personal space expectations: conform or deviate?
A.
Judee Burgoon defines personal space as the invisible, variable volume of space
surrounding an individual that defines that individual’s preferred distance from
others.
1.
The size and shape of our personal space depends upon cultural norms
and individual preferences.
2.
Personal space is always a compromise between the conflicting approachavoidance needs that we as humans have for affiliation and privacy.
B.
Edward Hall coined the term proxemics to refer to the study of people’s use of
space as a special elaboration of culture.
1.
He believed that most spatial interpretation is outside our awareness.
2.
He believed that Americans have four proxemic zones.
a.
Intimate distance: 0 to 18 inches.
b.
Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet.
c.
Social distance: 4 to 10 feet.
d.
Public distance: 10 feet to infinity.
3.
He maintained that effective communicators adjust their nonverbal
behavior to conform to the communicative rules of their partners.
C.
Burgoon suggests that, under some circumstances, violating social norms and
personal expectations is a superior strategy to conformity.
II.
An applied test of the original model.
A. According to Burgoon’s early model, crossing over the “threat threshold” that
forms the boundary of the intimate distance causes physical and psychological
discomfort.
B. 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.
C. A person with “punishing” power should observe proxemic conventions or stand
slightly farther away than expected.
D. An attractive communicator benefits from a close approach.
E. Burgoon’s original theory was not supported by her research, but she has
continued to refine her approach to expectancy violations.
III.
A convoluted model becomes an elegant theory.
A. Burgoon dropped the concept of the threat threshold.
B. She has substituted “an orienting response” or a mental “alertness” for “arousal.”
C. 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.
69 D.
She has dropped the qualifier “nonverbal” because she believes the principles of
expectancy violations theory (EVT) apply to verbal interaction as well.
IV.
Core concepts of EVT.
A. EVT offers a soft determinism rather than hard-core universal laws.
B. Burgoon does, however, hope to link surprising interpersonal behavior and
attraction, credibility, influence, and involvement.
C. Expectancy.
1. Expectancy is what is predicted to occur rather than what is desired.
2. Expectancy is based on context, relationship, and communicator
characteristics.
3. 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.
D. Violation valence.
1. The violation valence is the positive or negative value we place on the
unexpected behavior, regardless of who does it.
2. If the valence is negative, do less than expected.
3. If the valence is positive, do more than expected.
4. Although the meanings of most violations can be determined from context,
some nonverbal expectancy violations are truly ambiguous.
5. For equivocal violations, one must refer to the communicator reward
valence.
E. Communicator reward valence.
1. 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.
2. Puzzling violations force victims to search the social context for clues to
their meaning and that’s when communication reward valence comes into
play.
V.
Interpersonal Adaptation—Burgoon’s Next Frontier
A. EVT has been used to explain and predict attitudes and behaviors in a wide variety
of communication contexts.
B. Paul Mongeau studied men and women’s expectations for first dates and
compares those expectations with their actual experiences.
C. Burgoon has also re-assessed EVT’s single-sided view and now favors a dyadic
model of interpersonal adaptation.
1. Interpersonal adaptation theory is an extension and expansion of EVT
2. Interpersonal interaction position encompasses three factors:
a. Requirements: outcomes we all need to fulfill our basic needs to
survive, be safe, belong, and have sense of self-worth
b. Expectations: what we think really will happen
c.
Desire: what we personally would like to see happen.
D. Burgoon outlined two shortcomings of EVT.
1. EVT does not fully account for the overwhelming prevalence of reciprocity
that has been found in interpersonal interactions
70
2.
E.
VI.
It is silent on whether communication valence supersedes behavior
valence or vice versa when the two are incongruent.
Interpersonal adaptation theory is her attempt to address these problems.
Critique: a work in progress.
A. Burgoon concedes that we can’t yet use EVT to generate specific predictions
regarding touch outcomes and calls for further descriptive work before applying
the theory to any nonverbal behavior.
B. Despite these problems, Burgoon’s theory meets four of the five criteria for a good
scientific theory, and recent research suggests improvement in the fifth criterion,
prediction.
Key Names and Terms
Judee Burgoon
A theorist from the University of Arizona who developed expectancy violations theory.
Personal Space
The invisible, variable volume of space surrounding an individual that defines that
individual’s preferred distance from others.
Edward Hall
An anthropologist from the Illinois Institute of Technology who coined the term
proxemics.
Proxemics
The study of people’s use of space as a special elaboration of culture.
Intimate Distance
The American proxemic zone of 0 to 18 inches.
Personal Distance
The American proxemic zone of 18 inches to 4 feet.
Social Distance
The American proxemic zone of 4 to ten feet.
Public Distance
The American proxemic zone of 10 feet to infinity.
Threat Threshold
The hypothetical boundary that marks a person’s intimate distance. Initially, Burgoon
believed that crossing the threat threshold causes physical and psychological
discomfort.
Expectancy
What people predict will happen, rather than what they necessarily desire.
Violation Valence
The perceived positive or negative value of a breach of expectations, regardless of who
the violator is.
Communicator Reward Valence
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.
71
Paul Mongeau
A communication researcher from Arizona State University whose research on dating
demonstrates expectancy violations theory’s increased predictive power.
Interactional Adaptation Theory
Theory developed by Burgoon, Lesa Stern, and Leesa Dillman that extends and expands
EVT.
Interactional Position
A person’s initial position in an interaction, based on three factors: requirements,
expectations, and desires.
Requirements
A term of interactional adaptation theory referring to outcomes that fulfill our basic
human needs.
Desires
A term of interactional adaptation theory referring to what is personally desired as a
situation’s possible outcome; what we’d like to see happen.
Principal Changes
Griffin has extended his treatment of expectancy violations to include Burgoon’s interaction
adaptation theory. In addition, the critique section has been amended and references in the
Second Look have been updated.
Suggestions for Discussion
Comparing with other theories
Closely following coordinated management of meaning—which disdains efforts to
isolate individual variables in the communication process—expectancy violations theory
provides an excellent opportunity to compare the characteristics of traditional empiricism with
thoroughgoing humanism. Whereas Burgoon’s approach to communication is primarily
strategic, Pearce and Cronen view the process more broadly, emphasizing its power to
constitute or create social reality. Such comparison will give you a good chance to gauge your
students’ understanding of Chapters 1 and 3. (Item #4 in the textbook under Questions to
Sharpen Your Focus constitutes a good vehicle for such discussion.)
Comparisons with symbolic interactionism (Chapter 4) may also be fruitful. It’s
important to emphasize that Mead and his followers were more interested in the ways in which
communication shapes the human psyche (its ontological character) than its use to enhance
one’s strategic position. Whereas for Burgoon communication seems primarily instrumental in
function, for symbolic interactionists it is fundamentally constitutive. (Integrative Essay
Question #30, below, addresses this issue.)
Other factors that impact an outcome
We find Griffin’s willingness to disclose his “stereotyped assessments” of his four
students (90-91) refreshingly honest. We are also pleased with the way in which he uses these
assessments to exemplify the importance of the communicator reward valence. Building on
this analysis, we have found it productive to speculate further on other factors that might
72
explain why he complied with Dawn’s and Andre’s requests while refusing Charlie’s and
Belinda’s. For example, the content of these requests could be viewed as the salient variable.
Griffin’s responses may have had less to do with his perception of the askers and more to do
with the desirability or appropriateness of what was asked of him. Andre desires a letter of
recommendation, which is a highly appropriate request for a student to make. These letters
are part of a typical day’s work for a professor, who understands their importance—a good
letter can make the difference between acceptance or rejection. Likewise, Dawn’s luncheon
invitation is appropriate, considering the close relationship that exists between students and
teachers at liberal arts colleges such as Wheaton. Besides, eating lunch is something you’ve
got to do over the course of the day, so it doesn’t require a major time commitment. Belinda’s
pitch for help on a term paper in a different class mandates extra work unrelated to Griffin’s
direct responsibilities. In addition, some professors believe that such assistance constitutes an
unfair advantage; thus, there’s a potential ethical dilemma here. A negative response to her is
therefore predictable. Charlie’s request that Griffin join in the splash means that our already
overworked professor must spend the evening away from his family and/or work, and he’ll
have nothing to show for the time he’s lost but the bumps and bruises he’s acquired in the
pool. Again, his refusal follows. We offer these counter-explanations not to refute Burgoon’s
approach, but simply to complicate matters. Clearly, there are many variables to examine in
any human interaction.
Confusing terms
For many students, the clarity and relative simplicity of Burgoon’s theory is a welcome
departure from the abstraction of CMM. There are a couple of sticking points that often trip
students and you might want to pay special attention to be sure they are clear on those areas.
The term violation generally has a negative connotation and thus, may be a source of
confusion. How can something that, in the end, is evaluated positively, be a violation? Remind
students that Burgoon’s use of violation involves the breaching of an expectation that may be
done in a positive manner or by a valued partner. In your discussion, you might want to solicit
examples of when a situation resulted in a pleasant, though unexpected outcome.
Griffin writes that Hall, who coined the term “proxemics,” believed “that most spatial
interpretation is outside our awareness” (84). If this is true, then a knowledge of EVT—which
teaches us that in some circumstances violating social norms and personal expectations is “a
superior strategy to conformity” (86)—gives a persuader a considerable advantage over an
audience unaware of its principles. This advantage is particularly significant when we consider
that in many contexts nonverbal cues seem to be more important than their verbal
counterparts. If, in effect, expectancy violations amount to interpersonal secret weapons, then
important questions about communication ethics spring to mind. Often, students can get
engaged in a lively discussion about the morality of using EVT’s principles to one’s own benefit.
In addition, it may be interesting to speculate about the relationship between expectancy
violations and sexual harassment. One man’s effort to create a state of mental alertness in the
woman with whom he’s talking may in her eyes constitute harassing behavior. In effect,
behavioral violations must be approached very carefully. (Essay Question #29, below,
considers this matter.)
73
Sample Application Log
Leanne
My freshman year of college I expected everyone to like me. On the second day of class I
walked into my suitemate’s room, gave her a warm greeting, sat close to her, smiled, browsed
through her room acknowledging our similar tastes in music and then left. My suitemate was
NOT expecting someone like myself to barge in. She had been sitting in her room in a
melancholy state which, she would admit, is her usual demeanor, when I entered into her life
with a bang. She admitted to me that her first impression of me was “snoopy.” Yet she will also
say that the valence was positive. She saw in me something that was positive that had high
reward potential—she called it my “spunk.” With positive valence, our friendship has grown
immensely. I violated her expectations for a suitemate and became her best friend.
Exercises and Activities
Proxemics
Classroom exercises can help to vivify features of proxemics and personal space. One
such activity begins by dividing the class into two groups. Give one group instructions to keep a
distance of no more than 18 inches from conversation partners. Instruct members of the other
group to maintain eye contact at all times with their conversation partners. Then tell all the
students to pair up with someone from the opposite group and discuss their respective plans
for the weekend. After a few minutes of conversation, reconvene the class and discuss how it
felt to be involved in a discussion under these nonverbal conditions and how students
adjusted—consciously or unconsciously—to the imposed closeness of the contact.
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he asks a male and female volunteer to choose a
topic they wish to discuss. Standing at opposite ends of the classroom, they discuss the topic
while they slowly approach each other and stop when they are at a comfortable distance. Once
they are stationary, the class discusses issues of proxemics, eye contact, and so forth. Next,
Griffin repeats the exercise, but this time both students move toward each other while facing
the class rather than each other, again stopping when they feel the distance is appropriate.
Griffin then has each of them pivot 90 degrees and face each other. There is usually a visible
reaction from the pair at how close they are. This leads to a discussion of how eye contact and
interpersonal distance interact.
Griffin also asks his students to describe a time when someone violated their
expectations. Was the communicator reward valence positive or negative? How did they know
when they were rewarding violations of expectations?
Proxemics in the imaginary elevator
One of our favorite exercises is to create an imaginary elevator at the front of the room
and gradually fill it—floor by floor—with student passengers. As each rider enters, note how he
or she chooses a spot so as to maximize personal space. After four or five passengers have
situated themselves, enter the elevator yourself and deliberately break the time-honored
pattern by standing inappropriately close to one of the riders. You’ll get a laugh from the class,
74
and the adjustment that takes place will be instructive. As the elevator continues to fill to
capacity, note how passengers adjust to the close proximity of bodies. Demonstrate that when
the packed elevator temporarily malfunctions and goes down instead of up, people who were
insulating themselves from the close contact of strange bodies suddenly begin talking or
joking, and broken eye contact is temporarily established. Then when the elevator corrects
itself and heads back up, the passengers grow insular again.
EVT beyond proxemics
While proxemic considerations are central to Burgoon’s original theory, it is important to
remind students of EVT’s more global considerations for interpersonal communication. This
point is clearly made using a hypothetical situation and asking students to give their
expectations for the encounter. For example, what do they “expect” when on a first date,
shopping for an apartment, or buying a new TV? Encourage them to think about nonverbal
expectations (i.e. spatial distance, touch, vocal tone, dress code) as well as verbal ones (i.e.
formality of word choice, directness, reciprocity).
Further Resources
Close relationships
§ For discussion of expectancy violations in the context of close relationships, see
o Jennifer Bevan, “Expectancy Violation Theory and Sexual Resistance in Close,
Cross-Sex Relationships,” Communication Monographs 70, 1 (2003): 68-82.
o Kory Floyd and Michael Voloudakis, “Affectionate Behavior in Adult Platonic
Friendship: Interpreting and Evaluating Expectancy Violations,” Human
Communication Research 25 (March 1999): 341-69.
o Walid Afifi and Sandra Metts, “Characteristics and Consequences of Expectation
Violations in Close Relationships,” Journal of Personal and Social Relationships
15, 3 (1998): 365-92.
EVT in applied situations
§ Burgoon’s theory has been applied to a wide variety of situations. The following
represent only a few of those projects, and only ones that center around EVT. See the
“Further Resources” section of IDT (Chapter 7) for projects that involve violations of
expectations in deceptive situations.
o Shelly Campo, Kenzie Cameron, Dominique Brossard, and Somjen Frazer,
“Social Norms and Expectancy Violation Theories: Assessing the Effectiveness of
Health Communication Campaigns,” Communication Monographs 71, 4 (2004):
448-71.
o Pamela Lannutti, Melanie Laliker, and Jerold Hale, “Violations of Expectations
and Social-Sexual Communication in Student/Professor Interactions,”
Communication Education 50, 1 (2001): 69-82.
o Paul Mongeau and Colleen Carey, “Who’s Wooing Whom II? An Experimental
Investigation of Date-Initiation and Expectancy Violation,” Western Journal of
Communication 60, 3 (1996): 195-204.
Interaction Adaptation Theory
75
§
§
§
For a comprehensive look at IAT, see Judee Burgoon, Lesa Stern, and Leesa Dillman,
Interpersonal Adaptation: Dyadic Interaction Patterns (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1995).
IAT is applied to verbal and nonverbal immediacy and comforting messages in Laura
Guerrero, Susanne Jones, and Judee Burgoon’s article, “Responses to Nonverbal
Intimacy Change in Romantic Dyads: Effects of Behavioral Valence and Degree of
Behavioral Change on Nonverbal and Verbal Reactions,” Communication Monographs
67, 4 (December 2000): 325-46.
Beth A. Le Poire and Stephen M. Yoshimura exemplify research on EVT and IAT in “The
Effects of Expectancies and Actual Communication on Nonverbal Adaptation and
Communication Outcomes: A Test of Interaction Adaptation Theory,” Communication
Monographs 66, 1 (March 1999): 1-30.
76 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
77
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
78
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
79
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
80
CHAPTER 7
INTERPERSONAL DECEPTION THEORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A.
David Buller and Judee Burgoon explain that people often find themselves in
situations where they make statements that are less than completely honest.
B.
There are three deception strategies: falsification, concealment, and
equivocation.
1. Falsification creates a fiction.
2. Concealment hides a secret.
3. Equivocation dodges the issue.
C.
Most people believe they can spot deception, but interpersonal deception
theory (IDT) says most cannot.
D.
In contrast to common assumptions, deception research shows that various
nonverbal cues are not reliable indicators of deception.
II.
An emergent theory of strategic interaction.
A. Buller and Burgoon discount the value of highly controlled studies—usually oneway communication experiments—designed to isolate unmistakable cues that
people are lying.
B. Buller noted the need for an IDT based on two-way communication.
C. Interpersonal communication is interactive.
1. Active participants in communication constantly adjust their behavior in
response to feedback from other participants.
2. Interaction, rather than individuality, is at the core of the theory.
D. Strategic deception demands mental effort.
1. A successful deceiver must consciously deal with multiple complex
tasks.
2. Cognitive overload may cause a deceiver to exhibit a nonstrategic
display, usually in the form of nonverbal behavior.
3. Leakage refers to the unconscious nonverbal cues signaling an internal
state.
III.
Manipulating information: the language and look of liars.
A. Deception is accomplished by manipulating information.
B. Buller and Burgoon judge a deceptive act on the basis of the deceiver’s
motives, not on the act itself.
C. Every deceptive act has at least 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.
D. The interpersonal and identity motivations inherent in deception stimulate a
recurring “text” that marks the communication as less than honest.
81 E.
F.
G.
H.
There are four message characteristics that reflect strategic intent.
1. Uncertainty and vagueness.
2. Nonimmediacy, reticence, and withdrawal.
3. Disassociation.
a. Disassociation is a way of distancing yourself from what one has
done.
b. Speech often includes levelers, group references, or modifiers to
sever the personal connection between the actor and the act of
deception.
4. Image- and relationship-protecting behavior.
a. Speakers consciously strive to suppress the bodily cues that
might signal deception.
b. Deceivers try to appear extra sincere.
Almost all communication is intentional, goal directed, and mindful; deceptive
communication is simply more so.
Multiple factors strongly affect the extent of a deceiver’s strategic behavior.
IDT suggests that the outcome depends not only on the quality of the message,
but also on the nonstrategic cues a deceiver can’t control.
IV.
Leakage—the truth will come out (maybe).
A. Buller and Burgoon believe that behavior outside of the deceiver’s conscious
control can signal dishonesty.
B. Miron Zuckerman’s four-factor model explains why this leakage occurs.
1. The intense attempt to control information can produce too-slick
performances.
2. Lying causes psychological arousal.
3. The predominate emotions that accompany deceit are guilt and anxiety.
4. The complex cognitive factors involved in deception can tax the brain,
leading to unintentional nonverbal behaviors.
C. 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.
V.
Respondent’s dilemma: truth bias or suspicion?
A. Humans have a persistent expectation that people will tell the truth, known as
“truth bias.”
1. There is an implied social contract that all of us will be honest with each
other.
2. The expectation of honesty is a cognitive heuristic.
B. Despite a powerful and prevailing truth bias in face-to-face interaction, people
can come to doubt the honesty of another’s words.
C. Buller and Burgoon picture suspicion as a mid-range mind-set, located
somewhere between truth and falsity.
D. In spite of the many ways that respondents could become suspicious, Buller
and Burgoon have found that it’s difficult to induce a deep-seated skepticism.
E. Doubters tend to favor indirect methods to gain more information, but there is
scant evidence that these probes help unmask deception.
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F.
IDT and CMM both conclude that persons-in-conversation co-construct their own
social realities.
VI.
Putting doubts to rest: deceiver adjustment to respondent suspicion.
A. Respondents’ suspicions of deceivers can be seen through their own nontypical behaviors—even when they try to appear natural.
B. Deceivers are usually more successful at sensing suspicion than respondents
are at spotting deception.
C. Deceivers usually reciprocate the mood and manner of the person they are
trying to mislead.
D. IDT explains why detection of deception is a hit-and-miss business because
truth tellers react the same way when falsely accused or confronted by
suspicion.
E. The “Othello error” occurs when, in the context of suspected deception, a truth
teller’s adaptation to a false accusation strikes the respondent as devious.
VII.
Critique: Does it have to be so complicated?
A. Buller and Burgoon offer multiple explanations for what takes place during
deceptive communication.
B. Other deception theories with a narrower focus are definitely more concise.
C. Bella DePaulo questions the explanatory power of Buller and Burgoon’s theory.
D. Buller and Burgoon assert that EVT could unify their theory.
E. The strength of IDT may be found in its practical advice.
F.
Buller and Burgoon are silent on the morality of deception.
Key Names and Terms
David Buller and Judee Burgoon
Theorists from the Cooper Institute (formerly from the AMC Cancer Research Center)
and the University of Arizona, respectively, who developed interpersonal deception
theory (IDT).
Interpersonal Deception Theory (IDT)
An interpersonal theory that posits a set of unchanging assumptions concerning
interpersonal communication in general and deception in particular.
Deception
A message knowingly transmitted by a sender to foster a false belief or conclusion by
the receiver.
Falsification
A form of deception that creates a fiction; a lie.
Concealment
A form of deception that tells only a portion of the truth.
Equivocation
A form of deception that uses vague language to dodge the issue.
Leakage
Unconscious nonverbal cues that signal an internal state.
Levelers
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Inclusive words that imply a shift of responsibility to others by downplaying individual
choice.
Modifiers
Terms that shift personal responsibility by downplaying the intensity of unwelcome
news.
Miron Zuckerman
University of Rochester social psychologist who developed the four-factor model of
deception to explain why leakage occurs in deception.
Steven McCornack and Malcolm Parks
Communication researchers from Michigan State University and the University of
Washington, respectively, who coined the phrase “truth bias.”
Truth Bias
The persistent and pervasive expectation that people will tell the truth.
Cognitive Heuristic
A mental shortcut used to bypass the huge clutter of verbal and nonverbal signals
that bombard people throughout every conversation.
Othello Error
An error that occurs when, in the context of a suspected deception, a truth teller’s
adaptation to a false accusation strikes the respondent as devious.
Bella M. DePaulo
A University of Virginia psychologist who questions the explanatory power of IDT.
Disassociation
A linguistic strategy of distancing oneself from what one has done.
Nonimmediacy
A strategy for symbolically removing oneself from the situation.
Suspicion
A state of doubt or distrust that is held without sufficient evidence or proof.
Principal Changes
This chapter remains the same, although Griffin has updated the Second Look
section.
Suggestions for Discussion
Teaching a big theory in a small amount of time
This chapter is often a difficult one to teach as students get easily confused by Buller
and Burgoon’s 18 propositions and fail to see any unifying principles of the theory. As will be
the case with other chapters to come (notably, anxiety-uncertainty management, Chapter
30), the challenge here is to teach a broad theory in a short amount of time. To address this
problem, it may be helpful to focus on a few main concepts and link the salient variables
together once you’ve laid some firm footing. You might want to start by asking students
about the last time they deceived someone--and would admit it! While some students are
reluctant to confess their ill deeds, others will quickly provide details of their encounters. As
students recount their experiences, many of the underlying concepts of IDT will surface and
the connections will be easier to make when introducing the core ideas.
84
It works well to start with the idea of interactivity and the interpersonal nature of
deception. This concept is integral to the first two propositions and can easily be coupled
with the concept of strategic behavior. Emphasize the goal-based nature of the interaction,
and that deception can be regarded as strategic and an effortful feat requiring skill in
execution. It is often fruitful to ask students what tactics they think are most effective in
deception and what skills are required to be a good deceiver. Additionally, you may want to
address the emotions tied to deception before returning to the propositions. Leakage is the
result of emotions “leaking” out or revealing themselves in subtle ways. Again, it generally
works well to ask students to return to their own experiences—what were they feeling?
Now, the tricky part is linking these three concepts (interactivity, strategy, and
leakage) with the salient propositions without losing sight of the basic ideas. These three
variables are critical to 11 of the 18 propositions and, when students grasp the links, they
are well on their way to understanding IDT. From here, you might want to move on to the
truth bias and suspicion if time permits. Listed below are the core concepts and their
corresponding propositions:
Core concepts
§ Interactivity (1, 4, 5)*
§ Strategic behavior (3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 17)
§ Leakage (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 17)
§ Truth bias (5, 6, 10, 11, 17)
§ Suspicion (7, 12, 13 14, 15, 17, 18)
Concepts addressed as time permits
§ Motivation (6, 7)
§ Familiarity (2, 8, 11)
§ Communication skills (9, 10, 11, 17)
§ Credibility (10, 17)
§ Deception detection (11, 17)
* Numbers in parentheses correspond to the proposition number from Buller and
Burgoon.
Apparent contradictions in the theory
Taken together, Buller and Burgoon’s assertions that nonverbal cues (such as
avoidance of eye contact or nervous laughter) are not reliable indicators of deception (99),
that deceivers exhibit more leakage than truth tellers (Proposition 3), and that “behavior
outside of the deceiver’s conscious control can signal dishonesty” (103) may seem
confusing. These statements seem contradictory, yet the key to the difficulty lies in other
propositions of the theory: that truth tellers also exhibit these behaviors (99); that truth
tellers behave the same way as deceivers when confronted by suspicion (106); and that a
deceiver’s success depends on the respondent’s level of suspicion (104). These issues
should spark interesting discussion among students. First of all, do they think (some, all, or
none of) these propositions are valid? (Do they seem to square with their experiences?) Why
might truth tellers behave in the same way as deceivers when confronted with suspicion?
(Essay Question #22 below invites students to explore these issues.) Ultimately, though,
85
students may still find these aspects of the theory somewhat contradictory. If so, push them
to challenge Buller and Burgoon’s assumptions and to explore whether their theory needs
adjustment.
Discussing other propositions
You may also wish to discuss other propositions of Buller and Burgoon’s theory
(Figure 7.1). For example, Propositions 5 and 8 point to a tension—if truth bias rises with
interactivity and relational warmth, why do deceivers become more afraid of deception as
relational familiarity increases? Does guilt play a larger role if deceivers know someone well?
Do people in close relationships overestimate the other person’s knowledge and/or
suspicion of them? If so, why? Does relational familiarity always mean a higher level of trust
or can it actually lead to more suspicion? Can we achieve familiarity only by interacting with
another person, or do we get to “know” media figures, for example? This issue, it seems,
connects well to exercise #3 under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook. People
felt they “knew” President Clinton well enough to judge his messages about the relationship
with Monica Lewinsky, but this level of familiarity was achieved via the media rather than
through interactive relationships. (This phenomenon, of course, also has intriguing
implications for the way people interact with the media, an issue that is taken up at length
later in the book.)
As they discuss and critique the propositions, ask students about the issue of the
theory’s complexity raised in the Critique section, as well as DePaulo’s concern over the
theory’s explanatory power. Is there a “why” question worth answering here? These
concerns over the theoretical soundness of IDT provide an excellent opportunity to review
key principles and assumptions presented in Chapter 3. Since the students have studied
EVT, it may be fruitful to speculate together about the suggestion that it could be the
unifying feature of IDT. (Integrative Essay Question #29, below, addresses this issue.)
Finally, Buller and Burgoon’s silence on the question of ethics of deception should open the
door for you to explore related ethical questions with your students, particularly in
conjunction with the Ethical Reflection that follows this section. (Integrative Essay Question
#28, below, may be a good way to focus such discussion.)
Sample Application Log
Jenny
I am very intrigued by this theory, which, stated very simply, says that humans are bad at
detecting lies. Mainly this is because, as Buller says, “receivers react to deceivers’
messages and these reactions alter the communication exchange and, perhaps, deception’s
success.”
I find that this is very true. I have been told by many people that I am too good a liar. Not
because I lie a lot. In fact, it is probably because I am so honest most of the time (resulting
in a high truth bias in my relationships), that my lies go easily undetected. In one particular
instance, I was playing a joke on my roommate. I told her that I had eaten a cake that our
other roomie had made for a friend’s birthday. When roommate number one responded in a
skeptical manner, I included more details to my story—eliminating characteristics of
86
uncertainty and vagueness, which reflects strategic intent. When roommate number one still
didn’t seem convinced, I involved myself more in the situation and started accepting
responsibility for my actions—hereby eliminating two more strategic characteristics of
withdrawal and disassociation. Several times I interrupted my roommate and did not try to
“appear extra sincere,” breaking down the final strategic characteristic of image-protecting
behavior. When I realized that my roommate fully believed me, and was even getting worried
and upset, I couldn’t keep up the charade and I told her the truth. If humans really were
good lie detectors, there would be no such thing as practical jokes. Nobody would believe
them at the outset. Where would the fun be in that?
Exercises and Activities
A deception diary
A 1996 study by Bella M. DePaulo, et al. (see “Further Resources,” below) suggests a
potentially intriguing exercise for students. Researchers had subjects keep a diary of their
social interactions for a week, noting particularly when they lied. They were asked to
evaluate these acts of deceptive communication and to record the quality of the interaction,
the seriousness of the lies they told, how they felt and behaved while lying, and the
respondent’s reaction to their deception. The study results found not only that subjects
frequently told lies in their social interactions, but also that they felt these deceptions were
not serious, that they found it was easy to deceive others, and that they did not worry about
being caught or expect their deceit to be detected. Having your students keep a similar diary
may bring IDT to life and give them interactive examples to refer to while discussing Buller
and Burgoon’s theory.
You may, however, run into an ethical issue with respect to this exercise—students
may feel that they will be more likely to lie to others in order to gather “evidence” for their
diaries. They may also question whether deception is “rewarded” through this exercise,
since the more honest a student, the less he or she has to write about. If some or all
students feel uncomfortable with this exercise, you can modify your approach. Have them
discuss or write about the ethics of such experimentation.
Conversely, Buller and Burgoon’s perspective on truth telling may also lead to a
productive assignment (inspired by a 1997 article by Steven McCornack cited in “Further
Resources,” below). Ask students to record or recall incidents in their everyday lives when
telling the truth was/is more difficult than lying. For example, what if a best friend asks for
an honest opinion of his or her new romantic partner, who seems unacceptable? Regardless
of whether they choose honesty or deceit to resolve their dilemmas, have them speculate on
the different levels of cognitive effort required to tell the truth rather than to lie in these
situations. As a result of this exercise, your students should be ready to probe Buller and
Burgoon’s assertions that truth tellers may adapt their messages in the same ways as do
liars (106). Is it really sufficient to posit that truth tellers respond to suspicion or a false
accusation as do deceivers, or might there be other variables involved, such as the higher
level of cognitive effort required to tell the truth rather than lie in these situations, the
tensions caused by the need to help another party “save face,” or the anxieties raised in a
communicative situation that could become confrontational? These questions also raise
87
ethical issues—lying in these situations may seem not only an easier but also a better
solution to an interpersonal dilemma than telling the truth.
Deceiving the class
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he solicits a volunteer to assist him in
conducting an experiment in front of the class. Griffin asks him or her to answer a list of
questions similar to the following:*
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
Please describe where you are from.
What event from your childhood do you remember most fondly?
If you found an unidentified wallet containing $1,000, what would you do with
it? Why?
What types of people tend to rub you the “wrong way”?
How would you describe your religion and religious beliefs?
If your best friend were caught cheating on his or her spouse, what would you
do? Why?
Do you thoroughly investigate the qualifications of all the candidates before
you vote?
Describe a job you now have or have had.
Do you support sending troops into countries hostile to the United States for
the purpose of capturing Osama bin Laden?
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?
What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Have you ever taken revenge on someone? If so, how?
If you won a million dollars in the lottery, how much would you give to charity?
By prearrangement, the volunteer agrees to lie on some of the questions. A variation on the
theme is to ask at least one question that is not on the prearranged list. (For example, How
do you think I could improve my physical appearance?) If you have the resources, you can
provide the class with additional data by hooking the student up to a GSR meter. After the
questions have been asked, the class predicts which answers are false and which are
truthful. Most likely, the experiment will suggest that most people are relatively poor lie
detectors. Ask your students what this finding tells us about IDT. Second, ask students to
critique the experiment itself. Is it a credible simulation of reality?
A similar experiment comes from Rajiv Rimal, who teaches communication at the
University of Texas at Austin. After discussing the chapter, he e-mails ten students and asks
them to participate in a game during the next class. Half of them are asked to respond
untruthfully to the following five questions, and the other have are told to respond honestly
to the same queries:
1.
2.
Did you party this past Friday?
Have you ever walked barefoot into a store to buy something?
*
We’ve adapted this list from Griffin’s standard questions, which he adapted from a list
published by Judee Burgoon, et al, in “Interpersonal Deception: V. Accuracy in Deception
Detection,” Communication Monographs 61, 4 (December 1994): 322.
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3.
4.
5.
Have you ever taken a shower with your watch?
Have you ever participated in a pro-life or pro-choice rally?
Have you ever downloaded music from the Internet for free?
The class, of course, won’t know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. After the student
volunteers give their answers, the instructor asks the class to guess who was honest and
who was not. If Buller and Burgoon are correct, the class should not have a particularly good
success rate.
Feature-length documentary
A provocative—and in many ways heartbreaking—study of honesty and deception is
Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini’s documentary about the American political asylum
system, A Well-Founded Fear (New York: Epidavros Project, 2000). The film crew, which has
access to actual asylum proceedings, records intense interviews about legitimate and
manufactured persecution, as well as revealing discussions about truth and deception with
government agents.
Further Resources
§
§
§
Hee Sun Park, et al. provide state-of-the-art research on deception, engaging Buller
and others in “How People Really Detect Lies,” Communication Monographs 69, 2
(June 2002): 144-57.
For additional discussions of IDT, see:
o Burgoon and Buller, “Reflections on the Nature of Theory Building and the
Theoretical Status of Interpersonal Deception Theory,” Communication Theory
6 (August 1996): 311-28.
o James B. Stiff, “Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Deceptive
Communication: Comments on Interpersonal Deception Theory,”
Communication Theory 6 (August 1996): 289-96.
o Norah E. Dunbar, Artemio Ramirez, Jr., and Judee K. Burgoon, “The Effects of
Participation on the Ability to Judge Deceit,” Communication Reports 16, 1
(Winter 2003): 23-33.
For further work by McCornack on deceptive messages, see “The Generation of
Deceptive Messages: Laying the Groundwork for a Viable Theory of Interpersonal
Deception,” in Message Production: Advances of Communication Theory, ed. John O.
Greene (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997): 91-126.
Deception Detection and Suspicion
§ For a recent review of research on the detection of deceptive communication, see
Thomas H. Feeley and Melissa J. Young, “Humans as Lie Detectors: Some More
Second Thoughts,” Communication Quarterly 46 (Spring 1998): 109-26.
§ For further discussion of suspicion, deception, and truth bias, see:
o Murray G. Millar and Karen U. Millar, “The Effects of Suspicion on the Recall of
Cues Used to Make Veracity Judgments,” Communication Reports 11 (Winter
1998): 57-64.
89
o Timothy R. Levine, et al., “Accuracy in Detecting Truth and Lies: Documenting
the ‘Veracity Effect,’” Communication Monographs 66, 2 (June 1999): 12544.
Deception in close relationships
§ Susan D. Boon and Beverly A. McLeod, “Deception in Romantic Relationships:
Subjective Estimates of Success at Deceiving and Attitudes toward Deception,”
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 18, 4 (2001): 463-77.
§ Pamela J. Kalbfleisch, “Deceptive Message Intent and Relational Quality,” Journal of
Language and Social Psychology 20, 1/2 (2001): 214-33.
§ Steven McCornack and T. Levine, “When Lovers Become Leery: The Relationship
Between Suspicion and Accuracy in Detecting Deception,” Communication
Monographs 57, 3 (September 1990): 219-30.
Truth Bias
§ Tim Cole, Laura Leets, and James J. Bradac explore the truth bias in “Deceptive
Message Processing: The Role of Attachment Style and Verbal Intimacy Markers in
Deceptive Message Judgments,” Communication Studies 53 (June 2002): 74-89.
§ For a very interesting look at the reverse truth bias (a lie bias), see Gary Bond, Daniel
Malloy, Elizabeth Arias, Shannon Nunn, and Laura Thompson’s article, “Lie-Based
Decision Making in Prison,” Communication Reports 18, 1 (2005): 9-20.
Other variables related to deception
§ For the results of an interesting study of deception in everyday communicative
interactions, see Bella M. DePaulo, et al., “Lying in Everyday Life,” Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 70 (1996): 979-95.
§ Wade C. Rowatt, et al. provide an interesting discussion of the relationship between
attractiveness and deceptive communication in “Lying to Get a Date: The Effect of
Facial Physical Attractiveness on the Willingness to Deceive Prospective Dating
Partners,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 16 (April 1999): 209-23.
90 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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91
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
92
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
93
ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
KANT, AUGUSTINE, AND BOK
Key Names and Terms
Immanual Kant
A German philosopher who created the categorical imperative.
Categorical Imperative
The ethical rule to act only on that maxim which you can will to become universal
law; duty without exception.
Sissela Bok
A philosopher who developed the principle of veracity.
Principle of Veracity
The ethical assumption that truthful statements are preferable to lies in the
absence of special considerations that overcome their negative weight.
Test of Publicity
Bok’s point that in assessing ethical behavior, one must check with a variety of fairminded people to see if they would endorse a proposed course of action.
Augustine
A fifth-century Catholic bishop who believed that those who sincerely desire to
follow God will discern truth telling as a central tenet of the divine will.
Exercises and Activities
When Em Griffin teaches this reflection, he asks the students to tell the class how
they would respond if they found themselves in Mark’s dilemma. Which—if any—of the
principles outlined in the section would guide them?
Further Resources
§
§
§
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Richard L. Johannesen, “Ethics”
(235-40), which relates to many of the Ethical Reflections featured in A First Look at
Communication Theory.
Other general sources are
o R.L. Johannesen, Ethics in Human Communication, 5th ed. (Prospect Heights, IL:
Waveland, 2001).
o Karen Joy Greenberg, Conversations on Communication Ethics (Norwood, NJ:
Ablex, 1991).
o James A. Jaska and Michael S. Pritchard, Communication Ethics: Methods of
Analysis (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1988).
o James Herrick, “Rhetoric, Ethics, and Virtue,” Communication Studies 43 (1992):
133-49.
For Augustine, see Richard Penticoff, “Augustine,” in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and
Composition, 50-52.
94 §
§
§
For an excellent biography of Augustine, see Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1967).
For fine recent films that feature the complex issue of truth telling, see Lone Star;
Europa, Europa; and Schindler’s List.
Two recent novels that provocatively engage the complexity of truth telling and
deception, particularly the constitutive power of the latter, are Peter Carey’s My Life as
a Fake (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003) and Tobias Wolff’s Old School (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).
95 RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Key Names and Terms
Close Relationship
A relationship characterized by strong, frequent, and diverse interdependence that
lasts over a considerable period of time.
Gary Becker
A Nobel Prize–winning economist from the University of Chicago whose supply-anddemand market models predict the behavior of everyday living—including love and
marriage.
Erich Fromm
A humanist who defines love in economic terms.
John Bowlby
A British developmental psychologist who developed attachment theory.
Attachment Theory
A theory which speculates that personal differences in ability or desire to form close
relationships are based on attachment styles developed in infancy which are relatively
stable throughout one’s life.
Attachment Styles
Four distinct approaches to close relationships based on an infant’s experience with
his or her primary caregiver and carried over into adult relationships: secure,
dismissing, preoccupied, and fearful.
Further Resources
§
An alternative theory about relationship development is Peter Andersen’s cognitive
valence theory of intimate communication, which employs some concepts introduced in
Griffin’s treatment of expectancy violations theory (see Peter Andersen, “The Cognitive
Valence Theory of Intimate Communication,” Progress in Communication Sciences, Vol.
XIV: Mutual Influences in Interpersonal Communication, ed. Mark T. Palmer and George
Barnett (Stanford, CT: Ablex, 1997), 39-72.
§
Interesting films that feature various aspects of relationship development include:
o Love and Basketball;
o 10 Things I Hate about You;
o Sense and Sensibility;
o Moonstruck;
o Something’s Gotta Give;
o To Sir, with Love;
o The Bridges of Madison County;
o Sex, Lies and Video Tape;
o Good Will Hunting (this one has been extremely popular with our students);
o As Good As It Gets;
o Playing by Heart;
o The Shawshank Redemption; and
96 o Louis Malle’s stunning Au Revoir, Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children).
97 CHAPTER 8
SOCIAL PENETRATION THEORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Developed by social psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor, social
penetration theory explains how relational closeness develops.
B. Closeness develops only if individuals proceed in a gradual and orderly fashion from
superficial to intimate levels of exchange as a function of both immediate and
forecast outcomes.
II.
Personality structure: a multilayered onion.
A. The outer layer is the public self.
B. The inner core is one’s private domain.
III.
Closeness through self-disclosure.
A. With the onion-wedge model, the depth of penetration represents the degree of
personal disclosure.
B. The layers of the onion are tougher near the center.
IV.
The depth and breadth of self-disclosure.
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.
1. Societal norms prevent too much early self-disclosure.
2. Most relationships stall before a stable intimate exchange is established.
3. Genuine intimate exchange is rare but when it is achieved, relationships become
meaningful and enduring.
D. Depenetration is a gradual process of layer-by-layer withdrawal.
E. For true intimacy, depth and breadth of penetration are equally important.
V.
Regulating closeness on the basis of rewards and costs.
A. If perceived mutual benefits outweigh the costs of greater vulnerability, the process
of social penetration will proceed.
B. Social penetration theory draws heavily on the social exchange theory of John
Thibaut and Harold Kelley.
VI.
Outcome: rewards minus costs.
A. Thibaut and Kelley suggest that people try to predict the outcome of an interaction
before it takes place.
1. The economic approach to determining behavior dates from John Stuart Mill’s
principle of utility.
98 2. The minimax principle of human behavior claims that people seek to maximize
benefits and minimize costs.
3. The higher we index a relational outcome, the more attractive the behavior that
might make it happen.
B. Social exchange theory assumes that people can accurately gauge the benefits of
their actions and make sensible choices based on their predictions.
C. As relationships develop, the nature of interaction that friends find rewarding
evolves.
VII. Comparison level (CL)—gauging relational satisfaction.
A. A person’s CL is the threshold above which an outcome appears attractive.
B. One’s CL for friendship, romance, or family ties is pegged by one’s relational history,
the baseline of past experience.
C. Sequence and trends play large roles in evaluating a relationship.
VIII. Comparison level of alternatives (CLalt)—gauging relational stability.
A. The CLalt is pegged by the best relational outcomes available outside the current
relationship.
B. When existent outcomes slide below an established CLalt, relational instability
increases.
C. Social exchange theories have an economic orientation.
D. The CLalt explains why people sometimes stay in abusive relationships.
1. Some women endure abuse because Outcome > CLalt.
2. They will leave only when CLalt > Outcome.
E. The relative values of Outcome, CL, and CLalt help determine one’s willingness to
disclose.
1. Optimum disclosure will occur when both parties believe that Outcome > CLalt >
CL.
2. A relationship can be more than satisfying if it is stable, but other satisfying
options are also available (in case this relationship turns sour).
IX.
A simple notion becomes more complex in practice
A. Altman originally thought that openness is the predominant quality of relationship
changes. The desire for privacy may counteract a unidirectional quest for intimacy.
B. A dialectical model suggests that human social relationships are characterized by
openness or contact and closedness or separateness between participants.
C. Sandra Petronio’s privacy management theory maps out the intricate ways people
handle their conflicting desires for privacy and openness.
1. Petronio’s theory describes the way people form their personal rules for
disclosure, how those who disclose private information need to coordinate their
privacy boundaries with the borders drawn by their confidants, and the relational
turbulence that occurs when parties have boundary rules that don’t match.
2. Petronio claims that the personal rules that guide our privacy/disclosure
decisions are based on five different criteria: culture, gender, motives, context,
and risk-benefit ratio.
3. Boundary coordination depends on: boundary linkage, boundary ownership, and
boundary permeability.
99
4. Boundary turbulence is the product of parties’ inability to coordinate their
privacy rules and boundary management.
X.
Critique: pulling back from social penetration.
A. Social penetration is an established and familiar explanation of how closeness
develops in friendships and romantic relationships. But, it also has many critics.
B. Petronio thinks it’s simplistic to equate self-disclosure with relational closeness.
C. She also challenges the theorists’ view of disclosure boundaries as being fixed and
increasingly less permeable.
D. Can a complex blend of advantages and disadvantages be reliably reduced to a
single index?
E. Are people so consistently selfish that they always opt to act strictly in their own best
interest?
F. Paul Wright believes that friendships often reach a point of such closeness that selfcentered concerns are no longer salient.
Key Names and Terms
Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor
Social psychologists who created social penetration theory. Altman is a researcher at
the University of Utah; Taylor, now deceased, was affiliated with Lincoln University,
Pennsylvania.
Social Penetration Theory
A theory that portrays relational closeness as a function of systematic reciprocal selfdisclosure.
Penetration
Altman and Taylor’s metaphor for relational closeness that results from interpersonal
vulnerability, especially self-disclosure.
Depenetration
Altman and Taylor’s metaphoric conceptualization of the gradual process of
withdrawing from closeness in a relationship.
Index of Relational Satisfaction
The balance of positive and negative experiences in a social relationship.
Social Exchange Theory
An economically based theory of human behavior that assumes that people accurately
gauge the outcomes of a variety of interactions and rationally choose the action that
will provide the best result.
John Thibaut and Harold Kelley
Psychologists who developed social exchange theory or the attempt to quantify the
value of different outcomes for an individual. Thibaut, now deceased, was affiliated with
the University of North Carolina; Kelley is a researcher at UCLA.
Outcome Value
The rewards minus the costs of a given course of action.
Minimax Principle
An economic approach to human behavior stating that people seek to maximize their
benefits and minimize their costs as they interact with others.
Comparison Level (CL)
100
The threshold above which an outcome seems attractive. It is the minimal level for
personal satisfaction.
Comparison Level of Alternatives (CLalt)
The value of the best outcomes available outside the current relationship. It is the worst
outcome a person will accept and still stay in a relationship.
Sandra Petronio
Communication theorist from the University of Indiana, Indianapolis who developed
communication privacy management theory about the intricate ways people handle
conflicting desires for privacy and openness.
Paul Wright
A psychologist from the University of North Dakota who believes that friendships often
reach a point of such closeness that self-centered concerns are no longer salient.
Principal Changes
This chapter, previously Chapter 9, has been revised to include Sandra Petronio’s
communication privacy management theory, which expands and critiques social penetration
theory. In addition, Griffin has revised the Critique and updated the Second Look sections.
Suggestions for Discussion
Comparison level and comparison level of alternatives
Because it reinforces many of the metaphors and analogies we use to discuss self,
social penetration theory should intuitively appeal to your students. It is easy to diagram and to
grasp. We have found that the majority of students easily follow the discussion about the onion
model and social penetration; some students may get confused when talk turns to calculating
comparison level and comparison level of alternatives. These concepts, while interrelated,
concentrate on separate cognitions about a relationship’s outcome. The comparison level (CL)
gauges satisfaction level (i.e. happy or unhappy) while the comparison level of alternatives
(CLalt) estimates permanence (i.e. stay or leave). To illustrate that the calculations occur
simultaneously, it may be helpful to provide your students with the following chart and ask if
they can provide an example of each quadrant:
Outcome > CL
Outcome < CL
Outcome > CLalt
Outcome < CLalt
Happy
Stay
Unhappy
Stay
Happy
Leave
Unhappy
Leave
Two of the quadrants are relatively simple to explain. The top left-side quadrant (happy, stay)
might illustrate most people’s “happily-ever-after” ideal relationship where you’re content and
feel that nothing could be better. The bottom right-side quadrant (unhappy, leave) is also easily
pictured- an unhappy situation and something better comes along. It means leaving a
relationship you didn’t enjoy for something more promising. The remaining two squares
present more of a challenge. The top right-side box (happy, leave) might be characterized as a
101
midlife crisis. It’s the person who, though content and relative to their past relationships has a
good situation, still leaves for something potentially even more enticing. Another example is a
person who likes their job and income, but gets a better offer. Finally, the bottom left-side box
(unhappy, stay) may be illustrative of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. This relationship
isn’t enjoyable and, compared with others’ relationships, it’s really not promising, but it’s better
than any of the other options. This person may think, “I’d rather be in a miserable relationship
than no relationship at all.”
Problems with the theory
In several ways, social penetration theory relies upon a problematic construction of the
self, self-disclosure, and overall process of communication itself, and thus it should provide
more thoughtful students with a good exercise in theory critique. For example, characterizing
self-disclosure as penetration may confound the issues of agent and agency. It is, after all, the
speaker who discloses, rather than the audience of the disclosure, who acts—who exposes the
previously unknown information. In most cases, self-disclosure is not an invasive surgical
procedure, an act of interrogation, or form of torture practiced upon a passive or unwilling
subject, but a voluntary pouring forth. Perhaps those who disclose more closely resemble
founts of information, rather than dense masses that require probing and piercing. Another
image would be someone gradually pulling back a curtain to reveal more and more details of
the landscape of the self.
An additional problem is that the images of the wedge and the onion suggest that selfdisclosure is an asymmetrical, rather than a reciprocal, egalitarian process. After all, someone
must be the onion, and someone else must be the wedge. Although, as Griffin notes, the
sexual connotations of the term penetration were not intended by Altman and Taylor (120), it is
difficult to remove the power relations suggested by the imagery. Penetration inherently calls
to mind the notions of dominance, force, and control, when in fact disclosure is offered freely
and equally in the kinds of social situations the theory is meant to describe.
In addition to the problems inherent in the image of the penetrating wedge are the
difficulties brought on by the comparison of the self to an onion. Although this analogy is easy
to visualize, it suggests that the self is a stable, completed, private, knowable entity that is
gradually exposed or discovered, but not shaped, by the process of communication. To evoke a
parallel, but more risqué, analogy, Altman and Taylor’s disclosure imitates the stripper,
gradually peeling off his or her sartorial layers until the genuine article—the naked self—is
revealed. Other theories previously examined, however, insist that social realities such as the
self are not merely presented, but actually constructed, through the process of
communication. Theorists such as Mead and Pearce (and later, Delia) would suggest that
because communication has an ontological function, the process of disclosing intimate details
itself would shape the nature of a person’s inner self. Communication does not simply reveal—
it creates. (Integrative Essay Question #32 below addresses this issue.)
The onion metaphor
The onion metaphor is also problematic because of the remarkable uniformity of this
particular vegetable. As one peels away the outer layers of this pungent sphere, what one finds
are more and more layers. In this sense, then, the actual structure of the onion suggests that
there is no immutable essence of personhood at the center of our psyches, and that we are all
102
packaging and no content. Like a Russian nesting doll, nothing unique is contained in the
center, only more and more dolls. It is ironic that this most postmodern view of self, which
works against the fundamental assumptions of social penetration theory, is evoked by its
central analogy.
During the class session before you discuss this chapter, encourage your students to
compare the fictitious example of Pete and Jon to their own experiences with their roommates
or close friends as they read. (Essay Question #30 below addresses this topic.)
Sample Application Log
Dan
I have always been cautious about what I tell people about myself. I never want to reveal
something that I might later regret. But I do like to have close relationships. The problem is, I
find it takes a long time for me to form that closeness.
When I was in sixth grade I moved to a new school. I didn’t begin to feel like people really knew
me until my junior year in high school. I really enjoyed those last two years of high school, but
maybe if I had been a little less cautious about telling people about myself earlier, I could have
had more fun all throughout junior and senior high. Maybe I should go out on a limb a little
more; I may find that people are willing to let me come closer to them as a result.
Exercises and Activities
The onion
In Figure 8.1 on page 120, Griffin presents an onionized version of Pete’s personality
structure. Consider asking your students to create onions of their own psyches. How would
they designate their own personality layers? As you discuss the results of their models, see
what sorts of similarities and differences emerge among your students. Is Pete’s personality
structure a good approximation of your average student?
And speaking of onionization, when Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he brings a healthy
representative of that very vegetable and three knives to class. He asks five volunteers to talk
through five key components of the theory: personality, closeness, self-disclosure, rewards and
costs, and relationship termination. Students can use any method they wish to explain or
illustrate their concept, including, of course, the onions and knives. Griffin notes that in order
for this exercise to be effective, the instructor must be willing to correct inaccurate descriptions
and to provide helpful nudges at key moments.
As we have done above, you may enjoy developing alternative analogies or metaphors
for the process of self-disclosure with your students. We always find their suggestions
provocative. (Essay Question #25 below addresses this issue.)
“Who are you?” Interviews and self-disclosure
103
If you and your students enjoy in-class demonstrations/tests of theory, consider the
following exercise. Divide your students into pairs to conduct interviews. Tell them to decide
who will be the interviewer and who will be the interviewee for the first phase, and indicate that
the roles will be reversed in the second phase. Allow approximately five minutes for each.
During the first phase, the interviewers begin by asking their partners, “Who are you?” After the
interviewee has answered, the interviewer repeats the question or offers follow-up queries.
After the time has expired, the students switch roles for the second phase. This time, the
interviewer begins by asking, “What do you want?” Once again, the interviewer may repeat the
question or offer follow-up queries during the time remaining. When you debrief the exercise
with the class, ask your students where their questions led and what the answers revealed
about the theory. If you can, compare the results of male-male, female-female, and femalemale dyads.
Feature-film examples
An entertaining film that vividly demonstrates the links between social penetration and
relational development is Remember the Titans. Set in Virginia, the story centers on the
relationships of several white and African-American football players and their coaches who find
themselves on the same team following integration.
Another provocative film is Almost Famous, the story of a teenage boy who develops
quirky and revealing relationships with rock stars, their groupies, and the writers who cover
them in an early 1970s setting. As a budding journalist, he finds that his efforts to penetrate
their psyches are motivated both by friendship/romance and professional ambition. When
these motivations conflict, intriguing ethical issues emerge. One of the more pertinent issues
explored in the film is the asymmetric self-disclosure among the characters as the young
journalist probes his subjects and their social scene. Not surprisingly, the consequences of
such asymmetry are significant. Ron Adler—a well-known communication teacher at Santa
Barbara City College and much respected textbook writer—identifies the scene in which the
featured rock band believes it is about to perish in a plane crash as a vivid demonstration of
the potential downside of intimate self-disclosure.
The Johari window
An alternative model of self and self-disclosure that you might consider sharing with
your class is the Johari window, which characterizes the issues of agency and reciprocity more
effectively than does the social penetration approach, perhaps. One must not forget, though,
that this model, too, has its limitations, including a failure to handle the ontological element of
communication. In addition, it may not be particularly useful in conceptualizing issues of depth
and breadth disclosure. Comparing the two models can be a very useful exercise.
Further Resources
§
For a study that builds on the work of John Thibaut and Harold Kelley, see Michael
Sunnafrank, “‘You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling’: Romance Loss as a Function of
Relationship Development and Escalation Processes,” Communication and Social
Influence Processes, ed. Charles R. Berger (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press,
1995), 133-53.
104
§
§
For additional discussion of depenetration, see Betsy Tolstedt and Joseph Stokes, “SelfDisclosure, Intimacy, and Depenetration Process,” Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology 46 (1984): 84-90.
If students want to learn more about social exchange theory, Griffin’s chapter-length
treatment from the Second Edition (available on the website discussed in the Preface to
this manual) is a good place to begin.
Johari window
§ If you present the Johari window to complement and contrast with social penetration, see:
o Joseph Luft, Of Human Interaction (Palo Alto, CA: National Press, 1969);
o Ronald Adler and Neil Towne, Looking Out/Looking In (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt,
1990), 341-44.
o Gerald L. Wilson, Alan M. Hantz, and Michael S. Hanna, Interpersonal Growth
through Communication, 4th ed. (Dubuque, IA: Wm C. Brown, 1995), 53-55.
o Richard Weaver, Understanding Interpersonal Communication, 7th ed. (New York:
HarperCollins, 1996), 430-32.
105 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
107
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
108
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
109
CHAPTER 9
UNCERTAINTY REDUCTION THEORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Charles Berger notes that the beginnings of personal relationships are fraught with
uncertainties.
B. Uncertainty reduction theory focuses on how human communication is used to gain
knowledge and create understanding.
C. Any of three prior conditions—anticipation of future interaction, incentive value, or
deviance—can boost our drive to reduce uncertainty.
II.
Uncertainty reduction: To predict and explain.
A. Berger’s focus on prediction echoes Shannon and Weaver.
B. His emphasis on explanation (our inferences about why people do what they do)
comes from the attribution theory of Fritz Heider.
C. There are at least two types of uncertainty.
1. Behavioral questions, which are often reduced by following accepted procedural
protocols.
2. Cognitive questions, which are reduced by acquiring information.
III.
An axiomatic theory: Certainty about uncertainty.
A. Berger proposes a series of axioms to explain the connection between uncertainty
and eight key variables.
B. Axiom 1, verbal communication: As the amount of verbal communication between
strangers increases, the level of uncertainty decreases, and, as a result, verbal
communication increases.
C. Axiom 2, nonverbal warmth: As nonverbal affiliative expressiveness increases,
uncertainty levels will decrease. Decreases in uncertainty level will cause increases
in nonverbal affiliative expressiveness.
D. Axiom 3, information seeking: High levels of uncertainty cause increases in
information-seeking behavior. As uncertainty levels decline, information-seeking
behavior decreases.
E. Axiom 4, self-disclosure: High levels of uncertainty in a relationship cause decreases
in the intimacy level of communication content. Low levels of uncertainty produce
high levels of intimacy.
F. Axiom 5, reciprocity: High levels of uncertainty produce high rates of reciprocity. Low
levels of uncertainty produce low levels of reciprocity.
G. Axiom 6, similarity: Similarities between persons reduce uncertainty, while
dissimilarities produce increases in uncertainty.
H. Axiom 7, liking: Increases in uncertainty level produce decreases in liking; decreases
in uncertainty produce increases in liking.
I. Axiom 8, shared networks: Shared communication networks reduce uncertainty,
while a lack of shared networks increases uncertainty.
110 IV.
Theorems: The logical force of uncertainty axioms.
A. Through pairing axioms, Berger creates 28 theorems.
B. These 28 theorems suggest a comprehensive theory of interpersonal development
based on the importance of reducing uncertainty in human interaction.
V.
Strategies to cope with certain uncertainty.
A. Most social interaction is goal-driven; we construct cognitive plans to guide our
social interaction.
1. Berger claims plans are hierarchically organized with abstract representations at
the top of the hierarchy and progressively more concrete representation toward
the bottom.
2. Switching strategies at the top of the hierarchy causes changes down the
hierarchy, altering behavior.
B. Uncertainty is central to all social interaction.
C. There is an interaction between uncertainty reduction theory and plan-based
message production that suggests various strategies individuals use to cope with
uncertainty and hedge against risk when deploying messages.
1. Seeking information through a passive, active, or interactive strategy.
2. Choosing plan complexity—the level of detail a plan includes and the number of
contingency plans.
3. Hedging—planning ways for both parties to “save face” when at least one of
them miscalculated.
4. The hierarchy hypothesis: When individuals are thwarted in their attempts to
achieve goals, their first tendency is to alter lower-level elements of their
message.
VI.
Critique: Nagging doubts about uncertainty.
A. As Berger himself admits, his original statement contained some propositions of
dubious validity.
1. Critics such as Kathy Kellermann consider theorem 17 particularly flawed.
2. The tight logical structure of the theory doesn’t allow us to reject one theorem
without questioning the axioms behind it.
3. In the case of theorem 17, axioms 3 and 7 must also be suspect.
4. Kellermann and Rodney Reynolds challenge the motivational assumption of
axiom 3.
5. They also have undermined the claim that motivation to search for information is
increased by anticipation of future interaction, incentive value, and deviance.
B. Michael Sunnafrank challenges Berger’s claim that uncertainty reduction is the key
to understanding early encounters.
1. He believes that predicted outcome value more accurately explains
communication in early encounters.
2. Berger insists that you can’t predict outcome values until you reduce
uncertainty.
C. Despite these problems, Berger’s theory has stimulated considerable discussion
within the discipline.
Key Names and Terms
111
Charles Berger
A communication theorist at the University of California, Davis, who developed
uncertainty reduction theory.
Fritz Heider
As the founder of attribution theory, this psychologist argued that we constantly draw
inferences about why people do what they do.
Axiom
A self-evident truth that requires no additional proof.
Malcolm Parks and Mara Adelman
Communication researchers from Michigan State University and Seattle University,
respectively, who have demonstrated that there is a relationship between shared
communication networks and uncertainty reduction.
Action Plans
Mental representations of anticipated behavioral sequences that may be used to
achieve goals.
Hierarchy Hypothesis
Berger’s prediction that when people are thwarted in their attempts to achieve goals,
their first tendency is to make low-level, minor adjustments to their plans.
Hedging
Finding ways for both parties to save face when at least one of them has miscalculated.
Kathy Kellermann and Rodney Reynolds
Communication scholars from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Regent
University, respectively, who have questioned the motivational assumption of Berger’s
axiom 3 and the claim that motivation to search for information is increased by
anticipation of future interaction, incentive value, and deviance.
Michael Sunnafrank
A communication scholar from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who believes that
predicted outcome value more accurately explains communication in early encounters
than does Berger’s account of uncertainty reduction.
Principal Changes
This chapter, previously Chapter 10, remains the same aside from light editing and a
few new additions to the Second Look section.
Suggestions for Discussion
Comparison with other theories
Berger’s approach to getting to know someone conflicts with Altman and Taylor’s, yet
they share important assumptions about communication and the human psyche worth
discussing with your class. Although they differ on the motivation for communicating with
strangers, both theories view communication as primarily informative in nature and the self as
a stable, fixed entity that exists prior to interpersonal interaction. As we mentioned in our
treatment of Chapter 8, theorists such as Mead and Pearce (and later, Delia), who emphasize
the transactional or ontological function of communication, would suggest that the process of
112
talking not only provides desired information about people, but actually shapes those engaged
in the conversation. To a symbolic interactionist or social constructionist (or constructivist),
thus, the act of “reducing uncertainty” not only reveals but creates the individuals involved.
When you throw this ontological function of communication into the mix, Berger’s axioms and
theorems assume new complexity and challenges.
Berger’s empirical approach towards interpersonal communication
No doubt your students will comment—some enthusiastically and some disparagingly—
on the thoroughgoing empiricism of uncertainty reduction theory. Along these lines, it’s
important for them to see not only that this theory is empirically grounded, but that it posits the
average communicator as an amateur scientist at heart whose first interest is the pursuit of
knowledge for its own sake. As the first major heading in the chapter declares, predictability
and explanation—those scientific pillars emphasized by Griffin in Chapter 3—become the basic
motivators of our talk. Whereas a humanist such as John Stewart defines interpersonal
communication as transactional activity that maximizes “the presence of the personal”
(Bridges Not Walls 41), and economically oriented scholars such as Altman and Taylor
approach one-on-one discourse in terms of cost-benefit analysis, Berger theorizes humans in
conversation as cerebral, primarily information-seeking beings. Whether or not this is an
appropriate way to characterize all interpersonal interaction is a question we’ll not try to
answer here. However, if you push your students to think pluralistically and to evaluate
critically the variety of interpersonal contacts they’ve had in the last week, month, or year, no
doubt they’ll see that all three models have considerable descriptive value. Just as humanists
often find themselves involved in conversations in which they are driven primarily by the desire
to learn about the other, pursuing information for its own sake, empiricists often communicate
with the intention of maximizing “the presence of the personal.”
Gender issues
Essay Question #30 below is designed to anticipate the section of the book that
focuses on gender and communication. Particularly relevant, perhaps, is Deborah Tannen’s
genderlect styles.
Axioms and theorems
Many times, students will quickly absorb the eight axioms and can articulate their
agreement or disagreement with these basic premises. Be sure to stress that axioms suggest a
causal relationship and thus the order of the variables is critical while theorems correlate two
variables; one does not by necessity precede the other.
Math-phobic students may turn off swiftly when faced with understanding how the 28
theorems and the corresponding relationships are deducted from the initial eight. For some
students, the plus/minus chart on p. 135 in the textbook may be confusing and for these
students, you may want to stress that the theorems take two different variables each with a
relationship to uncertainty. Just as in mathematical fractions, the axioms can be made to have
a common term, which then drops out. For example:
113
Axiom 1:
Uncertainty á
Verbal Comm á
Axiom 3:
Uncertainty
Info seeking
Theorem 3:
á
á
Uncertainty
Verbal Comm
á
á
Uncertainty
Info seeking
á
á
Theorem 3:
Verbal Comm
Info seeking
Drop out the common term uncertainty
Strategies to reduce uncertainty and cultural implications
Various attempts to cope with uncertainty—such as hedging or the passive, active, or
interactive strategies for seeking information—have different meanings in different cultures. In
some cultural contexts, direct requests for information about people are considered rude,
while other cultures may view such messages as natural. Confucian modesty dictates that one
downplay one’s own ability in making requests—giving the concept of hedging particular
salience. Ask students to reflect on examples of cultural implications of the strategies to
reduce uncertainty discussed in the chapter, drawing on their own experiences or examples
from literature and film. Such issues are taken up at considerable length in Chapter 30, which
treats William Gudykunst’s anxiety/uncertainty reduction theory. Gudykunst extends Berger’s
work into intercultural contexts.
Sample Application Log
Alicia
I hate meeting new people. In fact, I pride myself on having very bad first impressions of all my
dearest friends. First meetings always overwhelm me, with their stilted conversation and
suspicious feelings on both sides. This theory helped me to formulate a new plan for the next
time I meet a person. I can establish common ground as quickly as possible. The faster we find
similarities, the more nonverbal warmth, verbal communication, self-disclosure, and liking will
increase. If I can get over having bad first impressions, I may be on my way to starting better
friendships.
Exercises and Activities
Axioms and theorems
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he makes sure to review the eight axioms and
twenty-eight theorems in class. Then, he creates a kind of theorem machine with students. To
do this, he asks eight volunteers representing the eight axioms to stand next to chairs at the
front of the class. Next, he has student one—representing axiom one—raise his or her hand to
represent increasing verbal communication. Correspondingly, the other volunteers—
representing the remaining seven axioms—will either raise their hands to indicate positive
correlation or sit to indicate negative correlation. In this instance, two, three, seven, six, and
eight will raise their hands; and three and five will sit. Once the volunteers get the hang of this
theorem machine, their responses will help vivify the movement from axioms to theorems that
is so crucial to the logic of this theory. Finally, Griffin likes to speculate with his class about the
possibility that axiom three is inaccurate. If this is the case, then the theorem machine
insightfully illustrates the consequences.
114
á
á
As budding critics of communication theory, your students should be encouraged to
analyze Berger’s approach axiom by axiom and theorem by theorem. Conduct a survey in class
to see which propositions are most and least convincing. Encourage your students to defend
their judgments with common sense and personal experience. Be sure they understand that a
theorem is only as good as the axioms on which it is based.
Applying uncertainty reduction strategies
We have found it helpful to keep a consistent example and show how each type of
uncertainty reduction strategy may be used to gather more information in the same situation.
For example, when spotting an attractive member of the opposite sex for the first time, how
might you use passive, active, and interactive strategies to size them up? How about starting a
new job or taking a class from an unknown professor? Be sure to probe when each type of
strategy may be more/less useful, and more/less appropriate.
As Essay Question #21 suggests, college orientation programs may serve as useful
vehicles for thinking about and applying uncertainty reduction theory. It may be productive to
discuss the sessions your students attended as they became members of your campus
community. Working through the eight axioms featured in this chapter, have them predict what
should happen as a result of their experiences. Discuss how official activities encouraged or
discouraged passive, active, or interactive strategies for increasing knowledge. In addition, use
Berger’s theory to generate suggestions about how your institution could improve the process.
If you have transfer or nontraditional students in class who attended different introductory
programs (or perhaps none at all), compare their entry experiences at your institution with
those of students who matriculated directly from high school.
Feature film and literary illustrations
Set in the 1960s, the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is the story of an AfricanAmerican family (the Prentices) and a European-American family (the Draytons) who are
suddenly thrown together by the prospect of an unexpected interracial marriage that will unite
them. The complex relationships that quickly develop among the characters constitute an
intriguing testing ground for uncertainty reduction theory. Because the film features many
vivid, powerful arguments—particularly those that lead Mr. Drayton to change his mind and
approve of the nuptials—it is also a good vehicle for illustrating the elaboration likelihood
model, which is introduced in Chapter 15. The relationships that develop in Remember the
Titans, which was introduced in the previous chapter, also provide good testing ground for
uncertainty reduction theory. The novel and the movie The Joy Luck Club represent white,
Asian-American, and Asian communicators interacting and often violating cultural norms as
they try to reduce uncertainty. The memoir Scribbling the Cat, which we introduced in our
treatment of CMM, demonstrates what happens when people who disclose and seek to reduce
uncertainty are motivated by different goals, assumptions, or “cognitive plans”: “I thought he
held shards of truth. He thought I held love” (250).
Further Resources
§
William Gudykunst assesses uncertainty reduction theory in “The Uncertainty Reduction
and Anxiety-Uncertainty Reduction Theories of Berger, Gudykunst, and Associates,” in
115
§
§
§
§
Watershed Research Traditions in Human Communication Theory, (Albany: SUNY Press,
1995), 67-100.
Another essay of interest is Charles Berger and Nancy Kellerman, “Acquiring Social
Information,” in John Daly and John Wiemann, Strategic Interpersonal Communication
(Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994), 1-31.
Walid A. Afifi and Josephine W. Lee apply Berger’s theory of planing in “Balancing
Instrumental and Identity Goals in Relationships: The Role of Request Directness and
Request Persistence in the Selection of Sexual Resistance Strategies,” Communication
Monographs 67, 3 (September 2000): 284-305.
In “Communication in the Management of Uncertainty: The Case of Persons Living with HIV
or AIDS,” Communication Monographs 67, 1 (March 2000): 63-84, Dale E. Brashers, et al.
discuss a theory of management of uncertainty “in which the desire to reduce uncertainty
is assumed to be only one of several responses to events and circumstances marked by
unpredictability, ambiguity, or insufficient information” (64).
Michael Boyle, Mike Schmierbach, Cory Armstrong, Douglas McLeod, Dhavan Shah, and
Pan Zhongdang explore how uncertainty reduction theory might explain people’s reaction to
tragedy in their article, “Information Seeking and Emotional Reactions to the September 11
Terrorist Attacks,” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 81, 1 (2004): 155-68.
Uncertainty reduction in close relationships
§ Kimberly Downs, “Family Commitment Role Perceptions, Social Support, and Mutual
Children in Remarriage: A Test of Uncertainty Reduction Theory,” Journal of Divorce &
Remarriage 40, 1/2 (2003): 35-54.
§ Leanne K. Knobloch and Denise Haunani Solomon explore how URT might affect existing
relationships in their article, “Information Seeking beyond Initial Interaction: Negotiating
Relational Uncertainty within Close Relationships,” Human Communication Research 28, 2
(2002): 243-57.
Uncertainty reduction strategies
§ In “Strategic and Nonstrategic Information Acquisition,” Human Communication Research
28, 2 (April 2002): 287-97, Berger explores information seeking.
§ Tara M. Emmers and Daniel J. Canary explore uncertainty reduction strategies used in
established relationships in their article, “The Effect of Uncertainty Reducing Strategies on
Young Couples’ Relational Repair and Intimacy,” Communication Quarterly 44, 2 (1996):
166-83.
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Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
117
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
118
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
119
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
120
CHAPTER 10
SOCIAL INFORMATION PROCESSING THEORY
Outline
XXI. Introduction.
A. Scholars who studied new electronic media have offered a variety of theories to
explain the inherent differences between computer-mediated communication (CMC)
and face-to-face communication.
1.
Social presence theory suggests that text-based messages deprive CMC
users of the sense that other people are jointly involved in the interaction
2.
Media richness theory classifies each communication medium according to
the complexity of the messages it can handle efficiently.
3.
A third theory concentrates on the lack of social context cues in online
communication.
B. Each of these theories favors a cues-filtered-out interpretation in regard to the
absence of nonverbal cues as the medium’s fatal flaw.
C. Joe Walter, a communication professor at Cornell University, argued that given the
opportunity for sufficient exchange of social messages and subsequent relational
growth, face-to-face and CMC are equally useful mediums for developing close
relationships.
XXII. CMC versus face-to-face: A sip instead of a gulp.
A. Walther labeled his theory social information processing (SIP) because he believes
relationships grow only to the extent that parties first gain information about each
other and use that information to form impressions.
B. SIP focuses on the first link of the chain—the personal information available through
CMC and its effect on the composite mental image of the other.
C. Walther acknowledges that nonverbal cues are filtered out of the interpersonal
information sent and received via CMC, but he doesn’t think this loss is fatal.
D. Two features of CMC provide a rationale for SIP theory.
1.
Verbal cues: CMC users can create fully formed impressions of others based
solely on linguistic content of messages.
2.
Extended time: Though the exchange of social information is slower via CMC
than face-to-face, over time the relationships formed are not weaker or more
fragile.
E. You’ve got mail—A case study of online romance
1.
The film You’ve Got Mail portrays an online relationship.
2.
It also illustrates verbal cues and extended time, concepts crucial to SIP
theory.
XXIII. Verbal cues of affinity replace nonverbal cues.
A. Walter claims that humans crave affiliation just as much online as they do in faceto-face interactions. But, with the absence of nonverbal cues, which typically signal
affinity, users must rely on text-only messages.
121 B. He argues that verbal and nonverbal cues can be used interchangeably.
C. Experimental support for a counter-intuitive idea.
1.
Walther and two of his former graduate students ran a comparative study to
test how CMC users pursue their social goals and if affinity can be expressed
through a digital medium.
2.
In their study, the participants discussed a moral dilemma with a stranger via
either CMC or face-to-face. The stranger was in actuality a research
confederate told to pursue a specific communication goal. Half the
confederates were told to interact in a friendly manner and the remaining
pairs were told to interact in an unfriendly manner.
3.
The mode of communication made no difference in the emotional tone
perceived by the participants.
4.
Self-disclosure, praise, and explicit statements of affection successfully
communicated warmth as well as indirect agreement, change of subject, and
compliments offered while proposing a contrasting idea.
5.
In face-to-face interactions, participants relied on facial expression, eye
contact, tone of voice, body position, and other nonverbal cues to
communication affiliation.
XXIV. Extended time: The crucial variable in CMC.
A. Walther is convinced that the length of time that CMC users have to send messages
is the key determinant of whether their message can achieve a comparable level of
intimacy as face-to-face interactions.
B. Messages spoken in person take at least four times as long to say via CMC. This
differential may explain why CMC is perceived as impersonal and task-oriented.
C. Since CMC conveys messages more slowly, Walther advises users to send
messages more often.
D. Anticipated future interaction and chronemic cues may also contribute to intimacy
on the Internet.
1.
People will trade more relational messages if they think they may meet again
and this anticipated future interaction motivates them to develop the
relationship.
2.
Walther believes that chronemic cues, or nonverbal indicators of how people
perceive, use, or respond to issues of time, is the only nonverbal cue not
filtered out of CMC.
XXV. Hyperpersonal perspective: It doesn’t get any better than this.
A. Walther uses the term hyperpersonal to label CMC relationships that are more
intimate than romances or friendships would be if partners were physically together.
B. He classifies four types of media effects that occur precisely because CMC users
aren’t proximal.
1.
Sender: Selective self-presentation.
a. Through selective self-presentation, people who meet online have an
opportunity to make and sustain an overwhelmingly positive impression.
b. As a relationship develops, they can edit the breadth and depth of their
self-disclosure to conform to the cyber image they wish to project.
2.
Receiver: Overattribution of similarity.
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3.
4.
a. Attribution is a perceptual process where we observe people’s actions
and try to figure out what they’re really like.
b. In the absence of other cues, we are likely to overattribute the
information we have and create an idealized image of the sender.
c. Martin Lea and Russell Spears describe this identification as SIDE—
social-identity-deindividuation.
i. Users meet around a common interest.
ii. In the absence of contrasting cues, they develop an exaggerated
sense of similarity and group solidarity.
Channel: Communicating on your own time.
a. Walther refers to CMC as an asynchronous channel of communication,
meaning that parties can use it nonsimultaneously.
b. A benefit is the ability to plan, contemplate, and edit one’s comments
more than is possible in spontaneous, simultaneous talk.
Feedback: Self-fulfilling prophecy.
a. A self-fulfilling prophecy is the tendency for a person’s expectation of
others to evoke a response from them that confirms what was
anticipated.
b. Self-fulfilling prophecy is triggered when the hyperpositive image is
intentionally or inadvertently fed back to the other person, creating a
CMC equivalent of the looking-glass self.
XXVI. Critique: Walther’s candid assessment.
A. Walther rejected the notion that online communication is an inherently inferior
medium for relational communication.
B. Walther’s empirical studies show that relationships in cyberspace often form at the
same or even faster pace than they do for people who meet offline.
C. CMC users who join online discussion groups or enter chat rooms may have a higher
need for affiliation than the typical person whose relationships are developed
through multichannel modes.
D. The hyperpersonal perspective lacks a central explanatory mechanism to drive
synthesis of the observed effects.
E. The hyperpersonal perspective has also been less explicit in predicting negative
relational outcomes in CMC.
Key Names and Terms
CMC
Computer-mediated communication.
Social Presence Theory
Earlier CMC theory that suggests that text-based messages deprive CMC users of the
sense that other people are jointly involved in the interaction.
Media Richness Theory
CMC theory that classifies each communication medium according to the complexity of
the messages it can handle efficiently.
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Flaming
Hostile language that zings its target and creates a toxic climate for relational growth on
the Internet.
Cues Filtered Out
Interpretation of CMC that regards the absence of nonverbal cues as the medium’s
permanent flaw, which limits its usefulness for developing interpersonal relationships.
Joseph B. Walther
Communication professor at Cornell University who argues that given the opportunity
for sufficient exchange of social messages and subsequent relational growth, face-toface and CMC are equally useful mediums for developing close relationships.
Social Information Processing (SIP)
Walther’s perspective regarding CMC, so labeled because he believes relationships
grow only to the extent that parties first gain information about each other and use that
information to form impressions.
Verbal Cues
In the absence of any other cues, CMC users will use verbal cues to form impressions.
Extended Time
Because CMC information is exchanged at a much slower rate, online relationships will
develop the same intimacy possible in face-to-face relationships only if given an
extended time.
Anticipated Future Interactions
In Walther’s perspective, it’s a way of extending psychological time. The possibility of
future interaction motivates CMC users to develop a relationship.
Chronemics
Nonverbal scholars label used to describe how people perceive, use, and respond to
issues of time in their interactions with others.
Hyperpersonal
CMC relationships that are more intimate than romances or friendships would be if
partners were physically together.
Attribution
A perceptual process where we observe people’s actions and try to figure out what the
person is really like.
Martin Lea and Russell Spears
European social psychologists who explain over-the-top identification as social-identitydeindividuation (SIDE).
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
The tendency for a person’s expectation of others to evoke a response from them that
confirms what was anticipated.
Principal Changes
This chapter is entirely new to the sixth edition.
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Suggestions for Discussion
Only a theory of “new media” relationships?
Social information processing theory appears to be an exciting new approach to the
“new media,” a way of accounting for online communication, particularly as it stacks up
against face-to-face encounters. On the other hand, could the central ideas developed in this
theory apply just as well to old-fashioned letters, even those sent through the U.S. Postal
Service? Is this simply a theory of written communication? Glen’s great-grandfather became
engaged to a woman he’d never met through written correspondence. Their relationship
developed gradually, letter by letter, until they were sufficiently attached to one another to get
married. It’s possible that Walther’s theory building applies as well to their communication as it
does to You’ve Got Mail.
Longevity of relationships
It’s likely that some students in your class have developed a relationship through CMC,
either via e-mail, chat rooms, or as part of a virtual community. As such, they are likely to
warmly embrace SIP’s perspective about online relationship develop and be vocal advocates
that relationship development is not only possible, but probable. But, with the relative newness
of technologies such as digital cameras, webcams, text messaging, and e-mail, can we predict
how technology might affect the longevity of these mediated relationships? Some might
speculate that physical closeness at some time in the relationship is necessary to guarantee
the long-term survival of close bonds.
The virtual girlfriend
Your students may be familiar with Asia’s “virtual girlfriend.” After joining (and paying a
subscription fee), a “girlfriend” appears as an animated message on the subscriber’s mobile
phone video screen. Disclosure comes at a price—literally, as the anime only responds when
she has been bought flowers or gifts by paying more money. The “relationship” develops as
money is exchanged for more information about one’s “girlfriend,” sweet talk, and introduction
to her “friends.” You might want to engage students in a comparison of the differences
between online relationships with real people versus connections established with such
simulations. Given Walther’s position regarding the possibility of idealizing one’s online
partners, are these “sims” very different than such relationships?
Distance education
You might want to discuss online education and the development of relationships with
professors and other students when the only contact you have is through e-mails, message
boards, and chat rooms. Does that environment help or hinder the learning process? A host of
communication scholars, led by the work of James McCroskey, suggests that nonverbal
immediacy is a critical component of teaching effectiveness. How might effectiveness be
moderated by a mediated relationship? If your students have participated in online only or
technology-assisted classes, how have the various modes of communication affected their
relationships with students and professors?
Critiquing the theory
As speculated by Griffin in the chapter’s Critique, Walther’s theory hasn’t addressed a
perhaps fundamental question: why do people choose to develop online relationships?
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Encourage students to probe some motivations. How might these varied motivations affect the
quality and quantities of one’s relationships, both online and off?
Sample Application Log
Laine
I’ve definitely seen Walther’s hyperpersonal “selective self-presentation” at work in my
relationship with my boyfriend. In the beginning stages of our relationship, our self-disclosure
was most often via instant messaging for the very reason that Walther claimed—“people who
meet online have an opportunity to make and sustain an overwhelmingly positive impression.”
IM allowed us to carefully process and edit what were going to say before we committed to
saying it by pushing “send.” I would often type on the instant message screen, read it through,
delete it and start over if there was something that I said in a way that might leak information
that I wasn’t yet ready to disclose.
I have found that once you move beyond the slower pace of online interaction and get used to
the pace of face-to-face interaction, it’s hard to go back. For example after we became
comfortable with each other face-to-face, our CMC became almost nonexistent. When we are
living in separate states, the different pace of online communication becomes frustrating.
Exercises and Activities
Comparing CMC and face-to-face relationships
Ask your students to compare a relationship that they have developed via CMC (or
maintained if they don’t have online relationships) to a face-to-face relationship. How would
they characterize the relationship, their impression of the other person, and what they believe
they have portrayed about themselves? Walther suggests that a self-fulfilling prophesy may be
at work in which impressions are carefully crafted and messages obtained at one’s own
convenience. In comparison to flesh-and-blood people, do students have a more idealized
version of the other when the relationship has been mediated?
Feature film illustration
In addition to You’ve Got Mail, another feature film that may provide interesting
discussion is Simone. It is the story of a movie producer, played by Al Pacino, who—
unbeknownst to the audience—creates a digital actress. The film demonstrates the power of
technology to “create” people and you might find it a good tool to stimulate discussion about
simulating reality.
Further Resources
§
Barbara Warnick takes a rhetorical approach to theoretical issues of the Internet in
“Rhetorical Criticism of Public Discourse on the Internet: Theoretical Implications,” Rhetoric
Society Quarterly 28 (Fall 1998): 73-84. She has also produced a full-length treatment of
rhetoric and technology entitled Critical Literacy in a Digital Era: Technology, Rhetoric, and
the Public Interest (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002), and a review essay on the
126
relationship between argument and new media, “Analogues to Argument: New Media and
Literacy in a Posthuman Era,” Argument and Advocacy (Spring 2002): 262-70.
Relationship development
§ For more on verbal and nonverbal affinity exchange, see Joseph B. Walther, Tracy Loh, and
Laura Granka, “Let Me Count the Ways: The Interchange of Verbal and Nonverbal Cues in
Computer-Mediated and Face-to-Face Affinity,” Journal of Language & Social Psychology
24, 1 (March 2005): 36-66.
§ Kevin B. Wright explores relational maintenance in online relationships in his article,
“Online Relational Maintenance Strategies and Perceptions of Partners within Exclusively
Internet-Based and Primarily Internet-Based Relationships,” Communication Studies 55, 2
(2004): 239-54.
§ For more on disclosure, see Lisa Collins Tidwell and Walther “Computer-Mediated
Communication Effects on Disclosure, Impressions, and Interpersonal Evaluations: Getting
to Know One Another a Bit at a Time,” Human Communication Research 28, 3 (July 2002):
317-48.
§ Sonja Utz explores friendship development in her article, “Social Information Processing in
MUDs: The Development of Friendships in Virtual Worlds,” Journal of Online Behavior 1, 1
(2000): n.p.
§ Artemio Ramirez, Jr., Joe Walther, Judee Burgoon, and Michael Sunnafrank intersect SIP
with URT in “Information-Seeking Strategies, Uncertainty, and Computer-Mediated
Communication,” Human Communication Research 28, 2 (April 2002): 213-29.
§ For more on relationship initiation, see Jeffrey S. McQuillen’s article “The Influence of
Technology on the Initiation of Interpersonal Relationships,” Education 123, 3 (Spring
2003): 616-24.
Communication and technology
For discussion of information technology and the computer’s effect on communication, see:
§ Alan L. Porter and William H. Read, The Information Revolution: Current and Future
Consequences (Greenwich, CT: Ablex, 1998).
§ Nick Heap, et al., eds., Information Technology and Society: A Reader (London: Sage,
1995).
§ Nicolas Negroponte, Being Digital (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).
§ Frank Biocca and Mark Levy, eds., Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality (Hillsdale,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1995).
§ Steven G. Jones, Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community
(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995); Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in
Cybersociety (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997); and Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting ComputerMediated Communication and Society (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998).
§ David Holmes, Virtual Politics: Identity and Community in Cyberspace (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage, 1997).
§ Tharon W. Howard, A Rhetoric of Electronic Communities (Greenwich, CT: Ablex, 1997).
§ Sara Kiesler, Cultures of the Internet (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997).
§ David Slayden and Rita Kirk Whillock, Soundbite Culture: The Death of Discourse in a Wired
World (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999).
§ Tom Koch, The Message Is the Medium: Online All the Time for Everyone (Westport, CT:
Praeger, 1996).
127
§
§
Kevin A. Hill and John E. Hughs, Cyberpolitics: Citizen Activism in the Age of the Internet
(Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield, 1998); Bosah Ebo, ed., Cyberghetto or Cybertopia? Race,
Class and Gender on the Internet (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998).
James W. Chesebro and Donald G. Bonsall, Computer-Mediated Communication: Human
Relationships in a Computerized World (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989).
One of Chesebro and Bonsall’s principal contentions is that “computerized communication
is altering human communication itself” (7).
Distance Education
§ Karen Swan, “Building Learning Communities in Online Courses: The Importance of
Interaction,” Education, Communication & Information 2, 1 (May 2002): 23-50.
§ Jennifer Waldeck, Patricia Kearney, and Timothy Plax explore e-mail messages between
educators and students in their article, “Teacher E-mail Message Strategies and Students’
Willingness to Communicate Online,” Journal of Applied Communication Research 29, 1
(February 2001): 54-70.
§ Paul L. Witt and Lawrence R. Wheeless, “Nonverbal Communication Expectancies about
Teachers and Enrollment Behavior in Distance Learning,” Communication Education 48, 2
(April 1999): 149-54.
§ For more on teacher immediacy in online classes, see:
o Lori J. Carrell and Kent E. Menzel, “Variations in Learning, Motivation, and Perceived
Immediacy between Live and Distance Education Classrooms,” Communication
Education 50, 3 (July 2001): 230-40.
o Roger N. Conaway, Susan S. Easton, & Wallace V. Schmidt, “Strategies for
Enhancing Student Interaction and Immediacy in Online Courses,” Business
Communication Quarterly 68, 1 (March 2005): 23-36.
o J.B. Arbaugh, “How Instructor Immediacy Behaviors Affect Student Satisfaction and
Learning in Web-based Courses,” Business Communication Quarterly 64, 4
(December 2001): 42-54.
128 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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131
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132
RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE
Key Names and Terms
John Stewart
A humanistic communication scholar from the University of Washington who has
applied the concept of the spiritual child to interpersonal communication.
Spiritual Child
A metaphor for an interpersonal relationship. A couple’s spiritual child is born as the
result of their coming together. Like a child, a relationship requires continual care and
nurture. Although, as Griffin mentions, Stewart applied the concept of the spiritual
child to interpersonal communication, Stewart credits Loraine Halfen Zephyr and John
Keltner with developing the term.
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
§
§
For further information on relational maintenance and related issues, see:
o Daniel J. Canary and Laura Stafford, Communication and Relational Maintenance
(San Diego: Academic Press, 1994);
o Steve Duck, “Talking Relationships into Being,” Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships 12 (1995): 535-40;
o Steve Duck, Meaningful Relationships: Talking, Sense, and Relating (Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994);
o Richard L. Conville, Evolution of Personal Relationships (New York: Praeger, 1991);
o Brian H. Spitzberg, The Dark Side of Close Relationships (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, 1998).
For discussion of feminist approaches to relationships, see Julia T. Wood, “Feminist
Scholarship and the Study of Relationships,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
12 (1995): 103-20.
For a study that connects relational communication to cognitive complexity (creating a
link to chapter 13), see Robert Martin, “Relational Cognition Complexity and Relational
Communication in Personal Relationships,” Communication Monographs 59 (1992): 15063.
For a thorough study of intimacy, see Karen J. Prager, The Psychology of Intimacy (New
York: Guilford, 1995).
A good recent general collection of essays on relationships is Richard L. Conville and L.
Edna Rogers’s The Meaning of “Relationship” in Interpersonal Communication (Westport,
CT: Praeger, 1998).
Films that feature relationships over time include
o The Coal Miner’s Daughter;
o Same Time Next Year;
o Scenes from a Marriage;
o Annie Hall;
o Love and Basketball
o Shadowlands; and
o Tender Mercies.
133 §
Other films relevant to this area of communication include The Big Chill and The Four
Seasons.
134 CHAPTER 11
RELATIONAL DIALECTICS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Leslie Baxter and Barbara Montgomery study the intimate communication of close
relationships.
B. They quickly rejected the idea of discovering scientific laws that order the experience
of friends and lovers.
C. They were struck by the conflicting tensions people face in relationships.
D. They believe that social life is a dynamic knot of contradictions.
1. Their theory on romantic relationships parallels work on friendship and family
systems.
2. The basic premise is that personal relationships are a ceaseless interplay
between contrary or opposing tendencies.
3. Relational dialectics highlight the tensions in close personal ties.
II.
The tug-a-war dialectics of close relationships.
A. Contradiction is a core concept of relational dialectics.
1. Contradiction refers to the dynamic interplay between unified oppositions.
2. Every personal relationship faces the tension between intimacy and
independence.
3. Paradoxically, bonding occurs in both interdependence with and independence
from the other.
B. Baxter and Montgomery draw heavily on Mikhail Bakhtin.
1. Bakhtin saw dialectical tension as the deep structure of all human experience.
2. Unlike Hegelian or Marxist dialectical theory, Bakhtin’s oppositions have no
ultimate resolution.
3. Dialectical tension provides opportunity for dialogue.
C. To avoid the anxiety Westerners experience with paradox, Baxter used terms such as
the tug-of-war in her research interviews.
D. Relational dialectics is not referring to being of two minds—the cognitive dilemma
within the head of an individual who is grappling with conflicting desires. Instead
she’s describing the contradictions that are located in the relationship between
parties.
E. Dialectical tension is the natural product of our conversations.
F. Baxter and Montgomery believe that these contradictions are inevitable and can be
constructive.
III.
Three dialectics within relationships.
A. Although other theories emphasize closeness, certainty, and openness, people also
seek autonomy, novelty, and privacy.
1. Conflicting forces in relationships aren’t reducible to either/or decisions.
135 2. Dialectical tensions exist within a relationship (internal) and between a couple
and their community (external).
3. There is no finite list of relational dialectics.
B. Integration and separation.
1. This tension is a primary strain in all relationships.
2. If one side prevails, the relationship loses.
3. Within their social network, this tension is felt as inclusion pulling against
seclusion.
C. Stability and change.
1. Baxter and Montgomery acknowledge the need for both interpersonal certainty
and novelty.
2. In the couple’s relationship with others, this dialectic takes the form of
conventionality versus uniqueness.
D. Expression and nonexpression.
1. The pressures of openness and closedness wax and wane like phases of the
moon.
2. A couple also faces the revelation and concealment dilemma of what to tell
others.
IV.
A second generation of relational dialectics: Emphasis on dialogue.
A. Baxter’s early emphasis with Montgomery was on contradictory forces inherent in all
relationships.
B. Baxter has increasingly focused on the relational implications of Mikhail Bakhtin’s
conception of dialogue.
C. Baxter highlights five dialogical strands within Bakhtin’s thought. Without dialogue,
there is no relationship.
1. Dialogue as a constitutive process.
a. This dialogical notion is akin to the core commitments of symbolic
interactionism and coordinated management of meaning in that
communication creates and sustains the relationship.
b. A constitutive approach suggests that communication creates and
sustains a relationship.
c. Differences are just as important as similarities and both are created and
evaluated through dialogue.
2. Dialogue as dialectical flux.
a. The contradictory forces are in an unpredictable, unfinalizable, and
indeterminate process of flux.
b. Rather than single binary contradictions, each relational force is in
tension with every other pole.
3. Dialogue as an aesthetic moment.
a. Dialogue can be “a momentary sense of unity through a profound respect
for the disparate voices in dialogue.”
b. A meaningful ritual can be an aesthetic moment for all participants
because it’s a joint performance of normally competing and contradictory
voices.
136
4. Dialogue as utterance.
a. An Utterance is only one of many communication links forming a dialogic
chain based on a minimum of two voices.
b. Baxter and Montgomery identify two typical strategies for responding to
both voices: Spiraling inversion (switching back and forth between
contrasting poles) and segmentation (compartmentalizing different
aspects of a relationship).
5. Dialogue as critical sensibility.
a. Dialogue is obligated to critique dominant, oppressive voices.
b. Baxter opposes any communication practice that ignores or gags
another’s voice.
V.
Critique: Meeting the criteria for a good interpretive theory?
A. Some scholars question whether relational dialectics should be considered a theory
at all as it lacks prediction and explanation, and does not offer any propositions.
B. Baxter and Montgomery agree and offer dialectics as a sensitizing theory.
C. Relational dialectics should be evaluated based on the interpretive standards.
Key Names and Terms
Leslie Baxter and Barbara Montgomery
Scholars from the University of Iowa and the University of New Hampshire, respectively,
who champion the relational dialectics approach to close relationships.
William Rawlins
A communication scholar at Ohio University who studies the communicative
predicaments of friendship.
Arthur Bochner
A communication scholar at the University of South Florida who focuses on the complex
contradictions within family systems.
Relational Dialectics
An approach to close relationships that emphasizes inherent, ongoing tensions,
struggles, and contradictions.
Contradiction
Ceaseless interplay between contrary or opposing tendencies.
Mikhail Bakhtin
A Russian intellectual who saw dialectical tension as the deep structure of all human
experience. Baxter and Montgomery draw heavily on his work.
Internal Dialectics
The ongoing tensions played out within a relationship, including integration-separation,
stability-change, and expression-nonexpression.
External Dialectics
The ongoing tensions between a couple and their community, including inclusionseclusion, conventionality-uniqueness, and revelation-concealment.
Aesthetic Moment
A momentary sense of unity through a profound respect for the disparate voice in
dialogue.
137
Spiraling Inversion
Dialectical conversational strategy of switching back and forth between contrasting
voices, responding first to one pull, then the other.
Segmentation
Dialectical conversational strategy of compartmentalizing by which partners isolate
different aspects of their relationship.
Principal Changes
This chapter, previously Chapter 11, has been significantly revised to include the second
generation of the theory that focuses on the meaning of dialogue and dialectics described as
creations of communication rather than motives. In addition, Griffin has updated the Second
Look section and an interview with Leslie Baxter has been added to “Conversations with
Communication Theorists.”
Suggestions for Discussion
Accepting the messiness of relationships
So many college students come to the communication major clinging stubbornly to the
romantic notion that the perfect relationship lies just around the corner; once it has been
discovered, all contradictions and tensions will melt away in an ocean of bliss. The secret to
success is finding one’s spiritual double, or someone so close to that mythic entity that
differences can be “worked out” through a few late-night, heart-to-heart talks. For such
students, Baxter and Montgomery’s approach to communication in close relationships is both
disappointing and liberating. Disappointment comes when students realize that in the wake of
dialectical difficulties, “happily ever after” is an unlikely possibility. On the other hand,
liberation can follow when students come to understand that there’s nothing particularly wrong
with them, their parents, or the relational struggles they’ve witnessed and experienced in their
lives. Griffin makes a similar point on page 171 as he discusses “a new understanding of
people.”
More than anything else, this theory frees individuals to accept who they are in relation
with others. Furthermore, like the “sadder but wiser girl” wooed by Harry Hill in the musical The
Music Man, they’ll find that their knowledge and acceptance of the messiness of intimacy
actually increases, rather than diminishes, their chances for ultimate happiness in human
relationships. Ultimately, Heraclitus’ maxim that “All is flux, nothing stays still” should not be a
statement of despair, but an acknowledgment of a rich reality.
Tensions present in all relationships
Don’t let your students attribute the presence of irresolvable tensions in James and
Sarah’s relationship to her status as a nonhearing person. As Griffin writes, “the tensions they
face are common to all personal relationships” (161). Incidentally, students familiar with deaf
culture may question the assumptions on which the film Children of a Lesser God is based,
premises that are reiterated in Griffin’s discussion of the film. Many deaf people do not
compare their world to that of hearing people (and thus would not use words such as “silent”
or “muted”) and do not feel they are compromised if they do not speak or lip-read.
138
Managing tensions without resolution
For those of your students familiar with Marxism and its derivatives, be sure to reiterate
Griffin’s point that, unlike dialectical materialism, this theory does not emphasize synthesis or
ultimate resolution (162). For better or for worse, Baxter and Montgomery’s tensions are
ongoing. For many students, this is a troublesome part of the theory and one they are reluctant
to accept. You might find it useful to discuss the coping strategies which are no longer
included in Griffin’s chapter. The rather abstract theory may appear more graspable through
the analysis of how tensions might be coped with in various relationships. Baxter reviews these
points in her article, “Dialectical Contradictions in Relationship Development,” Journal of Social
& Personal Relationships 7, 1 (1990): 69-88.
Genuine gender differences or perpetuating stereotypical assumptions?
As you discuss dialectical tensions with your class, you may wish to float the hypothesis
that gender may play some role in relational struggles over dichotomies such as
connectedness-separateness and openness-closedness. As we’ll discover in Griffin’s treatment
of Deborah Tannen’s work in Chapter 33, some scholars believe that there are typical
masculine and feminine responses to several basic relational tugs and pulls. Anticipating
Tannen’s work, you can speculate about the theoretical value of casting dialectics in terms of
gender. Does it help us to explain the way men and women act, or does it simply perpetuate
stereotypes about them? Introducing gender into the equation may reveal much more about
the way we think men and women should behave than the way they really do, but knowledge of
such expectations can be extremely important. Are, for example, women reticent to express the
desire for separateness because they are told they should prefer connectedness? Such
questions are very intriguing and may be worthy of class time.
A communication theory
As Griffin emphasizes on page 162, Baxter argues that the tensions prevalent in
relational dialectics are not intrapersonal or intrinsic to people, but interpersonal, brought into
being through communication. The point is driven home in the discussion of “dialogue as a
constitutive process” (167-68). This distinction is crucial, since it qualifies relational dialectics
as a homespun theory of communication, rather than import from a field such as psychology.
Given Berger’s comments about the “intellectual trade deficit” (139), it is no wonder that
communication theorists are concerned—perhaps overly so—about theoretical turf.
The tensions of friendship and other relationships
Griffin mentions the work of William Rawlins, who studies the communicative dialectics
of friendship. His book-length study, Friendship Matters (mentioned in the Second Look
section of the text), is eclectic, highly readable, and full of ideas and examples for class
discussion. The fundamental dialectical tensions featured by Rawlins augment those
emphasized by Baxter and Montgomery. When we teach this chapter, therefore, we share with
students a brief summary of Rawlins’s findings in order to suggest that dialectical tensions are
numerous and pervasive in all the relationships of our lives. As noted in the “Further
Resources” section below, dialectical research has pushed far beyond only examining romantic
relationships. Your students might be interested in discussing what tensions they believe
would be found in other relationships.
139
Carnivalesque
The carnivalesque is a particularly intriguing concept that has attracted considerable
attention in the academy—particularly in literary study, rhetoric, and philosophy—in the last
twenty years. In historical terms, carnivals—beginning with feasts that took place before the
commencement of the Lenten fast—were settings in which social hierarchy and conventional
roles were obscured and subverted through humor, masquerade, costume, dance, revelry, and
other means of confusing traditional class and gender distinctions.
Reviewing other theories
Item #2 of the textbook’s Questions to Sharpen Your Focus section is an excellent
vehicle for review and may be particularly useful if an exam is looming. If item #3 stimulates
productive student response, then you may wish to consider using Essay Question #25.
The previous chapter on social information processing discusses the possibility of
relationship development through CMC. But, from a dialectical perspective, SIP doesn’t
address the competing needs for being known and being mysterious. Ask students how these
conflicting desires might be both served and hindered by a computer-mediated relationship.
Critiquing the theory
Item #4 under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook can be used to launch
a revealing discussion of the potential difficulties and ambiguities of survey research. When
Em Griffin teaches this chapter, in fact, he asks his students to respond to the question with
respect to three relationships: a good friend, a romantic partner (real or imagined), and a
family member. In the Second Edition of the book, Griffin included the sample question in the
text of the chapter itself. He went on to discuss explicitly how a midscale response could be
interpreted as noncommittal or wishy-washy, when in fact it could really indicate a penchant
for both ends of the continuum. He concludes that unless such questions provide the option of
multiple responses, dialectical tensions will be masked. By removing this analysis from the text
and moving the scale into the questions, Griffin compels the students to think through this
intriguing issue on their own.
As you discuss the Critique section of this chapter with your class, you may wish to
entertain the possibility that this approach to relational communication may be overly broad. If
dialectical tension becomes the cause of all relational challenges, then what, specifically, have
we really learned? Another way to approach the issue is to ask your class how they could falsify
the theory—or, in Baxter and Montgomery’s own terms, the metatheoretical perspective.
Also with respect to the Critique section, you may wish to focus some attention on
Griffin’s treatment of the “aesthetic appeal” of the theory. Although it’s easy to focus on the
inherent messiness of it all, it could be argued that the dialectical form—with its ever-present
oppositions and contrasts—has an intrinsic beauty all its own. This is certainly the case with
Taoist representations of a similar sort of dialectic, the relationship between yin and yang.
Finally, is it realistic to view communication as the primary force behind all dialectical
phenomena, when in fact some pushes and pulls seem to exist prior to relational talk? And
here, of course, we are back to the intellectual trade deficit issue raised earlier!
140
Sample Application Log
Glinda
In discussing the ways in which couples deal with their various conflicting needs, Baxter
overlooked one that has come into play (dare I say) constantly in my romances. I will name it
inverse response cyclical alteration (Irca). Irca means that each partner switches from one pole
to the other, and their position is inversely correlated to the direction that the other is pulling at
that moment. This sounds like it would create unbearable tension, but actually has the effect
of balancing out both extremes. When I am being predictable, my boyfriend will do something
completely unexpected. Then, when I’m acting completely out of character, he will slow me
down with his desire for predictability. And when all I want is to be alone, his desire for
independence will save us from over-indulgent self-destruction. So I will likely respond with my
own surge of independence; but as I pull away, my boyfriend will suddenly seem to take every
opportunity for connection. The Irca seems to keep a relationship balanced, ever changing, yet
progressing at a slow and steady pace.
Exercises and Activities
Coping strategies
If you’d like the opportunity to test out the strategies with your students in more
concrete terms, consider something like the following scenario:
Shelley and Jim have been dating very seriously for about six months. From the
beginning of the relationship, Jim has known that Shelley has kept a private diary that
she has never shown anyone. At first, he wasn’t too interested in this activity, but as
they have drawn closer, he has become intrigued by her personal writings. Yet
whenever he asks if she would share her prose with him, she responds that she needs
a secret place to work out her thoughts and emotions. In conversation, she never holds
back from him, freely self-disclosing about herself and their relationship, but the diary
remains all her own, and Jim is perplexed, even disturbed by this. The more interest he
shows in her private writings, the more adamant about her privacy she becomes. What
should they do?
Media and literary portrayals of the dialectical tensions
An excellent example of dialectics, particularly connection-separation, occurred on
during the seventh season of Seinfeld in an episode entitled, “The Pool Guy” (#112). In it, the
tension between independent George and relationship George comes to light when, to his
horror, Elaine invites his fiancée Susan to an art exposition, creating his separate worlds “to
collide.” The segment works exceptionally well as many students are familiar with the
television show and can relate to George’s desire to keep his worlds apart. A lively discussion
usually ensues when students are asked if this technique for managing one’s tensions, a form
of segmentation, would “really work.”
For an interesting portrayal of the connectedness-separateness and certaintyuncertainty dialectics, see Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which is available on video. To
141
illustrate the certainty-uncertainty dialectic, Steve Hillis of Asbury College uses the popular film
The Mirror Has Two Faces. In particular, he focuses on the scene in which the husband, who
has been in Paris for some time, returns to find that his wife has made significant changes in
her life and appearance. An instructive argument ensues about his expectations for
predictability and her need for change.
Further Resources
Other relevant essays by Baxter
§ “A Tale of Two Voices: Relational Dialectics Theory,” Journal of Family Communication, 4,
3/4 (2004): 181-93.
§ “Relationships as Dialogues,” Personal Relationships 11, 1 (2004): 1-22.
§ “A Dialogic Approach to Relationship Maintenance,” Communication and Relational
Maintenance, ed. D.J. Canary and L.S. Stafford (San Diego: Academic Press, 1994), 25773.
§ “Dialectical Contradictions in Relationship Development,” Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships 7 (1990): 69-88.
§ “The Social Side of Personal Relationships: A Dialectical Perspective,” Social Context
and Relationships (Understanding Relational Processes 3), ed. Steve Duck (Newbury
Park, CA: Sage, 1993), 139-65.
State-of-the-art research
§ Erin M. Sahlstein, “Relating at a Distance: Negotiating Being Together and Being Apart in
Long-Distance Relationships,” Journal of Social & Personal Relationships 21, 5 (2004):
689-710.
§ L.A. Baxter, Dawn O. Braithwaite, and Leah Bryant, “Stepchildren’s Perceptions of the
Contradictions in Communication with Stepparents,” Journal of Social & Personal
Relationships 21, 4 (2004): 447-67.
§ Angela Hoppe-Nagao and Stella Ting-Toomey, “Relational Dialectics and Management
Strategies in Marital Couples,” Southern Communication Journal 67 (Winter 2002): 14259.
§ Dawn O. Braithwaite and Leslie Baxter, “‘I Do’ Again: The Relational Dialectics of
Renewing Marital Vows,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 12 (1995): 17798.
§ Carol Masheter, “Dialogues between Ex-Spouses: Evidence of Dialectical Relationship
Development,” in Uses of “STRUCTURE” in Communication Studies, ed. Richard L.
Conville (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 83-101.
Literary examples
§ If you enjoy using literature in your classroom,
o I highly recommend selections from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The poems entitled
“On Marriage” and “On Love” are particularly relevant to the connectednessseparateness dichotomy.
142
o Although less well known, Denise Levertov’s poem “About Marriage,” in O Taste and
See (New York: New Directions, 1962), artfully lends a woman’s perspective to
Gibran’s themes.
o Eudora Welty’s pensive, subtle story “The Bride of Innisfallen,” which can be found
in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (New York: Harcourt, 1982), 495-518,
poignantly captures a young woman’s struggles with the openness-closedness and
connectedness-separateness dichotomies.
o For your male students in particular, we recommend Patrick O’Brian’s extensive
series of sea novels, which features the extroverted, passionate, practical Captain
Jack Aubrey and the introverted, cerebral, scientifically minded Stephen Maturin,
naval surgeon, naturalist, and secret agent. Aubrey and Maturin’s complex, often
tense, always vibrant friendship, which is developed and nurtured in vividly recorded
dialogue, illustrates many dialectical elements and demonstrates that long-term
close relationships embodying Baxter and Montgomery’s approach need not be
romantic or familial. The first novel in the series is Master and Commander, which is
also the title of a popular film based on the series.
143 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
144
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
145
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
146
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
147
CHAPTER 12
THE INTERACTIONAL VIEW
Outline
I.
The family as a system.
A. Paul Watzlawick believes that individuals must be understood within the context of
the family system.
B. He was a member of the Palo Alto Group, which draws inspiration from Gregory
Bateson.
1. They reject the idea that individual motives and personality traits determine the
nature of communication within a family.
2. They are less concerned about why a person acts in a certain way than how that
behavior affects the group.
C. Relationships are complex functions resembling equations linking multiple variables.
D. Along with his colleagues Janet Beavin and Don Jackson, Watzlawick presents key
axioms describing the tentative calculus of human communication.
1. The axioms comprise the rules of the game.
2. Games are sequences of behavior governed by rules.
3. Each family plays a one-of-a-kind game with homemade rules and creates its
own reality.
II.
Axioms of interpersonal communication.
A. Family homeostasis is the tacit collusion of family members to maintain the status
quo.
B. The only way to recognize this destructive resistance to change is to understand the
axioms.
C. One cannot not communicate.
1. Communication is inevitable.
2. Corollary: one cannot not influence.
D. Communication = content + relationship.
1. Every communication has a content and a relationship aspect such that the
latter classifies the former.
2. Content is what is said.
3. Relationship is how it is said.
4. Metacommunication is communication about communication.
5. Relationship messages are always the most important element in any
communication, but when a family is in trouble, metacommunication dominates.
6. Sick family relationships only get better when members are willing to engage in
metacommunication.
E. The nature of a relationship depends on how both parties punctuate the
communication sequence.
1. Punctuation concerns how a person marks the beginning of an interpersonal
interaction.
148 2. Punctuation becomes a problem when each person sees himself or herself as
only reacting to, rather than provoking, a cyclical conflict.
F. All communication is either symmetrical or complementary.
1. The interactional view emphasizes issues of control, status, and power.
2. Symmetrical interchange is based on equal power, whereas complementary
communication is based on differences of power.
3. Healthy relationships include both kinds of communication.
4. Relationships can only be assessed through an exchange of at least two
messages.
5. Edna Rogers and Richard Farace’s coding system categorizes control in ongoing
marital interaction.
a. One-up communication seeks to control the exchange.
b. One-down communication yields control.
c. One-across communication neutralizes control.
d. Bids for dominance do not necessarily result in control of the interaction.
III.
Trapped in a system with no place to go.
A. Family systems are highly resistant to change.
B. Double binds are contradictory demands on members of the system.
C. The paradox of the double bind is that the high-status party in a complementary
relationship insists that the low-status person act as if the relationship were
symmetrical.
IV.
Reframing: changing the game by changing the rules.
A. Destructive rules can be changed only when members analyze them from outside
the system.
B. Reframing is the process of altering punctuation and looking at things in a new light.
C. Accepting a new frame means rejecting the old one.
D. Adapting a new interpretive frame usually requires outside help.
V.
Critique: adjustments needed within the system.
A. Recently, Janet Beavin Bavelas recommended modifying some axioms of the theory.
1. Not all nonverbal behavior is communication. In the absence of a senderreceiver relationship and the intentional use of a shared code, nonverbal
behavior is informative rather than communicative.
2. A “whole message model” integrates verbal and nonverbal communication.
3. The term metacommunication should be reserved for explicit communication
about the process of communicating, not all communication about a
relationship.
B. Systems theories involving people are difficult to evaluate because of equifinality—a
given behavioral outcome could be caused by various interconnected factors.
C. Despite these problems, the interactional view has had a terrific impact on the field
of interpersonal communication.
149
Key Names and Terms
Gregory Bateson
A prominent anthropologist who inspired the Palo Alto Group.
Palo Alto Group
A group of theorists committed to the study of interpersonal interaction as part of an
entire system.
Paul Watzlawick
A prominent member of the Palo Alto Group, coauthor of Pragmatics of Human
Communication, and champion of the interactional view of family communication.
Janet Beavin Bavelas
A researcher at the University of Victoria who coauthored Pragmatics of Human
Communication and published important modifications of the interactional view in
1992.
Don Jackson
A coauthor of Pragmatics of Human Communication.
Pragmatics of Human Communication
Coauthored by Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson in 1967, this book marked the
beginning of widespread study of the way communicative patterns sustain or destroy
relationships.
Game
A sequence of behavior governed by rules.
Family Homeostasis
The tacit collusion of family members to maintain the status quo.
Symptom Strategy
A ploy by which one seeks to avoid communication by attributing his or her inability to
talk to outside forces.
Metacommunication
Communication about communication, sometimes referred to as communication about
relationships.
Punctuation
The way in which a person marks the beginning of an interpersonal interaction.
Symmetrical Communication
Interchange based on equal power.
Complementary Communication
Interchange based on accepted differences in power.
One-Up Communication
Interchange that seeks to control the exchange.
One-Down Communication
Interchange that yields control of the exchange.
One-Across Communication
Interchange that neutralizes control of the exchange.
Transitory Communication
An interaction that includes one one-across message and one one-up or one-down
message.
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Edna Rogers and Richard Farace
While at Michigan State University, these communication researchers developed a
coding system for categorizing control in ongoing marital interaction.
Double Bind
A set of mutually exclusive expectations between parties that places the low-status
person in a no-win situation.
Reframing
The process of stepping outside the current perspective and giving new meaning to the
same situation.
Equifinality
A systems-theory assumption that a given outcome could have been effectively caused
by any or many interconnected factors.
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 12, Griffin’s treatment remains essentially the same. The chapter
has been edited for clarity and precision.
Suggestions for Discussion
Applying the theory to one’s own family
College students, who are in the midst of the process of breaking many of the formal
bonds that link them to their families, are keenly aware of problems with communication that
distinguish these complex systems, and thus this chapter may have special resonance for
them. To give students license to speak about their own situations, remind them that the
phrase “dysfunctional family” is redundant. It’s also important for students to understand at
the outset that although the family is the explicit subject of this chapter, much of the
theoretical material presented in the interactional view applies well to romantic relationships,
friendships, and interpersonal interactions on the job.
Effects, not causes
One point of contention for many students is the focus on the effects of the family
system on communication, but with no accompanying examination of the causes of the
family’s unhealthy condition. Watzlawick and his co-authors were committed to this approach,
and indeed it is reflected in the title of their book, The Pragmatics of Human Communication.
In the introduction, the focus of the book is described as, “the pragmatic (behavioral) effects of
human communication, with special attention to behavioral disorders” (p. 13). How might this
alter one’s perspective—if the underlying problem is not the subject matter, but the outward
signs? To drive this point home, you might consider reading directly from The Pragmatics of
Human Communication:
The impossibility of seeing the mind “at work” has in recent years led to the adoption of
the Black Box concept from the field of telecommunication. Applied originally to certain
types of captured enemy electronic equipment that could not be opened for study
because of the possibility of destruction charges inside, the concept is more generally
applied to the fact that electronic hardware is by now so complex that it is sometimes
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more expedient to disregard the internal structure of the device and concentrate on the
study of its specific input-output relations. While it is true that these relations may
permit inferences into what “really” goes on inside the box, this knowledge is not
essential for the study of the function of the device in the greater system of which it is a
part. (pp. 43-44, italics original)
If seen in this light, the possible or hypothetical causes of behavior assume a secondary
importance, but the effect of the behavior emerges as a criterion of prime significance
in the interaction of closely related individuals… In general, we feel that a symptom is a
piece of behavior that has profound effects on influencing the surroundings of the
patient. A rule of thumb can be stated in this connection: where the why? of a piece of
behavior remains obscure, the question what for? can still supply a valid answer. (p. 45,
italics original)
These two passages often lead to very interesting discussion matter for students, who
tend to be immersed in a system where the cause trumps the effect in terms of importance.
But in the case of families, taking the system apart is often an impossibility and discovery of
root causes an improbability. By assuming Watzlawick, et al.’s Black Box approach, valuable
information can be obtained without dismantling the system.
Metacommunication
In this discussion of the axiom that “communication = content + relationship,” Griffin
notes Watzlawick’s assertion that when a family is in trouble, metacommunication dominates
the discussion. We would be curious to know if your students confirm this claim, particularly
since the ability to discuss patterns of communication is essential to curing an unhealthy
family system. Has metacommunication solved problems in their families? It’s also interesting
to note that the concept of metacommunication is very similar to Deborah Tannen’s notion of
the “metamessage,” which accounts for the relational context of the words spoken in
discussion. For Tannen, of course, men and women respond differently to metamessages, an
issue not explicitly raised in the interactional view. If you’d like to begin anticipating Tannen’s
work (featured in Chapter 33), then you may wish to raise issues of gender tentatively here.
One-across messages
Due to space considerations, Griffin has not provided very much explanation of the oneacross message, which—according to Rogers and Farace—is a neutralizing or control-leveling
utterance that carries the interaction along with a minimized effort at controlling the
relationship (181). They view the one-across message as an assertion of extension that
continues the flow or theme of the proceeding message. In addition, a noncommittal response
to a question (for example, “I don’t know”) would also be classified as a one-across response.
You may wish to discuss these messages more fully in class.
Reframing
Reframing is a difficult concept for many students to understand. To help them, we
liken this “aha” experience to a well-known historical shift in paradigm. Our view of the solar
system is much enhanced when we realize that the sun, rather than the earth, is its center. We
also refer to reframing as “getting out of the fishbowl,” since the whole point is to remove
yourself from the system long enough to view it objectively. Reframing is most likely closely
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linked with perspective taking, a fundamental communication skill that may be introduced in
other communication courses in your program such as interpersonal communication. In
addition, perspective taking is central to the next chapter on constructivism. It important to
note that reframing may take place with distance in time and space. For example, students
may experience reframing when they go away to college. Having thought through the complex
family dynamics that are now removed from their daily lives, they may find that—for better and
for worse—they “can’t go home again.” They may find this process a fruitful topic for
discussion. Em Griffin elucidates the concept of reframing with the example of the perennially
controversial Senator (former First Lady) Hillary Rodham Clinton. He asks his students to
discuss how changes in punctuation can allow her to be reframed positively or negatively. The
same can be done with her husband’s successor, President George W. Bush.
Sample Application Log
Matthew
My family could be a perfect model for this theory. As of a year ago, my father has developed a
mental disorder that has truly affected every member of our family, not just him. He is the one
with the “problem,” however, the rest of the family perpetuated this problem until we learned
to reframe the situation. My mother was truly the “enabler” of the family, always providing the
back door out for my dad. My brothers and I often had fiery tempers whenever certain subjects
pertaining to his disorder would arise. Our resistance to even broach the topic kept everything
nicely swept under the rug. It wasn’t until half of my family sought counseling that we had the
nerve to approach my dad and exercise “tough love” by no longer allowing his disorder to rule
our lives. As the book said, “I can change myself. Others I can only love.” My response to my
father changed when I realized that I could not make him well, I could only place my love for
him in a different picture frame. It may not be a pretty picture frame, but it’s functional, and
contains my love for him in a way that no other picture frame does.
Exercises and Activities
Dear Abby: In need of advice
Under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook, #4 can be extremely effective,
particularly since the letters featured in these columns are written by interested parties within
family systems and thus usually reveal the subjective perspective of an ardent punctuator. It
can also be instructive to discuss with students the fact that, in many cases, the responses
from the columnists fail to take the intricate family systems into account. So often, the advice
offered by the “expert” simply perpetuates the letter writer’s punctuation without helping him
or her to reframe, to see the system from the outside. If you or your students are more in tune
with the electronic media, then examples from radio therapists or television talk shows may
serve you well. The popular radio therapist “Dr. Laura,” for example, produces simplistic, glib
advice that usually misses the significance of families as systems. You may also wish to
discuss how the view of families (and other groups) as systems contrasts with the more
individually oriented assumptions of uncertainty reduction theory and social penetration theory
(see also Integrative Essay Question #29 below).
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Reframing: A narrative exercise
College teachers and academic advisors often hear versions of the following story from
students, particularly those in their first year away from home. It is, we believe, a good
illustration of key tenets of the interactional view to which students can readily relate:
I enjoyed seeing my old high school friends over the winter break, but my parents really
got on my nerves. They nagged me to come in early in the evenings, and they saw to it
that sleeping-in was impossible. I had to eat on their schedule. My mother’s having a
real problem letting go of mothering me—she still treats me like I’m ten. When I protest
she says, “You have to understand that you’ll always be my precious little child.” For
some reason, that bothers me, and I stomp around and say something like “I’m an
adult, so treat me like one!” or “As my mother, you ought to understand that I need my
autonomy!” Then she gets huffy and claims that my manner and tone of voice are
unpleasant. Or she’ll say, “I don’t like your body language.” I wish she’d focus on what
I’m saying instead of getting off on tangents. One time she said to me, “You just hurt my
feelings,” but I hadn’t even said anything! My father’s obsessed with my smoking. He
claims that the secondhand smoke bothers him, but it really bothers me that he never
complains when his buddies smoke in his presence. He’s also been riding me because I
changed my major from premed to communication. He says, “I wish you’d go back to
being premed—not for me, but for your own future.” From my first day at home, I tried to
be assertive about my needs and values and have done my best not to back down, but
they just don’t seem to appreciate my efforts to be my own person. There’s not much
giving in around the house. I wish they would let go. And my little sister is acting
strange. My parents claim that she was an angel all fall, but when I arrived home I
quickly saw that this couldn’t have been the case. The whole time I was there, she was
getting into trouble right and left, continually requiring my parents to drop whatever they
were doing—especially when it was something with me—to deal with her crises. Just
when Dad and I were about to leave to attend a concert I’d been looking forward to for
days, she announces that she thinks she’s pregnant. Of course that brings down the
house, and the concert is forgotten. And of course she isn’t pregnant. Later, when I
called her on it, she told me that I was the one who was out of line. She complains
about my yelling, and the way I talk to her. Can you believe that? I told her, “You ought
to take my advice because I’m older than you!” She shoots back, “You ought to leave
me alone because you don’t really live here anymore!” Honestly, I love my family, but
they’re nuts, and they drive me crazy. I’m sure glad to be back at school. Now if I could
just get my roommate to listen to reason . . . .
After your students have read or heard this narrative (or one like it that you have supplied or
one they create about their own college experience), discuss the key theoretical issues it
raises. How can they help the storyteller to understand the dynamics of his or her family from a
vantage point outside the system? How can this new perspective lead to reframing? The point,
of course, is not to vilify the student or particular members of the family, but to understand the
complex system in which they interact. Depending on your interests and the viewing habits of
students, examples of families in soap operas, dramas, and situation comedies can also serve
to enliven the interactional view.
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Punctuation
Under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook, #2 is thought-provoking,
although in these times many of our students view the cold war as ancient history. If you or
your students enjoy talking about politics, an interactional perspective on nuclear stockpiling
may be augmented by a more specific discussion of U.S.-Soviet relations in the 1960s. The
dramatic reactions and counterreactions that characterized the controversial rise of Castro,
the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis can help
students to see how adversaries punctuate in order to define provocation and reaction to their
own advantage. More recently, political statements involving the Persian Gulf War, the IsraeliArab conflict (which Em Griffin particularly likes to use), the Irish conflict, the Bosnian civil war,
the crisis in Kosovo, and the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have all exhibited the
tragic consequences of punctuation. Peace negotiators, the family therapists of global politics,
have worked with varying success to help world leaders step outside the systems of national
and ethnic conflict to reframe. You might ask your students how al Qaeda terrorists might
punctuate September 11.
The double bind
If students have difficulty coming up with responses to #3 under the textbook’s
Questions to Sharpen Your Focus, remind them of this notorious professorial request: “Tell me
what you really think of this exam/course/assignment?” That should get them going!
Media portrayals
Interesting films featuring complex, dynamic family systems include When a Man Loves
a Woman, Eat Drink Man Woman, and A River Runs through It. When a Man Loves a Woman
features a family wracked by alcoholism. As the wife/mother, played by Meg Ryan, slips deeper
and deeper into drinking, other members of the family system alter their behavior to adjust to
her condition. A particularly good moment illustrating the dynamic nature of the system is the
two-minute breakfast scene that takes place 28 1/2 minutes into the film. It’s also important
to note that even after the wife/mother has ceased to drink, other members of the family
continue to exhibit the patterns of behavior that began when she was heavily dependent on
alcohol. To improve the family system, everyone must reframe. Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of
Virginia Woolf? showcases a dysfunctional couple who stage—among other things—a clinic on
one-up communication. In fact, the play is the central feature in the fifth chapter of The
Pragmatics of Human Communication. For historians, A Lion in Winter features the tortured
communication of one of medieval England’s most famous—and most dysfunctional— families.
Family dysfunction
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he commissions a volunteer troupe of student
actors to stage a brief improvised play featuring a family in which the system is out of balance.
Such dramas—when carefully debriefed in class—bring light and levity to Watzlawick’s
systematic machinery. Griffin also uses these lyrics (sung to the tune of “Rudolph the RedNosed Reindeer”) to illustrate the interrelatedness of family dysfunction:
I am the Great Enabler
There is nothing I wouldn’t do
To make sure my kids are happy,
Even though they’re chugging brew.
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Tough love is so disturbing;
On setting limits I’m not keen.
What if my friends and family
Look at me and think I’m mean?
Life is best when I detach—
Let my children feel
The consequences of their acts—
Choices in world that’s real.
But I’m the Great Enabler,
Crazy, but I just don’t see,
Faced with my codependence,
My kid could soon be history.
Further Resources
§ We highly recommend Janet Yerby, Nancy Buerkel-Rothfuss, and Arthur P. Bochner’s
excellent textbook, Understanding Family Communication, 2nd ed. (Scottsdale: Gorsuch
Scarisbrick, 1995), which is largely based on the interactional approach championed by
Watzlawick and his associates. The book is filled with useful examples and case studies,
and it provides in-depth discussion, elaboration, and extension of the basic principles set
forth by Griffin in this chapter. It is also a good source for further discussion and
examples of social constructionism and relational dialectics.
§ For more reading on the controversial axiom “one cannot not communicate,” see the
exchange among Michael Motley, Janet Beavin Bavelas, and Wayne Beach, Western
Journal of Speech Communication 54 (1990): 1-20, 593-623.
§ James Price Dillard, et al. discuss recent developments in relational communication (as
opposed to content) in “Structuring the Concept of Relational Communication,”
Communication Monographs 66 (March 1999): 49-65.
Literary sources
§ If you enjoy using literature to illustrate theory, I heartily recommend Eudora Welty’s
humorous short story, “Why I Live at the P.O,” which can be found in The Collected
Stories of Eudora Welty, 46-56, and numerous literary anthologies. The storyteller’s
intriguingly punctuated version of her family’s behavior constitutes a wonderful example
of dysfunctional communication.
§ For collections of stories about families, see Barbara H. Solomon, American Families: 28
Short Stories (New York: Penguin, 1989); Geri Giebel Chavis, Family: Stories from the
Interior (St. Paul: Graywolf, 1987).
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Feature films
§ There is an abundance of feature-length films that highlight families and can be used as
fitting examples of the interactional view. Some favorites include Pieces of April, My Big
Fat Greek Wedding, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and Mi Familia (My Family).
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Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
158
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
159
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
160
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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COGNITIVE PROCESSING
Key Names and Terms
Information Processing
An academic field of study that examines systematic similarities and differences
between mental input and output and develops models of mental structures and
processes.
Structure
Akin to computer equipment, structure refers to the mental hardware.
Process
Akin to computer software, process refers to the mind’s programming tools.
Sensory Input
Raw material taken in by the brain that is then subject to filtering and sorting.
Central Processing
Mental process of applying meaning to sensory inputs.
Information Storage
The classification and retention of information into long-term or short-term memory.
Information Retrieval
Recalling memories, facts, and information from the brain’s long-term memory.
Utilization
Response in both actions and thought to retrieved information.
162 CHAPTER 13
CONSTRUCTIVISM
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Led by Jesse Delia, constructivists view one’s implicit theory of communication as a
tool for aligning one’s culture, cognition, and communication.
B. Constructivists use Walter Crockett’s role category questionnaire (RCQ) to “get inside
your head.”
II.
Personal constructs as evidence of cognitive complexity.
A. The core assumption of constructivism is that persons make sense of the world
through systems of personal constructs.
B. The RCQ is designed to sample these constructs.
1. Constructs are contrasting features we use to classify other people.
2. The RCQ centers on the categories of personality and action that we use to
define the character of another person.
C. The RCQ is used to measure the respondent’s degree of cognitive complexity.
1. People with a large set of personal constructs have better social perception
skills than those with less constructs.
2. Researchers are more concerned with the structure of the constructs than with
the content of judgments.
3. Cognitive complexity allows us to make distinctions that are more sophisticated
than binary classifications.
III.
Scoring the RCQ for construct differentiation.
A. Differentiation concerns the number of separate personality constructs used to
portray the person in question.
B. Delia makes a good case for the RCQ’s validity.
C. Research has established that RCQ scores are independent of IQ, empathy, writing
skill, and extroversion.
D. Some critics charge that the RCQ simply measures wordiness.
E. Constructivists believe that cognitive complexity enhances communication.
IV.
Person-centered messages: the interpersonal edge.
A. Delia and his colleagues claim that people who are cognitively complex have a
communication advantage over those with less developed mental contructs.
B. Person-centered messages reflect an awareness of and adaptations to subjective,
affective, and relational aspects of the communication contexts.
C. Ruth Ann Clark and Delia’s study of schoolchildren links person-centered messages
to cognitive complexity.
D. Constructivists assume that strategic adaptation is a developmentally nurtured skill,
but not all differences in construct differentiation are due to age.
163 E. The capacity to create person-centered messages relates to rhetorical sensitivity,
taking the role of the other, identification, self-monitoring, audience awareness, and
listener adaptation.
F. Cognitive complexity is a “necessary but not sufficient condition” of person-centered
messages.
V.
Message production: Crafting goal-based plans for action.
A. Models of message production can be used to tie cognitive structures to speech
acts.
B. Berger’s model of goal-directed, hierarchical plans is one such model.
C. James Dillard’s goals-plans-action model can also be used to explain the link
between cognitive complexity and message production.
1. Goals—what do you want to accomplish?
a. Primary goals set into motion an ensemble of lower-level cognitive processes
that occur in parallel and align with the overall aim of the primary goal.
b. Secondary goals are of less importance than and often in conflict with
primary goals.
c. People with higher levels of cognitive complexity develop more complex goals
for many social situations.
2. Plans-—how to accomplish the goals.
a. Procedural records are long-term memory recollections of actions taken in a
specific situation paired with their consequences.
b. Dillard suggests that we first look for tried-and-true plans to achieve our
goals.
c. Plan-making usually takes place very quickly and below our level of
consciousness.
3. Action—communicating skillfully
a. The communication context can be used as a resource by a cognitively
complex individual.
b. Women use more person-centered messages and score higher on the RCQ
than men.
VI.
Beneficial effects of sophisticated communication.
A. Brant Burleson demonstrates that sophisticated messages are more comforting than
clumsy attempts at social support.
B. Burleson and Wendy Samter suggest that the degree of similarity in communicative
skill may be more important than sophisticated communication for maintaining close
friendships.
C. Beverly Sypher and Theodore Zorn suggest that cognitive complexity enhances
organizational effectiveness.
VII. Socializing a new generation of sophisticated speakers.
A. Constructivist researchers show that cognitive complexity is transmitted culturally
from parent to child.
B. Because sophisticated messages are more often the product of parents from
advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, advantage is self-perpetuating.
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VIII. Critique: second thoughts about cognitive complexity.
A. Constructivists’ total reliance on the RCQ is problematic.
B. Constructivists are open to the charge of elitism unless they champion the
development of cognitive complexity across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Key Names and Terms
Jesse Delia
A communication scholar and acting provost from the University of Illinois who has
played a leading role in developing the theory of constructivism.
Constructivism
A communication theory based on the assumption that persons make sense of the
world through systems of personal constructs.
Walter Crockett
A scholar from the University of Kansas who created the role category questionnaire.
Role Category Questionnaire (RCQ)
A free-response instrument used by constructivists to measure a person’s cognitive
complexity in interpersonal communication.
Cognitive Complexity
A sophisticated set of mental constructs that enables a person to distinguish subtle
differences among people.
Construct
The cognitive template or stencil we fit over social reality to order our impressions of
people.
Differentiation
A component of cognitive complexity measured by the number of separate personality
constructs used to describe someone on the RCQ.
Person-Centered Messages
Sophisticated communication that reflects an awareness of and adaptations to
subjective, affective, and relational aspects of the communication contexts. Causally
linked to cognitive complexity, person-centered messages are better able to accomplish
multiple goals.
Ruth Ann Clark
A communication researcher from the University of Illinois who teamed up with Delia to
study the link between person-centered messages and cognitive complexity in
schoolchildren.
James Dillard
A communication researcher from Pennsylvania State University who has developed the
goals-plans-action model of message production.
Procedural Record
A recollection of an action taken in a specific situation paired with its consequences.
Brant Burleson
A communication researcher from Purdue University who has explored the link between
cognitive complexity and the success of comforting messages.
Wendy Samter
A communication researcher from Bryant College who has teamed up with Burleson to
test the relationship between cognitive complexity and relationship maintenance.
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Beverly Sypher and Theodore Zorn
Communication researchers from the Virginia Tech (formerly from the University of
Kansas) and the University of Waikato, New Zealand (formerly from the University of
North Carolina), respectively, who have demonstrated the connection between cognitive
complexity and organizational effectiveness.
James Applegate
A communication scholar from the University of Kentucky who—along with Burleson and
Delia—has demonstrated that cognitive complexity is transmitted culturally.
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 8, this chapter constitutes a major revision. The discussion of
cognitive processing has been moved so that it now follows the relational development
theories. Griffin has included a detailed explanation of how cognitive plans are transformed
into specific messages in place of a discussion of O’Keefe’s message design logics. This
chapter has also been edited for precision and clarity, and the Second Look section has been
updated.
Suggestions for Discussion
Cognitive complexity = communication IQ?
As you discuss the importance of the RCQ and cognitive complexity with your students,
carefully take up the claim that Delia has separated cognitive complexity from other character
traits and extraneous factors such as IQ and writing skill (193). The fact of the matter is that in
the hands of constructivists, cognitive complexity has gained great prominence. For the sake of
argument, at least, we suggest that it has become de facto a communication IQ of sorts, a
broad-sweeping measure of a person’s ability to speak, write, and—ultimately—reason about
communication effectively. Its very name, cognitive complexity, indicates that it is a measure of
the sophistication of one’s thought. In this sense, it is but a small step from the constructivists’
favorite term to intelligence. What are the consequences of putting so much weight on this
concept? Another way to address this issue is to ask the following kinds of questions: Should
prospective students’ level of cognitive complexity be evaluated for admission to college?
Should cognitive complexity be measured en masse by organizations such as E.T.S.? Should
such scores be available to academic advisors and professors? Should employers use it to
screen potential employees? Should dating services include RCQ scores in their profiles of
potential partners? We’re pushing the point here, but you can see the overall logic of the
queries.
Causation
The issue of causation also deserves a few extra minutes of class time. Does cognitive
complexity truly enhance or cause message plans, which in turn produce person-centered
messages” (198), or is it merely correlated with them? If the latter is the case, then
constructivists need to look for the more basic skill or ability that lies behind both cognitive
complexity and sophisticated communication.
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Cross-cultural implications
Under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook, we find #4 particularly
intriguing and problematic. Although definitive statements here are tempting, it may be a little
unfair to be anything but cautiously speculative about this line of inquiry until the theories
concerning intercultural communication have been considered. Across cultures, complex goals
may reside in seemingly simplistic arguments. Of course issues of translation and the SapirWhorf hypothesis quickly work their way into such a discussion. In sum, we would approach
this query as an exercise in theoretical caution. Essay Question #26 below is meant to
anticipate such discussion.
Sample Application Log
Kerry
Because I recently broke up with my boyfriend, I’ve received many expressions of concern and
care from friends. Most of them comment on the situation, and ask me how I’m doing. I’ve
noticed that some conversations leave me uplifted, and others frustrated or sad. As I read over
Delia’s constructivism theory, I realized how the degree of person-centeredness explained the
differences in these conversations. A friend had remarked one evening, “Well, I’m sure you feel
bad now, but things will be better in the morning. You’ll see.” Thank you. Could she have
empathized any less? I recalled how this same person had bulldozed over my feelings last year
when I learned that my parents were selling our house. Basically, she told me that new homes
were nice and exciting, and that I’d be over the old one in no time. I don’t feel comforted by
these interactions. In fact, it’s as if she doesn’t care enough about how I’m feeling to try to
understand me. Her words cannot smooth things over, they merely deny the validity of my
emotions. The social norm in these situations is to show concern, and undoubtedly my friend
felt like that goal was accomplished by what she said. In contrast, another friend said
something along these lines in regard to the break-up, “I’m sorry, sweetie. This just stinks. I
wish I could say something to make it better, but nothing will. But I know that if God wants you
to be together, nothing can mess that future up.” Her more sophisticated message offered me
comfort, validated my feelings, and redefined the situation as one in God’s hands. Knowing
how much better the communication was when feelings, goals, and constructing a social
reality were taken into account, I want to develop sophisticated message in my conversations.
Exercises and Activities
Administering the RCQ
We strongly recommend that you formally test out the RCQ—constructivism’s principal
instrument—on your students. Ideally, the test should take place prior to their reading of the
chapter. A good way to do this is to administer the RCQ during the last ten minutes of the class
period that falls directly before your discussion of constructivism. Have your students score
themselves or one another at home, then bring their results to class the day you actually cover
the chapter. Such firsthand experience with the RCQ will give your students a good sense of its
strengths and weaknesses. Having taken the test, they’ll be better able to assess the criticism
that “it’s merely a measure of loquacity or wordiness” (193). No doubt students who achieve
high scores will look favorably upon the RCQ, while those who do not do so well will come up
167
with reasons why it is faulty. Either way, they’ll have valuable exposure to the instrument upon
which constructivists rely so heavily, and they’ll appreciate more fully Griffin’s critique of the
test.
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he has his students compose a brief fundraising
letter. Next, each student exchanges his or her letter with a partner and identifies the primary
and secondary goals within the other’s pitch. After the analysis is complete, students’
conclusions about their partners’ letters are compared to students’ RCQ scores (which have
been determined earlier by the process suggested above). Theoretically, the presence of
multiple goals and person-centered messages should align with high RCQ scores. What
actually occurs in your class?
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
§
Anne Maydan Nicotera assesses constructivism in “The Constructivist Theory of Delia,
Clark, and Associates,” Watershed Research Traditions in Human Communication Theory,
ed. Donald P. Cushman and Branislav Kovacic (Albany: State University of New York Press,
1995), 45-66.
For a strongly worded ideological critique of constructivism, see Patricia Bizzell’s review of
The Social Construction of Written Communication, ed. Bennett A. Rafoth and Donald L.
Rubin (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1988), which appeared in College Composition and
Communication 40 (1989): 483-86.
Communication Reports 15, 1 (2002) is a special issue on comforting and social support
edited by Burleson.
Joy Koesten and Karen Anderson explore constructivist issues in families in their article,
“Exploring the Influence of Family Communication Patterns, Cognitive Complexity, and
Interpersonal Competence on Adolescent Risk Behaviors,” Journal of Family
Communication 4, 2 (2004): 99-122.
For further discussion of self-monitoring, a trait related to the ability to create personcentered messages, see:
o Mark L. Snyder, “The Self-Monitoring of Expressive Behavior,” Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology 30 (1974): 526-37;
o “Self-Monitoring Processes,” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 12,
ed. Leonard Berkowitz (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 86-131;
o “The Many Me’s of the Self-Monitor,” Psychology Today 13 (1980): 32-40.
168
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
169
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
170
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171
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
172
INFLUENCE
Key Names and Terms
Compliance-Gaining Strategies
The verbal strategies people use to elicit behavioral compliance to their wishes,
usually in the form of promises, threats, explanations, hints, compliments, warnings,
accusations, direct requests, and so forth.
Further Resources
§
§
§
Three good general textbooks are the first and second editions of Daniel J. O’Keefe’s
Persuasion: Theory and Research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1990 and 2002), and
Richard M. Perloff’s The Dynamics of Persuasion (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1993).
These books offer thorough coverage of social judgment theory,* the elaboration
likelihood model, and cognitive dissonance theory, as well as many other approaches to
interpersonal influence.
Perloff’s Persuading People to Have Safer Sex: Applications of Social Science to the AIDS
Crisis (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001) applies the elaboration likelihood model,
cognitive dissonance, and many other influential theories to this pandemic.
For an intriguing theory of influence focusing on the emotion of fear (which has been a
component of influence study since the ancient Greeks), see Kim Witte, “Fear as
Motivator, Fear as Inhibitor,” in Handbook of Communication and Emotion: Research,
Theory, Applications, and Contexts, ed. Peter Andersen and Laura Guerrero (San Diego:
Academic Press, 1998): 423-50.
*Interestingly
enough, O’Keefe elects not to feature social judgment theory in the second
edition of his book. (This is why, perceptive readers will note, Griffin references the First
Edition in the Second Look section of his chapter treatment of social judgment theory.) Most
communication scholars we talked to about this theory like it and believe that it has
considerable explanatory power, but admit that it has spurred little new research in recent
years. It is, in effect, on ice.
173 CHAPTER 14
SOCIAL JUDGMENT THEORY
Outline
I.
Three attitude zones: acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment.
A. Social judgment theory says that at the instant of perception, people compare
messages to their present point of view.
B. Individuals’ opinions are not adequately represented as points along a continuum
because degrees of tolerance around their positions must also be considered.
C. Muzafer Sherif established three zones of attitudes.
1. The latitude of acceptance.
2. The latitude of rejection.
3. The latitude of noncommitment.
D. A description of a person’s attitude structure must include the location and width of
each interrelated latitude.
II.
Ego-involvement—how much do you care?
A. Ego-involvement refers to the importance of an issue to an individual.
B. The favored position anchors all other thoughts about the topic.
C. High ego-involvement can be defined as membership in a group with a known stand.
D. Three features are typical of high ego-involvement.
1. The latitude of noncommitment is nearly nonexistent.
2. The latitude of rejection is wide.
3. People who hold extreme views care deeply.
E. Moving from the cognitive structure of a person’s attitude, attention shifts to the
judgment part of the theory.
III.
Judging the message: contrast and assimilation errors.
A. Contrast occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of rejection as
being more discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point. This perceptual
distortion leads to polarization of ideas.
B. Social judgment-involvement describes the linkage between ego-involvement and
perception.
C. Assimilation, the opposite of contrast, occurs when one perceives a message within
the latitude of acceptance as being less discrepant than it actually is from the
anchor point.
D. Although Sherif is unclear as to how people judge messages that fall within the
latitude of noncommitment, most interpreters favor a neutral reading.
IV.
Discrepancy and attitude change.
A. If individuals judge a new message to fall within their latitude of acceptance, they
adjust their attitude to accommodate it.
1. The persuasive effect will be positive but partial.
2. The greater the discrepancy, the more individuals adjust their attitudes.
174 3. The most persuasive message is the one that is most discrepant from the
receiver’s position, yet still falls within his or her latitude of acceptance.
B. If individuals judge a new message to be within their latitude of rejection, they may
adjust their attitude away from it.
1. For individuals with high ego-involvement and broad latitudes of rejection, most
messages that are aimed to persuade them and that fall within their latitudes of
rejection have an effect opposite of what the communicator intended.
2. This boomerang effect suggests that individuals are often driven rather than
drawn to the positions they occupy.
C. Sherif’s approach is quite automatic.
1. He reduced interpersonal influence to the issue of the distance between the
message and the hearer’s position.
2. Volition exists only in the choice of messages available to the persuader.
V.
Practical advice for the persuader.
A. For maximum influence, select a message right on the edge of the audience’s
latitude of acceptance.
B. Persuasion is a gradual process consisting of small movements.
C. The most dramatic, widespread, and enduring attitude changes involve changes in
reference groups with differing values.
VI.
Evidence that argues for acceptance.
A. Research on the predictions of social judgment theory requires highly ego-involved
issues.
B. Studies have demonstrated three significant findings.
1. Messages from highly credible speakers will stretch the latitude of acceptance.
2. Ambiguity effectively places statements within the latitude of acceptance.
3. Dogmatic people have chronically wide latitudes of rejection.
VII. Critique: how wide is your theoretical latitude of acceptance?
A. Application of the theory raises ethical problems.
B. Like all cognitive explanations, social judgment theory assumes a mental structure
and process that are beyond sensory observation.
C. Application of the theory is problematic since the analysis necessary to determine an
individual’s three latitudes is often impractical.
D. Most research fails to confirm the boomerang effect Sherif predicted for messages
falling deep in the latitude of rejection.
E. Despite these reservations, social judgment theory is an elegant, intuitively
appealing approach to persuasion.
175
Key Names and Terms
Muzafer Sherif
A psychologist associated with the University of Oklahoma who developed social
judgment theory.
Latitude of Acceptance
The range of ideas and statements that strike a person as reasonable and worthy of
consideration.
Latitude of Rejection
The range of ideas and statements that a person finds objectionable and
unreasonable.
Latitude of Noncommitment
The range of ideas and statements that a person finds neither objectionable nor
acceptable.
Ego-Involvement
The centrality or importance of an issue to a person’s life.
High Ego-Involvement
A frame of mind reached when a particular issue becomes extremely important to an
individual. It is often accompanied by membership in a group with a known stand on
the issue.
Social Judgment-Involvement
A term for the linkage between ego-involvement and perception.
Contrast
A judgment that occurs when one perceives a message within the latitude of rejection
as being more discrepant than it actually is from the anchor point.
Assimilation
The opposite of contrast, this judgment occurs when one perceives a message within
the latitude of acceptance as being less discrepant than it actually is from the anchor
point.
Anchor Point
One’s favored position within the latitude of acceptance, it secures all other thoughts
about the topic.
Boomerang Effect
Sherif’s prediction that because people who are highly ego-involved have broad ranges
of rejection, most messages that are aimed to persuade them and that fall within their
latitudes of rejection are in danger of driving them further away from the desired
position.
Reference Groups
Associations that members use to define their identities, these groups can bring about
the most dramatic, widespread, and enduring changes in attitude.
176
Principal Changes
Griffin’s treatment of social judgment theory, previously Chapter 13, remains
essentially the same, but has been edited for clarity and precision.
Suggestions for Discussion
Extreme positions
Griffin’s assertion that “extreme positions and high ego-involvement go together”
deserves additional scrutiny from your class (209). A well-known Texas political figure once
said that the only things you find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead
armadillos, but nonetheless every society contains committed moderates, pragmatists,
pluralists, and other catholically minded individuals who feel strongly and believe deeply, but
who also search for the middle way whenever possible. Bill Clinton fits this category, as does
dedicated mediator and former President Jimmy Carter. Such figures may provide an intriguing
test for the categories of social judgment theory. In fact, Daniel O’Keefe clarifies that “egoinvolvement and extremity of most preferred position are distinct concepts” (Persuasion:
Theory and Research, 33). He goes on to report that “one might take an extreme stand on an
issue without being highly ego-involved” and that “one can be highly ego-involved in a middleof-the-road position” (33). He does, however, confirm that “social judgment theory does
suggest that ego-involvement and position extremity will be empirically related, such that those
with more extreme positions on an issue will tend to be more ego-involved in that issue” (33).
Reference groups
Some students may need more explanation of Sherif’s point that “most dramatic cases
of attitude change, the most widespread and most enduring, are those involving changes in
reference groups with differing values” (212). This complex notion may be better understood if
students consider an example. Within a fraternity or sorority, for instance, there may be liberal
Democrats and conservative Republicans. It’s likely that their shared social bond would
enhance the possibility of significant attitude change within the membership. Ask your
students for examples from reference groups to which they belong. Essay Question #23 below
addresses this issue.
Automatic responses
Griffin writes that the mental processes described by Sherif are “automatic” and that
Sherif “reduced interpersonal influence to the issue of the distance between the message and
the hearer’s position” (212). We would encourage you to ask your students to respond to
these assertions. Are they bothered by these claims? If Griffin is correct, what are the
consequences of these theoretical characteristics? Integrative question #27 takes up this
issue.
Ties to constructivism
In the current edition of the text, this chapter is immediately preceded by the treatment
of constructivism, a fact that you might want to exploit in your discussion. Both theories
spotlight the cognitive capacities of communicators, and though constructivism is not framed
as an influence theory per se, there are clearly areas of the theory that speak to it and, in fact,
177
Delia was first concerned with persuasion. You might want to engage your students in a
discussion about how a more cognitive complex person is more persuasive and has a greater
ability to create person-centered messages within the acceptable range than someone with
few mental schemata. Obviously, a greater ability to perspective-take would allow a person to
more accurately assess someone else’s position and to imagine how to best influence the
other.
Persuasion in public speaking classes
If your students are having a hard time understanding why social judgment theory may
be different from approaches to persuasion they have been taught or currently practice, ask
them to compare Sherif’s approach to public speaking classes on campus. In most cases,
public speaking texts instruct readers to decide on a specific thesis, then tailor their
presentation of the argument to the specific audience. For example, in The Art of Public
Speaking, Stephen Lucas discusses “determining the specific purpose” or thesis of one’s
speech in Chapter 4, then covers audience analysis in Chapter 5. In Sherif’s case, though, one
chooses a very general position, analyzes the audience’s perceptions, and only then selects
the specific argument or thesis that is appropriate for maximum effect. It is, as Griffin
suggests, a difference that may lead to ethical reservations (214), but nonetheless the
theory’s pragmatism is hard to dismiss.
Persuading the low ego-involved?
Griffin’s chapter does a fine job explaining the issues surrounding persuasion in the
context of high ego-involvement, but little is said about those whose ego-involvement would be
classified as low. We are told that such individuals have a wide latitude of noncommitment
and that they are likely to “see more grays,” but not much other information is given. It would
be useful to have students speculate about how we would apply what we know about social
judgment theory to persuade those with low ego-involvement. See the application log example,
below.
Sample Application Log
Toby
Time and time again I find myself easily persuaded. So often I find myself thinking, “How did I
get talked into this one?” Credit it to my flexibility, willingness to try, or naïve trust in people’s
motives. I always pay attention to advice given by a friend or an “expert.”
The social judgment theory would say that I simply have a wide latitude of non-commitment.
What that means is, I have low ego involvement in the situation. The situation is not a hill to
die on, so why should I get my pride involved?
178
Exercises and Activities
Your own latitudes, attitudes, and ranges of acceptability
One of the best ways to engage social judgment theory is to grapple with your own
continua and latitudes of attitude. When you assign the chapter, therefore, strongly encourage
your students to work through the opinions about the safety of flying, as Griffin directs. In
addition to this exercise, which is convincingly analyzed throughout the chapter, we
recommend that you distribute a second set of opinions for judgment the day you actually
discuss the chapter in class. Taking our cue from the second exercise in the Questions to
Sharpen Your Focus section of the textbook, we require our students to evaluate the following
series of statements about gun ownership and gun control (other issues about which students
naturally express a wide range of opinions include abortion, the death penalty, drugs, and
working on group projects):
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
I.
J.
K.
L.
M.
N.
O.
P.
Q.
R.
If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.
The overall impact and value of gun ownership in America is difficult to measure.
Cities and states should have the right to place limits on gun ownership.
Guns are a threat to a safe society.
Law-abiding citizens should not fear a waiting period for buying guns.
Gun control is anti-American.
Certain kinds of violent crimes could not be committed without guns.
Gun ownership promotes lawlessness.
Waiting periods for gun purchase will lead to further restrictions.
The Second Amendment does not necessarily guarantee private citizens the right
to own guns.
Most kinds of guns should remain legal and readily accessible.
Citizens should be able to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.
Your chances of dying from a gunshot wound increase by a factor of six if you have
a gun in your house.
Guns don’t kill people, people do.
Although some firearms are questionable, hunting rifles have a legitimate purpose
and should remain legal.
Have you hugged your gun today?
All gun ownership is protected by the Constitution.
A ban on assault rifles will control some kinds of violent crime.
After your students have chosen their anchor points and indicated which statements fall within
their latitudes of acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment, have them sketch cognitive
maps similar to Figure 14.1. As you discuss the exercise, you’ll find that students choose
diverse anchor points and latitudes. Based on the widths of their latitudes and placements of
their anchor points, you can determine varying degrees of ego-involvement among them. In
addition, you may discover that they have arranged the opinions along the continuum
differently. When we used this exercise with our class, we chose the following order:
D—H—C—R—E—J—G—M—B—O—K—L—I—N—A—P—Q—F
179
As we began to discuss their opinions, though, it became clear that the latitudes of
acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment established by some students required different
arrangements of the statements. Students who generally concurred on this issue occasionally
expressed strong disagreement on one or two statements. Correspondingly, they located them
in very different places along the continuum. Our discussion gave us a newfound respect for
the complexity of opinions and the challenge of systematizing them. In order to use this theory
to sway others, the persuader must understand the vast differences in the ways individuals
structure belief. It’s why persuading a diverse audience is so difficult.
The following items reflect diverse attitudes towards the death penalty and work well
for the same class exercise as above.
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
I.
J.
K.
L.
An eye for an eye is just and biblical.
Closure for victim’s families is the most important goal.
It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent.
It’s always wrong to take a life.
It’s only acceptable with positive DNA evidence.
Keeping criminals on death row is too expensive.
No one has the right to play God.
Repentance is a necessary part of forgiveness.
The death penalty is cruel, inhuman, and violates one’s right to life.
The decision should be based on each case’s own circumstances.
There’s no such thing as rehabilitation.
Those without the capital get the punishment.
Used car prices and persuasion on the margins of acceptability
If you desire to explore further this kind of experimentation with your students, conduct
a similar test with used car prices. Choose a car ad from a current paper that includes a
thorough description and a reasonable asking price. Duplicate the ad for each student, but
vary the price. For one-fourth of the students, list the price actually given by the ad. For the
second fourth, inflate the price by $1,000. For the third fourth, add $2,000 to the price. For
the final fourth, raise the price by $5,000. Distribute the ads and ask the students to write
whether or not they believe the price is appropriate. If they feel the price is too high, ask them
to place a fair bid. To hypothesize about students’ latitudes of acceptance and rejection and to
test the boomerang effect, chart the students’ conceptions of fair prices for the car using
deviations from the actual asking price as the basis for the two axes. After completing the
chart, compare it with Figure 14.2 in the chapter. Did the three inflated prices consistently
result in higher estimates of the car’s value than the true asking price achieved? Was there an
optimal level of price inflation? The discussion that arises from the exercise may develop into
an interesting debate about the ethical assumptions of social judgment theory. Similar
experiments can also be conducted with apartment rentals or housing prices, depending on
the knowledge and interests of your students. Incidentally, some students may suggest that
optimal hours of sleep and fair prices of cars may not be appropriate variables for testing
social judgment theory because high ego-involvement is not suggested. This criticism is worth
careful consideration. Perhaps it is unfair to look for a boomerang effect in cases in which a
strong emotional or value component is probably absent.
180
It is important that your students carefully scrutinize the sleep experiment Griffin
presents as partial confirmation of social judgment theory, particularly since it also
undermines the boomerang effect by demonstrating that even messages that fell into the
students’ latitudes of rejection were somewhat persuasive. Be sure they understand that, as
Griffin mentions in the Critique, even the irresponsible claim that students need no sleep at all
had a positive persuasive effect. (We estimate the effect as approximately the same as the
relatively reasonable assertion that students need five hours of sleep.)
Feature film illustration
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he finds clips from Dead Man Walking
particularly effective. He writes, “This film provides an opportunity to assess attitudes toward
capital punishment using latitudes of acceptance, rejection, and noncommitment. Discuss the
cognitive map of Sister Helen, the father of the boy, and the parents of the girl. Do any of these
change in response to what others say?” In particular, he recommends two segments: 0:30
(prosecutor in hearing) to 0:39 (end of visit to boy’s father); and 0:45 (visit to girl’s parents) to
0:53 (end of visit).
Ego-involvement
Griffin also enjoys vivifying the contrast effect by actually enacting the three-bucket
experiment found on page 210. To help bring home another important concept, Griffin asks
students to identify an artifact in their wallets, backpacks, or on their person that indicates ego
involvement. This could be a membership card in a club, association, or interest group, a pin or
button, a religious symbol, a book or magazine, a telltale item of clothing, or even a tattoo or
piercing.
Constructing a persuasive argument
Ron Adler has developed the following exercise for applying social judgment theory:
You’ve been at your job for about six months. In one sense, things are going well. You
have made many suggestions that management has adopted, suggestions that have
improved the company’s effectiveness. You run the place when the manager is away,
which he often is. You now train all new employees. Both your manager and her boss
frequently praise you, saying that you’re the best employee they have ever had.
But despite the success and praise, you aren’t getting the rewards you think you
deserve. You want the title of “Assistant Manager,” which you believe will strengthen
your resume. Your bosses have told you that the company has a policy of not giving this
title to part-time employees. (Officially, you work about 30 hours per week, although
most weeks you are actually on the job more than that.) You are convinced that you
deserve a five-dollar-per-hour raise. This would still mean that you would be earning
less than an assistant manager’s salary, even though that’s the job you are currently
performing. (They recently gave you a 50-cents-per-hour raise.) You want full health
benefits (medical, dental, vision, and life insurance). Again, they tell you that benefits
are available only to full-time employees.
Apply social judgment theory to improve your position:
181
1.
2.
3.
4.
Identify a set of proposals you could make to your bosses about improving your
position at work, using the goals outlined in the second paragraph.
Array these proposals on a continuum, using the format on page 181 of the text.
Identify your boss’s probable latitudes of rejection, noncommitment, and
acceptance.
Based on what you have learned about persuasion from social judgment theory,
identify the proposal that has the best chance of improving your job situation. Be
prepared to justify your answer based on the theory.
One of the primary values of this exercise is that it gets students to create a continuum not for
themselves, but for another person’s argument. Then, they must choose a strategy based on
theoretical principles.
Further Resources
§ For the original statement of the theory, see Muzafer Sherif and Carl Hovland’s book,
Social Judgment: Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Communication and Attitude
Change (Oxford, England: Yale University Press, 1965).
§ Siero, F.W. and Doosje, B.J., “Attitude Change Following Persuasive Communication:
Integrating Social Judgment Theory and the Elaboration Likelihood Model,” European
Journal of Social Psychology 23, 5 (1993): 541-54.
§ Sorrentino, R.M., Bobocel, D.R., Gitta, M.Z., Olson, J.M., and Hewitt, E.C., “Uncertainty
Orientation and Persuasion: Individual Differences in the Effects of Personal Relevance
on Social Judgments,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 55, 3 (1988): 35771.
§ Pollis, N.P., Pollis, C.A., and Rader, J.A., “Attitude Change without Persuasion,” Journal of
Social Psychology 84, 2 (1971): 225-32.
182
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
183
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
184
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
185
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
186
CHAPTER 15
ELABORATION LIKELIHOOD MODEL
Outline
I.
The central route and the peripheral route: alternative paths to persuasion.
A. Richard Petty and John Cacioppo posit two basic routes for persuasion.
B. The central route involves message elaboration, defined as the extent to which a
person carefully thinks about issue-relevant arguments contained in a persuasive
communication.
C. The peripheral route processes the message without any active thinking about the
attributes of the issue or the object of consideration.
1. Recipients rely on a variety of cues to make quick decisions.
2. Robert Cialdini has identified six such cues.
a. Reciprocation.
b. Consistency.
c. Social proof.
d. Liking.
e. Authority.
f. Scarcity.
D. Although Petty and Cacioppo’s model seems to suggest that the routes are mutually
exclusive, they stress that the central route and the peripheral route are poles on a
cognitive processing continuum that shows the degree of mental effort a person
exerts when evaluating a message.
E. The more listeners work to evaluate a message, the less they will be influenced by
content-irrelevant factors; the greater the effect of content-irrelevant factors, the less
impact the message carries.
II.
Motivation for elaboration: is it worth the effort?
A. People are motivated to hold correct attitudes.
B. Yet the number of ideas a person can scrutinize is limited, so we tend to focus on
issues that are personally relevant.
C. Personally relevant issues are more likely to be processed on the central route;
issues with little relevance take the peripheral route (credibility cues take on greater
importance).
D. Certain individuals have a need for cognitive clarity, regardless of the issue; these
people will work through many of the ideas and arguments they hear.
III.
Ability for elaboration: can they do it?
A. Distraction disrupts elaboration.
B. Repetition may increase the possibility of elaboration.
IV.
Type of elaboration: objective vs. biased thinking.
A. Biased elaboration (top-down thinking) occurs when predetermined conclusions color
the supporting data underneath.
187 B. Objective evaluation (bottom-up thinking) considers the facts on their own merit.
V.
Elaborated messages: strong, weak, and neutral.
A. Objective elaboration examines the perceived strength of an argument.
1. Petty and Cacioppo have no absolute standard for differentiating between
cogent and specious arguments.
2. They define a strong message as one that generates favorable thoughts.
B. Thoughtful consideration of strong arguments will produce positive shifts in attitude.
1. The change is persistent over time.
2. It resists counterpersuasion.
3. It predicts future behavior.
C. Thoughtful consideration of weak arguments can lead to negative boomerang effects
paralleling the positive effects of strong arguments (but in the opposite direction).
D. Mixed or neutral messages won’t change attitudes and in fact reinforce original
attitudes.
VI.
Peripheral cues: an alternative route of influence.
A. Most messages are processed through the peripheral route, bringing attitude
changes without issue-relevant thinking.
B. The most obvious cues for the peripheral route are tangible rewards.
C. Source credibility is also important.
1. The principal components of source credibility are likability and expertise.
2. Source credibility is salient for those unmotivated or unable to elaborate.
D. Peripheral route change can be either positive or negative, but it won’t have the
impact of message elaboration.
E. Celebrity endorsements constitute some of the most effective peripheral cues, yet
the change can be short-lived.
VII. Pushing the limits of peripheral power.
A. Penner and Fritzsche’s study of Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement suggests that
the effect of even powerful peripheral cues is short-lived.
B. Although most elaboration likelihood model (ELM) research has measured the
effects of peripheral cues by studying credibility, a speaker’s competence or
character could also be a stimulus to effortful message elaboration.
C. It’s impossible to make a list of cues that are strictly peripheral; cues that make a
listener scrutinize a message are no longer mindless.
VIII. Choosing a route: practical advice for the persuader.
A. If listeners are motivated and able to elaborate a message, rely on factual
arguments—i.e., favor the central route.
B. When using the central route, however, weak arguments can backfire.
C. If listeners are unable or unwilling to elaborate a message, rely on packaging rather
than content—i.e., favor peripheral route.
D. When using the peripheral route, however, the effects will probably be fragile.
188
IX.
Critique: elaborating the mode.
A. ELM has been a leading theory of persuasion and attitude change for the last twenty
years, and its initial model has been very influential.
B. Petty and Cacioppo have elaborated ELM to make it more complex, less predictive,
and less practical, which makes it problematic as a scientific theory.
C. As Paul Mongeau and James Stiff have charged, the theory cannot be adequately
tested and falsified, particularly in terms of what makes a strong or weak argument.
D. Despite these limitations, the theory synthesizes many diverse aspects of
persuasion.
Key Names and Terms
Richard Petty and John Cacioppo
Psychologists from Ohio State University and the University of Chicago, respectively,
who created the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion.
Elaboration
The extent to which a person carefully thinks about the issue-relevant arguments
contained in a persuasive communication.
Central Route
Cognitive processing that involves scrutiny of message content; message elaboration.
Peripheral Route
Cognitive processing that accepts or rejects a message based on nonrelevant cues as
opposed to actively thinking about the issue.
Biased Elaboration
Top-down thinking, in which predetermined conclusions color the supporting data.
Objective Elaboration
Bottom-up thinking, in which the facts are scrutinized without bias.
Strong Argument
A message that generates favorable thoughts when heard and scrutinized.
Paul Mongeau and James Stiff
Arizona State University researcher and communication consultant, respectively, who
charge that descriptions of ELM are imprecise and ambiguous and thus cannot be
adequately tested.
Robert Cialdini
Arizona State University researcher who has identified six peripheral cues that trigger
automatic responses.
Louis Penner and Barbara Fritzsche
University of South Florida psychologists whose study of Magic Johnson’s HIV
announcement suggests that the effect of even powerful peripheral cues is short-lived.
Principal Changes
This chapter, which previously was Chapter 14, remains essentially the same. Griffin
has updated his examples and the Second Look section. In addition, he has edited for clarity
and precision.
189
Suggestions for Discussion
A strict line between the central and peripheral routes?
When discussing this chapter, we believe it is important to stress the notion of the two
routes as poles on a cognitive processing continuum. Drawing a bold line between the
“extensive cognitive work” of the central route and the “automatic pilot” of the peripheral route
is theoretically clean and elegant, yet as Petty and Cacioppo stress, it may not be true to the
complex reality of influence. We like to discuss, for example, how Cialdini’s six cues for the
peripheral route (217) may not always indicate a complete abnegation of strong cognitive
processing. For example, the appeal to consistency resembles the very credible rule of justice
emphasized by rhetoricians Chaim Perelman and Lucy Olbrechts-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric: A
Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame: University
of Notre Dame Press, 1969), 218-19, as well as the argument from precedent, which lies at
the heart of legal reasoning. Our judiciary depends upon the practice of marshaling earlier
cases as guideposts for present decisions.
Social proof may seem mindless at the outset. It is very similar to the rhetorician’s
bandwagon fallacy, yet its central mechanism is far from illogical. Thus, in the midst of tough
decisions about policy, wise college administrators often research how other schools have
handled the same issue. Many times, the trends that other institutions have established
encourage a president or dean to follow suit. Heeding authority can be extremely logical if—as
is so often the case in this age of increasingly complex technology—the essential reasoning in
the case is beyond our expertise. It is perfectly reasonable, for example, to heed the advice of
one’s mechanic and replace bald tires, even though the precise physics of friction and steering
may be unknown to us. Likewise, although the intricate chemistry of cholesterol is known to
very few laypersons, millions of us have wisely altered our long-term eating habits based
primarily on the authority of relatively few health professionals. There is skill involved in
evaluating persuasive elements such as consistency, social proof, and authority that is both
complex and rational.
Emotional appeals
Petty and Cacioppo’s reason-based approach does not put much stock in appeals to
the emotions of the audience. It may be useful to challenge your students to imagine instances
when such appeals may be the most appropriate available, even with a motivated audience
capable of elaboration. For example, campaigns to ban the killing of harp seals and whales
have been based primarily on establishing affection for these creatures. One of the strongest
arguments in favor of the death penalty is based on vindicating or avenging the relatives of
murder victims, a goal that is primarily emotional in nature.
In recent years, many interpretive scholars have come to believe that emotions are
legitimate—in fact, essential—components of the persuasive process. Said another way, the
rigid distinctions between passion and judgment/reason (or heart and head) are in many
academic circles being increasingly challenged. More and more, humanists are coming to
believe that emotion and reason work together to forge belief. Instead of compartmentalizing
the human psyche, such scholars are piecing together an integrative picture of the mind (and
of discourse) that is inclusive, rather than exclusive. Along these lines, Lynn Worsham writes
that emotion is “the tight braid of affect and judgment, socially and historically constructed
190
and bodily lived, through which the symbolic takes hold of and binds the individual, in complex
and contradictory ways, to the social order and its structure of meanings” (“Going Postal:
Pedagogical Violence and the Schooling of Emotion,” JAC 18, 2 [1998], 216). Concerning
research in the history of rhetoric, Patricia Bizzell praises scholars who have adopted “radically
new methods . . . which violate some of the most cherished conventions of academic research,
most particularly in bringing the person of the researcher, her body, her emotions, and dare
one say, her soul, into the work” (“Feminist Methods of Research in the History of Rhetoric:
What Difference Do They Make?” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 30 [Fall 2000], 16). Thus, the
work of Worsham, Bizzell, and others suggests that it is mistaken to think of emotional
arguments as peripheral in relation to—or even separate from—logical appeals.* And, although
he is hardly a new name, William James makes a very famous argument in “The Will to
Believe” that in the arguments most significant to us, we must accept—embrace—the inevitable
links between reason and belief, passion, faith, and emotion.
Which is central and which is peripheral?
Peter Andersen, a communication theorist from San Diego State University, shared with
us a very intriguing critique of ELM. He argues that the two routes are misnamed. The central
route, because it is seldom used in public discourse, should really be labeled peripheral.
Likewise, the peripheral route, because it is the more common road to persuasion, should be
considered central. Try this out on your students.
Biased and objective elaboration
The difference between biased and objective elaboration should also be scrutinized
carefully by your students. As Griffin mentions, social judgment theory suggests that our
evaluation of arguments is inherently based on our own opinions. Is it therefore possible to
receive an objective hearing from a motivated audience? Would an elaboration continuum be
more appropriate than a binary opposition here? It’s also important that students expose the
potentially circular reasoning that underlies Petty and Cacioppo’s definition of strong
arguments. (Essay Question #25 addresses this issue.) A useful classroom exercise would be
to attempt to generate more specific criteria for solidly reasoned argumentation.
Cialdini’s programmed responses
You may want to devote some time to unpacking Cialdini’s programmed response cues
with your students. As Griffin mentions in the text, these cues form an automatic pilot
response when faced with an influence attempt—they allow for a snap decision. But, be sure to
note for your students that Cialdini’s responses do not suggest that we have no cognition
about the decision, only that they are already preprogrammed much like the buttons on a car
radio. After the user has tuned their dial and saved it to memory, they can be used again
without having to think through the listening choices. Bringing back the issue of ethics in
persuasion, you might want to ask students if pulling on one of these “presets” is ethical.
While short-term response might be favorable, will the persuaded still think well of you if they
later feel they have been manipulated by reciprocity, authority, or scarcity?
*
Many classical scholars argue that at least as far back as Aristotle, rhetorical theorists have
sought to characterize the inherent logic of emotions and emotional appeals. But we are
getting ahead of ourselves here.
191
Revising the flowchart
No doubt you’ve noticed that Figure 15.1 (the flow chart on p. 218) may be incomplete.
As you work down the central route, there is no line showing the path of biased elaboration or
“top-down thinking,” which Petty and Cacioppo believe simply boosts the audience’s original
beliefs. You may enjoy working with your class to revise the chart to account for biased
elaboration. Richard Perloff offers a somewhat more complex chart in The Dynamics of
Persuasion, 120.
Sample Application Log
Andy
It’s the peripheral route that I want to emphasize here. For several years I’ve been aching to go
skydiving. My parents, especially my mom, were adamantly opposed. However, two years ago
my dream came true. It was near the beginning of the summer and I had just graduated from
high school. I was really working on my mom to allow me to go. I’d be turning 18 in a month, so
the only thing stopping me was the okay from the parents. I tried everything—literature,
brochures, movies—everything I knew about skydiving I shared with them. But no matter what I
tried, the answer kept coming back “NO.” Then things changed in my favor. A new employee
started at the daycare where my mom worked, and she was an avid skydiver. She was 20
years old and had been jumping for several years now. And thanks to her I was able to go. My
mom wouldn’t listen to reason, she wouldn’t read any of the literature that I brought home (the
central route), but she listened to this girl she worked with (peripheral route: likeness). I have
to admit that the girl at the daycare probably knew less about skydiving than I did, but because
my mom liked her, and she felt it was safe, my mom decided it would be okay for me to go. (Of
course, now she says I’ll never get to go again, but I’m working on it.)
Exercises and Activities
Constructing an argument
Griffin’s discussion of Rita’s crusade aptly exemplifies ELM in action, but it may be
useful to assign for homework or to discuss in class other situations in which the two routes
toward persuasion can be applied. (Essay Question #23 below addresses this issue.) We’ve
asked students to imagine that they are development officers putting together a capital
campaign for the college. How would they craft their message to encourage alumni to give
generously? If your institution is currently involved in a persuasive effort of another sort, it may
also serve as a useful case study for ELM. It may be useful to compare such arguments with
those made in high-school peer groups to encourage participation in forbidden behaviors such
as drinking, sex, and so forth. Media advertising and college recruitment literature also make
excellent texts for such analysis.
“Need for Cognition Scale”
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he walks through Figure 15.1 (the flow chart on
p. 218) very deliberately with the class. With a specific example not included in the chapter, he
demonstrates the step-by-step approach of the theory. He is particularly interested in making
the point that it is ultimately the audience that picks the route to be taken in the argument.
192
Griffin also finds it useful to share with students the “Need for Cognition Scale” he discusses
on p. 200. (Footnote 5 in the textbook directs you to the source.) A fruitful exercise would be to
administer the 18-item scale to your students.
Political pamphlets
When Ed McDaniel teaches this theory, he finds political election pamphlets and
brochures to be effective illustrators for ELM. Election materials can easily be divided into
those directing the reader toward the central or peripheral routes, and those focusing on the
peripheral route can be used to point out persuasive cues (e.g., the brochure contains only a
list or organizations endorsing the candidate).
Adapting a social judgment exercise for ELM
Ron Adler’s social judgment exercise (see our treatment of social judgment, Chapter
14) could easily be adapted for ELM. What does ELM elucidate in this communicative situation
that social judgment theory does not consider? Likewise, what does social judgment theory
make clear that ELM cannot address?
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
For a brief history of social influence research, see William Crano’s article, “Milestones
in the Psychological Analysis of Social Influence,” Group Dynamics 4, 1 (2000): 68-80.
For studies that follow in the tradition of Petty and Cacioppo, see:
o Satish Joseph and Teresa L. Thompson, “The Effect of Vividness on the
Memorability and Persuasiveness of a Sermon: A Test of the Elaboration
Likelihood Model,” Journal of Communication and Religion 27, 2 (2004): 21745.
o Arjun Chaudhuri and Ross Buck, “Affect, Reason, and Persuasion: Advertising
Strategies that Predict Affective and Analytic-Cognitive Responses,” Human
Communication Research 21 (1995): 422-41.
Perloff’s Persuading People to Have Safer Sex: Applications of Social Science to the
AIDS Crisis applies ELM to disease prevention (80-81).
For a discussion of persuasion resistance see B.J. Sagarin, R.B. Cialdini, W.E. Rice, and
S.B. Serna’s 2002 article, “Dispelling the Illusion of Invulnerability: The Motivations and
Mechanisms of Resistance to Persuasion,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
83, 3 (2002): 526-41.
Other relevant articles by Richard Petty
§ Wheeler, S.C., Petty, R.E., and Bizer, G.Y., “Self-Schema Matching and Attitude Change:
Situational and Dispositional Determinants of Message Elaboration,” Journal of
Consumer Research 31, 4: 787-97.
§ Tormala, Z.L. and Petty, R.E., “What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger: The Effects of
Resisting Persuasion on Attitude Certainty,” Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology 83, 6 (2002): 1298-1313.
§ Petty, R.E., Wheeler, S.C., and Bizer, G.Y, “Attitude Functions and Persuasion: An
Elaboration Likelihood Approach to Matched versus Mismatched Messages,” in G. Maio
and J. Olson, eds., Why We Evaluate: Functions of Attitudes (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, 2000), 133-62.
193
Emotions in persuasion
§ DeSteno, D., Petty, R.E., Rucker, D.D., Wegener, D.T., and Braverman, J., “Discrete
Emotions and Persuasion: The Role of Emotion-Induced Expectancies,” Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 86, 1 (2004): 43-56.
§ DeSteno, D., Petty, R.E., Wegener, D.T., and Rucker, D.D., “Beyond Valence in the
Perception of Likelihood: The Role of Emotion Specificity,” Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology 78, 3 (2000): 397-416.
§ Petty, R.E., Cacioppo, J.T., and Sedikides, C., “Affect and Persuasion: A Contemporary
Perspective,” American Behavioral Scientist 31, 3 (1988): 355-71. *Note: this article
appears in a special issue of American Behavioral Scientist on the subject of
communication and affect.
Cialdini’s programmed responses
§ Guadagno, R.E., Asher, T., and Demaine, L.J., “When Saying Yes Leads to Saying No:
Preference for Consistency and the Reverse Foot-in-the-Door Effect,” Personality &
Social Psychology Bulletin 27, 7 (2001): 859-67.
§ Cialdini, R.B., Trost, M.R., and Newsom, J.T., “Preference for Consistency: The
Development of a Valid Measure and the Discovery of Surprising Behavioral
Implications,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69, 2 (1995): 318-28.
§ Cialdini, R.B., Green, B.L., and Rusch, A.J., “When Tactical Pronouncements of Change
Become Real Change: The Case of Reciprocal Persuasion,” Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology 63, 1 (1992): 30-40.
Feature films
§ Four films that feature masterful manipulation of the peripheral route are Glengarry
Glen Ross, The Last Seduction, Body Heat, and Bob Roberts.
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Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
195
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
196
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
197
CHAPTER 16
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE THEORY
Outline
I.
Dissonance: discord between behavior and belief.
A. Identified by Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state
that people feel when they find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they
know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.
B. Humans have a basic need to avoid dissonance and establish consistency.
C. The tension of dissonance motivates the person to change either the behavior or the
belief.
D. The more important the issue and the greater the discrepancy, the higher the
magnitude of dissonance.
II.
Three hypotheses: ways to reduce dissonance between attitudes and actions.
A. Hypothesis #1: selective exposure prevents dissonance.
1. We avoid information that is likely to increase dissonance.
2. Selective exposure works only when we anticipate hearing ideas that run counter
to our beliefs.
3. Dieter Frey concluded that selective exposure exists only when information is
known to be a threat.
4. Warm personal relationships are the best environment for considering
discrepant views.
B. Hypothesis #2: postdecision dissonance creates a need for reassurance.
1. The more important the issue, the more dissonance.
2. The longer an individual delays a choice between two equally attractive options,
the more dissonance.
3. The greater the difficulty involving reversing the decision once it has been made,
the more dissonance.
C. Hypothesis #3: minimal justification for action induces a shift in attitude.
1. Conventional wisdom suggests that to change behavior, you must first alter
attitude.
2. Festinger reverses the sequence.
3. In addition, he predicts that attitude change and dissonance reduction depend
on providing only a minimum justification for the change in behavior.
III.
A classic experiment: “Would I lie for a dollar?”
A. Festinger’s minimal justification hypothesis is counterintuitive.
B. The Stanford $1/$20 experiment supported the minimal justification hypothesis
because subjects who received a very small reward demonstrated a change in
attitude.
198 IV.
State-of-the-art revisions: the cause and effect of dissonance.
A. Most persuasion researchers today subscribe to one of three revisions of Festinger’s
original theory.
B. Self-consistency: the rationalizing animal.
1. Elliot Aronson argued that dissonance is caused by psychological rather than
logical inconsistency.
2. Humans aren’t rational, they are rationalizing.
3. Research such as the $1/$20 experiment provides evidence of self-esteem
maintenance.
4. The amount of dissonance a person can experience is directly proportional to the
effort he or she has invested in the behavior.
C. Personal responsibility for bad outcomes (the new look).
1. Joel Cooper argues that it’s the knowledge that one’s actions have unnecessarily
hurt another person that generates dissonance.
2. Cooper concludes that dissonance is a state of arousal caused by behaving in
such a way as to feel personally responsible for bringing about an aversive event.
D. Self-affirmation to dissipate dissonance.
1. Claude Steele focuses on dissonance reduction.
2. He believes that high self-esteem is a resource for dissonance reduction.
3. Steele asserts that most people are motivated to maintain a self-image of moral
and adaptive adequacy.
E. These three revisions of Festinger’s theory are not mutually exclusive.
V.
Theory into practice: persuasion through dissonance.
A. Festinger’s theory offers practical advice for those who wish to effect attitude
change as a product of dissonance.
B. Apply the concepts of selective exposure, postdecision dissonance, and minimal
justification to manage dissonance effectively.
C. As long as counterattitudinal actions are freely chosen and publicly taken, people
are more likely to adopt beliefs that support what they’ve done.
D. Personal responsibility for negative outcomes should be taken into account.
VI.
Critique: dissonance over dissonance.
A. Cognitive dissonance may not be falsifiable.
B. Festinger never specified a reliable way to detect the degree of dissonance a person
experiences.
1. Patricia Devine applauds researchers who have attempted to gauge the arousal
component of dissonance.
C. Daryl Bem believes that self-perception is a much simpler explanation of attitude
change than cognitive dissonance is.
1. His version of the $1/$20 experiment supports his contention.
2. Bem suggests that cognitive dissonance does not follow the rule of parsimony.
D. Despite detractors, cognitive dissonance theory has energized objective scholars of
communication for 45 years.
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Key Names and Terms
Leon Festinger
A former Stanford University social psychologist and creator of the theory of cognitive
dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance
The distressing mental state caused by inconsistency between a person’s two beliefs or
a belief and an action; an adverse motivation to change a belief.
Selective Exposure
The principle that people pay attention only to ideas they already believe because
discrepant information would be mentally distressing.
Dieter Frey
A German psychologist who concluded that selective exposure exists only when
information is known to be a threat.
Postdecision Dissonance
Distressing doubts about the wisdom of a decision after it has been made; the resulting
need for reassurance is highest the more the decision was important, difficult, or
irrevocable.
Minimal Justification Hypothesis
The best way to achieve private attitudinal change is to offer just enough reward or
punishment to elicit public compliance.
$1/$20 Experiment
Festinger and James Carlsmith’s famous and controversial test of the minimal
justification hypothesis, which has been replicated and reinterpreted by many other
researchers.
Elliot Aronson
A University of California social psychologist who argued that cognitive dissonance is
caused by psychological—rather than logical—inconsistency.
Joel Cooper
A Princeton University psychologist who argues that dissonance is caused by the
knowledge that one’s actions have unnecessarily hurt another person.
Claude Steele
A Stanford University psychologist who argues that high self-esteem is a resource for
dissonance reduction.
Patricia Devine
A University of Wisconsin–Madison psychologist who believes that dissonance needs to
be measured more accurately, particularly by a self-report measure of affect.
Daryl Bem
A Cornell University psychologist who argues that self-perception is a much simpler
explanation of attitude change than is cognitive dissonance.
200
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 15, Griffin’s treatment of cognitive dissonance has been edited for
clarity and precision. In addition, the Second Look section has been updated.
Suggestions for Discussion
Minimal justification hypothesis
In our experience, this is a difficult chapter to teach because at least one principal tenet
of the theory is hard to grasp and/or counterintuitive. In particular, the minimal justification
hypothesis perplexes students, who have come to understand that more is better than less. As
upwardly mobile individuals, they believe they understand the calculus of rewards and
punishments, and they know that the stakes in the professional world they will soon enter are
high. We suggest that you tackle their confusion and skepticism head-on. As a class, scrutinize
the examples Griffin provides, seeking to determine if other explanations for the reported
behavior are more compelling than those offered by the featured theory. Take Griffin seriously,
for example, when he asks in question #2 in the textbook’s Questions to Sharpen Your Focus,
“The results of Festinger’s famous $1/$20 experiment can be explained in a number of ways.
Which explanation do you find most satisfying?” (239). Festinger and Carlsmith’s findings are
based on a belief that the $1 liars really think they’re telling the truth when they claim to have
enjoyed the boring task. Is this assumption warranted? Are there other explanations besides
the minimal justification hypothesis for why students such as Joan would find the island
experience more memorable with a lower emphasis on tests (232)? Challenges such as these
help students to think critically about the interpretation of key studies and examples.
Some students may wonder how one determines the proper minimal level of
justification. Can one aim too low? They will be interested to know that Festinger asserts that if
the reward falls below a certain minimum, the results will be counterproductive, thus
strengthening the audience’s original attitude. Exactly how one determines the proper
minimum, of course, is difficult to quantify.
The value of a counterintuitive theory
To alter the pedagogical perspective slightly, you may wish to propose to your students
that cognitive dissonance’s counterintuitive core may be its greatest strength. In a field that is
so often perceived as driven by mere common sense and traditional wisdom, it is important to
stress moments when knowledge and theory building work against the grain of received
wisdom. With your students’ help, generate a short list of important ideas, hypotheses, or
theories that were originally considered bizarre, heretical, or nonsensical. Remind them that if
common sense were always in charge, the earth might still be flat, the sun might still revolve
around it daily, and human flight might remain a fantasy.
Cognitive dissonance doesn’t explain everything
We suggest that you speculate with your students about the fact that cognitive
dissonance may not account for situations in which individuals act rationally, decisively, and on
occasion even heroically to eliminate discrepancies between their beliefs and their behaviors.
Many people strive to think through the inconsistencies in their lives, and these reason-driven
201
struggles lead individuals to give up destructive habits such as substance abuse, join or leave
organizations, movements, and churches. Others terminate relationships they believe to be
destructive. In extreme cases, when individuals cannot find ways to justify their actions, they
commit suicide, an act that offers a particularly strong challenge to the assumption that
humans are inherently rationalizing animals. How, for example, would Festinger account for
Judas’s death? Why didn’t the fallen disciple simply rationalize that his former master deserved
to die, or that the reward money proved the value of his service to the state? Why, if people
inherently explain away their dubious actions, are deathbed confessions not uncommon
occurrences? Cognitive dissonance has great explanatory power in some instances, but it is
hard-pressed to explain the full gamut of human behavior.
A negative view of human nature?
To put it another way, this theory of behavior and belief does not seem to be built on a
particularly flattering or optimistic view of our species, but rather a Hobbesian foundation of
human weakness, deficiency, and manipulation. (Integrative Essay Question #31 below seeks
to address this issue.) Without falling into rationalization (and thus acting out of the very mindset we seek to understand), can one advocate cognitive dissonance theory and still maintain a
positive view of the species and the process of influence? The problem is compounded when
one considers the hierarchical emphasis on manipulating rewards and punishments inherent
in the theory. Are the great majority of humans mere pigeons, readily handled by the elite
cognitive dissonance specialists among us? Does successful persuasion constitute nothing
more honorable or value-centered than cagily controlling behavior, stimulating the
rationalization process in others by dropping the right-sized feed pellet at the right moment?
Such challenges will help enliven your discussion and show your students that the implications
of theories truly matter.
“Fake it till you make it”
If students are perplexed by the counterintuitive proposition that behavior causes
attitude, rather than the other way around, you may wish to mention that Alcoholics
Anonymous successfully employs this premise to help with recovery. Their motto, “Fake it till
you make it,” encourages their followers to go through the motions of the proper lifestyle so
that the belief will follow. By practicing abstinence, the recovering alcoholic eventually achieves
the healthful mind-set. This positive application of the theory may serve to counteract some of
the potentially negative aspects we raised above.
$1/ $20 experiment
Initially, we were somewhat confused by the section of the chapter entitled “Three State
of the Art Revisions: The Cause and Effect of Dissonance.” In his discussion of the major
reinterpretations of the classic $1/$20 experiment, Griffin does not explicitly mention the way
each scholar theorized both the $1 and the $20 responses to the lie. As Griffin explained it to
us, this apparent omission is due to the fact that all of the theorists involved would interpret
the $20 response in the same basic way. At the time, $20 was enough money to allow the
subjects to rationalize a small lie and thus to destroy any potential dissonance. The key issue
in this section, thus, is not the $20 response, but the revisionist scholars’ differing
interpretation of the cause and effect of the $1 responses. More specifically, each state-of-theart revision has a different way of understanding the dissonance created when lying for such a
small amount of money.
202
Falsifiability
Another troublesome section of the chapter for students to grasp is the theory’s trouble
with falsifiability despite the famous research trial. While the $1/$20 experiment is a hallmark
in social psychology, it does not address the problematic questions, “how do we know
dissonance existed in the first place?” and “did dissonance cause the change in attitude?” The
theory’s inability to validate the existence of dissonance and to document its causal impact
creates the appearance of a never-miss-shot. For your students, this idea might take some
unpacking. If something is tested, doesn’t that mean it is testable and as such, falsifiable? In
the case of cognitive dissonance, this is not necessarily true.
You may also want to take some time to remind your students of the important
relationship between theory and research. Since the line between the two is frequently and
insightfully crossed in this book, we would encourage classroom speculation in this area.
Cognitive dissonance and the $1/$20 experiment are inextricably linked—to know one is to
know the other. There are other theories featured in A First Look which also have a significant
research component (i.e., expectancy violations, functional perspective, cultivation theory,
agenda-setting, face-negotiation, and speech codes), and in anticipation of those discussions,
you may want to highlight how the two academic activities are related. For students who have
already taken a class in research methods, this conversation will also serve as a bridge
between the courses. In terms of experimental ethics, for example, we find it intriguing that--as
Griffin mentions parenthetically—Festinger and Carlsmith never paid their subjects (233). What
does your class have to say about this choice?
Connection to communication and the other influence theories
An additional difficulty with this chapter is that the connection between cognitive
dissonance and communication may seem tenuous to many students. Essay question #29,
below, seeks to encourage students to integrate the theory with their discipline. Does social
influence by evoking cognitive dissonance constitute persuasion or are you putting the person
in an uncomfortable position and then self-persuasion takes over? You might ask your class to
speculate on which of the three influence theories requires the most activity on the part of the
persuader? Which is most ethical?
Sample Application Log
Laura
I usually like most people and I feel uncomfortable when I do not like someone or when
someone does not like me. A couple of years ago I was a lifeguard and swim instructor. My
manager was this woman named “Laura.” Laura was rather bossy and very aloof to me. I
worked with her for eight hours a day so I did not know how to respond to how she treated me.
I wanted to tell her a couple of ungodly words sometimes and tell her what a jerk she was.
Instead I responded with kindness. I complimented her and talked with her often. At first I was
uncomfortable because I was faking, but in the end I began to like her and I believe I liked her
for the same reasons people thought they liked the experiment after they told the woman how
fun it was for a dollar. I didn’t want to feel like I was faking when I was being nice to Laura, so I
changed my attitude so I could feel like I was being sincere to Laura.
203
Exercises and Activities
Interviewing people who hold beliefs contrary to popular opinion
One way to think about cognitive dissonance is the mental stress that comes when new
information is introduced that seems to contradict a previously held belief. Although some
people are known for their ability to reassess continually their beliefs in light of new data, many
individuals will consistently resolve the conflict by discounting the new information. The latter
group follows the rationalizing pattern central to the theory featured in this chapter. An
interesting take-home exercise is to ask your students to interview individuals who strongly
endorse beliefs that have been pummeled by damaging or discrediting information. In many
cases, these beliefs concern the innocence or goodness of public figures whose reputations
have been tainted by strong evidence of misconduct. On the national scene, such people
include Richard Nixon (Watergate), Oliver North (Iran-Contra), Ted Kennedy (Chappaquidick),
Marion Berry (drug usage), Bill Clinton (sexual infidelity and dishonesty), O.J. Simpson or Scott
Peterson (murdering their wives) or Michael Jackson (child molestation). Some individuals your
students may interview are so convinced of the baseness of certain national figures that they
quickly discount any possibility of the person’s potential goodness or value. In this case, the
subject will explain away any facts that shed positive light on the villains. Popular scapegoats
include Yasser Arafat and the PLO, Ariel Sharon and his conservative supporters, Hillary
Rodham Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and--not surprisingly--the tainted figures listed above. Local
celebrities may also be appropriate subjects for the exercise. In terms of overall belief systems,
individuals who adhere to strict creeds such as creationism, Marxism, libertarianism, and
Freudianism quickly exhibit cognitive dissonance when one attempts to confuse their beliefs
with mere facts. Conspiracy theorists and UFO fanatics are also intriguing subjects for this
exercise.
The dissonance in us all
If you really want to push this issue, it can be useful to show that virtually all of us
reduce tension through rationalization in some aspects of our lives. For example, ask students
to explain how they can have plenty to eat, while around the world millions of people are
starving? How they can enjoy good medical care when millions suffer from curable diseases?
How they can consume vast amounts of energy for recreational purposes when most people of
the world toil to survive? How they can eat food and wear clothes produced by underpaid
workers? Students’--and our own--answers to these questions will be ostensibly rational, but
eventually this difficult moral territory defies logical analysis. We cannot explain, so we simply
explain away the selfishness and guilt inherent that comes with living the good life in a wealthy
nation in a world that contains unbearable suffering, neglect, cruelty, and unkindness. We
grimace at Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake,” but ultimately we do little better.
Re-creating the $1/ $20 experiment
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he employs volunteers for the purpose of
reenacting the famous $1/$20 experiment. Usually, he plays the director and enlists three
students to play the roles of the $1 subject, the $20 subject, and the female confederate. The
ensuing skit provides a good way to discuss both the original theorizing and the three
alternative explanations suggested by Aronson, Cooper, and Steele.
204
Feature film illustrations
Casablanca, it seems to us, exemplifies aspects of cognitive dissonance theory. Victor
Laszlo, who is truly heroic at every stage in the movie, requires no external justification to do
the right thing because he is inherently noble. Rick and Ilsa, however, are not inherently so
heroic. Because their natural tendency is to put their selfish love affair before the Resistance,
they must act themselves into adopting heroic, self-sacrificing attitudes. Rick gives up his seat
on the plane out of Casablanca to Victor—spurning the opportunity to flee with Ilsa—and joins
the Resistance. Ilsa boards the plane with her husband instead of staying with Rick. Rick’s final
speech to Ilsa—in which he exhorts her to leave with her husband, not because it will make her
feel good in the short term, but because it will give her long-term satisfaction--depends upon
the idea that righteous behavior will cause righteous belief. They become hero and heroine by
behaving heroically.
For students who find Bogart and Bergman obsolete or hopelessly square, the bad boy
turned romantic hero in Ten Things I Hate about You experiences a significant change in
attitude toward Kate that demonstrates the same principle exemplified half a century earlier by
Rick and Ilsa. Although his initial decision to court Kate is based entirely on financial gain, his
fake romantic behavior causes him to fall in love with her. The same can be said of the
relationship portrayed in She’s All That.
A word about the film Norma Rae. The character of Norma Rae is initially attracted to
the labor union not so much because she is a true believer in unionism, but because she is
intrigued by the character of Reuben, whom she finds dynamic and attractive. It’s telling that
when she first signs up with the union, she expresses her loyalty in personal rather than
corporate terms--”I’m with you.” As her involvement in union organizing increases, however,
she develops a firm understanding of and dedication to the inherent value of the union itself.
Norma Rae’s initial contact with Reuben provides the minimal justification for her involvement,
and her endless activity on behalf of the union brings about a decided change in belief. This
film also provides a good illustration of symbolic interactionism. Norma Rae becomes the selfconfident, socially responsible person that Reuben consistently reflects back to her. Finally, the
developing friendship between Norma Rae and Reuben exemplifies the principles of
uncertainty reduction theory.
205
Further Resources
§
§
§
For an intriguing application of cognitive dissonance theory to HIV/AIDS prevention,
see Perloff, Persuading People to Have Safer Sex: Applications of Social Science to the
AIDS Crisis (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000), 82-83.
For other recent work on cognitive dissonance, see:
o Matz, D.C. and Wood, W., “Cognitive Dissonance in Groups: The Consequences
of Disagreement,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88, 1 (2005):
22-37.
o Chyng Feng Sun, K. and Scharrer, E., “Staying True to Disney: College Students’
Resistance to Criticism of The Little Mermaid,” Communication Review 7, 1
(2004): 35-57.
o Kaplar, M.E. and Gordon, A.K., “The Enigma of Altruistic Lying: Perspective
Differences in What Motivates and Justifies Lie Telling within Romantic
Relationships,” Personal Relationships 11, 4 (2004): 489-507.
o Schumacher, J.A. and Slep, Amy M.S., “Attitudes and Dating Aggression: A
Cognitive Dissonance Approach,” Prevention Science 5, 4 (2004): 231-43.
o McKimmie, B.M., Terry, D.J., Hogg, M.A., Manstead, A.S.R., Spears, R., and
Doosje, B., “I’m a Hypocrite, but So Is Everyone Else: Group Support and the
Reduction of Cognitive Dissonance,” Group Dynamics 7, 3 (2003): 214-24.
Shinobu Kitayama, Alana C. Snibbe, and Hazel R. Markus apply cognitive dissonance
cross-culturally in their article, “Is There Any ‘Free’ Choice?: Self and Dissonance in Two
Cultures,” Psychological Science 15, 8 (2004): 527-33.
206
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
207
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
208
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
209
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
210
ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
BUBER AND NILSEN
Key Names and Terms
Martin Buber
A Russian Jewish philosopher whose ethical approach focuses on relationships
between people rather than on moral codes of conduct.
I-It Relationship
An interpersonal relationship in which the other person is treated as a thing to be
used, an object to be manipulated.
I-Thou Relationship
An interpersonal relationship in which we regard our partner as the very one we are, an
end rather than a means to an end.
Dialogue
Mutuality in conversation that creates the between, the interhuman, the transaction
through which we help each other to be more human. For Buber, dialogue is a
synonym for ethical communication.
Narrow-Ridge Philosophy
Buber’s notion that the path of dialogic living is distinguished by the tension between
subjectivism and absolutism.
Ronald Arnett
A communication ethicist from Duquesne University who notes that living Buber’s
narrow-ridge philosophy requires a life of personal and interpersonal concern.
Thomas Nilsen
A professor emeritus from the University of Washington who proposes that persuasive
speech is ethical to the extent that it maximizes people’s ability to exercise free
choice.
John Milton
A seventeenth-century British poet and political figure whose Aeropagitica argues
against prior restraint of any ideas, no matter how heretical.
John Stuart Mill
A nineteenth-century British philosopher whose On Liberty advocates a free
marketplace of ideas.
Soren Kierkegaard
A Danish philosopher who described the ethical religious persuader as a lover.
Further Resources
§
Although Buber was not a communication scholar per se, his philosophy has been
extremely influential in communication circles. In his interpersonal communication
textbook, Bridges Not Walls, for example, John Stewart presents Buber as his
foundation for meaningful human communication (36-42, 663-81). Julia T. Wood
follows a similar strategy in Everyday Encounters: An Introduction to Interpersonal
211 §
§
§
§
§
Communication, 19-21. For more information on Buber, Richard L. Johannesen’s
Ethics in Human Communication is a good general source, as is his entry, “Buber,”
in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition (86-87).
For the Buber/Carl Rogers’s connection, see:
o Maurice Friedman, The Confirmation of Otherness in Family, Community,
and Society (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1983);
o Kenneth N. Cissna and Rob Anderson, Moments of Meeting: Buber, Rogers,
and the Potential for Public Dialogue (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 2002);
o Cissna and Anderson, The Martin Buber-Carl Rogers Dialogue: A New
Transcript with Commentary (Albany: State University of New York Press,
1997);
o Anderson and Cissna, “Theorizing about Dialogic Moments: The BuberRogers Position and Postmodern Themes,” Communication Theory 8
(February 1998): 63-104.
For a good collection of essays on dialogue, see Rob Anderson, Kenneth Cissna,
and Ronald C. Arnett, The Reach of Dialogue: Confirmation, Voice, and Community
(Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 1994).
For the classical source for the analogy between the lover and the persuader, see
Plato’s Phaedrus.
For a discussion that parallels Griffin’s “topology of false (unethical) lovers” (228),
see Wayne Brockriede, “Arguers as Lovers,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 5 (1972): 111.
For a distinctly feminine perspective on ethics that borrows from Buber, see Nel
Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1984).
212
GROUP DECISION MAKING
Key Names and Terms
Synergy
A group product that is greater or better than all of its members could produce
working on their own.
Robert Bales
A Harvard University researcher who developed a method of analyzing discussion.
Interaction Process Analysis
Bales’s method of analyzing discussion, which distinguishes twelve types of verbal
behavior. His approach focuses on task requirements, social-emotional needs, and
environmental factors; and it considers the process of communication as the chief
method by which groups satisfy these requirements.
Irving Janis
A Harvard psychologist whose research focused on groupthink.
Groupthink
Inferior decision making that occurs when group members’ excessive desire for
cohesiveness stifles critical comments.
Further Resources
Moya Ann Ball’s Vietnam-on-the-Potomac presents from a communication perspective
the group decision-making processes in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations that
escalated the Vietnam War. Ball questions the thoroughgoing rationalism of Hirokawa and
Gouran’s functional perspective of group decision making. Her book is particularly significant
for discussions of communication theory because it is built upon the work of three prominent
theorists featured by Griffin: George Herbert Mead (Chapter 4), Clifford Geertz (Chapter 19),
and (as mentioned in our treatment of Chapter 3) Ernest Bormann. Examples from Vietnamon-the-Potomac could be introduced to enrich discussions of any of these theorists.
It is important to note that Griffin’s section on small group communication theory
exclusively features decision making, a point that Griffin himself explicitly emphasizes at the
close of his treatment of the functional perspective (259-60). You may wish to discuss other
functions of groups such as support, work, sport, therapy, living, education—as well as
speculate about the kinds of theories that might be required to study them. Lawrence Frey’s
Group Communication in Context: Studies of Natural Groups features several group studies
that are not focused primarily on decision making. See, for example:
§
§
Mara B. Adelman and Lawrence R. Frey, “The Pilgrim Must Embark: Creating and
Sustaining Community in a Residential Facility for People with AIDS” (3-22). Frey
and Adelman have also produced a full-length study of a residential facility for
people with AIDS titled The Fragile Community: Living Together with AIDS (Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997).
Dwight Conquergood, “Homeboys and Hoods: Gang Communication and Cultural
Space” (23-55).
213 §
Christee Lucas Lesch, “Observing Theory in Practice: Sustaining Consciousness in a
Coven” (57-82).
Recent articles of interest include:
§ Renee A. Meyers and Dale E. Brashers, “Argument in Group Decision Making:
Explicating a Process Model and Investigating the Argument-Outcome Link,”
Communication Monographs 65 (1998): 261-81.
§ John G. Oetzel, “Intercultural Small Groups: An Effective Decision Making Theory,”
Intercultural Communication Theory, ed. Richard Wiseman (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage, 1995), 247-70.
§ Dennis Gouran, Randy Hirokawa, Michael McGee, and Laurie Miller,
“Communication in Groups: Research Trends and Theoretical Perspectives,”
Building Communication Theories: A Socio-Cultural Approach, ed. Fred L. Casmir
(Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), 241-68.
§ For a special issue on “Revitalizing the Study of Small Group Communication,” see
Communication Studies 45, 1 (1994). Nancy Wyatt provides a feminist perspective
in “Organizing and Relating: Feminist Critique of Small Group Communication,”
Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques in Communication Studies (Cresskill, NJ:
Hampton Press, 1993), 51-86.
214 CHAPTER 17
FUNCTIONAL PERSPECTIVE
ON GROUP DECISION MAKING
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Randy Hirokawa and Dennis Gouran believe that group interaction has a positive
effect on decision making.
B. Hirokawa speaks of quality solutions; Gouran refers to appropriate decisions.
C. The functional perspective illustrates the wisdom of joint interaction.
II.
Four functions for effective decision making.
A. Hirokawa and Gouran draw on the analogy between biological systems and small
groups.
1. Group decision making must fulfill four task requirements to reach a high-quality
decision.
2. These tasks are requisite functions of effective decision making—hence the
functional perspective label.
B. Function #1: analysis of the problem.
1. Group members must take a realistic look at current conditions.
2. Misunderstandings of situations are compounded when group members make
their final decision.
3. The clearest example of faulty analysis is a failure to recognize a potential
threat.
4. Group members must determine the nature, extent, and probable cause(s) of
the problem.
C. Function #2: goal setting.
1. A group needs to establish criteria for judging proposed solutions.
2. Without such criteria, it is likely that the decision will be driven by politics rather
than reason.
D. Function #3: identification of alternatives.
E. Function #4: evaluation of positive and negative characteristics.
1. Some group tasks have a positive bias—spotting the favorable characteristics of
alternative choices is more important than identifying negative qualities.
2. Other group tasks have a negative bias—the unattractive characteristics of
choice options carry more weight than the positive attributes.
III.
Prioritizing the functions.
A. No single function is inherently more central than the others.
B. As long as a group covers all four functions, the route taken is not the key issue.
C. Nonetheless, groups that successfully resolve particularly tough problems often take
a common decision-making path: problem analysis, goal setting, identifying
alternatives, and evaluating the positive and negative characteristics.
215 D. The salience of individual functions is task specific.
IV.
The role of communication in fulfilling the functions.
A. Traditional wisdom suggests that talk is the conduit through which information
travels between participants.
1. Verbal interaction makes it possible for members to distribute and pool
information, catch and remedy errors, and influence each other.
2. Ivan Steiner claimed that actual group productivity equals potential productivity
minus losses due to processes.
3. Communication is best when it does not obstruct or distort the free flow of ideas.
B. In contrast, Hirokawa believes that group discussion creates the social reality for
decision making.
C. Hirokawa and Gouran outline three types of communication in decision-making
groups.
1. Promotive—interaction that calls attention to one of the four decision-making
functions.
2. Disruptive—interaction that detracts from the group’s ability to achieve the four
task functions.
3. Counteractive—interaction that refocuses the group.
D. Since most communication disrupts, effective group decision making depends upon
counteractive influence.
E. Hirokawa’s function-oriented interaction coding system (FOICS) classifies each
functional utterance for analysis.
1. Using FOICS, raters determine which of the four functions an utterance
addresses.
2. They also consider whether the utterance facilitates or inhibits the group’s focus
on the function.
3. Coding decisions is fraught with difficulty, and Hirokawa continues to refine the
methodology.
V.
From the tiny pond to the big ocean.
A. In the laboratory, Hirokawa finds that the functional perspective accounts for over 60
percent of the total variance in group performance.
B. Hirokawa’s assistants used the FOICS to analyze the role of communication within
the groups and judged how well each group met the requisite functions (except
identifying alternatives).
C. Yet the functional perspective will be unable to forge a stronger connection between
communication and good group decisions until it can isolate specific comments that
move a group along its path.
1. Raters could judge the quantity but not the quality of statements.
2. Hirokawa believes group decision-making performance is dependent more on
quality than quantity of utterances.
D. In 1995, Hirokawa studied a four-person medical team in rural Iowa.
1. Team members’ discussions aligned with the four requisite functions specified
by the functional perspective.
2. He discovered that the medical services they offered were more satisfying to the
patients and less expensive to the state than conventional health care.
216
3. This experiment strengthened his faith in the vitality of the functional
perspective in a real-world context.
4. Yet in some cases patients got worse, even when the requisite functions were
addressed.
E. The crucial challenge for group researchers is to discover precisely when a group’s
performance of functional requisites yields effective group decisions and when it
does not.
VI.
Practical advice for amateurs and professionals.
A. Be skeptical of personal opinions.
1. Groups often abandon the rational path due to the persuasive efforts of other
self-assured group members.
2. Unsupported intuition is untrustworthy.
B. Follow John Dewey’s six-step process of reflective thinking, which parallels a doctor’s
treatment regimen.
1. Recognize symptoms of illness.
2. Diagnose the cause of the ailment.
3. Establish criteria for wellness.
4. Consider possible remedies.
5. Test to determine which solutions will work.
6. Implement or prescribe the best solution.
C. Hirokawa and Gouran’s four requisite functions replicate steps two through five of
Dewey’s reflective thinking.
D. To counteract faulty logic, insist on a careful process.
VII. Critique: is rationality overrated?
A. Although the functional perspective is one of the three leading theories in small
group communication, its exclusive focus on rationality may cause mixed
experimental results.
B. The FOICS method all but ignores comments about relationships inside and outside
the group.
C. Cynthia Stohl and Michael Holmes emphasize that most real-life groups have a prior
decision-making history and are embedded within a larger organization.
1. They advocate adding a historical function requiring the group to talk about how
past decisions were made.
2. They also advocate an institutional function that is satisfied when members
discuss relevant parties who are absent from the decision-making process.
D. Recently, Gouran has raised doubts about the usefulness of functional perspective
for all small groups.
1. It’s beneficial for members to fulfill the four requisite functions only when they
are addressing questions of policy.
2. Groups addressing questions of fact, conjecture, or value may not find the
requisite functions relevant.
217
Key Names and Terms
Randy Hirokawa and Dennis Gouran
Communication researchers at the University of Hawai‘i and Pennsylvania State
University, respectively, who developed the functional perspective of group decision
making.
Functional Perspective
A rationally based approach to small group communication that emphasizes requisite
functions for reaching high-quality decisions.
Requisite Functions
The four specific task requirements for good decision making are problem analysis,
goal setting, identification of alternatives, and evaluation of positive and negative
consequences.
Positive Bias
The attribute of some group tasks in which spotting the favorable characteristics of
alternative choices is more important than identifying the negative qualities.
Negative Bias
The attribute of some group tasks in which the unattractive characteristics of choice
options outweigh positive attributes.
Promotive Communication
Interaction that moves a group along the goal path by redirecting attention to decisionmaking functions.
Disruptive Communication
Interaction that diverts, retards, or frustrates group members’ ability to achieve the task
functions.
Counteractive Communication
Interaction that members use to get the group back on track.
Function-Oriented Interaction Coding System (FOICS)
Hirokawa’s coding system for a group discussion that classifies the function of specific
statements.
Functional Utterance
An uninterrupted statement of a single member that appears to perform a specific
function within the group interaction process.
John Dewey
Previously introduced in Chapter 5, this early twentieth-century American pragmatist
philosopher developed the six-step process of reflective thinking.
Reflective Thinking
Paralleling a doctor’s treatment regimen, Dewey’s rationally based, systematic process
of decision making is the prototype of the functional perspective.
Aubrey Fisher
Critiquing his own work, this late communication theorist identified the problem caused
by neglecting the socioemotional dimension of groups, a problem replicated by the
functional perspective.
Cynthia Stohl and Michael Holmes
Critiquing the functional perspective, these communication researchers from Purdue
University advocate adding historical and institutional functions to the process.
218
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 16, Griffin has updated the Critique and Second Look sections to
reflect current scholarship in the area. In addition, the chapter has been lightly edited for
clarity and precision.
Suggestions for Discussion
The plusses and minuses of parsimony
Hirokawa and Gouran’s tightly constructed, highly rational, theoretically elegant
approach to small group decision making contrasts instructively with the expansive,
epistemologically complex, theoretically amorphous approaches to communication presented
by scholars such as Pearce and Cronen and Barthes. (The latter’s theory will be presented in
Chapter 25.) The functional perspective—imbued with a faith in reason that is virtually platonic
in nature, as well as a willingness to pare down the complex reality of a confusing social
process to a few key variables and components—demonstrates both the strengths and the
weaknesses of social-scientific theorizing and experimentation, and we recommend discussing
these plusses and minuses with your class. Because the rigor and precision of the functional
perspective make it an excellent exemplar, we would highly recommend bringing several of
Gouran’s and Hirokawa’s articles to class to show your students exactly how this kind of work
is done. Furthermore, we encourage you to invite students to test Hirokawa and Gouran’s
approach with their own experience.
Following Griffin’s lead in the chapter, bring in your own stories or solicit your students’
narratives in order to demonstrate instances when requisite functions were—or should have
been—marshaled to help groups reach quality solutions and appropriate decisions. Just as
important, ask students if they can recall instances when the socioemotional dimension
seemed as or more important than purely rational elements of decision making. Have they
experienced situations in which relational issues such as friendship and team cohesiveness,
emotional factors such as joy or pride, member attributes such as commitment and
experience, prior decision-making histories, or institutional frameworks were salient?
Having just completed three weeks of emotionally taxing, but ultimately fulfilling jury
duty, Glen found that within this particular group decision-making context, highly personal
communication about character, trust, responsibility, fairness, and identification (a Burkeian
concept covered in Chapter 23) enabled the group to successfully reach a unanimous verdict.
Critiquing the theory
As you critique this theory with your students, ask them to consider whether or not the
functional perspective adequately treats the potential importance of complex developmental
sequences and the emergent aspects of decision making. In some cases, what may be most
important about a group’s deliberations is that its goals changed once it began examining
solutions. In another case, careful attention to a group’s process might reveal that it began
with alternatives before moving back to the problem, only to clarify its goal once it was faced
with having to make a choice. Other times, a group may abandon the process after realizing
the unfeasibility of every possible solution. In many cases, it does seem as though the
219
developmental sequence of events may help us to understand what was most important in a
given group’s work. An analogy to writing might help. When students embark upon research
papers, we warn them that their theses or foci may change in the process of researching and
writing. What they study affects how they view the overall problem. If they knew what they were
going to say before they started, then most likely they wouldn’t produce very sophisticated
results. Group decision making often resembles such research and composition. If—as
students of communication—we focus on the functions atemporally or in terms of simple linear
progressions, then we may achieve an elementary understanding of what happens, yet miss
the revealing developmental process that takes place. Reduction clarifies, but it may also
distort or neglect the most intriguing details of the picture.
The functional perspective meets Candyland
On several occasions, students have commented that Figure 17.1 (254) reminds them
of the children’s board game “Candyland” or “Chutes and Ladders.” At times, we have
exploited the connection by bringing in the board from the game and asking students to
compare the familiar game with the theory. While there might be a most expedient way of
getting to the end, in both cases, there are various possible routes to finishing. Likewise, there
are obstacles that can temporary derail your forward progress. After exhausting the
connections, ask students to articulate the discrepancies (i.e. there’s only one goal in the
game) or to speculate on how the game might be tweaked to be even more reflective of
Hirokawa’s theory. For example, how could evaluation of alternatives be incorporated into
play?
Comparisons with living organisms
Under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook, question #1 asks students to
explore intriguing parallels between functional requisites and the functions of living organisms.
Does Hirokawa and Gouran’s approach account for reproduction, or is it necessary to bring in
the institutional function to create the parallel?
Theory of group communication or problem solving
We’ve often wondered if the functional perspective is—at its core—more of a theory
about problem solving itself than it is a theory about communication’s role in problem solving.
Wouldn’t most of the concepts that Griffin discusses in this chapter apply equally well to a
group’s deliberations or one person’s thought process? Certainly the quote from Ray and Tom
Magliozzi—which has little if anything to do with communication (254)—supports this line of
challenge.
220
Sample Application Log
Melodie
I’d like to take the theorist’s opinion that prioritizing, or the developing of a logical progression
of a group is essential if it is to function, and look at my summer’s experience. I was the
assistant director for S.I.C.M, the children’s program at College Church this summer. Our group
of interns struggled with accomplishing tasks, and a large part of that was due to our lack of
prioritizing. In the leadership role, our director did point out positive qualities of the members
but failed to acknowledge the negatives. In this case one intern was repeatedly late for all
group functions, thus causing us an extra hour of time that was not originally scheduled. This
soon caused tension in the group but nothing was done about it. We had many decisions to
make regarding day camp, scheduling and clubs, but our failure to prioritize our choices and
lack of goal setting made the summer an organizational nightmare.
Exercises and Activities
Problem solving in rural Iowa
Griffin features a discussion of Hirokawa’s experience with a four-person medical team
serving rural Iowa communities that had no physician (257-58). Hirokawa claims that in
making decisions, they satisfied the requirements that he and Gouran outline in their
functional perspective. Ask your students to speculate about this process. More specifically,
how do they suppose these budding health professionals came to decisions? What were their
deliberations like? Could other factors have crept into the process that Hirokawa ignored or
underestimated?
Illustrating group decision-making and the FOICS
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he uses volunteers to constitute a decisionmaking body. He then gives them a problem to solve such as the familiar horse-trading
problem (Farmer Glen buys a horse for ten dollars. A short while later, his neighbor convinces
him to sell it for twenty. Glen soon decides he can’t live without the beast, so be buys it back
for thirty. By now the horse is a local celebrity, and another neighbor persuades Glen to sell it
for forty. How much has Glen made or lost over the course of the transactions? Answer: twenty
dollars ahead, but usually 40-50% come up with a different answer) or a similar puzzle. The
key is that the problem needs to have multiple answers. Once the problem-solving group is
established, he gives a second group of volunteers the task of using FOICS checklist to chart
the first group’s responses as they work toward a decision. This exercise illustrates how a
group functions, as well as the difficulty of coding systems such as FOICS checklist.
Feature film illustrations
For a practical illustration of the functional perspective, Griffin recommends using a
two-minute clip from Apollo 13 that begins when Ed Harris picks up chalk (1:28:30). Other
films that also work well to illustrate the theory include Ocean’s 11, The Goonies, and School
of Rock.
221
Further Resources
§
For additional discussion of the functional perspective, see:
o Gwen M. Wittenbaum, Andrea B. Hollingshed, and Paul Paulus, “The Functional
Perspective as a Lens for Understanding Groups,” Small Group Research 35, 1
(2004): 17-43.
o Lise VanderVoort. “Functional and Causal Explanations in Group Communication
Research,” Communication Theory 12, 4 (2002): 469-86.
o Elizabeth E. Graham, et al., “An Applied Test of the Functional Communication
Perspective of Small Group Decision-Making,” Southern Communication Journal
62 (Summer 1997): 269-79.
o Kathleen M. Propp and Daniel Nelson, “Problem-Solving Performance in
Naturalistic Groups: A Test of the Ecological Validity of the Functional
Perspective,” Communication Studies 47 (Spring 1996): 35-45.
222
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226
CHAPTER 18
ADAPTIVE STRUCTURATION THEORY
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Scott Poole developed adaptive structuration theory to address issues of group
stability vs. group change and free choice vs. determinism based on social structure.
B. Poole wants group members to understand that they create groups as they act within
them.
II.
Phasing out the phase model.
A. Until recently, researchers thought that they identified a universal pattern for small
group decision making.
B. A single-sequence model was generally accepted.
1. Orientation—efforts are unfocused because goals are unclear.
2. Conflict—factions disagree on approach to problem.
3. Coalescence—tensions are reduced through peaceful negotiation.
4. Development—group concentrates on ways to implement a single solution.
5. Integration—group focuses on tension-free solidarity rather than task.
C. Marshall Poole did not accept the single-sequence model.
D. In his early research, Poole discovered that only a quarter of the groups followed the
single-sequence model.
E. He became convinced that group dynamics are far too complicated to be reduced to
a few propositions or a predictable chain of events.
F. He also believed that group members affect outcomes.
G. Poole, Robert McPhee, and David Seibold studied the work of Anthony Giddens.
1. Giddens suggests that people in society are active agents.
2. Poole adapted Giddens’s macrotheory of societal structuration to the microlevel
of small group activity.
III.
Structuration according to Giddens.
A. Structuration refers to the production and reproduction of the social systems through
members’ use of rules and resources in interaction.
1. Interaction reflects Giddens’s conviction about free will.
2. Rules and resources are used interchangeably with the term structures.
a. Rules are implicit formulae for action.
b. Resources are all personal traits, abilities, knowledge, and possessions
people bring to interactions.
3. Production happens when people use rules and resources in interaction.
4. Reproduction occurs when actions reinforce features of the systems already in
place.
B. Giddens’s concept of structuration inspires Poole’s adaptive structuration theory.
1. Poole calls his theory adaptive because group members intentionally adapt rules
and resources to accomplish goals.
227 2.
3.
Structuration is more complex than the single-sequence model.
Poole believes that the value of a theory of group decision making hinges on how
well it addresses the complexities of interaction.
IV.
Interaction—concerns of morality, communication, and power.
A. Poole assumes that group members are skilled and knowledgeable actors who
reflexively monitor their activities.
B. Morality, communication, and power are combined in every group action.
C. Advocacy can sometimes hurt rather than help a reticent member of the group.
D. Communication in small groups makes a difference.
E. Adaptive structuration has a critical edge.
V.
The use and abuse of rules and resources.
A. Rules are propositions that indicate how something ought to be done or what is good
or bad.
B. Resources are materials, possessions, or attributes that can be used to influence or
control the actions of the group or its members.
C. Rules and resources can constrain or empower group members
D. Appropriation occurs when rules and resources are borrowed from parent
organizations or from the larger culture.
VI.
Researching the uses and rules and resources.
A. Poole’s research with Gerry DeSanctis explores how groups use computerized group
decision support systems (GDSS) to improve decision making.
B. The computer system is designed to support democratic decision making.
1. Equal opportunity to participate.
2. One vote per person.
3. Anonymous idea generation and balloting.
C. Poole and DeSanctis call the values behind the system the spirit of the technology.
1. The spirit of the technology is the principle of coherence that holds a set of rules
and resources together.
3. A faithful appropriation of technology is consistent with the spirit of the resource.
4. An abuse of rules and resources is described as ironic appropriation.
VII. Production of change, reproduction of stability.
A. Poole emphasizes product—that which is produced and reproduced through
interaction.
B. Giddens’s concept of duality of structure means that rules and resources are both
the medium and the outcome of interaction.
1. In terms of group decision making, the decision is affected by rules and
resources, but it also affects those structures.
2. Duality of structure explains why some groups are stable and predictable and
others are changing and unpredictable.
C. Resources and rules can change gradually through interpenetration of structures.
228
VIII. How then shall we live . . . in a group?
A. Groups create themselves, yet members don’t always realize this.
B. Poole wants to empower low-power members to become agents of change within
their groups.
C. He recommends small, nonthreatening changes.
IX.
Critique: Tied to Giddens—for better or for worse.
A. Adaptive structuration is one of the three leading theories of group communication.
B. Adaptive structuration privileges human choice and accounts for both stability and
change.
C. Adaptive structuration gains credibility because of its connection to Giddens.
D. Adaptive structuration’s critical edge seems tame for a theory rooted in the ideas of
Giddens.
E. Ken Chase argues that Giddens fails to provide a steady moral compass for ethical
communication.
F. Poole, as well, does not ground his theory on ethical assumptions.
G. The tie to Giddens brings with it a level of complexity that can be confusing.
H. Poole himself believes that group theories have failed to capture the imaginations of
students and practitioners.
Key Names and Terms
Marshall Scott Poole
A professor of communication at Texas A&M University who developed adaptive
structuration theory.
Robert McPhee and David Seibold
Communication scholars at Arizona State University and the University California, Santa
Barbara, respectively, who share Poole’s interest in the work of Anthony Giddens.
Anthony Giddens
A British sociologist who developed the macrotheory of structuration.
Structuration
The production and reproduction of social systems through group members’ use of rules
and resources in interaction.
Interaction
Action based on free will.
Rules
Propositions that make value judgments or indicate how something ought to be done.
Resources
Materials, possessions, and traits that can be used to influence or control the actions of
the group or its members.
Production
The use of rules and resources in interaction.
Reproduction
The reinforcement of system features already in place, maintaining the status quo.
229
Adaptive Structuration Theory
Poole’s application of Giddens’s concept of structuration to small group decision
making.
Appropriation
The process of borrowing rules and resources from parent organizations or the larger
culture.
Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS)
Media technology used to promote idea creation and democratic decision making in
computer-assisted conferences.
Gerry DeSanctis
Poole’s colleague (University of Minnesota) in studying how groups adapt computer
technologies.
The Spirit of the Technology
The principle of coherence that holds a set of rules and resources together.
Faithful Appropriation of Technology
An appropriation that is consistent with the spirit of the resource.
Ironic Appropriation
Thwarting the intended use of rules and resources.
Duality of Structure
Rules and resources that are both the medium and the outcome of interaction; they
affect and are affected by what is done.
Interpenetration of Structures
Gradual change within a group due to the merging of discrepant rules and resources.
Ken Chase
A communication scholar from Wheaton College who questions the moral grounding of
structuration.
Principal Changes
The basic content of this chapter (formerly numbered 17) remains the same. Griffin has
clarified the Critique section, updated the Second Look references, and edited for clarity and
precision.
Suggestions for Discussion
Challenging material
As Scott Poole himself admits (273), this theory is slow going for undergraduates. Even
in this highly accessible form, therefore, the material presented here may present a significant
pedagogical challenge. We recommend emphasizing the element of empowerment. At its heart,
the theory pushes individual agency, an awareness that “groups create themselves” (271),
democratic decision making and power sharing. These are concrete concepts/values that
should be important to students. In addition, it’s important to stress that although Poole’s
research program is very high-tech, the basic tenets of the theory apply in low-tech
environments as well. Ultimately, this is not a theory about advanced computer programs and
electronic devices but about effective talk in a group setting.
230
Focusing on the core concepts
Just as interpersonal deception theory (Chapter 7) posed a difficulty in presenting a
broad-ranging theory in a short amount of time, adaptive structuration encounters a similar
obstacle. Here, the challenge is providing enough details of the expansive macrotheory
(Giddens’s structuration) so as to provide an adequate departure point into the microtheory
(Poole’s adaptive structuration). While clarifying the whole of structuration would require
devoting significant amounts of time, it is very feasible to introduce students to a few key ideas.
We focus on the definition of structuration as the “production and reproduction of the social
systems through the members’ use of rules and resources in interaction” (265). Here, the key
terms include interaction, production and reproduction, and rules and resources. Interaction
focuses on the person’s ability to be an active participant in shaping the social structures
within which they live and work. Part of that “activeness” is derived from the duality of
structure—the ability to produce and reproduce structures through use (or disuse). Taking a
course of action, such as a play for power against a domineering co-worker or reassuring a
tentative colleague of their value, essentially serves two purposes. They institute that course of
action and produce the structure, while also restating how things are done, thereby
reproducing a structure. Finally, you might want to tackle the concept of rules and resources as
something that the individual has and can pull on during an interaction. A rule implies a course
of action as right or appropriate and a resource enables the person during an interaction.
Challenge your students to define what resources they have as students and what rules direct
their actions. In his theory, Poole adapts these concepts to the microcosm of group interaction,
and with some basics under their belts about the macrotheory, your students might grow more
comfortable with this adapted form as well.
An important dose of levity
Without a doubt, structuration is fairly heady stuff from which you and your students
might welcome some relief. At this point, we recommend that you introduce your students to a
terrific website: http://www.theory.org.uk. On this British website, its creator David Gauntlett
takes a genuine yet irreverent approach to social theory. The centerpiece of the site is the
“theory trading cards,” which provide a picture and basic facts about leading social theorists
using baseball card styling. The cards, which are now commercially available through AltaMira
Press, include figures such as Giddens, Erving Goffman (featured in Chapter 4), and Stuart Hall
(whose cultural studies approach is the subject of Chapter 26). Also not to be missed is the
Lego Ò set, “Giddens in his study.”
231
Sample Application Log
Chris
As a piano teacher, my method of communication with all students in a lesson is fairly
consistent. The “rules and resources” are fairly well established. The student comes with the
assignment she’s been practicing and her musical knowledge and abilities, and I come with my
musical knowledge from studies and experience as a teacher and performer. Our
communication is largely patterned. We chat for a couple of minutes (non-music related). Then
we begin with warm-ups (scales, etc.). Student plays, I listen, and then we discuss and work in
musical concepts. The same with their repertory assignments.
My student Michael and I tend to be more of an example of adaptive structuration theory than
a fixed structure. One week, Michael met me at the door, excited about a musical piece and
with multiple questions. We sat down and got right to work with hardly a greeting. This change,
on his part, facilitated a change of outcome (no chit-chat, just work) and structure; we have
adopted this right-to-work-and-talk-later approach in succeeding weeks. Additionally, at one
lesson, Michael expressed an interest in learning to improvise. This was out of our typical
structure of communication, but we took lesson time to talk about it. Since then, we began
experimenting with improvisation in his lessons and now incorporate it into a few minutes of
each lesson.
Exercises and Activities
Student juries as an experiential learning tool
Research on jurors’ deliberation conducted by Sunwolf and David Seibold (for reference,
see listing in the textbook’s A Second Look) suggests a useful classroom exercise to help
students understand the complexities of adaptive structuration theory. Divide students into
groups and give them summaries of legal cases for which they will act as juries. Each jury
should address five issues as follows:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
How should the group pick a leader (foreperson)?
How should jurors communicate their opinions on the appropriate verdict? (Consider
the following specific situation: what is the best way to take a vote on what the
verdict should be?)
What should be done if a juror wishes to communicate with someone outside the
group in order to get information that could affect the verdict? (Consider the
following specific situation: what should the jury do if a juror is confused about the
legal instructions and wants assistance from the judge?)
What should jurors do if one member is “deviant”? (Consider the following specific
situation: what should be done if one juror reveals that he or she was not truthful
with the judge about past experiences that could affect his or her decision in the
case?)
How long should jurors discuss the verdict, and how should they handle
disagreements about how long to talk?
232
As they discuss the questions above, groups should also step back and consider how they are
arriving at their answers. In other words, participants should consider, in terms of adaptive
structuration theory, the rules that the group creates as well as the resources that group
members bring to the decision-making process. This discussion can help students address
particular issues from this chapter, such as the ways in which rules and resources can
potentially both constrain and empower groups members and the influence that the larger
culture has on rules and resources. In addition, the case of jury deliberations illustrates
another principle of adaptive structuration theory—that rules and resources can have an effect
upon decision-making structures themselves. For example, the fact that some resources
people would bring to jury deliberations—such as racial prejudice—would bias their decisionmaking leads to the screening out of jurors with potentially problematic attributes.
Adaptive structuration in your class
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he likes to apply the theory to his classroom.
What rules are followed and what resources are present? Have certain students become
leaders, and to what effect? What kind of appropriation is taking place? How do we judge
whether an appropriation is faithful or ironic? How might democratic decision making be
enhanced and quiet students be empowered? Griffin also likes to reflect with his students
about the relationships between adaptive structuration theory and CMM. Griffin particularly
wants them to see that Poole’s work puts much more emphasis on the greater environment
that surrounds and helps shape persons-in-conversation. (Integrative Question #27, below, is
designed to explore this ground.)
Further Resources
§
For additional discussion of adaptive structuration, see:
o Noshir S. Contractor, “Theoretical Frameworks for the Study of Structuring
Processes in Group Decision Support Systems,” Human Communication
Research 19 (June 1993): 528-68.
o Marshall Scott Poole, Andrea Hollingshead, and Joseph E. McGrath,
“Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Small Groups,” Small Group Research 35, 1
(2004): 3-16. This issue of Small Group Reseach is the first of two parts
dedicated to theoretical perspectives in group research.
o Michele H. Jackson and Marshall Scott Poole, “Idea-Generation in Naturally
Occuring Contexts: Complex Appropriation of a Simple Group Procedure,” Human
Communication Research 29, 4 (2003): 560-91.
§
For additional information on structuration, we recommend:
o David R. Seibold and Karen Kroman Myers’ chapter, “Communication as
Structuring,” in Gregory J. Shepherd, Jeffrey St. John, and Ted Striphas, eds.,
Communication as . . . Perspectives on Theory (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications, 2006), 143-52.
o Shaun Best, A Beginner’s Guide to Social Theory, chapter 5, “Anthony Giddens:
Theorising Agency and Structure” (London: Sage Publications, 2003).
o Philip Cassell has assembled an extensive selection of Giddens’s writings in his
1993 edited work, The Giddens Reader (Stanford: Stanford University Press).
233
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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234
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235
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236
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237
ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
Key Names and Terms
Classical Management Theory
An approach to organizing that values productivity, the precision and efficiency that
result from a division of labor, a hierarchical chain of command, and tight discipline.
Mechanistic Approach
Closely allied with classical management theory, a functional approach to
organizational communication that sees organizations as machines designed to
accomplish specific goals, with workers as interchangeable parts.
Living Systems Approach
An approach to organizational communication that views organizations as living
organisms that must constantly adapt to a changing environment in order to stay alive.
Cultural Approach
An approach to organizational communication that looks for shared meanings that are
unique to a given group of people.
Critical Approach
An approach to organizational communication that is built on the assumption that
people who are affected by an organization’s policy are legitimate stakeholders and
should be invited to participate in decisions that affect them.
Suggestions for Discussion
First, we’d like to make a point that is relevant to the entire section on organizational
communication—young adults tend to have difficulty relating to this material. Although most
of them have had some experience in the working world, they compartmentalize their
employment, categorizing it in a fashion that militates against speculative thought and
theorizing. Work is something they do for money, but it’s not yet an important component of
their lives. As you’ve no doubt discovered, this is not the case with issues such as romantic
and familial relationships or gender differences, which they think about constantly and enjoy
discussing in both concrete and abstract ways. The principal challenge in these three
chapters, thus, may be getting your students motivated to focus on this material. (You’ll be
relieved to know that older or returning students tend to respond more enthusiastically.
Because they’ve experienced the working world and understand its importance and farreaching influence, they find such theorizing relevant and intriguing.)
One way to get the younger set involved is to focus on organizations they belong to
that are not work related—churches and religious groups, clubs, social fraternities, athletic
teams, special interest groups, their high schools, and so forth. Another approach for soliciting
discussion is to use the mechanistic approach of classical management that Griffin
introduces in this section as a means of characterizing the communication present in many of
the jobs students typically perform. Those who have worked in fast-food restaurants and other
assembly-line industries will note that Taylor’s approach is still alive and well in American
organizations at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
238 Further Resources
§
When we teach organizational communication, we like to share with our students a few
passages from Frederick Taylor’s classic study, The Principles of Scientific Management
(New York: Harper and Row, 1947), which epitomizes the mechanistic approach. Consider,
for example, the “motivational” discussion between the manager and the hypothetical
worker named Schmidt on pages 44-46. The following pronouncement about productivity
is also very revealing:
It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of
the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that
this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of
standards and of enforcing this cooperation rests with the management
alone. The management must supply continually one or more teachers to
show each new man the new and simpler motions, and the slower men must
be constantly helped until they have risen to the proper speed. All of those
who, after proper teaching, either will not or cannot work in accordance with
the new methods and at the higher speed must be discharged by the
management. (83)
§
David Grant, et al. provide a good collection of recent essays in Discourse and
Organization (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998). Weick’s work is particularly well
represented in this text.
Feature film illustrations
§ Anne Nicotera from Howard University recommends the Charlie Chaplin film Modern
Times, which silently, yet brilliantly portrays the mechanistic approach.
§ John Gribas from Idaho State University recommends the film The Efficiency Expert, which
provides an opportunity for applying a variety of approaches to organizations.
§ Dutch Driver from McMurry College suggests the quirky Coen Brothers send-up of It’s a
Wonderful Life, The Hudsucker Proxy.
Basic organization texts
§ For more detailed discussion of the basic approaches to organizational communication
quickly outlined by Griffin, we recommend:
o Tom D. Daniels, Barry K. Spiker, and Michael J. Papa, Perspectives on
Organizational Communication, 4th ed. (New York: Wm. C. Brown/McGraw-Hill,
1996).
o Charles Conrad and Marshall Scott Poole, Strategic Organizational Communication,
5th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001).
§ For an interesting study of organizational communication that builds on many of the
theories featured in A First Look at Communication Theory, see Robert L. Heath,
Management of Corporate Communications: From Interpersonal Contacts to External
Affairs (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994).
Feminism in organizational communication literature
§ Feminist perspectives are presented by:
239
o Marlene G. Fine, “New Voices in Organizational Communication: A Feminist
Commentary and Critique,” in Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques in
Communication Studies, 135-66.
o Maryanne Wanca-Thibault and Phillip K. Thompkins, “Speaking Like a Man (and a
Woman) About Organizational Communication: Feminization and Feminism as a
Recognizable Voice,” Management Communication Quarterly 11 (May 1998): 60621.
o Karen Lee Ashcroft, “‘I Wouldn’t Say I’m a Feminist, But . . .’: Organizational
Micropractice and Gender Identity,” Management Communication Quarterly 11
(May 1998): 586-97.
o Dennis K. Mumby, “Feminism, Postmodernism, and Organizational Communication
Studies: A Critical Reading,” Management Communication Quarterly 9 (February
1996): 259-95.
o Mumby and Cynthia Stohl, “Feminist Perspectives on Organizational
Communication,” Management Communication Quarterly 11 (May 1998): 622-34.
Organizational communication and cultural studies
§ David Carlone and Bryan Taylor examine the relationship between organizational
communication and cultural studies in “Organizational Communication and Cultural
Studies: A Review Essay,” Communication Theory 8 (August 1998): 337-67.
Effective communication in organizations
§ Patrick O’Brian’s novels, which we introduced in our treatment of relational dialectics,
provides—through copious examples of naval command—excellent case studies of topdown organizational communication that is hierarchical, rigidly structured, and highly
formal. What is particularly interesting about these examples is even though the basic
structure of organizational communication varies little from ship to ship, considerable
variation in effectiveness of communication can be observed. Thus, the subtleties of
communication that exist within the overall basic structure, such as a captain’s ability to
tolerate some bottom-up communication—determine which crews perform well and which
fail, which ships are “happy” and which are surly, and which sailors remain loyal to their
captains and which turn their backs on their superiors. On the whole, O’Brian’s novels
serve as rich case studies for all three theories presented in this section of A First Look.
240 CHAPTER 19
INFORMATION SYSTEMS
APPROACH TO ORGANIZATIONS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Karl Weick focuses on the process of organizing rather than the structure of
organizations.
B. He equates organizing with information processing.
C. His model of organizing describes how people make sense out of confusing verbal
inputs.
II.
Organizing: making sense out of equivocal information.
A. Uncertainty denotes a lack of information.
B. Equivocality refers to situations where at least two interpretations are equally valid.
C. When information is equivocal, people need a context or framework to help them
sort through the data.
D. Face-to-face interaction is crucial when an organization faces equivocal information.
III.
Sensemaking in a loosely coupled system.
A. Universities are loosely coupled, which is to their advantage.
B. Requisite variety is the degree of complexity and diversity an organization needs to
match the level of equivocality of the data it processes.
C. Since universities handle complex information they will fail at sensemaking unless
they are loosely coupled.
D. Weick prefers biological over mechanical models of organization.
E. The basic unit of interconnectedness is the double interact.
1. It consists of three elements—act, response, and adjustment.
2. Its importance is why Weick focuses more on relationships within an
organization than on an individual’s talent or performance.
F. The university illustrates double interacts in a loosely coupled system.
1. Individual departments and units on campus are not closely connected.
2. Loose coupling allows the university to absorb shocks, scandals, and stupidity.
IV.
Organize to survive in a changing environment
A. Weick applies Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest theory to organizations.
B. The ultimate goal of an organization is survival.
C. Some people organize in a way better adapted to survive than do others.
D. Unlike animals, organizations can change when their members alter their behavior.
V.
The three-stage process of social-cultural evolution.
A. Social-cultural evolution is a three-stage process: enactment, selection, retention.
B. Enactment: don’t just sit there; do something.
241 1. Organizations have open boundaries with the outside environment, which they
partially create through their activity.
2. The failure to act is the cause of most organizational ineffectiveness.
3. Weick believes that action is a precondition for sensemaking.
4. Language is action, which is why organizations need to have many meetings.
C. Selection: retrospective sensemaking.
1. Selection is aided by two tools—rules and cycles.
2. Rules—stock responses that have served well in the past and have become
standard operating procedure—are effective when equivocality is low, but fail to
clarify situations when many conflicting interpretations are possible.
3. The act-response-adjustment cycle of the double interact is more effective in
situations of high equivocality.
4. As cycles increase to handle complex data, reliance on rules decreases.
5. Two studies confirm Weick’s hypotheses about rules and cycles.
D. Retention: treat memory as a pest.
1. Retention is the way organizations remember.
2. Too much retention creates a network of rules that reduces the flexibility
necessary to respond to complex information.
3. However, some degree of collective memory is necessary to provide stability for
the organization.
4. Weick seeks an ongoing tension between stability and innovation—managers
should not overemphasize past experience.
5. Organizations fail because they lose flexibility by relying too much on the past.
VI.
Critique: the strengths and weaknesses of metaphor.
A. Weick makes his theory interesting with provocative metaphors, vivid examples, and
startling statements.
B. His sociocultural application of Darwin’s theory shares the advantages and
disadvantages of all metaphors.
1. The metaphor vivifies and explains a difficult concept.
2. Unfortunately, it becomes ideology if taken too far, justifying cutthroat capitalism
or quashing all conflict.
C. Some managers criticize Weick’s quick-draw managerial approach.
D. Nonetheless, he defends the position that any strategic plan is better than inaction.
Key Names and Terms
Karl Weick
A professor of organizational behavior and psychology at the University of Michigan and
champion of the information systems approach to organizations.
Organizing
A way to make sense out of equivocal information.
Uncertainty
A lack of information that requires one to seek more facts.
242
Equivocality
Situations where people face the choice of two or more alternative interpretations, each
of which could reasonably account for what’s going on.
Requisite Variety
The degree of complexity and diversity an organization needs to match the level of
ambiguity of the data it processes.
Loose Coupling
A characteristic of some systems in which causal inference is difficult because relations
are mediated, intermittent, dampened, and delayed; typically, different parts of the
system have a widespread yet marginal effect on each other.
Tight Coupling
An organizational system in which the feedback loops of the double interacts of one
part of the system are tightly connected with those of other parts of the system.
Double Interact
A communication cycle that consists of act, response, and adjustment.
Charles Darwin
A nineteenth-century biologist whose theory of evolution serves as a metaphor for
Weick’s systems approach to organizations.
Enactment
Proactive communication in which members of an organization invent their
environment rather than merely discover it; action that is a precondition for
sensemaking.
Open-System Theory
For organizations, the environment is as much an output as it is an input.
Selection
The interpretation of actions already taken; retrospective sensemaking.
Rules
Stock responses that have served well in the past and have become standard operating
procedure. They are effective when equivocality is low.
Cycles
Double interacts best employed in situations of high equivocality.
Retention
The way organizations remember.
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 18, this chapter has been edited for clarity and precision. In
addition, the Second Look section has been updated. Otherwise, it remains essentially the
same.
243
Suggestions for Discussion
Weick’s theory as innovative and provocative
When discussing Weick’s work with your class, it’s very important to emphasize the bold
iconoclasm with which he writes about organizations. Weick’s unorthodox, revolutionary
pronouncements and innovative, artful metaphors are as captivating as they are controversial.
To reinforce this point, you may wish to read or summarize the delightful music analogy Weick
marshals in his artful article, “Organizing Improvisation: 20 Years of Organizing,” which Griffin
includes in his Second Look section. Share with your students his daring approach to
improvising. Weick’s “Act, then think!” approach creates a wonderful counterpart to the
methodic rationality of the functional perspective. If you teach these two chapters back to
back, in fact, make the most of the differences. Integrative Essay Question #30, below,
provides a vehicle for such comparisons.
In an interview on Bravo’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” Mike Meyers describes how
important it is to keep writing despite feeling uninspired or experiencing writer’s block. He
states that it is better to write poorly and revise it later than to not write at all. He tells a story
of Bill Murray’s writing days for the comedian Gilda Radnor. When uninspired moments arose,
Bill would write his stuff and then write, “and then Gilda does something funny.” It strikes us
that Mike’s comments mirror Weick’s “Act, then think!”
Interpretivism in contrast to scientific certainty
Integrative Essay Question #29 below seeks to explore the connection Griffin
establishes between Weick’s approach to sensemaking and the basic tenets of information
and uncertainty reduction theories. Like Shannon and Weaver and Berger, Weick is concerned
with the ways in which people gather and process information in order to reduce
uncertainty/equivocality. Unlike these more empirical researchers, though, Weick is less
concerned with scientific precision. He avoids both the simple elegance of Shannon and
Weaver’s model and the axiomatic rigor of Berger’s theory. In fact, Weick’s view of
organizational communication is intentionally amorphous; by focusing on the act of organizing
rather than the structure of organization, he leaves behind the concrete for the abstract.
Weick’s belief in the efficacy of action demonstrates a Jamesian faith that transcends
scientific certainty. There is a humanist’s flair to his work—characterized by a fondness for
paradox, an urge to challenge intuition, to doubt, and to exercise skepticism, a willingness to
forego certainty, and an interpretive agility—that distinguishes him from his more scientifically
minded colleagues.
In addition, his interest in the ongoing tension between stability and innovation gives
his work a dialectical feel reminiscent of Baxter and Montgomery’s approach to interpersonal
relationships (see Integrative Essay Question #32 below). It should not come as a surprise,
thus, that in the concluding chapter of A First Look at Communication Theory, Griffin places
Weick in the fourth category of his theoretical continuum, far to the right of Shannon and
Weaver and Berger, who are firmly located in the first category. In the privacy of our own
study—with only you watching—we might position Weick in the middle position of the
continuum, but we entirely agree with Griffin that significant theoretical distance exists
between Weick and the strict empirical camp.
244
Tightly and loosely coupled organizations
In the textbook under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus, question #3 features an
element of the systems approach that Griffin is not able to discuss in detail during the
chapter—the tightly coupled organization. Essay Question #22 below, which further probes the
potential advantages of tight coupling, may serve as a useful follow-up question in this
discussion. It is important, it seems to us, for students to see that tight coupling can—
depending on the particular features of the organization in question—be an invaluable
structuring principle. For example, many organizations that specialize in routinized, yet
intricately interrelated and highly time-sensitive transactions and procedures require the
coordination created by tight coupling.
Essay Question #21 below takes up the potential disadvantages of loose coupling.
What happens, for example, when a university is criticized or threatened financially by an
outside source such as a legislative body or governing board? Although the president of the
institution will offer his or her official response, the school as a whole lacks the organizational
coherence to respond with one voice and action. Thus, it may appear weak and ineffectual in
the eyes of outsiders. This may be one reason many universities receive so much flak these
days. A tightly coupled corporation, however, may be able to respond more decisively and
uniformly to criticism from beyond its walls, thus giving the appearance of control, discipline,
and direction.
Connections to adaptive structuration
Based on the layout of the textbook, it is likely that you will teach Poole’s adaptive
structuration and Weick’s information systems theories back to back. We suggest you
capitalize on the opportunity as the theories bear a considerable resemblance to each other.
For both theorists, reality, whether in a small group or an organization, is a dynamic
occurrence—people create reality as they experience it. To do so, people sometimes fall back
into existing patterns and at other times they seem to “make it up as they go along.” Poole and
Weick incorporate this changeability into their theories, and in doing so can explain either
when things remain status quo or go in a new direction, a strength of each theory. You might
want to discuss with your students other areas of overlap such as the enactment-selectionretention cycle’s link to the duality of structures. Finally, ask your students to speculate on
what rules and resources help us to organize. Integrative essay question #33 below picks up
on this theme.
Weick in small businesses
On occasion, we have encountered students who are frustrated with Weick’s
counterintuitive claims based on either their own or their parents’ experience as a small
business owner. We have found it very interesting to engage students in a discussion about
what effects Weick’s suggestions would have on the local, family business. Does it make good,
responsible business sense to do something and figure it out later? With the encroachment of
big business and corporate establishment on Main Street America, would a failing
businessperson do better by identifying options and weighing them carefully before acting or
by making a bold, yet uncertain step forward? For Weick, these actions may not be
contradictory as the assembling of new information and developing a plan of action serves to
reduce uncertainty and equivocality. Taking no action and ignoring one’s eroding business is a
245
fatal flaw in organizations according to Weick, but is it fair to say that a business owner’s act
may be to gather information upon which to get a response and to adjust?
Continuing with the theme of small or local businesses, you may want to discuss with
your students the comfort of familiarity. Weick argues that organizations would do better to
shed the known in favor of the innovative (286), but for some businesses sameness may be its
greatest asset. Like going into an old five-and-dime store that has everything or a restaurant
that hasn’t updated the interior in 20 years, people are drawn to places that are “just like I
remember it.” If there is a local establishment near your school that falls into this category, you
might consider asking your students how Weick’s ideas about retention might alter this local
institution.
A trick question
Essay Question #28 below may be a bit of a trick. The best answer to this either/or
query is that it constitutes a false dilemma. As Griffin tells us, “Symbolic interaction is action.
Whenever managers say something, they are actually creating a new environment rather than
merely describing a situation” (284). Thus, the most successful response should begin by
setting the questioner straight.
Sample Application Log
Brian
Each person employed by media production services, myself included, is carefully trained on
how to run sound in Edman Chapel. Often, we are given specific instructions about what
microphones to set up where so that everything is set long before the client shows up.
Sometimes when the client arrives they have changed their mind about how they want things
set up. When the scenario is cut and dried as to what we can and cannot do, we tend to rely on
past rules. More often than not, the situation requires a judgment call; in this case we look to
the cycle of act-response-adjustment. As we talk further with a client about what they want, we
reduce equivocality and are better able to adjust. However, I am often tempted to remember
how I’ve seen my boss act in similar situations and construct a network of rules about how I
should act. According to this theory, this means that I’ve lost some flexibility in dealing with
problems and will not be able to adjust as quickly as I should.
Exercises and Activities
Retention and collective memory
Weick suggests that managers should “treat memory as a pest” (286). To discuss this
issue within the context of your university or college, ask students to come up with rules that
your institution has adopted or tacitly practices for which no good reason can be found—either
because none ever existed or because no one can remember the original rationale. On some
campuses students might wonder why classroom desks are set (sometimes bolted to the floor)
in rows when discussion is the major form of interaction; why people wear black robes, hoods,
and funny hats to graduation and convocation; why first-year students are not allowed many of
the freedoms given other students; why the regular school year lasts only nine months; why
athletes are granted special privileges; why English composition is required, yet courses in
246
public speaking and listening are not; why many coaches are paid more than renowned
professors; and why grades are so important. To be balanced, of course, it’s important to
emphasize the counterpoint that some degree of collective memory is necessary to provide
stability for the organization. Students should be able to provide examples of instances in
which your institution calls upon retained knowledge to help itself respond intelligently to
problems. The same line of inquiry can be conducted with respect to smaller organizations to
which students belong such as sororities, fraternities, churches, and families. (Essay Question
#27 below addresses the issue of retention.)
The organizing of families
It may be revealing, in fact, to ask your students to imagine parenting in terms of
managing. How do double interacts function within the family structure? Is “Act, then think!” an
appropriate guideline for parental decision making? Encourage them to draw on their own
family experiences as they respond to such questions.
Double interaction and connections to interactional view
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he uses Weick’s approach to analyze his own
college. He asks students to discuss how buildings are named, how professors’ names are
listed in the catalog, and so forth. He also makes a particular point of emphasizing—and
exemplifying—the assumption that survival is a more important goal than the stated aims of an
organization (282). He stresses that you absolutely must demonstrate the concept of the
double interact for them, using an example of your own to reinforce the book’s treatment.
Finally, he likes to use the interactional view as a way of characterizing the systematic
approach championed by Weick. Just as family systems are comprised of intricately related
individuals, so organizations are built of a network of relationships. In both contexts, one
cannot understand a problem in isolation, but must look at the complex web of relations
inherent in any situation.
Pictionaryâ, the Weick way
Here’s an exercise from Carey H. Adams of Southwest Missouri State University that you
may wish to try:
How Do I Know What I Think Until I See What You Draw?
An Experiential Game for Teaching Karl Weick’s Model of Organizational Sensemaking
Learning Objective: To illustrate Karl Weick’s concepts of equivocality and the enactmentselection-retention process of equivocality reduction.
Materials Needed:
25-30 drawing tasks, as in the game Pictionaryâ
Large drawing surface and writing utensils (e.g., whiteboard, flip chart)
Paper and writing utensils for participants
Group Size:
10-25
Time Required:
45-60 minutes
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Instructions
Choose four people to serve as artists. These four artists will rotate drawing clues. Place
remaining participants in groups of 3-4. Explain that participants will be playing a game similar
to the popular Pictionaryâ but with several modifications. The rules of the game are as follows:
1. Each artist will be given a list of 8-10 drawing tasks. They will rotate drawing one picture
at a time. Artists may choose to draw their tasks in any order, and artists may consult
with one another.
2. Artists will draw each picture in its entirety before players are allowed to guess aloud.
When the artist is done, he or she sits down.
3. After the artist sits down, participants may discuss the drawing and generate guesses.
Note: Although participants are seated in groups of 3-4, no instructions are given
regarding whether they are to play as teams or as an entire group. Participants may
discuss the drawing any way they choose, but they may not communicate directly with
the artist.
4. Participants can generate as many guesses as they like, but final guesses are to be
held until the end of the game (i.e., when time is called, participants will be asked to list
all of their guesses at one time).
5. Participants will indicate when they are finished discussing the drawing. At this point,
the artist may choose to modify his or her drawing based upon the group’s discussion.
The artist also may choose to leave the drawing as is.
6. After the artist passes or makes modifications, participants may discuss the drawing
one more time. At no time may the artist indicate in any way whether players have
guessed correctly.
7. Drawing rules:
a. No talking by the artist.
b. No nonverbal indicators by the artist (e.g., head nods, pointing, etc.).
c. No letters or numbers allowed in drawings.
d. The facilitator may disallow pictures for any rule violation.
8. Announce a time limit for the game (typically 30-40 minutes). Note: It may take the
group a few minutes to get into a rhythm, and enthusiasm will build as the game
progresses. In this case, you may want to extend the time limit as the round nears
completion.
9. Announce that players will be rewarded according to the following formula:
# answers x .5 x % correct answers = points
Points may be extra credit, participation points, or some other reward.
Ex:
24 answers x .5 x 75% correct = 8 points
10. Players and artists can develop any strategy they choose within the rules of the game.
Applications
§ Drawings represent equivocality, i.e., inputs with multiple plausible meanings.
§ Guessing is enactment, i.e., bringing inputs into the field of perception and
interpretation; perceptions of drawings are shaped by initial and subsequent guesses.
§ Processing of inputs leads to selection of relevant information.
248
§
§
§
§
§
§
Useful information is stored in retention for future guesses, e.g., players begin to
recognize elements of artists’ drawing strategies; artists develop strategies they
perceive as effective and use them repeatedly.
Easy pictures are solved quickly using assembly rules, e.g., some pictures are easily
recognizable; a familiar format is quickly recognized and used by players.
Players engage in communication cycles when sufficient assembly rules are not
available and/or inputs are highly equivocal, e.g., discussion is more extensive, more
guesses are generated, or more disagreement over guesses is expressed.
The entire game demonstrates the reduction of equivocality.
o Players enact their environment by choosing strategies and establishing game
procedures.
o Players must find a way of retaining rules and information for use in making final
guesses.
Artists also are reducing equivocality.
o Drawing is enactment.
o Recognizing what clues are understood is enactment.
o Retaining what has worked and using it again or building on it is retention.
Some words and pictures are more equivocal than others, i.e., they present a greater
number of equally acceptable interpretations or meanings.
Discussion Questions for Debriefing
§ How did the absence of feedback affect you?
§ Did you choose speed or accuracy as a strategy to gain the most points? How did you
arrive at that choice? How did that choice affect the way you approached the game?
§ Did artists’ second attempts tend to increase or decrease equivocality? Why?
§ What system did players devise to deal with equivocality?
§ (If the facilitator told players the categories for drawings, e.g., place, person, action) Did
telling you the drawing category always help reduce equivocality? Why or why not?
§ What strategies were retained? Why?
§ If you could play the game again, what would you do differently?
§ Did the group ever talk itself out of right answers? How did that happen? Did more talk
create more equivocality?
§ Did assembly rules always work? Did they sometimes cause more confusion than they
relieved because they didn’t seem to fit the drawing? For example, artists often will use
the “sounds like” symbol of an ear, but a difficult “sounds like” clue may distract
players from a more straightforward visual clue.
§ Was there enough participation among players?
§ Did artists’ adding to their drawings sometimes create more equivocality than it
reduced?
§ What kinds of feedback did players and artists use?
§ What effect did being seated in groups have on players? Did they assume they were in
competitive teams? Did they ignore the fact that they were in “groups”? Did players
discuss why they were in groups?
§ What was the most equivocal drawing? What made it equivocal?
§ How did artists choose clues to draw? Did they change their strategies as the game
progressed?
§ To what extent did players rely on assembly rules vs. communication cycles? Why?
249 Further Resources
§
For recent writings by Weick, see:
o Weick discusses idea generation in his article, “Mundane Poetics: Searching for
Wisdom in Organizational Studies,” Organizational Studies 25, 4 (2004): 65368.
o In his article for the special issue of British Journal of Managament on new
directions in organizational learning, Weick discusses the imagination and its
role in learning, “Puzzles in Organizational Learning: An Exercise in Disciplined
Imagination,” British Journal of Management 13 (2002): S7-S15.
o In their 2001 book, Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an
Age of Complexity (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe
examine how high reliability organizations such as aircraft carriers and
firefighting crews organize themselves in such a way as to manage the
unexpected.
o Weick offers a characteristically innovative, articulate critique of current
organizational studies in “Drop Your Tools: An Allegory for Organizational
Studies,” Administrative Science Quarterly 41 (1996): 301-13.
§
Fredric M. Jablin and Michael W. Kramer offer a recent application of sensemaking in
“Communication-Related Sense-Making and Adjustment during Job Transfers,”
Management Communication Quarterly 12 (November 1998): 155-82.
250
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
251
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
252
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
253
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
254
CHAPTER 20
CULTURAL APPROACH TO ORGANIZATIONS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz views cultures as webs of shared meaning, shared
understanding, and shared sensemaking.
B. Geertz’s work has focused on Third World cultures, but his ethnographic approach
has been applied by others to organizations.
C. In the field of speech communication, Michael Pacanowsky has applied Geertz’s
approach in his research of organizations.
D. Pacanowsky asserts that communication creates and constitutes the taken-forgranted reality of the world.
II.
Culture as a metaphor of organizational life.
A. Interest in culture as a metaphor for organizations stems from our recent interest in
Japanese corporations.
B. Corporate culture has several meanings.
1. The surrounding environment that constrains a company’s freedom of action.
2. An image, character, or climate controlled by a corporation.
3. Pacanowsky argues that culture is not something an organization has, but is
something an organization is.
III.
What culture is; what culture is not.
A. Geertz and his colleagues do not distinguish between high and low culture.
B. Culture is not whole or undivided.
C. Pacanowsky argues that the web of organizational culture is the residue of
employees’ performances.
D. The elusive nature of culture prompts Geertz to label its study a “soft science.”
IV.
Thick description—what ethnographers do.
A. Participant observation, the research methodology of ethnographers, is a timeconsuming process.
B. Pacanowsky researched Gore & Associates.
C. Although Pacanowsky now works with Gore, the company he researched, he earlier
cautioned against “going native.”
D. Thick description refers to the intertwined layers of common meaning that underlie
what people say and do.
1. Thick description involves tracing the many strands of a cultural web and
tracking evolving meaning.
2. Thick description begins with a state of bewilderment.
3. The puzzlement is reduced by observing as a stranger in a foreign land.
255 E. Ethnographers approach their research very differently from behaviorists.
1. They are more interested in the significance of behavior than in statistical
analysis.
2. Pacanowsky warns that statistical analysis and classification across
organizations yield superficial results.
F. As an ethnographer, Pacanowsky is particularly interested in imaginative language,
stories, and nonverbal rites and rituals.
V.
Metaphors: taking language seriously.
A. Widely used metaphors offer a starting place for assessing the shared meaning of a
corporate culture.
B. Metaphors are valuable tools for both the discovery and communication of
organizational culture.
VI.
The symbolic interpretation of story.
A. Stories provide windows into organizational culture.
B. Pacanowsky focuses on the script-like qualities of narratives that line out roles in the
company play.
C. Pacanowsky posits three types of organizational narratives.
1. Corporate stories reinforce management ideology and policies.
2. Personal stories define how individuals would like to be seen within an
organization.
3. Collegial stories—usually unsanctioned by management—are positive or negative
anecdotes about others within the organization that pass on how the
organization “really works.”
D. Both Geertz and Pacanowsky caution against simplistic interpretation of stories.
E. Pacanowsky has demonstrated that scholars can use fiction to convey the results of
their research.
VII. Ritual: this is the way it’s always been, and always will be.
A. Rituals articulate multiple aspects of cultural life.
B. Some rituals are nearly sacred and difficult to change.
VIII. Can the manager be an agent of cultural change?
A. The cultural approach is popular with executives who want to use it as a tool, yet
culture is extremely difficult to manipulate.
B. Even if such manipulation is possible, it may be unethical.
C. Linda Smircich notes that communication consultants may violate the
ethnographer’s rule of nonintervention and may even extend management’s control
within an organization.
IX.
Critique: is the cultural approach useful?
A. The cultural approach is criticized by corporate consultants, who believe that
knowledge should be used to influence organizational culture.
B. Critical theorists attack the cultural approach because it does not evaluate the
customs it portrays.
256
C. The goal of symbolic analysis is to create a better understanding of what it takes to
function effectively within the culture.
D. The cultural approach may fall short on one of the criteria for good interpretive
theory, aesthetic appeal.
Key Names and Terms
Clifford Geertz
Princeton University anthropologist who pioneered the ethnographic study of culture.
Culture
A socially constructed and historically transmitted pattern of symbols, interpretations,
premises, and rules; complex webs of shared meaning.
Organizational Culture
A web of shared meanings; the residue of employee performances by which members
constitute and reveal their culture to themselves and others.
Michael Pacanowsky
A communication researcher, formerly at the University of Colorado and now a
consultant at W.L. Gore & Associates, who has applied Geertz’s methodology to
organizational communication.
Thick Description
The process of tracing the many strands of a cultural web and tracking evolving
meaning.
Corporate Stories
Stories that reinforce management ideology and company policy.
Personal Stories
Stories that company personnel tell about themselves, often to define how they would
like to be seen within the organization.
Collegial Stories
Unsanctioned anecdotes about other people in the organization.
Rituals
Repeated performances that articulate significant aspects of cultural life.
Linda Smircich
A University of Massachusetts management professor who draws on parallels to
anthropological ethnography to raise ethical qualms about communication consulting.
Principal Changes
This chapter was previously Chapter 19. In this edition, Griffin has revised the Critique
section (particularly in terms of critical theory), and updated the Second Look section.
257
Suggestions for Discussion
The value of thick description
Unlike theories such as social judgment, elaboration likelihood, and uncertainty
reduction, the cultural approach to organizations is comprised of minimal theoretical
apparatus. There are no flowcharts, continua, or complex equations here, and it is telling that
only a half dozen or so terms qualify as “key,” above. The art of ethnography, of course, is in its
application, which is why Griffin’s treatment contains so many rich examples. The premises
behind the work of Geertz and Pacanowsky are not difficult to master; their achievement is
based on their ability to produce thick descriptions of the cultures in question. Be sure your
students understand this point as you discuss this chapter.
For purposes of continuity, we suggest that you follow Griffin’s prompt (291) and refer
students back to the brief discussion of ethnography and Geertz located in Chapter 1 (19). By
doing so, you will ground your discussion firmly in the theoretical distinctions with which A First
Look at Communication Theory begins.
In Search of Excellence
In the 1980s, Tom Peters wrote on organizational culture in his books, In Search of
Excellence (with Bob Waterman), A Passion for Excellence (with Nancy Austin), and The Pursuit
of Wow. More recently, organizational scholars have moved away from Peters’s prescriptive
method of identifying excellent organizational traits and his suggestion that organizations
should alter their cultures in order to achieve certain virtues. His work is still valuable when
discussing organizations’ rituals, stories, and unique ethos and it may serve as a good
launching point into a discussion about the critics of Geertz and Pacanowsky who charge that
they lack a critical objection to injustices. You might ask students to speculate on where the
middle ground lies between being overtly prescriptive and intentionally nonjudgmental. The
book In Search of Excellence also spawned a video series available through Enterprise Media
and, at the onset of your discussion of organizational culture, a segment from the series might
serve useful. Though many of the segments are now outmoded, the segment on 3M’s
“invention” of the Post-itÒ note is still extremely engaging.
William Butler Yeats poem
Incidentally, the effect of Pacanowsky’s narrative critique of the profession is more
powerful if students have some knowledge of William Butler Yeats’s magnificent (and concise)
poem, “The Second Coming,” which concludes, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at
last,/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
258
Sample Application Log
Brian
The Men’s Glee Club is an organization which has its own culture. The substance of our culture
is found in our motto: fraternitas, integritas, veritas (that is, brotherhood, integrity, and truth).
This substance is played out in our rehearsals, weekly devotional times, planned social events,
and informal gatherings. As suggested by the theory, many stories are told to help define the
Club. Every year the director talks about how we should have our Spring Banquet somewhere
closer to Wheaton instead of having it in downtown Chicago. This is a corporate story since it
comes from the “management.” Of course, each year we vote to have it in Chicago, since the
cabinet would rather follow tradition than the director’s advice. This is a collegial story because
it is “the real story” of the Club. The Spring Banquet is a rite for the Glee Club—a rite of
enhancement (celebration of the past year), a rite of passage (the time when next year’s
cabinet officially takes over), and a rite of integration (our last chance to grow closer as a group
before the end of the school year).
Exercises and Activities
The culture of your school
Because it concerns an organizational culture familiar to all your students, question #1
under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook is particularly useful for class
discussion. As written, the question encourages readers to identify elements of the actual
organizational culture an ethnographer would uncover. In fact, though, prospective students
are more likely to be exposed to elements of the organization’s official culture that officers of
the admission office have constructed for the purpose of promoting the school. After students
have described the culture as they see it, therefore, ask them to compare their construct with
the official version contained in the institution’s brochures, catalogs, videotapes, and website.
(It would be a good idea to bring specific texts to class.) Ask them if the institution’s effort to
mold its culture through publications and public pronouncements is effective. Be sure you
touch upon metaphors, stories, and rituals. To enrich the discussion further, ask students to
compare the official and actual cultures of your institution to those of other colleges or
universities with which they have some familiarity. What are the effects of organizational
culture on the lives of students? What happens when official and actual cultures diverge
dramatically? We’ve known schools in which serious differences between the two
organizational cultures were the source of considerable friction. How are cultural values—both
official and actual—successfully communicated? How do institutional cultures change?
Intriguing answers to these important questions may arise from your discussion.
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he, too, uses question #1 as a jumping off point
for discussion of his college’s culture. He particularly solicits the input of transfer students,
who have experienced both his college’s culture and another’s and thus often articulate
components of the local culture that have been naturalized by and therefore hidden from
native students.
259
An example of a workplace metaphor
Items #3 and #4 under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook encourage
readers to analyze family rituals and workplace stories. To enrich these discussions, you can
broaden their scope. What stories—corporate, personal, or collegial—characterize their
families? What rituals help to capture important cultural components of their places of
employment? What metaphors vivify or symbolize both organizational contexts? You may wish
to share with your students one of our favorite examples of workplace metaphors. A friend of
ours was a manager at a high-tech firm. He was bothered by the metaphorical title given to the
space in which employees meet to plan for the future and strategize: the “war room.” Believing
that the martial connotations of the appellation were odious and counterproductive, he crafted
a memo to his superior suggesting a change. Arguing that the term “war room” suggested a
win-lose outlook when the company should be striving for win-win situations with its
customers, he proposed several less militaristic alternatives such as Mission Control, the
Bridge, the Strategy Room, or the Nerve Center. Initially, he persuaded his boss to go with the
first suggestion. What he noticed, though, was that even though the name of the room had
officially changed, employees continued to refer to it with the traditional title, the “war room.”
And that’s the way things remained. Members of the organizational culture thought of their
strategy sessions in terms of battle. Apparently, their identities were at least partially formed in
terms of warrior imagery. Thus, my friend’s altruistic attempt to alter his organization’s culture
failed. Students in our classes who are familiar with corporate war rooms find such discussion
particularly stimulating. When we question the inevitability of the name of the room, they often
respond, “But that’s what it is!” Getting them to see that the term is indeed a metaphor and
that many corporate cultures conceive of their business—and capitalism in general—as warfare
is most enlightening. To prove to the skeptic that corporate planning does not have to be
conceived of as preparation for battle, we mention that the executive planning rooms at many
institutions of higher education such as San Diego State University are simply called the
president’s conference room. (What’s it called at your campus?)
“Slouching towards Chicago”
One of the most intriguing sections of this chapter, it seems to us, is Griffin’s discussion
of Pacanowsky’s effort to employ fiction to communicate his results (294-95). Due to space
constraints, Griffin presents the passage from “Slouching towards Chicago” with little
explanatory analysis. We recommend that you take up this matter with your students.
Challenge them to produce some of the values and issues that are communicated about Jack
and Radner’s subculture, as Griffin suggests in question #2 under Questions to Sharpen Your
Focus in the textbook. Griffin has not included this article in the Second Look section, but you—
or the right student—will find the entire piece worthy of careful investigation.
260
Exercises in culture
Ed McDaniel employs the following exercises when he teaches this chapter:
To increase the relevancy of this chapter, I bring in a variety of literature that
focuses on organizational culture. These include management books, articles
from business magazines, and clippings from the business section of the local
newspapers.
To explain culture I use a “rules of the game” approach. This can be
accomplished by displaying a picture of a soccer ball, an American football,
and an Australian football, and point out how each has a different set of rules.
Then I explain how different cultures provide different rules for living life.
Feature film and television examples
The Firm, a popular film based on the novel by John Grisham, provides an excellent
example of a distinct corporate culture that has gone over the edge. This culture’s obsession
with control also makes it a good example of Deetz’s critical approach, which is discussed in
the following chapter. Brubaker and The Shawshank Redemption provide interesting looks at
the organizational cultures of two prisons. The films A Few Good Men and An Officer and a
Gentleman provide intriguing looks at organizational cultures within the military. Wall Street
presents one perspective on the organizational culture of the financial world. Almost Famous,
which we featured in our treatment of social penetration theory, provides an amusing view of
the culture of seventies rock bands. Particularly revealing is the metaphor the band and its
groupies use to describe the young reporter—“the enemy.” The British television show The
Office and the U.S. version of the same title provide rich examples of tensions at the workplace
and of organizational culture. Although some of the English humor may be lost on students, we
recommend the British original for its wry wit and candid portrayal of the working world.
261
Further Resources
§
If you enjoy Pacanowsky’s work, we recommend “Postscript: A Small-Town Cop:
Communication In, Out, and About a Crisis,” Communication and Organizations: An
Interpretive Approach, ed. Linda Putnam and Michael Pacanowsky (Beverly Hills: Sage,
1983), 261-82.
§
Edgar Schein emphasizes the importance of the cultural approach to organizations in
“Culture: The Missing Concept in Organizational Studies,” Administrative Science
Quarterly 41 (1996): 229-40.
§
Paul Schrodt provides an empirical examination of the relationship between group and
individual identity in “The Relationship between Organizational Identification and
Organizational Culture: Employee Perceptions of Culture and Identification in a Retail
Sales Organization,” Communication Studies 53 (Summer 2002): 189-202.
§
As Linda Smircich’s comments suggest, the tension between pragmatically based
research and ethnography free of management constraints and agendas is a significant
issue in the field of organizational communication. Nick Trujillo’s “Corporate Philosophy
and Professional Baseball: (Re)defining the Texas Rangers,” Case Studies in
Organizational Communication, ed. Beverly Davenport Sypher (New York: Guilford,
1990), 87-110, exemplifies the tension. Although the article is presented as a scholarly
case study of the team, it also functions as a public-relations piece for its management,
celebrating the efforts of top officers to alter the corporation’s culture. Trujillo, who
coauthored several pieces with Pacanowsky, demonstrates the difficulty of serving two
masters. We particularly recommend this piece for those interested in athletic
organizations.
§
For further discussion of Japanese corporate culture, see Lea P. Stewart,
“Organizational Communication in Japan and the United States,” Communication in
Japan and the United States, ed. William B. Gudykunst (Albany: State University of New
York, 1993), 215-48.
Organizational stories
§ For discussion of organizational stories, see:
o Barbara Czarniawska, Narrating the Organization: Dramas of Institutional
Identity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).
o John C. Meyer, “Tell Me a Story: Eliciting Organizational Values from Narratives,”
Communication Quarterly 43 (1995): 210-24.
o Linda S. Myrsiades, “Corporate Stories as Cultural Communications in the
Organizational Setting,” Management Communication Quarterly 1 (1987): 84120.
Metaphors and symbols
§ For discussion of organizational metaphors and symbols, see:
o Paul M. Hirsch and John A.Y. Andrews, “Ambushes, Shootouts, and Knights of
the Roundtable: The Language of Corporate Takeovers,” Organizational
Symbolism, ed. Louis Pondy, Peter Frost, Gareth Morgan, and Thomas
Dandridge (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1983), 145-55.
262
o Stanley Deetz, “Metaphor and the Discursive Production and Reproduction of
Organization,” Organization–Communication: Emerging Perspectives, ed. L.
Thayer (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1985), 168-82.
o Mina A. Vaughn, “Organizational Symbols: An Analysis of Their Types and
Functions in a Reborn Organization,” Management Communication Quarterly 9
(1995): 219-50.
o John Gribas and Cal Downs, “Metaphoric Manifestations of Talking ‘Team’ with
Teams and Novices,” Communication Studies 53 (Summer 2002): 112-28.
Clifford Geertz
§ For recent articles by Geertz, see:
o “Shifting Aims, Moving Targets: On the Anthropology of Religion,” Journal of the
Royal Anthropological Institute 11, 1 (2005): 1-15.
o “What Was the Third World Revolution?” Dissent 52, 1 (2005): 35-46.
o “What Is a state if It Is Not a Sovereign?” Current Anthropology 45, 5 (2004):
577-94.
§ Keith Windschuttle presents a critique of Geertz’s work in “The Ethnocentrism of
Clifford Geertz,” New Criterion 21, 2 (2002): 5-13.
§ Geertz’s autobiographical piece, “An Inconstant Profession: The Anthropological Life in
Interesting Times,” provides a summary both of his career and the field of cultural
anthropology in general. Annual Review of Anthropology 31, 1 (2002): 1-19.
§ Similar to Geertz’s landmark piece on Balinese cockfighting, H.L. “Bud” Goodall, Jr.
writes about a “poker rally” and the culture of Ferrari owners in his article, “Deep Play in
a Poker Rally: A Sunday among the Ferraristi of Long Island,” Qualitative Inquiry 10, 5
(2004): 731-67. In addition to the analysis, Goodall discusses the difficulties
associated with narrative ethnography.
263 Sample Examination Questions
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266
CHAPTER 21
CRITICAL THEORY OF COMMUNICATION
APPROACH TO ORGANIZATIONS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Stanley Deetz’s critical communication theory seeks to balance corporate and
human interests.
B. His work is based on the premise that corporations are political as well as economic
institutions.
C. Communication theory can be used to diagnose distorted corporate decision making.
D. Workplaces can be made more productive and democratic through communication
reforms.
II.
Corporate colonization of everyday life.
A. Deetz views multinational corporations as the dominant force in society.
B. Corporate control has sharply diminished the quality of life for most citizens.
C. Deetz scrutinizes the structure of the corporate world.
D. His theory of communication is “critical” because he questions the primacy of
corporate prosperity.
III.
Information vs. communication: a difference that makes a difference.
A. Deetz challenges Shannon and Weaver’s theory that communication is the
transmission of information, a view that perpetuates corporate dominance.
B. All corporate communication is an outcome of political processes that are usually
undemocratic and usually hurts democracy.
C. Deetz’s communication model emphasizes language’s role in shaping social reality.
1. Language does not represent things that already exist; it produces what we
believe to be “self-evident” or “natural.”
2. Corporations subtly produce meanings and values.
D. Like Pearce and Cronen, Deetz considers communication to be the ongoing social
construction of meaning, but he emphasizes that the issue of power runs through all
language and communication.
E. Managerial control often takes precedence over representation of conflicting
interests or long-term company health.
F. Codetermination, on the other hand, epitomizes participatory democracy.
G. Public decisions can be formed through strategy, consent, involvement, and
participation.
IV.
Strategy: overt managerial moves to extend control.
A. Managerialism is a discourse that values control above all else.
B. Forms of control based in communication systems impede any real worker voice in
structuring their work.
267 C. The desire for control can even exceed the desire for corporate performance.
D. The quest for control is evident in the corporate aversion to public conflict.
E. Strategic control does not benefit the corporation, and it alienates employees and
causes rebellion.
F. Because of these drawbacks, most managers prefer to maintain control through
voluntary consent.
V.
Consent: willing allegiance to covert control.
A. Consent describes a variety of situations and processes in which someone actively,
though unknowingly, accomplishes the interests of others in the faulty attempt to
fulfill his or her own interests.
B. Consent is developed through managerial control of elements of corporate culture:
workplace language, information, forms, symbols, rituals, and stories.
C. Systematically distorted communication operates without employees’ overt
awareness.
1. What can be openly discussed or thought is restricted.
2. Only certain options are available.
D. Discursive closure suppresses potential conflict.
1. Certain groups of people may be classified as disqualified to speak on certain
issues.
2. Arbitrary definitions may be labeled “natural.”
3. Values behind decisions may be kept hidden to appear objective.
VI.
Involvement: free expression of ideas, but no voice.
A. Meaningful democracy requires that people affected by decisions have forums for
discussion and a voice in the final result.
1. Forums provide the opportunity for the free expression of ideas.
2. Voice means expressing interests that are freely and openly informed and
having those interests represented in joint decisions.
B. Through open discussion, employees air their grievances, state their desires, and
recommend improvements.
C. But free expression is not the same as having a “voice” in corporate decisions, and
knowledge of this difference creates worker cynicism.
VII. Participation: stakeholder democracy in action.
A. Meaningful democratic participation creates better citizens and social choices while
providing economic benefits.
B. Deetz advocates open negotiations of power.
C. There are six classes of stakeholders, each with unique needs.
1. Investors.
2. Workers.
3. Consumers.
4. Suppliers.
5. Host communities.
6. Greater society and the world community.
268
D. Some stakeholders have taken greater risks and made longer-term investments than
have stockholders and top-level managers; Deetz believes these stakeholders should
have a say in corporate decisions.
E. Managers should mediate, rather than persuade, coordinating the conflicting
interests of all parties.
VIII. Models of Stakeholder Participation.
A. Wall Street analyst and changes in management have created an environment, at
corporations such as Saturn Corp. and AES Corp., that is less friendly than it used to
be for workers to have a voice in decisions that affect them.
B. George Cheney suggests that “evidence weighs heavily against the long-term
maintenance of the integrity of highly democratic organizations.”
C. Cheney and Deetz believe small highly adaptive process-oriented companies can
lead the way in sustaining participating democracy.
D. As demonstrated by Springfield ReManufacturing Corporation (SRC), stakeholder
participation can be a long-term success if employees, armed with knowledge, are
active players rather than passive spectators in determining the company’s future.
IX.
Critique: is workplace democracy just a dream?
A. Deetz’s approach to corporate decision making is inherently attractive, yet there are
some difficulties as well.
B. Deetz’s constructivist view of communication does not necessarily support his reform
agenda.
C. Deetz’s campaign for stakeholder negotiation may not be realistic.
D. Is it asking too much of one theory to reform both commonsense conceptions of
communication and private business simultaneously?
E. Deetz suggests critical scholars should be “filled with care, thought, and good
humor.”
Key Names and Terms
Stanley Deetz
University of Colorado communication professor and proponent of a critical theory of
organizational communication.
Communication Model
A critical approach to communication that regards language as the principal medium
through which social reality is produced and reproduced.
Managerial Control
Corporate decision processes that systematically exclude the voices of people who are
affected by the decision.
Codetermination
Corporate decision processes that invite open dialogue among all stakeholders.
Managerialism
A discourse practice based on a systematic logic, a set of routine practices, and an
ideology that privileges top-down control.
269
Strategy
The overt practice of managerial control.
Consent
The process by which an employee actively, though unknowingly, accomplishes the
interests of management in the faulty attempt to fulfill his or her own interests.
Systematically Distorted Communication
Operating without employees’ overt awareness, this form of discourse restricts what
can be openly expressed or even thought.
Discursive Closure
Systematically distorted communication in which those with power suppress potential
dissent.
Involvement
Organizational stakeholders’ free expression of ideas that may or may not affect
managerial decisions.
Participation
The process by which all stakeholders in an organization negotiate power and openly
reach collaborative decisions.
Principal Changes
Previously Chapter 20, this material has been reorganized and edited. Careful readers
will notice the revision to Figure 21.1 with information/communication models now along the
horizontal axis and managerial control/co-determination along the vertical axis. In addition,
Griffin has introduced a new example of a successful corporation that encourages democratic
participation of workers, and in the Critique section, he has incorporated Deetz’s view
regarding the role of humor for critical theorists.
Suggestions for Discussion
Contrasting Pacanowsky and Deetz
One good way to begin your discussion of Deetz’s critical theory of organizational
communication is through comparisons to Pacanowsky’s approach as featured in the previous
chapter. Both theorists are intrigued by corporate culture; and, as Griffin notes, both study
workplace language, information, forms, rituals, and stories. It’s significant, however, that
although the tradition from which Pacanowsky stems is wary of influencing the culture one
studies, Deetz demonstrates a strong desire to apply codetermination to reform corporate
culture. Pacanowsky is certainly mindful of economic issues, but Deetz keys on aspects of
power and domination and highlights ways to increase authentic participation. (Integrative
Essay Question #29 seeks to address these differing emphases.)
Deetz: at the intersection of Marx and Habermas
At the heart of Deetz’s theory, it seems to us, is a paradox or tension that is important
to communicate to your students. On the one hand, Deetz is a skeptic who attacks
conventional manifestations of corporate power and “business as usual” in American
business. On the other hand, he is an eternal optimist when it comes to the power of
communication to bring about positive change in organizations and to enhance the roles of all
270
stakeholders. This dichotomous stance can be traced directly to two significant influences on
Deetz’s work: Karl Marx, who is featured in Griffin’s analysis of Hall in Chapter 26; and Jurgen
Habermas, whom Griffin features in the Ethical Reflections following the mass communication
unit. Marx’s economic views are manifested in Deetz’s pessimism about unrestrained
capitalism, and Habermas’s “ideal speech situation” (ISS) shapes Deetz’s idealistic goal of
codetermination. Although each thinker is presented a bit later in the book, you might find it
useful to present a selection on each at this time. We have found that a bit of knowledge
regarding Marx (particularly his focus on class struggle and economic determinism) and
Habermas (especially the ISS’s requirement of open access and emphasis on the freedom to
make an unrestricted decision) gives students a leg-up in a their comprehension of Deetz’s
ideas.
The power of communication to bring about change
Students may have interesting reactions to Deetz’s position. Those who see themselves
as future captains of corporate America and who imagine experiencing all the benefits—but
none of the sacrifices and shortcomings—of the lifestyle of Lynn’s father may resist Deetz’s
message by denying the unsavory aspects of worker consent. Those students whose parents
may represent the organizational elite may resent Deetz’s critical stance and his highly
negative portrayal of managerialism. They may question his claim that “most corporate
successes (or failures) are the results of factors beyond managerial control” (305). In addition,
several of your students may echo Griffin’s criticism that Deetz’s faith in participation may be
overly optimistic (313). Communication majors want to believe in the power of their discipline,
yet nonetheless those with some experience in the corporate world may suggest that even the
best intended communicative strategies may fail to bring together diverse parties with widely
disparate interests. These issues should stimulate lively discussion. (Essay Question #22 may
be a way of addressing some of these concerns.)
Stakeholders
If your department has a well-integrated public relations component, your students
might be very familiar with the concept of a stakeholder. If not, you may want to pause for a
moment to discuss this critical idea regarding a corporation’s various constituencies. While a
stockholder has an obvious—and literal—interest in the business, other groups with a vested
interest may include employees, consumers, raw materials suppliers, host communities, and
local, state, and federal governmental agencies. To engage students in a dialogue, ask your
class to speculate on who might be affected by changes in a local business establishment.
Then, to move into Deetz’s territory, continue the discussion by asking who they think has a
say in those business matters at present and finally, if Deetz went into the establishment, what
reforms would he suggest? Students who have completed internships might also be able to
draw upon their experiences to compliment the discussion.
Frederick Taylor’s strategy and consent
If you are in search of additional examples of the corporate practices of strategy and
consent, we recommend investigating Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management.
(See our treatment of the introduction to the Organizational Communication section, above.)
271
Contradicting the postmodern core
In the Critique section of this chapter, Griffin makes the provocative and controversial
argument that Deetz’s “advocacy of stakeholder rights and participatory democracy isn’t
necessarily furthered by his constructionist view of communication” (311), an argument that
Deetz and others do not accept. This assertion, which is based on Deetz’s antifoundationalist,
postmodern approach to knowledge and discursive practice (“the grand narratives are dead”
[313]) may require unpacking for your students. Be sure they understand the apparent
contradiction that comes when one claims that all truths are relative and that reality is socially
constructed, then seeks to promote a particular truth about workers’ rights. It’s possible that
one could raise a similar concern about a potential clash between CMM’s overt social agenda
and its postmodern, antifoundationalist foundation.
Sample Application Log
Laura
This theory was a bit difficult to apply to my life; I’ve never worked for a corporation (and I’ve
made it somewhat of a goal never to either. But perhaps this is because I’ve come to view
corporations as Deetz has, and also view them as needing change.)
My aunt has worked for AT&T most of her working life (she’s 45). She moved rather high up the
ladder and had a pretty good, high-ranking job. She was laid off a couple of months ago. As I
understand it, AT&T has been gradually downsizing for a while now. For over a year, she has
had no job security; she would go into work every day not knowing if this was to be the day she
would “find out” that her job was no longer essential. In the meantime, much younger,
inexperienced people have been promoted to new positions within her department, right
before her very eyes. This just seems like a medieval king, or an evil dictatorship to me—not
knowing whether the king is going to summon you in and call for your head on a platter. But
you know he’s a hungry king, so your end is probably coming pretty soon. How does one plan
one’s life with outlooks like that? I know it’s made my aunt a less happy person. (Although
she’s more happy now that she has the prospect of teaching at a university instead. It’s more
her style anyway.)
So, how do these authoritarian companies command such loyalty? Corporate colonization of
everyday life. They offer goodies. My aunt obviously got good telephone rates, as well as all the
latest technologies AT&T had to offer. My grandpa worked for them all his life and has a nice
pension or retirement account (whichever) now. I’m sure my aunt was looking forward to that
(but those were the good old days). Everything having to do with phones in my life has always
been AT&T, and since my uncle works for Sony, the same is the case—anything technological
or mechanical (down to my audio tapes even), if Sony makes it, we have a Sony. It went
without saying in my family.
This is not the case anymore, now that my family’s eyes have been opened to what these
corporations are capable of doing with one fell swoop. Maybe this disillusionment will be the
case with greater society eventually, if corporate atrocities keep happening.
272
Exercises and Activities
When corporate practices fly below the conscious radar
One of Deetz’s most thoughtful, provocative claims is that the force of organizational
practice is strongest when it is unrecognized or associated with common sense (308).
Encourage your students to test the veracity of this assertion with examples from their own
lives. Aspects of your college or university’s culture such as the importance placed on letter
grades, the manner in which admission standards are determined, the use of graduate
student TAs or teachers, the emphasis on winning athletic teams, the presence of Greek
organizations, the hierarchy built into the professorate, guidelines for tenure, rules about
parking, and the role of students in decision making may provide useful illustrations. Have
them consider also whether or not forms of discursive closure lead to systematically distorted
communication at your college or university. (Essay Questions #24 and #25, below, may
address some of these concerns.)
The interactive cereal box
We are quite taken by the cereal box discussion (Figure 21.2) and its potential for
generating new exercises. Have students create their own alternative texts for the product
boxes containing other foods, toys, cosmetics, birth control, and alcoholic beverages. Real
estate fliers, college admission brochures, and automobile ads are also fair game.
Roger and Me
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he shows the last fifteen minutes of so of Roger
and Me. Although Deetz argues vehemently that the film unfairly stacks the deck against
corporate America, it is a tour de force, nonetheless, that vividly drives home—if by hyperbole—
the potential harm a corporation can do to less-powerful stakeholders. Griffin also makes a
specific point of reiterating in class the key distinctions between information and
communication (see Integrative Essay Question #30, below), as well as the relationships
between CMM and this critical approach (see Integrative Essay Question #31, below).
Office Space
This very amusing film is a tribute to all workers unhappy with their jobs. The
protagonist Peter Gibbons (portrayed by Ron Livingston), dissatisfied with his job and his
employer, decides not to go to work despite widespread organizational lay-offs. In an ironic
twist, his carefree attitude makes him more valuable to his employers and the comedy
progresses until his situation is eventually rectified. Based on this movie’s cult status, many
students may be very familiar with it and as such, may become engaged in a lively discussion
about Peter’s move through Deetz’s model of organizational decision-making. A strong
argument could be made that the film illustrates each of the four styles—strategy, consent,
participation, and ultimately a form of involvement.
Contemporary corporate America
If students have little to say about the material presented in this chapter, Em Griffin
suggests that an instructor may be able to open discussion of the issues by asking them to talk
about their parents’ experiences in the working world. This practical suggestion may be just
what they need to get their theoretical wheels turning. Ed McDaniel asserts that contemporary
events in the corporate world (e.g., Enron, Xerox, WorldCom, etc.) have provided a rich medium
273
to help illustrate the negative aspect of Deetz’s theory. He finds that the comic strip “Dilbert”
also offers a source of comic illustration of corporate excesses, but, unfortunately, positive
examples to support Deetz’s theory are rarer.
McDaniel introduces his class to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of
the All-American Meal (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001). McDaniel writes,
I have enjoyed a degree of success by employing examples of common corporate
practices, which support the basic assumptions of Deetz’s critical theory of
communication approach to organizations. To begin the class, I ask everyone who is or
has worked in a fast food restaurant, or has a friend who is or has, to raise their hand.
This will normally involve a significant number of the class. Then I produce a copy of Eric
Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. Schlosser’s recent work does for the contemporary fast
food industry what Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle did for the Chicago meat packing
industry at the beginning of the twentieth century.
He features material from pages 70-72. Here is a taste, so to speak:
The strict regimentation at fast food restaurants creates standardized products. It
increases the throughput. And it gives fast food companies an enormous amount of
power over their employees. “When management determines exactly how every task is
to be done… and can impose its own rules about pace, output, quality, and technique,”
the sociologist Robin Leidner has noted, “[it] makes workers increasingly
interchangeable.” The management no longer depends upon the talents or skills of its
workers—those things are built into the operating system and machines. Jobs that have
been “de-skilled” can be filed cheaply. The need to retain any individual worker is
greatly reduced by the ease with which he or she can be replaced. (70)
He concludes this activity by asking students to provide examples of what lasting skills they
think were gained from employment at a fast food enterprise.
To vivify the “Corporate Colonization” section of the chapter, McDaniel employs the
following strategy:
I show a graphic that depicts the salaries of CEOs of several companies (these figures
are normally available in corporate annual reports, business magazines, the Wall Street
Journal, etc.). This is followed by a graphic illustrating the disparity in annual growth of
executive-worker compensation. These illustrations are a very effective way of
maintaining students’ attention, especially when you use companies (e.g., airlines) that
are in some way associated with the student’s lives (i.e., airfare for that spring break
jaunt to Cancun).
Firing Shannon and Weaver
A final challenge for your students. Relatively early in the chapter, Griffin states that “a
majority of human communication scholars now dismiss Shannon and Weaver’s information
theory” (302). Ask students why, if this is true, did Griffin include a discussion of this theory in
Chapter 2? This ought to set their wheels turning.
274
Further Resources
§ To give yourself a better sense of the source of Deetz’s optimism about group
deliberation, skip ahead to the Ethical Reflection featuring Habermas.
§ On his website (http://comm.colorado.edu/deetz), Deetz provides an autobiographical
sketch of his journey as a critical theorist.
Recent writings by Deetz
§ Deetz, S. and McPherson, J., “The Role of Communication Scholars in Facilitating
Organizational Change,” in P. Shockley and J. Simpson, eds., Engaging Communication:
Informing Work and Transforming Organizations (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005).
§ Deetz, S., “Critical Theory,” in S. May and D. Mumby, eds., Engaging Organizational
Communication Theory: Multiple Perspectives (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004), 85112.
§ Deetz, S. and Simpson. J., “Critical Organizational Dialogue: Open Formation and the
Demand of ‘Otherness,’” in R. Anderson, L. Baxter, and K. Cissna, eds., Dialogic
Approaches to Communication (New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004), 141-58.
§ Deetz, S. and Brown, D., “Conceptualising Involvement, Participation and Workplace
Decision Processes: A Communication Theory Perspective,” in D. Tourish and O. Hargie,
eds., Key Issues in Organizational Communication (London: Routledge, 2004), 172-87.
§ Haas, T. and Deetz, S., “The Politics and Ethics of Knowledge Construction in
Corporations: Dialogic Interaction and Self-Other Relations,” in P. Jeffcutt, ed., The
Foundations of Management Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2004), 208-30.
§ Deetz, S., “Corporate Governance, Communication, and Getting Social Values into the
Decisional Chain,” Management Communication Quarterly 16 (2003): 606-11.
§ Deetz, S., “Taking the ‘Linguistic Turn’ Seriously,” Organization: The Interdisciplinary
Journal of Organization, Theory, and Society 10 (2003): 421-29.
§ Deetz, S., “Disciplinary Power, Conflict Suppression and Human Resource
Management,” in M. Alvesson and H. Willmott, eds., Studying Management Critically
(London: Sage, 2003), 23-45.
§ Deetz, S., Tracy, S., and Simpson, J. Leading Organizations through Transitions:
Communication and Cultural Change (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000).
§ Alvesson, M. and Deetz, S., Doing Critical Management Research (London: Sage,
2000).
275
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
276
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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278
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
279
PUBLIC RHETORIC
Key Names and Terms
Rhetoric
Defined by Aristotle as the art of seeing, in each particular case, all the available
means of persuasion.
Public Rhetoric
A speaking context in which the speaker has an opportunity to monitor and adjust to
the response of his or her immediate audience.
Invention
The aspect of rhetoric concerned with discovering convincing arguments.
Arrangement
The aspect of rhetoric concerned with organizing material for best impact.
Style
The aspect of rhetoric concerned with selecting appropriate language.
Delivery
The aspect of rhetoric concerned with coordinating voice and gesture.
Memory
The aspect of rhetoric concerned with mastering and rehearsing content.
Plato
An ancient Greek philosopher who favored a philosophic mode of discourse known as
dialectic over the public rhetoric of his day.
Paul
An apostle who characterizes both Plato’s and Aristotle’s view of discourse, thus
exemplifying the paradox with which religious rhetors live.
Augustine
Previously introduced in an Ethical Reflection, this Catholic bishop justified the
conscious use of rhetoric in the service of saving souls.
Francis Bacon
A British philosopher who sought to integrate the logic of a message and the appeal it
has for an audience by suggesting that the duty of rhetoric is to apply reason to
imagination for the better moving of the will.
Peter Ramus
A French scholar who relegated the canons of invention, arrangement, and memory to
the province of logic, leaving rhetoricians only style and delivery to consider.
Further Resources
§
§
Wayne Booth, one of the leading figures in American rhetorical scholarship in the last
fifty years, has just published a highly readable manifesto on the importance of
rhetorical education entitled The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective
Communication (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004).
A great new source for public rhetoric is the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, edited by
Thomas O. Sloane (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
280 §
§
§
§
§
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition (New York: Garland, 1996), see
Barbara A. Biesecker, et al., “Oratory,” 484-88.
Garry Wills’s Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1992) demonstrates both the power of public rhetoric and the
relevance of its ancient Greek roots to American culture.
George Kennedy explores rhetoric across cultures in Comparative Rhetoric: An
Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
Barry Brummett’s book, Rhetoric in Popular Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1994), is an excellent introduction for students with rhetorical anxieties.
For a rhetorical reading of the discipline of economics, see Deidre McCloskey, The
Rhetoric of Economics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), which
demonstrates that rhetoric can be a model for understanding a wide variety of
discursive practices.
Classical rhetoric
§ For historical issues, we recommend The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical
Times to the Present, 2nd ed., edited by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg (Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000).
§ For the classical tradition, two good first sources are
o Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary
Students, 2nd ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999), and
o John Poulakos and Takis Poulakos’s Classical Rhetorical Theory (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
Women’s rhetoric and feminist approaches to rhetoric
§ In recent times, many communication scholars have criticized the male bias in the
study of public rhetoric and have called for increased study of women’s rhetoric. For
more discussion of women’s rhetoric and feminist approaches to rhetoric, see:
o Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, ed., Man Cannot Speak for Her, 2 vols. (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1989).
o Campbell, ed., Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A
Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994).
o Andrea A. Lunsford, ed., Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical
Tradition (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995).
o Cheryl Glenn, Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity
through the Renaissance (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press,
1998).
o Molly Meijer Wertheimer, Listening to Their Voices: The Rhetorical Activities of
Historical Women (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997).
o Karen A. Foss, Sonja K. Foss, and Cindy L. Griffin, Feminist Rhetorical Theories
(Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1999).
o Barbara Biesecker, “Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women
into the History of Rhetoric,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 (1992): 140-61.
281 o A.T. Nuyen, “The Rhetoric of Feminist Writings,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 28
(1995): 69-82.
o Sonja K. Foss and Karen A. Foss, “The Construction of Feminine Spectatorship
in Garrison Keillor’s Radio Monologues,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 80
(1994): 410-26.
o Celeste Condit, “Opposites in an Oppositional Practice: Rhetorical Criticism
and Feminism,” in Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques in Communication
Studies, 205-30; Richard Fulkerson, “Transcending Our Conception of
Argumentation in Light of Feminist Critiques,” Argumentation and Advocacy 32
(1996): 199-217.
o Shirley Logan, “We Are Coming”: The Persuasive Discourse of NineteenthCentury Black Women (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999).
o In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Patricia Bizzell, “Women
Rhetoricians,” 770-72, and Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Feminist Rhetoric,” 26265. These texts may also be relevant to the chapter on muted group theory.
282 CHAPTER 22
THE RHETORIC
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Aristotle was a student of Plato’s who disagreed with his mentor over the place of
public speaking in Athenian life.
B. Plato’s negative view of public speaking was based on his assessment of the
Sophists.
C. Aristotle saw rhetoric as a neutral tool with which one could accomplish either noble
or fraudulent ends.
1. Truth is inherently more acceptable than falsehood.
2. Nonetheless, unscrupulous persuaders may fool an audience unless an ethical
speaker uses all possible means of persuasion to counter the error.
3. Speakers who neglect the art of rhetoric have only themselves to blame for
failure.
D. Although Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics are polished, well-organized texts, the
Rhetoric is a collection of lecture notes.
E. Aristotle raised rhetoric to a science by systematically exploring the effects of the
speaker, the speech, and the audience.
II.
Rhetoric: making persuasion possible.
A. For Aristotle, rhetoric was the discovery in each case of the available means of
persuasion.
B. In terms of speech situations, he focused on civic affairs.
1. Forensic speaking considers guilt or innocence.
2. Deliberative speaking considers future policy.
3. Epideictic speaking considers praise and blame.
C. Aristotle classified rhetoric as the counterpart of dialectic.
1. Dialectic is one-on-one conversation; rhetoric is one person addressing the
many.
2. Dialectic searches for truth; rhetoric demonstrates existing truth.
3. Dialectic answers general philosophical questions; rhetoric addresses specific,
practical ones.
4. Dialectic deals with certainty; rhetoric considers probability.
III.
Rhetorical proof: logos, ethos, and pathos.
A. The available means of persuasion are based on three kinds of proof.
1. Logical proof (logos) comes from the line of argument in the speech.
2. Ethical proof (ethos) is the way the speaker’s character is revealed through the
message.
3. Emotional proof (pathos) is the feeling the speech draws from the hearers.
B. Aristotle focused on two forms of logical proof—enthymeme and example.
1. Enthymeme is the strongest of the proofs.
283 a. An enthymeme is an incomplete syllogism.
b. Typical enthymemes leave out the premise that is already accepted by the
audience.
c. Lloyd Bitzer notes that the audience helps construct the proof by supplying
the missing premise.
d. The enthymeme uses deductive logic—moving from global principle to
specific truth.
2. The example uses inductive reasoning—drawing a final conclusion from specific
examples.
C. Ethos emphasizes the speaker’s credibility, which is manifested in intelligence,
character, and goodwill.
1. Aristotle was primarily interested in how the speaker’s ethos is created in a
speech.
2. The assessment of intelligence is based on practical wisdom and shared values.
3. Virtuous character has to do with the speaker’s image as a good and honest
person.
4. Goodwill is a positive judgment of the speaker’s intention toward the audience.
5. Aristotle’s explication of ethos has held up well under scientific scrutiny.
D. Although skeptical of the emotion-laden public oratory typical of his era, Aristotle
attempted to help speakers use pathos ethically.
E. Aristotle catalogued a series of opposite feelings, then explained the conditions
under which each mood is experienced.
1. Anger vs. mildness.
2. Love or friendship vs. hatred.
3. Fear vs. confidence.
4. Shame vs. shamelessness.
5. Indignation vs. pity.
6. Admiration vs. envy.
IV.
The five canons of rhetoric.
A. Invention—in order to generate effective enthymemes and examples, speakers draw
upon both specialized and general knowledge known as topics or topoi.
B. Arrangement—Aristotle recommended a basic structure.
C. Style—Aristotle emphasized the pedagogical effectiveness of metaphor.
D. Memory—this component was emphasized by Roman teachers.
E. Delivery—naturalness is persuasive.
V.
Critique: standing the test of time.
A. The Rhetoric is revered by many public-speaking teachers.
B. Nonetheless, clarity is often a problem with Aristotle’s theory.
1. The enthymeme is not defined precisely.
2. The classification of metaphor is confusing.
3. The distinctions between deliberative and epideictic oratory are blurred.
4. The promised organizational structure is abandoned.
C. Some critics are bothered by Aristotle’s characterization of the audience as passive.
D. Others desire more discussion of the rhetorical situation.
284
Key Names and Terms
Aristotle
An ancient Greek teacher and scholar whose Rhetoric represents the first systematic
study of public speaking.
Sophists
Early Greek speakers and teachers of public speaking whose training was practically
useful yet underdeveloped theoretically.
Forensic Rhetoric
Judicial speech centering on accusation and defense.
Deliberative Rhetoric
Political speech centering on future policy.
Epideictic Rhetoric
Ceremonial speech centering on praise and blame.
Logos
Logical proof, which comes from the line of argument in the speech.
Ethos
Ethical proof, which comes from the speaker’s intelligence, character, and goodwill
toward the audience as these personal characteristics are revealed through the
message.
Topoi
The general and specific stock arguments marshaled by speakers to persuade an
audience.
Enthymeme
An incomplete version of a formal deductive syllogism that is created by leaving out a
premise that is already accepted by the audience or omitting an obvious conclusion.
Pathos
Emotional proof, which comes from the feeling the speech draws from the hearers.
Lloyd Bitzer
A retired rhetorician from the University of Wisconsin who argued that the audience
helps construct an enthymematic proof by supplying the missing premise.
Canons of Rhetoric
Previously defined in the public rhetoric introduction, they are the principal divisions of
the art of persuasion established by ancient rhetoricians: invention, arrangement, style,
delivery, and memory.
Invention
The speaker’s “hunt” for arguments that will be effective in a particular speech.
Principal Changes
This chapter was previously Chapter 21. In this edition, Griffin has updated the Second
Look section. Otherwise, with the exception of minor changes, this chapter remains the same.
285
Suggestions for Discussion
This chapter is crucial to students’ understanding of public discourse, and—through
retrospective sensemaking, as it were—it may shed additional light on theories of influence
such as the elaboration likelihood model.
In discussion, we believe is it important to emphasize the stunning comprehensiveness
of Aristotle’s treatise. Of course Aristotle does not cover it all. Emphasizing production, he tells
us little about prediction, and his passive construction of the audience is theoretically limited.
Nonetheless, he integrates state-of-the-art knowledge of logic, psychology, politics, law,
literature, and (arguably) ethics to create his theory of persuasive communication. Who else—in
his era or any other—can say the same?
Examples of discrimination
Griffin’s discussion of “I Have a Dream” effectively illustrates most of the Aristotelian
principles he sets forth in the chapter. We respectfully disagree, though, with his suggestion
that King mentioned few examples of discrimination” (322). When King declares, “We can
never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in
the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the
Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one,” he is inductively supporting his
claim that further protest is necessary by providing specific examples of discriminatory
practices currently endured by African Americans. Similarly, he refers to “for whites only” signs
and the lack of voting rights. King’s dream features examples illustrating the ideal toward
which we should strive, such as the image of children holding hands.
Aristotle’s style
Because of space considerations, Griffin was compelled to limit his discussion of style
to an explication of metaphor. Nonetheless, Aristotle’s advice on other stylistic matters is
noteworthy, particularly with respect to the upcoming Ethical Reflections. In general, Aristotle
recommends clarity achieved through a middle style: “let the virtue of style be defined as ‘to
be clear’ . . . neither flat nor above the dignity of the subject, but appropriate” (221). This
middle stylistic path clearly corresponds with his ethical “golden mean,” thus demonstrating
broad coherence in Aristotle’s thought.
Ethos and pathos
For upper-level undergraduate students, this chapter on Aristotle may be a refresher
that draws on material studied in public speaking, analysis of argument, or rhetorical criticism
classes. For students less schooled in the rhetorical tradition, you may need to spend some
time clarifying ethos and pathos as well as debunking some popularly held beliefs. One
common misconception is that ethos simply implies an ethical communicator. In Aristotelian
parlance, being ethical or virtuous is only one component of a speaker’s ethos, which spans to
also include perceptions of intelligence and charity towards the audience. Another point to
discuss is that Aristotle’s discussion of ethos does not fully account for the power of speakers
who rely on shock, charisma, or dynamism. We return to this point in the “Exercises and
Activities” section of the next chapter, but it may be useful to discuss this issue with students
when considering Aristotle. Have them supply examples of speakers whose ethe (plural for
286
ethos) are powerful, yet non-Aristotelian (various politicians, preachers, military figures, and so
forth).
For Aristotle, responsible pathos did not include strategies such as pulling at an
audience’s heartstrings with tear-jerking monologues or inciting fear through menacing
speech. Instead, he advocated an ethical use of affect induction upon which reason could be
drawn. You might want to spend some time with your students discussing how speakers might
use this means of persuasion appropriately and effectively without going overboard.
Aristotle as anti-democratic
It may be worth discussing the implications of Aristotle’s ambivalence about pathos,
which suggests his concerns about the emotions of the crowd, the demos. (See also Essay
Question #27 below.) The potential “bad” news here is that our great Greek predecessor may
have been less democratically inclined than we’ve liked to imagine him. His advice about
deliberation may have been aimed more at the ancient equivalent of the boardroom or
advisory council than the mass of rank-and-file voters. Not entirely unlike his teacher Plato,
Aristotle may have had considerable disdain for the kind of decision-making that included
average people, as well as the discourse that is designed for them.
Rhetoric’s first webmaster
One historian of ancient rhetoric has suggested that a good way to conceptualize
Aristotle’s Rhetoric is as the first rhetoric website, an elaborate, eclectic site designed to
describe public discourse with hundreds of links to other works written by Aristotle, other
treatises on rhetoric, contemporary oratory, drama, poetry, and other subjects. By logging on to
the Rhetoric, a student of rhetoric becomes connected to a multitude of cultural artifacts
related the art of oratory in ancient Greece. In this sense, Aristotle can be seen not only as a
great thinker, but as rhetoric’s first webmaster.
The enthymeme
You’ll note that Griffin’s treatment of the enthymeme characterizes the ancient form as
reason-based, “an incomplete version of a formal deductive syllogism” (321). On the other
hand, recent work by Jeffrey Walker (whose article is featured in “Further Resources,” below)
and others suggests that the enthymeme was in the eyes of the ancient Greeks a looser, more
expansive construct that could draw its power from emotional and stylistic sources as well as
syllogistic logic. This discovery reminds us that the reason/emotion split central to Western
culture and our ways of conceptualizing rhetoric is often overemphasized. This point was also
raised in our discussion of ELM.
Sample Application Log
Jill
In my Fundamentals of Oral Communication class we were taught these exact methods in
giving speeches. To fully relate this to Aristotle’s tactics, I will tell of my persuasion speech. I
gave a speech on eating disorders and how the media encourages eating disorders in women.
In my invention or construction of my argument, I showed how statistics of eating disorders
had risen from the past to now. I also showed examples of advertisements with skinny models
287
which the youth of our day and women of our day expect themselves to look like. With these
examples, I failed to show a contrast of advertisements of the past or possible advertisements
of the future. I did show that through using perfect bodies in advertisements, we had glorified
this part of our nature over other more important things. In my arrangement, I gave an
interesting story to catch the audience’s attention, then I shared that I had credibility because I
had struggled with an eating disorder and so had my sister and best friend. I stated my
purpose to make my audience aware of the effect of the media and to stop the glorification of
perfect bodies. I did not reveal my main point at the end, rather I ended with examples of what
we could do. My style contained vivid examples with the actual advertisements and stories of
those who had suffered. I spoke in everyday language, but failed to create fresh metaphors. I
spoke candidly, which was easier by not memorizing my speech—this contrasts with Aristotle’s
encouragement of memory. It’s amazing that Aristotle’s speech techniques are still being
taught in classrooms today.
Exercises and Activities
Beyond King’s “I Have a Dream”
Griffin ably condenses this theory, but we recommend vivifying his account with
additional modern examples similar to “I Have a Dream,” thus demonstrating the enduring
value of Aristotelian concepts. A wonderful illustrative example is Nixon’s “Checkers Speech,”
one of the most successful political orations of the twentieth century. Nixon, then a candidate
for the vice presidency, marshals explicit appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos as he defends
his reputation and blasts the Democratic ticket. The speech, originally published in Vital
Speeches of the Day (October 15, 1952), 11-15, is readily available on video and in print. (For
an Aristotelian analysis of Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” see our treatment in Chapter
23.)
For written and audio versions of King and Nixon’s speeches along with many others,
we recommend the American Rhetoric website, http://www.americanrhetoric.com. In addition
to an extensive speech bank of historical and contemporary, real and literary addresses, the
site contains Stephen Lucas and Martin Medhurst’s top 100 American speeches that Griffin
references in the textbook (320). In our experience, students have less exposure to the great
speeches of the past and we welcome the opportunity to have our discussion serve the dual
purposes of examining Aristotle’s rhetoric and presenting vital pieces of history. Other
speeches that work well include (numbers indicate the speech’s ranking on the top 100 list):
§
§
§
§
§
John F. Kennedy: “Inaugural Address.” Delivered January 20, 1961 (2).
Barbara Jordan: “Who Then Will Speak for the Common Good?” 1976 Democratic
National Convention keynote address (5).
Hillary Rodham Clinton: “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” Remarks to the
United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Plenary Session (35).
Sen. Edward Kennedy: “Chappaquiddick.” Delivered from Joseph Kennedy’s home,
July 25, 1969 (62).
Elie Wiesel: “The Perils of Indifference.” Delivered in Washington, DC, April 12 1999
(95).
288
The rhetoric of military leaders
Some of the most famous examples of public rhetoric have been produced by military
leaders preparing troops for battle. These speeches—both real and fictitious—usually
demonstrate the great motivating power of pathos. The opening scene of the movie Patton
provides such a speech, and two stirring orations are featured in Shakespeare’s Henry V,
which is readily available on video. Courtroom oratory is also rich—some particularly good
cinematic sources are Amistad, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Inherit the Wind. Shakespeare’s
Merchant of Venice mixes legal rhetoric with themes of social justice, romance, and friendship.
Julius Caesar and Malcolm X feature issues of politics and political power.
Aristotelian rhetoric is all around
In addition to supplying further examples of speeches for analysis yourself, you can
encourage or require your students to bring their own. Challenge them to find elements of
Aristotelian rhetoric in a wide variety of genres of discourse, from rock lyrics to poetry to art.
Students are particularly pleased when they rediscover popular culture through an Aristotelian
lens.
Other questions to stimulate discussion
To supplement the Questions to Sharpen Your Focus provided in the textbook, you may
wish to consider posing the following queries to develop class discussion:
1. What are some modern examples of sophists and sophistical practice?
2. In what ways does the textbook your department assigns for public speaking follow
or diverge from Aristotle’s Rhetoric?
3. Is the average college lecture rhetoric or dialectic? How about the average
textbook? How about A First Look at Communication Theory?
4. How does religious oratory fit into Aristotle’s tripartite classification of speeches?
Enthymemes and syllogisms
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he makes a point of working through specific
enthymemes and syllogisms with his class. He maintains—and we agree—that students cannot
adequately comprehend these structures by simply reading the chapter; they must be parties
in the construction of specific examples. His advice—and again we agree—is to use an example
or examples beyond those provided in the chapter. To vivify the global example he employs in
the chapter, Griffin shows the video of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to his class. We cannot
but approve.
Further Resources
§
Three general resources on Aristotle’s rhetoric and its context are:
o George Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Ancient Greece (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1963), 82-114.
o Thomas Conley, Rhetoric in the European Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1990), 13-17.
o Janet M. Atwill, “Aristotle,” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 26-30.
289
§
§
§
§
Sonja Foss discusses and exemplifies “Neo-Aristotelian criticism” in the third chapter of
Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice.
For a recent critique of Aristotle, see Jasper Neel, Aristotle’s Voice: Rhetoric, Theory,
and Writing in America (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994).
Thomas Farrell’s study The Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1993) demonstrates the relevance of Aristotelian principles to contemporary
culture.
Also in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see:
o Nan Johnson, “Ethos,” 243-45;
o Joseph Colavito, “Pathos,” 492-94;
o George E. Yoos, “Logos,” 410-14;
o John T. Kirby, “Greek Rhetoric,” 299-306.
Enthymeme
§ T. Gage, “Enthymeme,” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 223-25, and “The
Reasoned Thesis: The E-word and Argumentative Writing as a Process of Inquiry,”
Argument Revisited; Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition
Classroom, eds. Barbara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Deborah Tenney (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage, 1996), 3-18.
§ Jeffrey Walker, “The Body of Persuasion,” College English 56 (1994): 46-65. Walker’s
essay is particularly relevant because it pulls examples from Barthes’s essay “The
World of Wrestling,” which is featured by Griffin in Chapter 25.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
§ Keith D. Miller, Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its
Sources (New York: The Free Press, 1992);
§ Richard Lischer, The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Words that Moved
America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); and
§ Richard Fulkerson, “The Public Letter as a Rhetorical Form: Structure, Logic, and Style
in King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’” Quarterly Journal of Speech 65 (1979): 12136.
§ In his thorough anthology, American Rhetorical Discourse, 2nd ed. (Prospect Heights,
IL: Waveland, 1995), Ronald F. Reid provides an authoritative text of and useful
commentary on King’s speech, “I Have a Dream” (777-83).
§ If you’re looking for other arguments by King for analysis, we heartily recommend two
pieces written for white audiences representing formidable rhetorical challenges: “A
Letter from Birmingham Jail”; and “Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience,” a speech
delivered to the Fellowship of the Concerned in 1961, which is anthologized in
Contemporary American Speeches: A Sourcebook of Speech Forms and Principles, 2nd
ed., eds. Wil A. Linkugel, R.R. Allen, and Richard L. Johannesen (Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth, 1969), 63-75.
290 Sophistic rhetoric
§ Edward Schiappa, “Sophistic Rhetoric,” and J. Clarke Roundtree, “Sophist,”
Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 682-86.
§ Edward Schiappa, “Gorgias’s Helen Revisited,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 81 (August
1995): 310-24.
§ Edward Schiappa, The Beginnings of Rhetorical Theory in Classical Greece (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1999); Susan Jarratt, Rereading the Sophists (Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1991).
291
Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
292
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
293
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
294
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
295
CHAPTER 23
DRAMATISM
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Kenneth Burke believes that language is a strategic human response to a specific
situation.
B. The task of the critic is to assess motives.
C. For Burke, life is not like a drama; life is drama.
D. In 1952, Marie Hochmuth Nichols brought Burke to the speech communication field.
II.
Identification: without it, there is no persuasion.
A. Identification is the common ground that exists between speaker and audience.
1. Substance encompasses a person’s physical characteristics, talents,
occupation, background, personality, beliefs, and values.
2. The more overlap between the substance of the speaker and the substance of
the audience, the greater the identification.
3. Although social scientists use the term homophily to describe perceived
similarity between speaker and listener, Burke preferred religious allusions—
identification is consubstantiation.
B. Identification is established through style and content.
C. Identification flows both ways between speaker and audience.
D. Identification is never complete; division is a part of human existence. But without
some kind of division, there’s no need for identification and, consequently, for
persuasion.
III.
The dramatistic pentad.
A. The dramatistic pentad is a tool to analyze how a speaker tries to persuade an
audience to accept his or her view of reality as true.
1. The act names what took place in thought or deed.
2. The scene is the background of the act, the situation in which it occurred.
3. The agent is the person or kind of person who performed the act.
4. The agency is the means or instruments used to perform the act.
5. The purpose is the implied or stated goal of the act.
B. Content analysis identifies key terms on the basis of frequency and use.
1. The “god term” is the word to which all other positive words are subservient.
2. The “devil term” sums up all that the speaker regards as evil.
3. Words are terministic screens that dictate interpretations of life’s drama.
C. Burke contrasts the dramatistic pentad of intentional action with scientific terms that
describe motion without purpose.
D. The ratio of importance between individual pairs of terms in the dramatistic pentad
indicates which element provides the best clue to the speaker’s motivation.
296 E. The speaker’s worldview is revealed when one element is stressed over the other
four.
1. An emphasis on act demonstrates a commitment to realism.
2. An emphasis on scene downplays free will and reflects an attitude of situational
determinism.
3. An emphasis on agent is consistent with idealism.
4. An emphasis on agency springs from the mind-set of pragmatism.
5. An emphasis on purpose suggests the concerns of mysticism.
F. Burke’s use of purpose and motivation is somewhat confusing.
IV.
Guilt-redemption cycle: the root of all rhetoric.
A. The ultimate motivation of all public speaking is to purge ourselves of guilt.
1. Guilt is created through symbolic interaction.
2. Our problems are exacerbated by technology.
3. Hierarchies and bureaucracies induce guilt.
4. Perspective by incongruity calls attention to truth by linking two incongruous
words.
5. Our drive for perfection hurts ourselves and others.
6. At its root, rhetoric is the public search for a perfect scapegoat.
B. Redemption through victimage.
1. Rhetoric is a continual pattern of redemption through victimage.
2. Since self-blame (or mortification) is difficult to admit publicly, it’s easier to
blame someone else.
3. Victimage is the process of designating an external enemy as the source of all
our ills.
4. Burke was not an advocate of redemption through victimage, but he recognized
its prevalence.
V.
Critique: evaluating the critic’s analysis.
A. Burke may have been the foremost twentieth-century rhetorician.
B. His presentation is often confusing and obscure.
1. He employed multiple vocabularies and copious literary allusions.
2. Burke enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of reading his work because he
celebrates the life-giving quality of language.
C. The dramatistic pentad is the most popular feature of Burke’s approach.
D. The concept of rhetoric as identification is a major advance.
E. Of Burke’s motivational principles, his strategies of redemption are the most
controversial.
1. Many find his religious imagery problematic.
2. His assumption that guilt underlies all public address is questionable.
F. Burke’s commitment to an ethical stance is commendable.
297
Key Names and Terms
Kenneth Burke
Perhaps the most important twentieth-century rhetorician, this critic is the founder of
dramatism.
Marie Hochmuth Nichols
A University of Illinois rhetorician who popularized Burke’s dramatistic methodology
within the speech communication field.
Identification
The common ground between speaker and audience, such as physical characteristics,
talents, occupation, experiences, personality, beliefs, and values.
Substance
A term that encompasses a person’s physical characteristics, talents, occupation,
background, personality, beliefs, and values.
Homophily
The behavioral scientists’ term for perceived similarity between speaker and listener.
God Term
The word a speaker uses to which all other positive words are subservient.
Devil Term
The word a speaker uses that sums up all that is regarded as bad, wrong, or evil.
Terministic Screen
The framework for interpretation that develops from one’s use of language.
Dramatistic Pentad
An analytical tool to analyze how a speaker attempts to get an audience to accept his or
her view of reality as true by using five crucial elements of the human drama—act,
scene, agent, agency, and purpose.
Act
The dramatistic term for what was done. Texts that emphasize act suggest realism.
Scene
The dramatistic term for the context for the act. Texts that emphasize scene downplay
free will and reflect an attitude of situational determinism.
Agent
The dramatistic term for the person or kind of person who performs the act. Texts that
emphasize agent feature idealism.
Agency
The dramatistic term for the means the agent used to do the deed. Texts that
emphasize agency demonstrate pragmatism.
Purpose
The dramatistic term for the stated or implied goal of an act. Texts that emphasize
purpose suggest the concerns of mysticism.
Guilt-Redemption Cycle
The way we ultimately purge ourselves of an omnipresent, all-inclusive sense of guilt in
public discourse.
Perspective by Incongruity
A paradox or oxymoron that calls attention to truth by linking two incongruous words.
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Mortification
The process of purging guilt through self-blame, requiring confession of sin and a
request for forgiveness.
Victimage
Scapegoating; the process of designating an external enemy as the source of personal
ills.
Scapegoat
The target of victimage.
Principal Changes
This chapter was previously Chapter 22. Griffin has updated the Second Look section
and edited the chapter for clarity and precision.
Suggestions for Discussion
Burke’s influence
To help your students understand what a towering figure Burke has been in the
twentieth century, call attention to Griffin’s remark that there is an entire scholarly
organization, the Kenneth Burke Society, dedicated to researching and applying his ideas
(336). In 2005, they held their sixth triennial conference. There is also an Internet Kenneth
Burke discussion list dedicated to his ideas.
Teaching the pentad
The board game “Clue” â may provide a useful comparison for students new to Burke’s
pentad. The object of the game is to collect clues about a murder (act) including who
committed the crime (agent), where it was done (scene), and with what instrument (agency).
You may need to point out, however, that the game does not speak to purpose or motive. Even
when it is revealed that Ms. Scarlett killed Col. Mustard in the observatory with the candlestick,
we don’t know why or what her dominant ideology might be. While morose, you might follow up
the analogy of the game with a newspaper or magazine account of a murder or crime and
discuss how a Burkeian critic would read the motive based on two-term comparisons.
Burke’s goal of liberation
One of the most exciting—and frustrating—aspects about teaching Burke is that he did
not really see his work as theory per se, but as a method of motivating people to shake the
scales of intellectual lethargy and complacency from the mind’s eye. Ultimately, Burke’s goal
was not to systematize discourse with neat and tidy theoretical distinctions, but to liberate us
from limiting mind-sets and categories. All his life, Burke fought against orthodoxies—anyone
who claims that guilt motivates all public speaking can hardly be said to embrace the status
quo. Thus, it would be a disservice to his memory to teach his pentad as a static,
establishment device. Thus, as students struggle with the dramatistic pentad, they need to
understand that ultimately the concepts are simply tools for understanding, a way to begin
textual analyses that makes a difference in the world. When you discuss the Malcolm X
example with them, challenge them to grasp the consequences of the understanding Burke’s
apparatus brings them. If your students take only one lesson from this chapter, let it be that
299
Burke’s career exemplified the title of one of his early books, Counter-Statement. Consistently,
he showed us other ways to think.
It is also useful to emphasize that Burke’s main thrust was not to help us design
rhetoric, but to debunk it and to resist its pernicious appeals. As a critic, Burke was not
primarily concerned with teaching rhetorical practice—he wanted to enhance an understanding
of it. The concept of victimage, for example, was not developed to assist rhetors in creating
scapegoats for future audiences to condemn—a mistake that one of our former students made
in a Burkeian analysis of a contemporary speech.
“Rotten with perfection”
Burke’s notion that human beings are “rotten with perfection” (featured in his definition
of man) is a particularly perplexing component of a particularly perplexing body of theoretical
material. In glossing the phrase, Griffin emphasizes that as we strive for perfection, we are
destructive (333). In a sense, Burke is arguing that our rottenness comes precisely because
we attain perfection—or completion—of the linguistic and conceptual forms we have created.
Intellectually, industrially, bureaucratically, and spiritually, we have a tendency to sow the
seeds of our own destruction. We are, in effect, prisoners of our own devices. For example, our
culture is particularly fond of characterizing complex ethnic, social, and psychological
phenomena with simple binary oppositions such as Black/white, masculine/feminine, and
gay/straight. These binary pairs have ostensible clarity, balance, and explanatory power. They
give us ways to conceptualize reality quickly and efficiently. They are complete, perfect.
Unfortunately, they also deny us the richness that comprises reality. Ethnicity, after all, is
seldom as simple as this or that. Gender is multifaceted, and sexual orientation varies in many
ways. Furthermore, with such binary oppositions comes the inevitable tendency to devalue
(perhaps victimize) one element of each pair, a tendency that surely contributes heavily to our
rottenness.
For example, historically to be called Black or Negro (rather than white) in the United
States was to be deemed second class. Those in power used the neat-and-tidy Black/white
binary opposition to categorize anyone with African ancestry as less than fully human and
therefore exploitable. Whether a person was entirely of African ancestry or had one African
grandparent and three European grandparents, he or she was labeled Black or Negro and,
correspondingly, discriminated against. Such categorization allowed our society to perpetuate
slavery (even in the case of the children of male slave owners and female slaves), Jim Crow
laws, and so forth. In contemporary America, which has eliminated officially sanctioned racial
discrimination, we persist in using Black or African American as a category for all people with
discernible African ancestry, a practice that inaccurately characterizes the complexity of
ethnicity and that perpetuates subtle inequities. Even our efforts to establish middle terms
such as mulatto, androgynous, or bisexual can pigeon-hole people in ways that are demeaning
or limiting. Such discussion may be slow going for your students, but nonetheless such
connections between linguistic perfection and unsavory social realities are provocative.
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Sample Application Log
Jill
Burke would say that the persuasion speech on eating disorders (which I gave as an example
for Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric), was an attempt for me to purge my guilt, and that I gave that
speech because I felt guilty about my past actions in being involved in an eating disorder and
for having a sister who was also involved in one. Since I concentrated on the media and its
obsession with beauty and thinness, Burke would say I was concentrating on the scene or
situation and was therefore one who believed I was a victim of outside forces. He would say I
blamed society for the flaws in my behavior. He would probably label the word “obsession” as
my devil term and the word “refocus” or the word “inner beauty” as my god-term. He would say
that I felt guilty for not having done better, and that I needed to give this speech in order to
relieve myself or at least to express my negative emotions. He would say I chose the second
choice of victimization rather than self-blame.
Exercises and Activities
Aristotle and Burke
If you have already covered Chapter 21, then comparisons between Aristotle’s and
Burke’s approaches to public rhetoric may serve to strengthen your students’ grasp of these
vital theories. One way to facilitate the comparison is to reverse Griffin’s featured examples:
ask students to speculate about how Aristotle would characterize “The Ballot or the Bullet” and
how Burke might read “I Have a Dream.” If you want to make this a substantial assignment, be
sure to make the texts available to your students.
An Aristotelian analysis of Malcolm X’s speech would feature the emotional
components of the argument. By emphasizing anger and fear, this dynamic speaker employs
appeals to pathos to inspire his audience to action. In addition, Malcolm X’s effort to align
himself with other civil rights leaders such as King and Powell demonstrates an effort to
develop the “goodwill” feature of his ethos emphasized by Aristotle. (Goodwill, your students
may notice, has some theoretical affinity with Burke’s concept of “identification.”) Students
may identify this African-American leader’s pragmatism with Aristotle’s notion of “practical
wisdom.”
Aristotelian analysis, though, may only take us so far with this speech. Analyzing the
logos of Malcolm X’s speech will provide an intriguing challenge, particularly since his response
to 1960s race relations is no doubt less enthymematic than other arguments students have
studied. Ultimately, Malcolm X’s ethos—which emphasizes shock, charisma, and irony more
than goodwill, virtue, and practical wisdom—fits less snugly into the Aristotelian mold than the
characters of most speakers our students have studied. Students may sense that the persona
Malcolm X projects is more closely aligned with a prophet or fiery preacher than with Aristotle’s
concept of the model Greek rhetor. This jeremiadic tradition of speaking—which has been
marshaled by public figures from the ancient Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament to AfricanAmerican feminists such as Audre Lorde and Alice Walker—falls largely outside Aristotle’s
theory.
301
A Burkeian analysis of King’s speech is similarly instructive. One could argue that King’s
emphasis on personal responsibility, right action, and willpower indicates that the agent is his
key concern. The high character of the agent (members of the civil rights movement) dictates
nonviolent protest, the agency (or proper means) for achieving the goal of racial equality.
Unlike Malcolm X, thus, whose primary interest in agency dictates a pragmatic orientation,
King’s spotlight on the agent suggests that idealism is central to his message.
Although King labors to create a strong sense of identification, continually using “we” to
connect with the audience of demonstrators, he de-emphasizes the strategy of victimage.
Unlike Malcolm X, he avoids vilifying Anglo-Americans as a whole, many of whom, he declares,
“have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.” He borders on establishing
scapegoats and guilt when referring to Alabama’s “vicious racists” and “its governor having his
lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification,” but ultimately it is agape, rather
than vengeance and retribution, that dominate this speech. His admonition “Let us not seek to
satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” works directly
against the them-versus-us mentality that Burke describes. It should be no surprise that, in
contrast with Malcolm X’s, King’s “god terms” and “devil terms”—”justice” and “freedom” on
the one hand and “injustice,” “segregation,” and “discrimination” on the other—are inanimate
concepts and policies, rather than racial groups. For a Burkeian analysis of King’s public
communication, see Edward C. Appel, “The Rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Comedy and
Context in Tragic Collision,” Western Journal of Communication 61 (Fall 1997): 376-402.
An alternate reading of “The Ballot or the Bullet”
Incidentally, if you want to shake up your students’ reading of the Burkeian analysis of
“The Ballot or the Bullet” featured in the text, suggest that perhaps an emphasis on scene-—
rather than on agency—best characterizes the central drama of the speech. Then ask them
how this could be true. If this were the case, of course, Malcolm X’s rhetoric would place
greatest emphasis on the social context of the African-American experience. Furthermore, the
speech would need to create a sense of situational determinism. There would be little or no
choice about agency; African Americans would simply be compelled by the circumstances to
wield the ballot or the bullet. In effect, the speech would be more of an explanation or
prediction of the imminence of increased voting and armed struggle than a call to action.
Challenge your students to consider both readings and decide which is more compelling.
Suggestions of other texts
If you wish to move beyond the examples featured in the text, consider representative
speeches of Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address, John F. Kennedy’s
Inaugural Address, Edward Kennedy’s Address to the People of Massachusetts, Ronald
Reagan’s speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (the “Evil Empire” speech), Ann
Richards’s Keynote Address to the 1988 Democratic Convention, George W. Bush’s Iraq War
speeches and his “axis of evil” declaration, or Bill Clinton’s public apologies for the affair with
Monica Lewinsky. Also, we encourage you to consider using less discrete texts for analysis in
the classroom. Texts, such as Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” Gone with the Wind (book or
movie), the Star Wars series and Halle Berry’s Academy Awards acceptance speech (available
at http://www.americanrhetoric.com), may vary in form, but each are fertile ground for a
Burkeian reading.
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Burke’s “god” and “devil” terms
Because he was a self-conscious writer who was very aware of the consequences of
prose, Burke would be particularly fond of Exercise #2 under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus
in the textbook. This exercise provides a good opportunity to feature Burke’s anti-orthodox
mentality, which we emphasize above. Burke’s fondness for dramatic and religious metaphors
is also particularly relevant here. If students have difficulty knowing where to begin with this
question, point them to Burke’s “Definition of Man.” If you wish to broaden the scope of
Exercise #3 under Questions to Sharpen Your Focus from the text, consider both verbal and
nonverbal rhetoric. You may also wish to expand the discussion by substituting “an important
public event” for “a Friday night party.”
Writing Aristotelian or Burkeian analyses
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he breaks his class into small groups and has
them write Aristotelian or Burkeian analyses of the same text. He finds the group environment
very fertile for these kinds of textual responses. He also gives students an argument designed
not so much to persuade but to create victimage, then asks them to rewrite the text—using
principles such as identification—as a genuine effort to change minds. Griffin has used George
H.W. Bush’s January 5, 1991 letter to Saddam Hussein for this assignment, but many other
texts would also be appropriate.
Further Resources
There seems to be an entire industry of Burke scholarship, and comprehensive
bibliographies are daunting. Here, we’ll offer a “short list” of selections.
§ For a little inspiration and sensible advice about the “overwhelming” nature of Burke’s
theory, we offer Arthur Quinn’s brief piece, “Teaching Burke: Kenneth Burke and the
Rhetoric of Assent,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 25 (1995): 231-36. Those with an
interest in intellectual history will appreciate Quinn’s effort to place Burke within the
larger tradition of Western thought.
§ Joseph R. Gusfield’s “Introduction” to his collection of essays entitled Kenneth Burke
on Symbols and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 1-49, is a solid
reference.
§ Thomas M. Conley provides an insightful survey of Burke’s work in Rhetoric in the
European Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 268-77.
§ Sonja Foss presents examples of pentadic criticism in the eleventh chapter of
Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2004).
§ A classic book-length study of Burke’s theory is William Rueckert, Kenneth Burke and
the Drama of Human Relations, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).
§ Other treatments include Wendell Harris, “The Critics Who Made Us: Kenneth Burke,”
Sewanee Review 96 (1988): 452-63.
§ Paul Jay, “Kenneth Burke,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 63: Modern American
Critics, 1920-1955, ed. Gregory S. Jay (Detroit: Gale, 1988), 67-86.
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§
§
§
§
John F. Cragan and Donald C. Shields apply dramatism in Symbolic Theories in Applied
Communication Research: Bormann, Burke, and Fisher (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press,
1995), 61-89, 199-233.
For discussion of the pedagogical implications of Burke’s dark side, see Ellen
Quandahl’s “‘It’s Essentially as Though This Were Killing Us’: Kenneth Burke on
Mortification and Pedagogy,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 27 (Winter 1999): 5-22.
For Burke’s legendary analysis of Hitler’s rhetoric, see “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle,’”
The Philosophy of Literary Form (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1941),
191-220.
For a good analysis of Burke’s comic mode that sheds additional light on the issues
raised in his enigmatic definition of man, see James L. Kasterly, “Kenneth Burke’s
Comic Rejoinder to the Cult of Empire,” College English 58 (March 1996): 307-26.
Edited Collections
§ Bernard L. Brock has edited a recent collection of essays on Burke entitled Kenneth
Burke and the 21st Century (Albany: Statue University of New York Press, 1999) that
considers topics such as feminism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism.
§ In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Tilly Warnock, “Burke,” 90-92; Bill
Bridges, “Terministic Screens,” 722-23, and “Pentad,” 499-501; James W. Chesebro,
“Dramatism,” 200-01; Pat Youngdahl and Tilly Warnock, “Identification,” 337-40; H.L.
Ewbank, “Symbolic Action,” 710-11.
§ For a special issue on Burke, see Southern Communication Journal 61, 1 (1995).
§ James W. Chesebro has edited a recent collection of essays entitled Extensions of the
Burkeian System (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993).
Applications of Burke’s theory
§ For intriguing applications of Burke’s theory, see:
o David Ling, “A Pentadic Analysis of Senator Edward Kennedy’s Address to the
People of Massachusetts,” Central States Speech Journal 21 (1970): 81-86.
o Dean Scheibel, “‘Making Waves’ with Burke: Surf Nazi Culture and the Rhetoric
of Localism,” Western Journal of Communication 59 (1995): 253-69.
o Richard Bello, “A Burkeian Analysis of the ‘Political Correctness’ Confrontation in
Higher Education,” Southern Communication Journal 61 (1996): 243-52.
o For a recent study that applies the Burkeian concept of “identification” to
American tourism, see Gregory Clark’s Rhetorical Landscapes in America:
Variations on a Theme from Kenneth Burke (Columbia: University of South
Carolina Press, 2004).
Malcolm X and prophetic rhetoric
§ For additional analysis of Malcolm X’s rhetorical practice, see Michael Eric Dyson,
Making Malcolm: The Myth and the Meaning of Malcolm X (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1995).
304 §
For a general discussion of prophetic rhetoric and the jeremiadic persona, see:
o James Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America (New
York: New York University Press, 1997).
o Margaret Zulick, “The Agon of Jeremiah: On the Dialogic Invention of Prophetic
Ethos,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 78 (1992): 125-48.
o On the importance of the jeremiadic persona to American rhetoric, see Sacvan
Berkcovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press,
1978).
o Building on Berkcovitch’s work, David Howard-Pitney’s The Afro-American
Jeremiad: Appeals for Justice in America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,
1990) demonstrates specific cultural features of African-American rhetoric.
Notably, Howard-Pitney examines Martin Luther King, Jr.’s use of radical
jeremiadic rhetoric, which can help emphasize elements of King’s ethos that
challenge a strictly Aristotelian reading of his discourse.
305 Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
307
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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CHAPTER 24
NARRATIVE PARADIGM
Error Alert!
Before a textbook arrives in your hands or those of your students, the text has been
reviewed by many eyes. In the case of A First Look, Em, Glen, Emily, and Robin (the copy editor
at McGraw-Hill) have all reviewed the words many times. But, as evidence of our fallibility, the
text contains a small, but very significant error in this chapter on page 343. Under the five
assumptions of the rational-world paradigm, the second item currently states:
2. We make decisions on the basis of good reasons, which vary depending on
the communication situation, media, and genre (philosophical, technical,
rhetorical or artistic).
While this is true of the narrative paradigm (the second set of 5 assumptions), it does not hold
for the rational-world, but instead it should read:
2. We make decisions on the basis of arguments.
This typographical error will be corrected in future printings, but if you are using a book from
the initial batch, you’ll want to inform your students of the amended material.
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. For Walter Fisher, storytelling epitomizes human nature.
B. All forms of human communication that appeal to our reason are stories.
C. Offering good reasons has more to do with telling a compelling story than it does with
piling up evidence or constructing a tight argument.
D. Fisher’s narrative paradigm emphasizes that no communication is purely descriptive
or didactic.
II.
Narration and paradigm: defining the terms.
A. Fisher defines narration as symbolic actions—words and/or deeds—that have
sequence and meaning for those who live, create, and interpret them.
B. Fisher’s definition is broad.
1. Narration is rooted in time and space.
2. It covers every aspect of life with regard to character, motive, and action.
3. It refers to verbal and nonverbal messages.
4. Even abstract communication is included.
C. A paradigm is a conceptual framework.
D. Fisher’s narrative paradigm is offered as the foundation on which a complete
rhetoric needs to be built.
310 III.
Paradigm shift: from a rational-world paradigm to a narrative one.
A. The mind-set of the reigning technical experts is the rational-world paradigm.
1. People are essentially rational.
2. We make decisions on the basis of arguments.
3. The type of speaking situation (legal, scientific, legislative) determines the
course of our argument.
4. Rationality is determined by how much we know and how well we argue.
5. The world is a set of logical puzzles that we can solve through rational analysis.
B. The narrative paradigm is built on parallel, yet contrasting, premises.
1. People are essentially storytellers.
2. We make decisions on the basis of good reason, which vary depending on the
communication situation, media, and genre (philosophical, technical, rhetorical,
or artistic).
3. History, biography, culture, and character determine what we consider good
reasons.
4. Narrative rationality is determined by the coherence and fidelity of our stories.
5. The world is a set of stories from which we choose, and thus constantly recreate, our lives.
C. Unlike the rational-world paradigm, the narrative paradigm privileges values,
aesthetic criteria, and commonsense interpretation.
D. We judge stories based on narrative rationality.
IV.
Narrative rationality: coherence and fidelity.
A. Fisher believes that everyone applies the same standards of narrative rationality to
stories.
B. The twin tests of a story are narrative coherence and narrative fidelity.
C. Narrative coherence: does the story hang together?
1. How probable is the story to the hearer?
2. Narrative consistency parallels lines of argument in the rational-world paradigm.
3. The test of reason, however, is only one factor affecting narrative coherence.
4. Coherence can be assessed by comparing a story to others with a similar theme.
5. The ultimate test of narrative coherence is whether or not we can count on the
characters to act in a reliable manner.
D. Narrative fidelity: does the story ring true and humane?
1. Does the story square with the hearer’s experiences?
2. A story has fidelity when it provides good reasons to guide our future actions.
3. Values set the narrative paradigm’s logic of good reasons apart from the
rational-world paradigm’s logic of reasons.
4. The logic of good reasons centers on five value-related issues.
a. The values embedded in the message.
b. The relevance of those values to decisions made.
c. The consequence of adhering to those values.
d. The overlap with the worldview of the audience.
e. Conformity with what audience members believe is an ideal basis of conduct.
5. People tend to prefer accounts that fit with what they view as truthful and
humane.
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6. There is an ideal audience that identifies the humane values that a good story
embodies.
7. These stories include the timeless values of truth, the good, beauty, health,
wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, harmony, order, communion, friendship,
and oneness with the Cosmos.
8. Communities not based on humane virtues are possible, but Fisher believes
these less idealistic value systems lack true coherence.
9. Judging a story to have fidelity means we believe shared values can influence
belief and action.
V.
Critique: does Fisher’s story have coherence and fidelity?
A. Fisher’s narrative paradigm offers a fresh reworking to Aristotelian analysis.
B. Fisher’s principles of narrative coherence and fidelity can be used to analyze various
types of communication, which provides strong evidence of their validity.
C. Critics charge that Fisher is overly optimistic.
D. Stories promoting the status quo may have undue influence and oppressive power.
Key Names and Terms
Walter Fisher
A professor in the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern
California who developed the narrative paradigm of communication.
Narration
Story; symbolic actions—words and/or deeds—that have sequence and meaning for
those who live, create, and interpret them.
Mythos
Ideas that cannot be verified or proved in an absolute way; story consists of both logos
and mythos.
Paradigm
A conceptual framework or worldview.
Rational-World Paradigm
A scientific approach to knowledge that assumes people are logical, making decisions
on the basis of evidence and lines of argument.
Narrative Paradigm
A theoretical framework that views narrative as the basis of all human communication.
Narrative Rationality
A mode of evaluating the worth of stories based on the twin standards of narrative
coherence and narrative fidelity.
Narrative Coherence
Internal consistency with characters acting in a reliable fashion.
Narrative Fidelity
Congruency between values embedded in a message and what listeners regard as
truthful and humane.
Ideal Audience
A permanent public that identifies the humane values a good story embodies.
Barbara Warnick
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A rhetorical critic at the University of Washington who argues that, contrary to Fisher’s
assumptions, evil or wrongheaded stories can have great power.
Principal Changes
This chapter was previously Chapter 23. Griffin has placed a new emphasis on humane
values and clarifies the discussion of the paradigm’s democratic strength and Fisher’s position
on good discourse. In addition, he has revised the Critique section and updated the Second
Look section.
Suggestions for Discussion
What is a paradigm?
Before jumping headlong into Fisher’s theory, you might want to spend some time
shoring up the concept of a paradigm. Without understanding this philosophical notion, the
idea of a paradigm shift (away from rationalism) loses its strength. If a paradigm is one’s view
of the world, a shift in paradigm means seeing the world an entirely different way and it may be
of some value to your students to discuss other historic paradigm shifts (i.e., from a Ptolemaic
view of the Earth as the center of the university to a Copernican system with the sun as
central; the metamorphosis from an agrarian to industrialized society) in order to grasp the
radical change Fisher is advocating.
The elegance of Fisher’s narrative paradigm
The broad scope and theoretical elegance of Fisher’s narrative paradigm render it
particularly exciting. Although Human Communication as Narration is a sophisticated, complex
book that engages a wide range of philosophical positions and communication theories,
Fisher’s essential theoretical concepts are refreshingly simple. There are no intricate
Aristotelian syllogisms or Burkeian ratios to untangle; only basic criteria by which all narratives
can be evaluated. Of course any effort to reduce all of human communication to a few key
concepts will contain certain weaknesses and limitations.
What is a story?
As Griffin points out, Fisher defines narration very broadly as “symbolic actions—words
and/or deeds—that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create, or interpret them”
(341). A good place to begin discussion is to ask students to scrutinize this definition of
narration or story and to compare it to their own perceptions. Is there a difference between a
story and a simple sequence or chain of events? Does a story require a specific beginning,
middle, and end, and what is meant by each of these terms? Does a story require a storyteller,
or do mere actions and interpretation qualify? Can there be a story if there is no audience?
Must a story mean anything? Who assigns meaning to a story, the storyteller or the audience?
Answers to these questions may affect the way students come to understand and evaluate
Fisher’s approach. (Essay Questions #22 and #26 address some of these issues, below.)
A story’s coherence
Be sure that your students are clear about Fisher’s and Griffin’s use of the word
“probable” to describe narrative coherence (344). It seems that they are not referring to a
313
technical sense of statistical likelihood, but a general freedom from inconsistency or
contradiction. For coherence to be established, we must determine that, given the nature of
the plot and the characters, the action develops in a manner that is internally consistent.
Strictly speaking, the improbable can be coherent, so long as it fits organically within the world
of the story. Most stories, in fact, include improbable yet coherent events. Remember that, for
Fisher, the essence of “probability” is “whether a story ‘hangs together’” (Human
Communication as Narration 47).
It is probably worth noting that, technically speaking, Fisher uses three separate terms
to discuss coherence: “argumentative” or “structural coherence,” “material coherence,” and
“characterological coherence” (Human Communication as Narration 47). For purposes of
concision, Griffin collapses these three terms into one—“coherence.” Since he includes the
specific elements of all three within the general term of coherence, however, he has not
significantly impoverished or confused Fisher’s theory.
Narrative fidelity
To clarify the concept of “fidelity,” be sure your students understand that the term
refers directly to “the truthfulness of the story” (Human Communication as Narration 47) or
“the ‘truth qualities’ of the story, the degree to which it accords with the logic of good reasons:
the soundness of its reasoning and the value of its values” (Human Communication as
Narration 88). In short, fidelity seems synonymous with veracity.
The ideal audience
The concept of the ideal audience deserves discussion. You may wish to discuss with
students how Warnick’s critique complicates this notion. In addition, it is important to consider
culture. Fisher’s optimistic position that people, when confronted by “the better part of
themselves,” find humane values more persuasive may not be entirely convincing to your
students. How do we factor culture into the ideal audience—in other words, are seemingly
universal humane values relative and dependent on time and place? As Fisher suggests, his
notion of an ideal audience or permanent public resembles the construct of the “universal
audience” that Chaim Perelman and Lucy Olbrechts-Tyteca develop in The New Rhetoric, trans.
John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969). As
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca argue, however, the universal audience is not really so
universal after all: “Each individual, each culture, has thus its own concept of the universal
audience. The study of these variations would be very instructive, as we would learn from it
what men [and women], at different times in history, have regarded as real, true, and
objectively valid” (33). It may be that the ways in which our criteria differ are more interesting—
and revealing—than the ways in which they are similar. (Essay Question #27 below addresses
this issue.)
Comparison with other theorists
When scrutinizing the purported universality of Fisher’s humane values, students may
wish to draw on their knowledge of other communication theorists. In the fifth version of the
textbook, in fact, Griffin asked his reader to consider the following controversial statement
from Fisher’s Human Communication and Narrative through the lenses provided by Geertz and
Pacanowksy: “The logic I have outlined and critically applied in interpreting and assessing
political, aesthetic, and philosophical discourse is, I believe, a universal logic” (194). As Griffin
314
notes in the fifth edition, the work of Geertz and Pacanowsky—and, a bit later in A First Look at
Communication Theory, Philipsen—“strongly suggests that stories are culturally specific” (331),
and perhaps the standards by which we judge narratives also vary from culture to culture.
Fisher’s list of eternal values—truth, the good, beauty, health, and so forth—may not be so
universal as he suggests. Is it presumptuous of Fisher to proclaim that his logic is universal? Is
he privileging contemporary Western values? What would Geertz say about Fisher’s claim that
The Epic of Gilgamesh “exhibits narrative probability and fidelity across time and culture”
(Human Communication as Narration 78)? (Essay Question #25 and Integrative Essay
Question #33 below address this issue.)
Does a story need to reinforce comfortable values?
Also in the Fifth Edition of his textbook, Griffin raises the criticism—which he attributes
to William Kirkwood—that Fisher’s standard of narrative fidelity “implies that good stories
cannot and perhaps should not go beyond what people already believe and value” (331). If, in
fact, the process of “ringing true” tends to reinforce or depend upon comfortable values and
perspectives held by audiences rather than challenging audiences to stretch beyond
themselves to adopt new beliefs and viewpoints, then in fact Kirkwood’s complaint is
significant. The old line that successful authors know how to give readers what they want or
are looking for certainly feeds this concern.
Seen in the light of this criticism, the storyteller’s concluding monologue in Ian
McEwan’s recent narrative Atonement: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 2001; largeprint edition
Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2002) assumes extra meaning. In a frank, private reflection at
the end of her life, Briony Tallis, the character who serves as the narrator, confesses that the
“real-life” love story on which she has based her tale—the experiences of her older sister and
her soldier lover—actually ended anticlimactically when both characters suffered tragic,
random deaths in the beginning battles of World War II. Since her readers would be
uncomfortable with the truthful story, which would do nothing to reinforce their conventional
beliefs about romance, heroism, and human endurance, the narrator admits to altering the
account so that the two lovers are reunited in the end:
What sense or hope or satisfaction could a reader draw from such an account?
Who would want to believe that they never met again, never fulfilled their love?
Who would want to believe that, except in the service of the bleakest realism? . . . I
know there’s always a certain kind of reader who will be compelled to ask, But what
really happened? The answer is simple: lovers survive and flourish. (2002: 609-10)
In effect, the narrator’s argument seems to be that since the truth of the matter is too bleak to
conform to readers’ conventional notions of a good story, she must alter it to fit their
expectations. Implicitly, Briony’s perception of the necessity of this revision (she must conform
to readers’ expectations of a good story) resonates with the critique launched by Kirkwood—
that a narrative theory emphasizing what rings true for audiences works against—or at least
does not account for—stories that dramatically alter readers’ perspectives. On the other hand,
one could argue that McEwan’s artistic decision to feature the narrator’s private confession
demonstrates the opposite point—that readers are willing to be challenged by a last-minute
revelation that undermines the familiar, “feel-good” plot components they have just read and
no doubt appreciated. The fact that Atonement was short-listed for the prestigious Booker
315
Prize suggests that in this case, at least, many readers admired McEwan’s tough-minded
revision of the “lovers survive and flourish” theme. Whether or not the popularity of
Atonement, with its unexpected ending, ultimately reinforces or undermines Fisher’s twin
theoretical concepts of coherence and fidelity, however, is a judgment we’ll leave up to you or
students looking for a provocative novel to investigate.
Evil or misguided stories
Students can also come up with additional examples of evil or misguided stories such
as David Duke’s racist political propaganda, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and Senator
Joseph McCarthy’s account of the Communist infiltration of American politics. Fisher would
likely say that these must be considered “bad” stories because they lack fidelity—as he does of
Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Human Communication as Narration 76)—but such an approach
ducks the issue of what they have. Surely we cannot/should not deny their power. Why is such
discourse so persuasive to various audiences? Why, in fact, are arguments based on
scapegoats so compelling? What sort of powerful reasons do these storytellers marshal in the
process of winning adherents to vicious causes? (Integrative Essay Question #29 presents a
way into these issues, as well as a way to tie the discussion back to Burke.)
Another genre of stories that may challenge Fisher’s concept of fidelity is film noir. How
would Fisher explain the enduring popularity of films such as Les Diaboliques, The Last
Seduction, Heathers, Body Heat, Collateral and—arguably—Pulp Fiction, which do not explicitly
advocate that the viewer perform evil in the “real world,” yet reward the deeds of evil
characters within the context of the story? What sort of narrative rationality guides the
audiences of such narratives? Could it be that we need to develop a narrative rationality of
“bad reasons”?
The value of the narrative paradigm
Despite our reservations about Fisher’s narrative paradigm, it is clear that concepts
such as good reasons and narrative rationality elucidate many—if not all—important
communicative acts. In this sense, we believe that the partial applicability of the narrative
paradigm renders the theory valuable and worthy of careful study. If Fisher’s theory helps us
understand the great success of The Lion King or The Man Who Would Be King, then its failure
to explain a text of another sort is hardly a fatal flaw. It may not be the only piece of diagnostic
equipment a rhetorician needs, but it is a useful tool, nonetheless.
Old ideas, new theory?
We like to speculate on the idea that Fisher’s concepts have been kicked around by
literary critics and writers (such as our old friend Aristotle) for a long time. The ancient notions
of verisimilitude and mimesis, for example, may be very close to coherence. Is he simply
recycling some very old ideas, or does he have something new to say?
Narratives and powers
It is worth elaborating on the implications of the relationship between narratives and
power that Griffin mentions in the Critique section (331). Susan Miller begins Textual
Carnivals: The Politics of Composition (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991),
her critique of the teaching of composition in America, with the observation that storytellers
occupy a privileged position because power is, at its roots, telling our own stories (1). Shouldn’t
316
any theory of narrative emphasize the potential inequalities between teller and listener? What
is lost in Fisher’s theory as a result of his neglect of this concern?
Griffin’s point that Fisher’s approach may not adequately consider issues of power and
dominance in storytelling is poignantly illustrated in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. As the firstperson narrator reflects on the death of Tod Clifton, a young African-American male who is
pointlessly gunned down by a police officer, he realizes that the record—the story—of the
victim’s death will perpetuate, rather than alter, the power relations of the status quo:
All things, it is said, are duly recorded—all things of importance, that is. But not quite, or
actually it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the
recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their
power by. But the cop would be Clifton’s historian, his judge, his witness, and his
executioner, and I was the only brother in the watching crowd. And I, the only witness
for the defense, knew neither the extent of his guilt nor the nature of his crime. Where
were the historians today? And how would they put it down? (429)
The narrator continues, in poetic tones, to lament the fate of those who fall outside history,
whose stories, when told, are manipulated to reaffirm the basic inequalities that characterize
American culture.
Sample Application Log
Brian
Over fall break, I saw the movie Quiz Show, which is about a television game show which is
tailored to keep the public’s interest by a scam in which certain contestants know all the
answers before they get asked the questions on the air. The plot of the movie revolves around
two conflicting stories: that of the game show producers, who claim that everyone’s making
money and no one’s getting hurt; and that of the federal investigator, who says that television
is presenting the public with a false sense of reality. Ultimately, the court has to decide whose
story has more narrative coherence and narrative fidelity. It is a lack of coherence on the part
of the game show’s producers and contestants that sparks the investigation in the first place.
The federal investigator recognizes there is something that doesn’t quite fit in their story.
Although the investigator’s story does not seem quite believable to people at first, he manages
to convince people that his story has coherence and just as important, his story has fidelity.
That is, the TV viewing public can identify with it because they are the ones being abused.
Exercises and Activities
Testing the coherence and fidelity of well-known texts
Help students to explore and evaluate Fisher’s twin criteria of coherence and fidelity
through application. Do these concepts adequately explain the power of many of the most
enduring stories of our culture? A provocative test case is William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a
play most students will have read or seen. In terms of coherence, Hamlet’s behavior seems
anything but. His mood is persistently melancholy, but his actions are consistently
317
unpredictable. With respect to fidelity, not many of us are able to forge a direct connection with
Hamlet, whose uncle has murdered his father and married his mother, and who learns of this
treachery from an encounter with his father’s ghost. The general theme of revenge that
enervates the play will strike a chord with many, but is Hamlet’s bloody solution truly relevant
to our lives? How, in effect, might Fisher account for these apparent problems with his
theoretical categories? Other test cases could be Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice or
King Lear (mentioned in Griffin’s introduction to the chapter [340]) and Sophocles’ Oedipus
Rex or Antigone.
Contradictions in the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz
Griffin’s global example—the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz—is extremely rich and
provocative. Ruth’s high-minded idealism (manifested in her steadfast loyalty to her mother-inlaw) and Naomi’s earthy self-help (demonstrated in the assertive courtship strategy she
concocts for Ruth) may seem contradictory or at least paradoxical to you and students,
particularly since they are both women’s responses. How can these contrasting elements of
the story, these divergent feminine ways of being in the world, “hang together”? What does this
ostensibly disparate conjunction of values tell us about the larger worldview of the storyteller
and the culture in which the story is told? In these terms, does the story “ring true”? Can we,
situated in twenty-first-century America, relate? Should we be able to? Do we have stories that
are similarly incongruous? Why? Just between you and us, we believe that the story, in spite
of—most likely because of—these apparent inconsistencies, reveals a compelling coherence
and fidelity (think dialogical tension here), but you and your students may disagree.
Competing narratives
The cartoon on page 345 humorously raises the very important—and often deadly
serious—point that humans often wage arguments through competing narratives. In doing so,
disputants may marshal alternative narrative rationalities in order to produce the strongest
story. A good way to explore how narrative rationalities may compete is to examine the practice
of forensic rhetoric. For example, have your class consider the conflicting stories presented in
the O.J. Simpson trial. Whereas the prosecution told the story of a madly jealous, violent exhusband who killed the one he loved, the defense constructed a narrative about a racist police
department that would do whatever was necessary to frame an African-American suspect. Both
sides worked diligently to undermine the coherence and fidelity of the competing story. After
the trial, polls demonstrated that whereas European Americans tended to favor the good
reasons presented in the prosecution’s story, African Americans tended to believe those
developed by the defense. Which was a better story? Does Fisher’s narrative paradigm give us
a way to answer such questions? If not, how might such theoretical speculation begin? (The
recent Michael Jackson trial may also be a useful vehicle for getting at these provocative
issues.) Incidentally, if we’re willing to give up claims of universality, the concept of the
“discourse community” or “interpretative community” offers one way out of the dilemma.
Feature film illustrations
The popular film Forrest Gump is a good vehicle for discussing the narrative paradigm.
Have your students attempt to explain the film’s great popularity in terms of coherence and
fidelity. How does the narrative establish internal consistency? In what ways does the story
resonate with the lives of the viewers? A more provocative possibility is the tale of the life of
Christ, also known as “the greatest story ever told.” Does Fisher’s narrative rationality help us
318
to understand its enduring power? Now nearly 2,000 years old, the story shows no sign of
fading. Why is this? The documentary The Farmer’s Wife, which we mentioned in our treatment
of Chapter 1, is an excellent nonfiction narrative for analysis. How is “real life” molded by
creator Donald Sutherland to establish coherence and fidelity? Or one might consider using
more controversial examples of documentary narrative such as the highly polarizing film
Fahrenheit 9-11 or the thriller Memento, a story that is told out of time sequence.
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he likes to use the film Smoke, particularly
Augie’s story, the 19-minute clip that constitutes its conclusion (1:28-1:47). The story can be
analyzed for coherence and fidelity. Why does it or does it not hang together? Encourage
students to explore the values to which the story appeals.
319
Further Resources
§
§
§
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§
§
§
§
§
§
§
Other significant works written by Fisher not mentioned by Griffin include:
o “The Narrative Paradigm and the Interpretation and the Assessment of Historical
Texts,” Argumentation and Advocacy 25 (1988): 50-53.
o “Narration, Knowledge, and the Possibility of Wisdom,” in Rethinking
Knowledge: Reflections Across the Disciplines, eds. Robert F. Goodman and
Walter Fisher (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 169-92.
Sonja Foss’s coverage of “narrative criticism” in Chapter 10 of Rhetorical Criticism:
Exploration and Practice moves beyond Fisher, broadening the scope and complexity of
the theory.
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see Elizabeth Patnoe and James
Phelan, “Narrative Theory,” 454-57; John Stewart, “Fisher,” 272.
For an additional critique of Fisher’s paradigm, see Dennis D. Cali, “Chiari Lubich’s
1977 Templeton Prize Acceptance Speech: Case Study in the Mystical Narrative,”
Communication Studies 44 (1993): 132-43.
John Cragan and Donald Shields apply Fisher’s narrative paradigm in Symbolic Theories
in Applied Communication Research: Bormann, Burke, and Fisher (Cresskill, NJ:
Hampton Press, 1995), 91-122, 235-67.
For an intriguing application of narrative theory to the field of economics, see Deidre
McCloskey, If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1990).
Alan J. Bush and Victoria Davies Bush apply the narrative paradigm to advertising in
“The Narrative Paradigm as a Prescriptive for Improving Ethical Evaluations of
Advertisements,” Journal of Advertising 23 (September 1994): 31-41.
For a thoughtful study that also places great stock in the power of “good reasons,” see
Wayne Booth, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1974).
For further information on the concept of the discourse community, see M. Jimmie
Killingsworth, “Discourse Community,” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 19496.
The consistently refreshing Arthur Asa Burger applies narrative theory to contemporary
contexts in Narrative in Popular Culture, Media, and Everyday Life (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage, 1997).
Finally, a wonderful book on narrative theory is Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction, 2nd
ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).
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Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
321
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
322
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
323
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
324
ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
ARISTOTLE AND WEST
Key Names and Terms
Aristotle
Previously introduced in Chapter 21, this ancient Greek scholar advocated the “golden
mean” in ethical matters.
Golden Mean
The virtue of moderation; the virtuous person develops habits that avoids extremes.
Cornel West
A professor of African-American studies at Princeton University (formerly at Harvard
University) who advocates pragmatism.
Pragmatism
An applied approach to knowledge; the philosophy that true understanding of an idea
or situation has practical implications for action.
Further Resources
For a succinct summary of pragmatism, see Steven Mailloux, “Pragmatism,”
Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 552. For those interested in West’s position on
racial issues, we recommend Race Matters (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).
325 MEDIA AND CULTURE
McLuhan’s Media Ecology
Griffin’s treatment of Marshall McLuhan’s media ecology theory is available online on
Griffin’s website, http://www.afirstlook.com. We strongly encourage you to see Griffin’s
description in the textbook and to incorporate online material into your course. The revised
chapter includes both classical McLuhan concepts such as technological determinism and
hot/cold media, but also moves into the contemporary research in the area of media ecology.
Key Names and Terms
Postmodernism
An epistemological stance that is suspicious of any truth claim; according to JeanFrancois Lyotard, an incredulity toward grand narratives such as Marxism, Freudian
psychology, and Christianity.
Jean Baudrillard
A leading French postmodernist who describes an absence of meaning in
contemporary society.
Marshall McLuhan
The former director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of
Toronto who championed technological determinism as the key to understanding
media.
Jean-Francois Lyotard
A French philosopher who popularized the use of the term postmodern to describe our
culture. He asserts that postmodernism constitutes an incredulity toward
metanarratives; knowledge is relative.
Hyperreality
The phenomenon whereby something seems more real than reality.
Frederic Jameson
A Duke University literature professor who, operating from a neo-Marxist perspective,
argues that we are living in a late stage of capitalism in which boundaries between
high and popular culture are blurred, art is measured by profits, and media
conglomerates buttress the power of those currently in control.
Tribal Age
The epoch in which orality characterized human communication and the senses of
hearing, touch, taste, and smell dominated visualization.
Age of Literacy
The epoch in which writing produced by the phonetic alphabet characterized human
communication and visualization rose to prominence.
Print Age
The epoch in which the printing press promoted literacy and created widespread
dependence on visualization.
326 Electronic Age
The epoch in which electronic mass media have created a new orality in which all
humanity can participate.
Global Village
Worldwide, electronic community where there are no remote places and where all
people have equal access.
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
§
§
A good general collection is David Crowley and Paul Heyer, Communication in History:
Technology, Culture, Society, 2nd ed. (White Plains: Longman, 1995).
For discussions of media and postmodernism, see:
o David Morley, “Postmodernism: The Rough Guide,” in Cultural Studies in
Communications, eds. James Curran, David Morley, and Valerie Walkerdine
(London: Arnold, 1996), 50-65.
o Jonathan Bignell, Postmodern Media Culture (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Press, 2000).
For studies of advertising in a postmodern vein, see Mary Cross, ed., Advertising and
Culture: Theoretical Perspectives (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996); and Anthony J.
Cortese, Provocateur: Images of Woman and Minorities in Advertising (Lanham:
Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).
For general interest, we recommend Ben H. Bagdikian, Double Vision: Reflections on
My Heritage, Life, and Profession (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).
In Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously (New York: Continuum, 1992), David
Bianculli offers a spirited apologia for the medium. In doing so, he specifically
engages arguments raised by McLuhan and Gerbner (Chapter 27).
For a feminist critique of the field, see Cynthia M. Lont, “Feminist Critique of Mass
Communication Research,” in Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques in
Communication Studies, 231-48.
327
CHAPTER 25
SEMIOTICS
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Roland Barthes held the Chair of Literary Semiology at the College of France.
B. In Mythologies, he sought to decipher the cultural meaning of visual signs,
particularly those perpetuating dominant social values.
C. Semiology is concerned with anything that can stand for something else.
D. Barthes is interested in signs that are seemingly straightforward, but subtly
communicate ideological or connotative meaning.
E. Barthes had an unusual style for an academic and was extremely influential.
II.
Wrestling with signs.
A. Barthes’s true concern was with connotation—the ideological baggage that signs
carry wherever they go.
B. The structure of signs is key to Barthes’s theory.
C. Ferdinand de Saussure coined the term semiology to refer to the study of signs.
D. A sign is the combination of its signifier and signified.
1. The signifier is the image; the signified is the concept.
2. In Barthes’s terms, the signifier isn’t the sign of the signified—rather the sign is
the combination of signifier and signified, which are united in an inseparable
bond.
3. These distinctions come from Saussure.
4. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a verbal sign is
arbitrary.
5. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a nonverbal sign is
based on affinity and is therefore quasi-arbitrary.
E. A sign does not stand on its own: it is part of a system.
1. A structural analysis of features common to all semiotic systems is called
taxonomy.
2. Barthes believed semiotic systems function the same way despite their apparent
diversity.
3. Significant semiotic systems create myths that affirm the status quo as natural,
inevitable, and eternal.
III.
The yellow ribbon transformation: from forgiveness to pride.
A. Not all semiological systems are mythic.
B. Mythic or connotative systems are second-order semiological systems built off of
preexisting sign systems.
C. Within mythic systems, the sign of the first system becomes the signifier of the
second.
328 IV.
The making of myth: stripping the sign of its history.
A. Every ideological sign is the result of two interconnected sign systems.
B. The first system is strictly descriptive as the signifier image and the signified concept
combine to produce the denotative sign.
C. The second system appropriates the sign of the denotative system and makes it the
signifier of the connotative system.
D. This lateral shift transforms a neutral sign into an ideological tool.
E. The original denotative sign is not lost, but it is impoverished.
1. The mythic sign carries the crust of falsity.
2. The mythic communication is unable to imagine anything alien, novel, or other.
V.
Unmasking the myth of a homogeneous society.
A. Only those who understand semiotics can detect the hollowness of connotative
signs.
B. Mythic signs don’t explain, defend, or raise questions.
C. Mythic signs always reinforce dominant cultural values.
D. They naturalize the current order of things.
VI.
The semiotics of mass communication: “I’d like to be like Mike.”
A. Because signs are integral to mass communication, Barthes’s semiotic analysis has
become an essential media theory.
B. Kyong Kim argues that the mass signification arising in a response to signs is an
artificial effect calculated to achieve something else.
C. Advertisements on television create layers of connotation that reaffirm the status
quo.
VII. Critique: do mythic signs always reaffirm the status quo?
A. Some students of signification disagree with Barthes’s view that all connotative
systems uphold the values of the dominant class.
B. Scholars such as Anne Norton and Douglass Kellner expand Barthes’s semiotic
approach to argue that signs can subvert the status quo or exemplify a
countercultural connotative system.
C. Dick Hebdige suggests that although countercultural semiotic activity is eventually
co-opted by mainstream society, it enjoys a brief time of subversive signification.
D. Barthes’s semiotic approach to imagery remains a core theoretical perspective for
communication scholars, particularly those who emphasize media and culture.
Key Names and Terms
Roland Barthes
A French semiologist who held the Chair of Literary Semiology at the College of France
and whose theorizing focused on the cultural meaning of signs.
Ferdinand de Saussure
A Swiss linguist who coined the term semiology.
Semiology/Semiotics
The study of signs and their impact on society.
329
Connotation
Barthes’s label for the ideological baggage that signs carry with them.
Sign
The combination of a signifier and a signified.
Signifier
The actual image of a sign.
Signified
The meaning ascribed to a sign.
Taxonomy
A form of structural analysis that seeks to define and classify the features of all
semiotic systems.
Mythologies
Written by Barthes, this book contains semiotic analyses of a wide variety of visual
signs, particularly those perpetuating dominant societal values.
Mythic or Connotative System
A second-order semiological system built off of a preexisting sign system. Within mythic
systems, the sign of the first system becomes the signifier of the second.
Kyong Kim
A communication scholar from Mt. Vernon Nazarene College and author of a recent
book that applies semiotics to media theory.
Anne Norton and Douglas Kellner
University of Pennsylvania political scientist and UCLA media scholar (formerly from the
University of Texas at Austin), respectively, who expand Barthes’s semiotic approach to
account for how signs may subvert the status quo.
Dick Hebdige
The director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, who argues that countercultural semiotic activity at first subverts but is
eventually co-opted by mainstream society.
Principal Changes
In this edition, Griffin has expanded his discussion of the yellow ribbons displayed in
support of US troops fighting in Iraq as well as edited the chapter for clarity, and updated the
Second Look section.
Suggestions for Discussion
Clarifying Barthes’s analysis
Like Griffin’s treatment of CMM, this chapter epitomizes the inherent limitations of
concise summaries of the complex, constantly evolving theories of wide-ranging thinkers. In
order to fill in key gaps in your students’ understanding, you may need to bring additional
material to class. In particular, we would recommend providing a bit more of the text of
Barthes’s analysis of wrestling. To vivify Barthes’s claim that mythic signs reinforce the
dominant values of their culture, quote at length from pages 21-23 of “The World of
Wrestling,” where Barthes explains the way in which the spectacle of wrestling communicates
the concept of “justice” to the audience. Be sure your students understand how justice is
330
naturalized as the honorable wrestler eventually triumphs over the villainous rule breaker, the
“bastard.” Then they will better comprehend how people who accept this mythology within the
spectacle of the ring are less likely to question its application to the overall order of things. The
concluding paragraphs of the essay brilliantly summarize the ideological power of this semiotic
display (24-25). We also recommend “Wine and Milk” (58-61) and “Steak and Chips” (62-64),
which concisely present the connection between everyday images of the French table and
ideology. In the former essay, for example, Barthes writes, “For it is true that wine is a good
and fine substance, but it is no less true that its production is deeply involved in French
capitalism, whether it is that of the private distillers or that of the big settlers in Algeria who
impose on the Muslims, on the very land of which they have been dispossessed, a crop of
which they have no need, while they lack even bread” (61).
The first-order to second-order transition
The relationship between a first-order, denotative system and a second-order,
connotative system is often difficult to understand. Students have a tendency to view
semiotics as a kind of simpleminded symbolism akin to the literary criticism they picked up in
high-school English classes, so you may have to push them to see beyond the obvious
“standing for” relationships. In addition to walking students through Griffin’s yellow-ribbon
example, we recommend Griffin’s practice of working through the fourth exercise in Questions
to Sharpen Your Focus in the textbook. Since many of your students will be unfamiliar with
opera, the original context of the saying will be mysterious to them, a fact that renders the
exercise all the more valuable. In the denotative system, the signifier is the full-figured diva
herself, belting out her final aria before her death—and the end of a long evening of musical
drama. The signified would be something like “one last voice for love and passion before death
and closure.” Overall, the sign suggests a universe that is tragic but aesthetically pleasing. The
diva dies, but not until she makes her long-awaited grand statement.
When the sign from the denotative system becomes the signifier of the connotative
system, a new signified emerges, the more generic notion of waiting it (often an athletic
contest) out, of not accepting victory or defeat until the episode or event is entirely completed.
The overall sign of the connotative system evokes dogged patience and American skepticism—
never say never. After all, in the connotative system the details of the conclusion are not yet
known. The new meaning is very similar to the famous line attributed to Yogi Berra: “The game
isn’t over until it’s over.” In the connotative shift from the original sign to the second-order
semiotic system, the operatic aesthetic elements of dramatic closure and high tragedy are not
entirely eliminated, but impoverished. Ask students to appraise the potential ideological
components of the connotative sign. Over the course of the connotative shift, has the new sign
assumed the “crust of falsity”?
Another excellent example that was researched by one of our former students is the
transformation of the swastika from a symbol representing the sun, life, and good luck into the
symbol of Nazi Germany. As a symbol, the swastika has a long lineage, with evidence it adored
pottery as early as 1000 BC. For centuries, it had widespread application, including appeared
on the shoulder patches of the American 45th Division during the First World War. In Germany,
the symbol started to appear at the end of the nineteenth century and was chosen to denote
German nationalism and pride in Aryan history based on the symbol’s own Aryan / Indian
origins. What had stood for life now came to symbolize hate, intolerance, murder, and death.
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The symbol, imported by the Nazis, has been transformed into a second-order system that
departs dramatically from its origins. Moving to its symbolization of the neo-Nazi movement,
you might want to discuss with your students how the changes in the signified have altered the
sign over the years. Based on the change in the symbol’s meaning, ask students what they
might suggest to Alvernia College, a Catholic school in Reading, PA, where on the tile floor of a
pre-WW2 building is a swastika mosaic. If the example seems obvious or outmoded, you may
want to remind students of the flap that Britain’s Prince Harry caused when he wore a
swastika-adorned armband to a costume party in 2005.
Similarities between Barthes and Richards
For the purpose of fine-tuning theoretical distinctions, it’s useful to compare Barthes’s
approach to the sign with Richards’s semantic triangle (see Integrative Essay Question #29). At
first glance the two schemes have several similarities. Both try to conceptualize and
systematize the essential “standing for” relationship basic to human communication. Both are
concerned with the connection between symbols and concepts. Further study, however,
demonstrates vital differences based on the contrasting interests of the two theorists.
Richards’s triangle focuses on the complex relationship between symbols and specific, real
things, and he introduces the difficult concept of the “reference” as a way of bridging the gap
between the two. Barthes’s primary concerns, however, seem to be the relationship between
symbols and ideological principles and the complex process of connotation; thus the signifier’s
connection to the signified takes the reader in an increasingly abstract direction. Richards’s
triangle includes the notion of the real thing—in this case, a four-legged, barking creature. In
contrast, Barthes’s sign is entirely symbolic. The flesh-and-blood wrestlers are never merely
wrestlers; they are interesting only because they enact a symbolic drama that evokes complex
ideological meanings.
Fantasizing themes
To discuss Barthes’s contributions to media theory, ask students to reflect on the
“fantasized themes” (to use Kyong Kim’s phrase) that advertising tries to sell us in addition to
their products. In an era in which commercials seem to be ever more loosely linked to the
advertised product itself, students should be able to develop a sense of Kim’s Barthian
analysis, particularly his point that the mass media create an “artificial effect” that does not
merely deliver information but aims “to achieve something else.” Such analysis need not be
limited to advertising. What “fantasized themes” and “artificial effects” are created by network
news, prime-time television news magazines, sports commentaries, or soap operas?
The destabilization of signs
We would recommend discussing the twists to semiotics offered by Barthes by Norton,
Kellner, and Hebdige. What do your students think of Norton’s and Kellner’s arguments about
Madonna’s subversive signification? Can they come up with other media figures that might
produce destabilizing signs? Have them contemplate examples that illustrate Hebdige’s thesis
as well.
Other notable works by Barthes
In order to avoid inaccurate pigeonholing, students need to understand that Barthes
was an eclectic, innovative theorist whose perspective on signs was constantly shifting. The
theoretical material presented in this chapter represents only a few of his many intellectual
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phases. In this light, it’s important to note that much of his most famous work concerned
literary signs and codes. In order to vivify this point, you may wish to show students samples of
some of his later work. In particular, I would recommend giving them a look at S/Z, trans.
Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), a book-length analysis of the complex semiotic
verbal codes present in Honore de Balzac’s short story, “Sarrasine.” Another option is
Barthes’s brilliant essay, “Textual Analysis of a Tale of Poe,” which is available in the following
anthologies: On Signs, ed. Marshall Blonsky, trans. Matthew Ward and Richard Howard
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 84-97; Untying the Text, ed. Robert Young
(London: Routledge, 1981), 133-61; and Roland Barthes, The Semiotic Challenge, trans.
Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1988), 261-93. It’s also important to note that
although Barthes’s interest in exposing dominant cultural ideologies continued throughout his
career, intriguing—and controversial—issues of gender and sexual orientation become
increasingly important in later work.
Saving Private Ryan
It might be instructive to question Griffin’s claim that Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private
Ryan constitutes antiwar signification (367). In contrast, it could be argued that although the
film begins with the horrors of war, its conclusion, which amounts to a traditionally heroic last
stand orchestrated by admirable underdogs, glorifies—or at least unquestionably accepts—the
larger context in which the battle is fought. Spielberg’s focus on Tom Hanks’s exemplary
bravery in the face of death helps to convert this otherwise unorthodox and critical study of war
into a rather conventional vehicle for status quo attitudes. For all his talent, this director
cannot resist the classic Hollywood war sign, complete with all it connotes.
Finding Barthes in the strangest places
Some students who appreciate random trivia items may appreciate a rather obscure
discovery of Barthes in popular culture. In the feature film, The Truth about Cats and Dogs, the
two main characters, Abby and Brian, get to know each other very intimately after spending an
evening talking on the phone. During this phone call, Brian reads Abby a portion of Barthes’s
Camera Lucida, his treatise on photography.
Sample Application Log
Katherine
Michael Jordan plays most of his game (especially his slam dunks) with his mouth hanging
wide and his tongue wagging. This has come to signify talent, expectation of greatness, and
pride. Jordan wanna-bees across the country have picked up this little quirk. For them, keeping
their mouth open signifies Michael Jordan and, therefore, being cool, talented, and better than
everyone else. The image of superiority, however, is not derived from any talent of their own;
it’s based on myth.
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Exercises and Activities
The WWF in the classroom
To test Barthes’s analysis of wrestling in a contemporary context, consider showing
video segments of American wrestling to your class. Ask your students to predict from the
introduction of the wrestlers the style and outcome of the match. Challenge them to identify
the perpetuation of dominant cultural values in these grotesque dramas. Many of your
students will enjoy grappling with the theoretical jump from signifier to signified. The brief
political career of former wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura—and all that it connotes—serves
as an intriguing case study for such analysis. After a quirky election won him the governorship
of Minnesota, Ventura attempted to translate the moral drama he acted so successfully in the
ring into political virtues such as the triumph over special interests and the ability of one man
to fight the system. The fact that Ventura was neither a particularly popular nor successful
governor (he chose not to seek a second term) suggests the difficulty in translating simplistic
ideology based in a rather crude semiotic system into complex political reality. It’s one thing to
feed a rather misleading ideological fantasy to unwary patrons of wrestling—who seek
escapism, rather than solutions to weighty problems of government—but it’s quite another to
successfully apply the same myth—day after day—to the running of a state.
In some ways, the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the current governor of California, is
not dissimilar. Seemingly becoming the muscular, independent-minded, heroic persona he
popularized in blockbuster films such as The Terminator, candidate Schwarzenegger (the
denotative sign) swept into office (via a recall election) with tough-guy pledges to run the
crooks and incompetents out of Sacramento, restore a positive business climate by eliminating
sinister disincentives to do business in California, and rescue government from the dark forces
of evil such as tax-and-spend liberals and greedy special-interest groups (who turned out to be
teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other relatively modest public servants). At the level of the
connotative system, Schwarzenegger the action figure communicated the more general
ideological position (very much tied up in the myth of the traditional American dream) that
rugged, decisive, uncompromising individualism works outside the system to overcome
corporate malevolence and fecklessness wherever it manifests itself. Although
Schwarzenegger began very well by actually effecting compromises and bargains in a manner
utterly unlike the big screen hero with whom he so closely associates, his continued reliance
on macho, uncompromising talk and the clichéd moral code that forms the backbone of his
fantastic adventure movies is wearing thin, as is his popularity. It is not particularly surprising,
thus, that to date he has been unable to accomplish major economic reforms and stabilize the
complex budgeting process. Ironically, it may be the case that the very ideological core of the
connotative semiotic system that helped elect Schwarzenegger is also what most limits his
effectiveness in office. In summer 2005, it is not entirely certain that he will run for a second
term. The Rocky films also provide good material for such analysis, particularly those that pit
the all-American slugger from Philadelphia against foreigners. In raising the examples of
Ventura, Schwarzenegger, and Rocky Balboa in class, encourage your students to identify the
denotative and connotative semiotic systems that characterize these provocative signs. For
remarkable examples of Schwarzenegger’s semiotic presence, see the following website:
http://www.amendus.org/?referrer=yahoo
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For students who balk at Barthes’s class-based, ideological reading of wrestling, ask
them to provide another explanation for the spectacle’s enduring attraction. Why, if it does not
function as Barthes claims, does it remain popular? One counter explanation, of course, would
be Aristotelian catharsis, but students may propose other interesting candidates.
Other texts for analysis
Not everyone enjoys watching and then discussing the theoretical implications of
oversized men beating on one another, of course, so you may consider discussing other sorts
of semiotic systems, particularly those from the mass media. Automobile ads capture the
imagination of most college students and make excellent texts for Barthian analysis. Bring in
magazine ads featuring both contemporary cars and those from previous decades and discuss
how they, too, can be viewed as complex signs. What do differences in size, power,
performance, styling, gas efficiency, and country of origin signify? To advance the discussion,
refer to the ideas of Kyong Kim, who suggests that advertisers play on the assumption that we
want to be sold a lifestyle or an ideology rather than merely a means of transportation. What
does that say about the symbolic character of our vehicles and the mass manipulation of the
American public? Other advertisements—for athletic shoes, beer, and soft drinks—can also be
productive texts to use in class, as the analysis of the “I’d like to be like Mike” commercial
suggests.
Recent example in the media
An example from recent media history that may provoke an interesting discussion
amongst your students is the recent legal fight and eventual death of Terri Schiavo, a Florida
woman who was in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Her husband, who wanted to
allow her to die by removing her feeding tube, fought his in-laws as her parents mounted a
legal challenge citing a desire to follow her wishes and a disbelief that her condition was
irreversible. On several occasions, her story became front-page news as the two camps waged
a symbolic war, and it reached national significance when President George W. Bush and
congress attempted to pass legislation that would mandate the continuation of her lifepreserving measures. When a previous court ruling was not overturned, her feeding tube was
removed, and death followed 13 days later. Afterwards, the two sides continued their battle
over the interpretation Terri’s death as either the just course of action (“a person’s right to die)
or a savage act of cruelty (“death by starvation”). The drama’s last (or at least, latest) turn was
the words by her husband on the grave stone: “I kept my promise.” You might ask students to
debate the various semiotic readings of the Terri Schiavo case, paying attention to multiple
constructions of the sign, signifier, and signified.
Having worked through signs that Barthes claims reinforce dominant values of culture,
you and your students may wish to attempt to find media figures, text, or images that might not
fit the ideological mold. Anne Norton and Douglas Kellner’s example of Madonna is a good
place to start the discussion, but ask students to provide their own examples of signs from
popular music (rap is a good place to look), film or television shows. These examples may also
lead to productive discussion about Dick Hebdige’s theoretical approach. Were some of these
signs subversive at one time, and have since been co-opted by mainstream society? An
excellent resource to use when considering this issue is the Frontline documentary, The
Merchants of Cool, which explicitly addresses how what is “on the edge” of youth culture is
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turned into what is “cool.” The film also illustrates how “cool” functions as a signified that is
marketed to youth.
Gatorade’s “I’d like to be like Mike”
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he shows the Gatorade ad analyzed on 366-67.
He also makes a point of systematically working through the semiotic shift that occurs in the
yellow ribbon example featured in the chapter (he even plays the song for his class). Griffin
encourages the ambitious instructor to assign students reading from later in Barthes’s career.
Barthes’s more postmodern phase can add complexity and richness to class discussion.
Further Resources
§
§
§
§
§
§
An excellent supplementary text for this chapter is Jonathan Bignell’s Media Semiotics:
An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997).
A good source for articles on semiotics is the American Journal of Semiotics.
Beyond the works cited by Griffin in the Second Look section of the text, see the
Encyclopedia of Semiotics, ed. Paul Bouissac (New York: Oxford University Press,
1998).
Terence Hawkes’s eminently readable Structuralism and Semiotics (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1977) has a useful section on Barthes (106-22).
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see James S. Baumlin, “Barthes,” 6667; Catherine Lappas, “Signified/Signifier/Signifying,” 673; Sue Hum, “Semiotics,”
666-67.
Although Michael Eric Dyson’s chapter “Be Like Mike? Michael Jordan and the
Pedagogy of Desire” in Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993) does not specifically refer to
Barthes, his analysis of Jordan’s media image as a marketable product connects to the
ideas presented in this chapter.
General discussion of semiotics
§ “Semiotics, Poetry,” The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, eds. Alex
Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 1138-43.
§ Kaja Silverman, The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).
Applications of Barthes
§ For an intriguing political application of Barthes’s theory, see Anne Norton’s chapterlength study, “The President as Sign,” in her book Republic of Signs: Liberal Theory and
American Popular Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 87-121.
§ Mark P. Orbe uses semiotics to analyze how African-American cast members are
signified on the television show The Real World in “Constructions of Reality on MTV’s
The Real World: An Analysis of the Restrictive Coding of Black Masculinity,” Southern
Communication Journal 64 (Fall 1998): 32-47.
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Sample Examination Questions
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
To receive a copy of the Test Bank contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative or email
Leslie Oberhuber, Senior Marketing Manager at leslie_oberhuber@mcgraw-hill.com
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Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
338
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
339
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
340
Sample Questions are not reproduced in the online version of the Instructor's Manual.
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CHAPTER 26
CULTURAL STUDIES
Outline
I.
Introduction.
A. Critical theorists such as Stuart Hall question the scientific focus of mainstream
communication research on media influence.
B. Influenced by a Marxist interpretation of society, Hall’s central concern is how the
mass media create support for hegemonic ideological positions.
C. Hall and most critical theorists want to change the world to empower people on the
margins of society.
II.
The media as powerful ideological tools.
A. Hall believes that the media function to maintain the dominance of the powerful and
to exploit the poor and powerless.
B. Ideology is defined as “those images, concepts and premises which provide the
framework through which we represent, interpret, understand and ‘make sense’ of
some aspect of social existence.”
C. Mainstream U.S. mass communication research serves the myth of democratic
pluralism and ignores the power struggle that the media mask.
D. To avoid academic compartmentalization, Hall prefers cultural studies over media
studies.
E. Articulate means both speaking out against oppression and linking that subjugation
with the communication media.
F. Hall’s mission reflects his Marxist interpretation of history.
G. Cultural studies is closely related to critical theory but places more emphasis on
resistance than rationality.
III.
Early cultural critics.
A. In order to grasp Hall’s theory, we must first understand its roots.
B. Cultural critics by the end of World War II were concerned with the question of why
oppression persisted and dominant capitalist economies continued to thrive.
C. Frankfurt School theorists argued that the corporate-owned media were effective in
tailoring messages that supported the capitalist system.
1. The media present capitalism as natural, eternal, and unalterable.
2. To describe the cultural role of the media, Hall adopts the term hegemony,
meaning preponderant influence or domination of one nation over another.
3. In Hall’s terms, hegemony refers to already accepted interpretations of reality
that keep society’s haves in power over its have-nots.
D. Roland Barthes provided a way to start with concrete media images and
systematically deconstruct their shift in meaning.
1. Semiotics tangibly illustrates how societal power is preserved and
communicated through everyday objects and symbols.
342 2.
Yet semiotics does not adequately explain why certain meanings get attached to
certain symbols at certain times.
E. Michel Foucault believed signs and symbols cannot be separated from mass media
images.
1. They are unified by their common discursive nature and require frameworks of
interpretation in order to make sense.
2. The framework people use is provided through the dominant discourse of the
day.
IV.
Making meaning.
A. Hall contends that the primary function of discourse is to make meaning.
1. Words and signs have no intrinsic meaning.
2. We learn what signs mean through discourse—through communication and
culture.
B. Hall believes we must examine the sources of discourse.
1. People with power create “discursive formations” that become naturalized.
2. Those ways of interpreting the world are perpetuated through further discourse
and keep the dominant in power.
V.
Corporate control of mass communication.
A. Hall believes the focus of the study of communication should be on how human
culture influences the media and on power relations and social structures.
B. Hall and other advocates of cultural studies believe that media representations of
culture reproduce social inequalities and keep the average person powerless.
C. At least in the U.S., corporations produce and distribute the vast majority of
information we receive.
D. Corporate control of information prevents many stories from being told.
E. The ultimate issue for cultural studies is not what information is presented, but
whose information it is.
VI.
The media role in the Gulf War.
A. A variety of cultural products can be deployed to generate popular support for the
dominant ideology.
B. The media practice hegemonic encoding—the regulation of discourse so that some
messages are encoded by the mass media then decoded, internalized, and acted
upon by the audience.
1. Other ideas remain unvoiced.
2. Complex ethical questions are not engaged.
C. Hall uses the term “ideological discourses of constraint” to refer to the media’s
limitation of alternatives and presentation of restricted choices as the only options.
VII. Post-9/11 media coverage.
A. Hall believes the mass media provide the guiding myths that shape our perception of
the world and serve as important instruments of social control.
B. He believes hegemonic encoding occurs all the time, yet it’s not a conscious plot.
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VIII. An obstinate audience.
A. Audiences may not accept the source’s ideology.
B. There are three ways to decode a message.
1. Operate inside the dominant code.
2. Apply a negotiable code.
3. Substitute an oppositional code.
C. Although Hall has trouble believing the powerless can change the system, he
respects the ability of people to resist the dominant code.
D. He is unable to predict, though, when and where resistance will spring up.
IX.
Critique: Your judgment will depend on your ideology.
A. The strong ideological component inherent in cultural studies limits its credibility.
B. Hall’s work is relatively silent in regards to women as equal victims of hegemony with
ethnic minorities and the poor.
C. Hall doesn’t offer specific remedies for the problems he identifies.
D. Hall’s great contribution is his insistence that one cannot talk about meaning without
considering power.
E. Samuel Becker notes that although Hall knocks the dominant ideology of
communication studies, he has become the most dominant figure in the field.
Key Names and Terms
Stuart Hall
Professor emeritus of sociology at the Open University, Milton Keynes, England, and
leading proponent of cultural studies.
Cultural Studies
A neo-Marxist critique that sets forth the position that mass media manufacture
consent for dominant ideologies.
Ideology
Those images, concepts and premises which provide the framework through which we
represent, interpret, understand and “make sense” of some aspect of social existence.
Articulate
The process of both speaking out against oppression and linking that subjugation with
the communication media.
Hegemony
The preponderant influence or domination of one nation over another or, by extension,
of the powerful over the weak.
Frankfurt School Theorists
First introduced in Chapter 2, these rather orthodox Marxist theorists argued that the
working classes remained oppressed because the corporate-owned media effectively
tailor messages supporting the capitalistic system.
Michel Foucault
A leading twentieth-century French philosopher who believed signs and symbols are
inextricably linked to mass media messages and that the frameworks people use to
interpret them are provided through the dominant discourse of the day.
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Discourse
According to Foucault, a group of statements that provide a way of representing
knowledge about a particular topic at a historical moment; it produces and frames
knowledge.
Discursive Formation
The process by which unquestioned and seemingly natural ways of interpreting the
world becomes ideologies.
Ideology
Mental frameworks that different classes and social groups deploy in order to make
sense of, define, figure out, and render intelligible the way society works.
Douglas Kellner
First introduced in Chapter 25, this media scholar from UCLA has provided many
specific examples of hegemonic encoding by the media.
Hegemonic Encoding
The regulation of discourse so that some messages are encoded by the mass media
then decoded, internalized, and acted upon by the audience, while other ideas remain
unvoiced.
Ideological Discourses of Constraint
The media’s limitation of alternatives and presentation of restricted choices as the only
options.
Samuel Becker
A communication scholar from the University of Iowa who notes that although Hall
attacks the dominant ideology of communication studies, he has become the most
dominant figure in the field.
Principal Changes
For this edition, Griffin has retooled the Critique section, which now includes a
discussion of Hall’s relative silence on feminist issues and the lack of solutions offered by the
theorist for the problems he identifies. In addition, he has clarified Hall’s use of the term
hegemony and has updated the Second Look section.
Suggestions for Discussion
Social constructionism with an ideological twist
In his introduction to Cognitive Processing, Griffin tells the story of the three umpires
discussing their profession before a ball game. Proponents of cultural studies might posit a
fourth umpire, who, as a servant of the power elite, declares, “Some’s balls, some’s strikes,
but my calls tend to benefit the team that’s ahead.” For Hall, the struggle to determine the
meaning of key societal events and trends is currently dominated by those in power, whose
interests are supported by our umpires, the purveyors of the mass media. They may not
command the understanding of their bias exhibited by our imaginary fourth umpire, but
nonetheless their judgments maintain the prevailing ideologies of those in control. Cultural
studies is social constructionism with an ideological twist—meaning is created through
communicative acts, but it is done so with the effect of control and domination.
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Hall and McLuhan
To help your students locate Hall’s work within the larger field of mass communication
studies, encourage the comparison to McLuhan (to whom your students were introduced in the
Media and Culture section), whose approach is based on the powerful—perhaps irresistible—
impact of media technology itself. Although not a strict economic determinist, Hall finds
economic and class-based variables salient and moves away from the kind of technological
explanations of cultural phenomena that so fascinated McLuhan. (Integrative Essay Question
#32 below addresses this issue.)
Connecting Hall, Barthes, Foucault, Poole, and Deetz
Connections to theorists in other areas of communication studies are also worth
exploring with your students. As the chapter notes, Hall’s neo-Marxism, his focus on hegemonic
ideology, and his concern over the potentially pernicious power of connotation link him to
Barthes’s semiotic analysis. No doubt Hall’s approach to the wrestlers and the yellow ribbons
would closely resemble Barthes’s. However, as the chapter explains, semiotics is limited by its
inability to explain why certain meanings get attached to certain symbols at certain historical
times. Here is where Foucault comes in, of course—and where students may get lost. To help
them understand Foucault’s contribution to cultural studies, go back to the wrestlers and the
ribbons and bring in the focus on economics, power, and corporate control that are essential
to Foucault’s argument. Poole’s adaptive structuration theory has not entirely integrated its
“ethical responsibility” with its “theory construction” (272), perhaps, but its focus on
democratic decision making and power sharing may at least partially align it with Hall’s
approach. Although Hall demonstrates more interest in resistance than rationality, his effort to
liberate the common worker from the dominant ideology of the culture is very similar to Deetz’s
desire to empower all stakeholders affected by corporate decisions. (Integrative Essay
Question #33 below addresses these potential connections.)
The hegemonic encoding of welfare reform
The notions of “hegemonic encoding” and “ideological discourses of constraint” may be
particularly difficult for students to understand. A full treatment of Griffin’s analysis of the Gulf
War and post-9/11 media coverage will help, as will discussion of the media’s portrayal of
other contemporary issues. How do the media engage in “hegemonic encoding” with respect to
welfare, for example? The media have tended to portray welfare as a problem of people of
color (although the majority of people on public assistance are white) and as a “lifestyle”
people adopt permanently (although even prior to welfare reform most welfare recipients used
the system for less than two consecutive years). Audiences have acted on these perceptions
when they have elected politicians to reform welfare. Raise the ideas about welfare that are
seldom discussed and the “ideological discourses of constraint” that make it seem there is
only a limited range of alternatives (various proposals for “welfare reform,” for example). The
media’s coverage of “welfare reform” may also generate discussion about what is voiced and
what is omitted—we hear about the benefits of putting people to work, for example, without a
discussion of the problems of child care, transportation, or the inability of families to survive on
the minimum wage.
Cultural studies: Un-American?
Many students who have been raised on the language of the Constitution and the
Declaration of Independence find analyses with even the slightest tint of Marxism irrelevant to
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the American experience. Some even consider it downright distasteful or threatening. Since
America is the land of freedom and economic opportunity, we don’t have economic domination
and ideological hegemony here. One way to respond to this position is to have them reread the
opening pages of Chapter 20, in which Griffin aptly presents some of the economic inequities
present in the American economy (301-02). It is also worth noting that Hall’s academic career
is based primarily in Britain, a country with a more rigid economic structure than the United
States. The British still recognize a hereditary monarchy and extensive aristocracy, and the
British class system is more entrenched than its American counterpart. Cultural studies has
found a home in this country, but it was conceived in and for another empire.
The distinction between pluralism and polysemy
Hall’s distinction between pluralism and polysemy may be useful. He asserts that our
national communication is polysemic—a variety of voices compete for the audience’s attention,
but not on an equal footing. Hall does not suggest that there are no alternative voices to
hegemonic discourse. Oppositional meanings exist alongside the preferred meanings of the
dominant ideology. But although he does not believe in an entirely monolithic media, he does
not believe that an open, healthy sort of pluralism exists either, in which every position
receives a fair hearing.
Oppositional reading
In an earlier edition of A First Look, Griffin featured discussion of John Fiske’s resistant
reader. It may be useful to introduce Fiske’s controversial belief that media consumers often
read against the grain, thus recreating the message of the text for their own purposes. If, in
effect, the consumer is able to undermine or defeat the hegemonic ideology through such
oppositional readings, then the media’s control of the have-nots is severely eroded. In a sense,
Fiske does to Hall what Norton and Kellner do to Barthes. We’ll revisit Fiske’s critique in our
treatment of cultivation theory.
Sample Application Log
Sharon
“The ideological fight is a struggle to capture language.” We see this battle in the abortion
debate. The media seems to favor those with “pro-choice” beliefs. How I wish we could even
the debate by having news announcers use “pro-life” instead of anti-abortion. This would be a
sign that at least pro-life groups are being seen as reasonable, positive people. Yet, this group
doesn’t seem to be successful in capturing positive language. The media does give an
ideological spin to the abortion demand by its very use of language and its connotations.
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Exercises and Activities
Applying cultural studies
Perhaps the best way to handle skepticism toward cultural studies is to put the theory
to the test. Choose a relevant local, national, or international issue that is currently
experiencing heavy coverage in the mainstream media and have your students analyze the
way it is pitched to the audience. How are connotative meanings shaped and controlled? How
are key players (workers and management, minorities, and women, for example)
characterized? How are the economic components of the matter presented? What ideologies
seem to surface, however subtly? To clarify the messages of mainstream coverage, contrast
them with the perspectives presented by sources such as Rush Limbaugh, The National
Review, Air America, and The Nation.
Television shows are also good subjects for such analysis. Have your students analyze
ideological stances concerning gender, race, class, and age in a popular program such as CSI,
Will & Grace, Law & Order, Everybody Loves Raymond, The West Wing, or The Sopranos. If
your students enjoy them (many of ours do!), soap operas are incredibly rich texts for such
analysis. As John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (see under “Further Resources,” below) illustrates
particularly powerfully, print and video advertisements succinctly reveal important ideologies at
work. The Hilliard article mentioned below proves that even sports broadcasting can
demonstrate the value of Hall’s thesis. The recent trend toward “reality” television could lead
to interesting analysis, for—in fact—what is “real” on these shows is highly scripted and edited.
We see beautiful, upwardly mobile people participating in staged events; we aren’t shown
poverty or day-to-day challenges. (Essay Question #30 engages this issue.)
Hollywood films can be particularly rich texts for critical analysis, particularly those that
present ostensibly class-conscious messages. A useful example is Titanic, the Academy Awardwinning blockbuster that features a star-crossed romance between an upper-class maiden and
a working-class adventurer. What’s particularly intriguing about the film is that although it
emphasizes a relationship that crosses class lines and although it draws attention to the unfair
treatment of passengers in steerage, who are denied seats in the lifeboats, its most powerful
theme is naïve romanticism. It’s no surprise that the film’s most devoted audience—junior-high
girls—revisited theatres for multiple viewings not to further ponder the social inequities of early
twentieth-century travel or class boundaries, but to celebrate the simplistic sentimentality of a
teenage crush writ large. It’s also no surprise that the film’s most celebrated image, which
features the two lovers sensuously decorating the bow of the ship, appeals to giddily romantic,
rather than critical, eyes. (This image, incidentally, would be an excellent artifact for semiotic
analysis.) Under the guise of class consciousness, the film actually glorifies “love at first sight,”
as well as the very beautiful-people imagery and opulence that sink with—and help sink—the
ship. Ideologically, thus, Titanic provides just enough social commentary to lull the viewer into
political complacency.
A controversial reading of Back to the Future
Interestingly enough, a class of communication theory students readily accepted the
preceding analysis, but were rather indignant when presented with a similar reading of one of
their sacred cows, Back to the Future. They couldn’t believe that Robert Zemeckis’s story of
suburban heroism reinforced status quo values about American capitalism. Try it out on your
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own students! Ask them to ponder the parallel lives that are possible for the “hero”: the loser
and success tracks. Note that many of the elements of the success track constitute or suggest
wealth and status—the materialistic side of the American Dream. Indirectly, the film supposes
that success in life is connected to (or perhaps caused by) what you have, by financial
achievement. Happiness stems from an expensive house in a wealthy suburban neighborhood,
country-club membership, straight teeth, and so forth. Rather than interrogating this premise
or suggesting the limits of such thinking (after all, there are many harsh economic realities that
the suburbs hide and in some cases even cause), the film wants you to celebrate emotionally
the hero’s act of winning “the good life” for himself by buying into the film’s conclusion. In fact,
it seems as if the hero’s ultimate material success is the result of his moral goodness.
Persistent economic inequality is not only inevitable, but the direct result of differences—
strengths and weaknesses—in character. This message, thus, encourages the viewer to
continue to implicitly embrace the capitalist system that cultural studies so diligently seeks to
expose.
The Internet’s influence
To pull the discussion in a different direction, ask your students to name mass media
products that appear to critique capitalism, class structure, or American racial problems. Is the
critique genuine, or is it simply another clever method of co-opting the left for the purpose of
selling the right? You may also wish to discuss whether the increasing use of the Internet
challenges or validates Hall’s claims about hegemony and control. Some argue that the
increasing number of voices provided by the Internet allows it the potential to challenge the
status quo; others see it as yet another tool of corporate control. (Essay Question #31 below
engages this issue.)
“Helping” those who least want it
To those left-of-center students who may have the tendency to endorse the message of
cultural studies unthinkingly, it may be useful to mention that the individuals Hall most wants
to help remain least responsive to his message. Many poor immigrants and working-class
Americans have bought into the ideological system characterized by the American Dream—
that’s why they work so hard. They aren’t interested in overcoming hegemonic ideologies; they
want to participate in them. Hall’s biggest fans are professors and graduate students—welleducated, privileged individuals closely tied to the very power elite he claims to attack. This
paradox is difficult to explain away without appearing at least somewhat hypocritical or
patronizing.
Cultural studies, the quiz show
When Em Griffin teaches this chapter, he transforms the class into a quiz show.
Volunteers are divided into two teams and each side chooses a “batting order” for its players.
Griffin—as game show host—alternates between the teams, asking the player “up” a question
from the chapter about cultural studies. Correct answers earn the team two points; incorrect
answers earn no points and provide the other team the opportunity to answer the missed
question for a point. Griffin arranges the questions so that they move through the chapter
sequentially. This way, the students are exposed to a logical—if somewhat sensationalized—
presentation of the material. He rotates through the batting orders as many times as is
appropriate for the time allotted. If he finds that the pressure to answer questions falls too
heavily on the student “up,” he instigates a consulting option so that the student at the plate
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can talk the question over with fellow teammates. In this case, a correct answer would be
worth one point. At the end of the game, Griffin awards the winning team a small amount of
extra credit (an intriguing application of cognitive dissonance’s minimal justification
hypothesis). If the game is close, he usually finds a way for both teams to “win” (consider this
strategy when you get to the chapter on face negotiation). Here are a few sample questions
Griffin uses:
Why does the chapter cite Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”?
Answer: To show that Hall believes resistance to authorial intent is possible.
What kind of music and drink do you have reason to believe Stuart Hall would like?
Answer: Reggae and Rum (considering his Jamaican origin).
What two theories in the course so far are the closest to Hall’s cultural perspective?
Answer: Deetz’s critical approach and Barthes’s semiotics.
Further Resources
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Cultural studies is extremely popular and influential these days, and there is much of
interest to read. Two extremely accessible introductory texts are:
o Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, ed. Stuart
Hall (London: Sage, 1997).
o Paul Du Gay, et al., Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman
(London: Sage, 1997).
Douglas Kellner provides an excellent supplement to Griffin’s chapter in “Cultural
Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture,” in Gender, Race and Class Media: A TextReader, eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996), 5-17.
Kellner’s full-length text Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between
the Modern and the Postmodern (London: Routledge, 1995) is packed with provocative
examples.
For a critical approach to the relationship between ideology and communication that
includes analyses of the positions of Hall, Geertz, and Habermas, see Dennis K.
Mumby, “Ideology and the Social Construction of Meaning: A Communication
Perspective,” Communication Quarterly 37 (Fall 1989): 291-304.
In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, see James Berlin, “Cultural Studies,”
154-56; and Carl G. Herndl and Robert L. Brown, “Marxist Rhetoric,” 422-24.
John Fiske develops his ideas about resistant consumers of media in Television Culture
(London: Methuen, 1987); Reading the Popular (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989); and
Media Matters: Everyday Culture and Political Change (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1994).
Mary Ellen Brown takes a position similar to Fiske’s in Soap Operas and Women’s Talk:
The Pleasure of Resistance (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994). See also Tony Dowmunt,
ed., Channels of Resistance: Global Television and Local Empowerment (London:
British Film Institute, 1993).
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Television Studies: Key Concepts (London: Routledge, 2002), by Bernadette Casey, et
al., introduces many media concepts from a cultural studies perspective.
Cultural Politics in Contemporary America (New York: Routledge, 1989), a collection of
essays edited by Ian H. Angus and Sut Jhally, is filled with provocative pieces that relate
to the subjects raised in this chapter.
Other useful sources include:
o Lawrence Grossberg, “Strategies of Marxist Cultural Interpretation,” Critical
Studies in Mass Communication 1 (1984): 392-421.
o James. W. Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society
(Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989).
o Hanno Hardt, Critical Communication Studies: Communication, History, and
Theory in America (New York: Routledge, 1992).
o Robert K. Avery and David Eason, eds., Critical Perspectives on Media and
Society (New York: Guilford, 1991).
Michael Parenti develops arguments similar to Hall’s in Inventing Reality: The Politics of
News Media, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s, 1993); and Make-Believe Media: The
Politics of Entertainment (New York: St. Martin’s, 1992).
A brief but insightful comparison of cultural studies and rhetoric is offered by Walter H.
Beale in “Rhetoric in the Vortex of Cultural Studies,” in Rhetoric in the Vortex of Cultural
Studies: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Conference, ed. Arthur Walzer (St. Paul:
Rhetoric Society of America, 1992), 1-22.
A more cautious, yet nonetheless sinister critique of the economic realities behind the
media is Ben Bagdikian’s masterful The Media Monopoly, 6th ed. (Boston: Beacon
Press, 2000), which links the intellectual decline of the American newspaper industry to
inevitable economic pressures. Bagdikian does not fit neatly into Hall’s camp, but his
effort to demonstrate the ways in which the business decisions of the economic elite
limit the diversity of news coverage falls into the larger category of economic
determinism. Bagdikian has produced a new study that updates his position on these
issues entitled The New Media Monopoly (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004).
Additional sources from Hall
§ The Media Education Foundation distributes a video production of an accessible lecture
by Stuart Hall entitled Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media.
§ Hall glosses the concepts of polysemy and pluralism in his frequently anthologized and
referenced essay, “Encoding/Decoding,” in Culture, Media, Language, eds. Stuart Hall,
et al. (London: Unwin Hyman, 1980), 128-38. This essay is dense, but very useful and
appropriate for undergraduates.
§ Two sources listed in an earlier edition of A First Look but eventually removed to make
room for more recent studies are Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism
and the Crisis on the Left (London: Verso, 1988), and “Ferment in the Field,” a themed
issue of the Journal of Communication (33, 3 [1983]).
351 Cultural studies analyses
§ In the area of sports coverage and capitalist ideology, we recommend sociologist Dan
Hilliard’s illuminating article, “Televised Sport and the (Anti) Sociological Imagination,”
Journal of Sport and Social Issues 18 (1994): 88-99.
§ For an intriguing critical analysis of country music, see Charles Conrad, “Work Songs,
Hegemony, and Illusions of Self,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 5 (1988):
179-201.
§ Laurie Ouellette performs a cultural studies analysis of Cosmopolitan in “Inventing the
Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams,” Media, Culture & Society
21 (1999): 359-83.
§ John Berger’s legendary Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1972), which innovatively
mixes art criticism, Marxism, and media advertising, paints the capitalist hegemony of
Western culture most provocatively.
§ Richard Campbell’s 60 Minutes and the News: A Mythology for Middle America
(Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991) argues that even television programming
that purports to reveal the truth about the American power structure does little to
unmask dominant mythologies and ideologies.
§ For a fascinating study of the ways romance novels are read by American women, see
Janice A. Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Culture
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).
§ Naomi Rockler argu