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why theorise?

1)they organise and explain our experiences (Toulmin 1961)

2)they extend our knowledge

3)they stimulate and guide future research, heuristic function of theory


what is a theory?

must be-

-logically consistent

-consistent with accepted facts

-useful and relevant


Symbolic interaction theory (Mead 1934)- assumptions

Centres on symbols and interactions: how do people make meaning?


1)humans act towards others on the basis of the meanings those others have for them

2)meaning is created in interaction through people

3) meanings are modified through an interpretive process

4)individuals develop self-concepts through interaction with others

5)self-concepts provide an important motive for behaviour

6)people and groups are influenced by cultural and social processes

7) social structure is worked out through social interaction


symbolic interaction theory (mead 1934) application

Broad explanation, providing an understanding of how people develop a sense of self. used by many studies.

e.g.working class women's work: manageing and developing family identity to the community. (Edwards, 2004)

Good starting point for understanding relational communication


Uncertainty reduction theory (Berger and Calabrese 1975), summary

How communication reduces uncertainties between strangers engaging in initial interactions: Prediction and explanation

-two types of uncertainty: Cognitive and Behavioural

-Centres on concepts like information seeking and nonverbal behaviour


Uncertainty reduction theory (Berger and Calabrese 1975) Assumptions

1)people experience uncertainty in interpersonal settings

2)uncertainty is an aversive state, generating cognitive stress

3)when strangers meet, their primary concern is to reduce their uncertainty or to increase predictability

4)interpersonal communication is a developmental process that occurs through stages

5) interpersonal communication is the primary means of uncertainty reduction

6)the quantity and nature of information that people share change through time


Uncertainty reduction theory (Burger and Calabrese 1975) predictions

1)as the amount of verbal communication increases, the level of uncertainty for each person decreases. As uncertainty is further reduced, the amount of verbal communication will increase.

2)as nonverbal expressiveness increases, uncertainty levels will decrease and vice versa.

3)high levels of uncertainty cause increases in information-seeking behaviour, As certainty levels decline, information-seeking behaviour decreases

4)high levels of uncertainty cause decreases in the intimacy level of communication content. low levels of uncertainty produce high levels of intimacy

5)high levels of uncertainty produce high rates of reciprocity and vice versa

6) similiarities between people reduce uncertainty and vice versa

7)increases in uncertainty level produce decreases in liking and vice versa


uncertainty reduction theory (Burger and Calabrese 1975) so/but

so--the more we know someone, the better we can predict their attitudes and behaviours (douglas 1994)

BUT sometimes more information increases uncertainty, especially in established relationships (planalp and Honeycut 1985)


uncertainty reduction theory (Burger and Calabrese 1975)

general strategies for reducing uncertainty

-passive strategies

-active strategies

-interactive strategies


relationship stages

stage models depict relationship development and disengagement as largely linear processes


popular stage models

-altman and taylor's social penetration theory

knapp's staircase model


Social penetration theory (altman and taylor 1973)

moves beyond initial encounters and attempts to understand overall relational development

"social penetration": movement from superficial to more intimate communication


social penetration theory (altman and taylor 1973) assumptions

1) relationships progress from non-intimate to intimate

2)relational development is generally systematic and predictable

3)relational development includes depenetration and dissolution

4)self-disclosure is at the core of relational development: 'making self accessible to another person is intrinsically gratifying' (Altman and Taylor 1974)


Social penetration theory (Altman and Taylor 1973) dimensions

The social penetration process has two dimensions:

1) breadth

2) depth

Four stages of relationship development:


2)exploratory affective exchange

3)affective exchange

4)stable exchange


Social penetration theory (Altman and Taylor 1973) Application

used to frame many studies

e.g. SPT and self-disclosure between sons and fathers

-no significant differences in perceptions of relationship intimacy

-more intentional self-disclosure from fathers


Social Exchange theory, summary (Thibaut and Kelley 1959), summary

based on the notion that people think about their relationships in economic terms, adding up the costs involved and comparing the costs with the available rewards

-positive relationship, rewards exceed the costs

-negative relationship- costs exceed the rewards (negative worth)


Social Exchange theory (Thibaut and Kelley 1959) assumptions about human nature

1)Humans seek rewards and avoid punishments

2)humans are rational beings

3)the standards that humans use to evaluate costs and rewards vary over time and from person to person


Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut and Kelley 1959) assumptions about the nature of relationships

1)relationships are interdependent
2)relational life is a process