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Applying Communication Theory in Professional Life (3rd edition) Marianna Dainton and Elaine D. Zelley Summary by: Marloes Evertzen March 2017
Chapter 1 – Introduction to Communication Theory Good” communication means different things to different people in different situations. The everyday view of communication is very different from the view of communication taken by scholars. Scholars recognize communication as more than just the flow of information. Scholars disagree about the meaning because they all have different perspectives. According to the book, communication is “the process by which people interactively create, sustain and manage meaning.” “
Back in 1976, Dance and Larson found 126 published definitions of the term “communication”. Dance (1970) then categorized these definitions in three variations: 1. Level of observation : are there limitations on what counts as communication? (does there have to be a response? Does body language count? Can you communicate with your pet?) 2. Intentionality: do only messages sent consciously and on purpose count? (when people unconsciously yawn when you are telling a story, is this communication?) 3. Normative judgement: does the message have to be successfully received to count as communication? (has communication still occurred when people misunderstand each other?) The communication process:
Communication competence Communication competence is most often understood as achieving a successful balance between effectiveness and appropriateness (Spitzberg & Cupack, 1989). Effectiveness is the extent to which you achieve your goals in an interaction. Appropriateness refers to fulfilling social expectations for a situation. A competent communicator considers how to both be effective and appropriate.
Concepts, models, and theories Theories provide an abstract understanding of the communication process (Miller, 2002). As an abstract understanding, they move beyond describing a single event by providing a means by which all such events can be understood. Theories provide us with a lens to view the world. Theories can illuminate an aspect of communication so you understand the process better, but they can also hide things from your understanding or distort the relative importance of things. Concepts are different then theories. Concepts refer to an agreed-upon aspect of reality. Time is a concept, just as love, or the colour orange are concepts. These notions can be understood in different ways; you love your cat differently then you love your partner or mother. Models are also different things than theories. The term “model” is used in such different ways that the term “theory” is better. 2
Three types of theory Theories help us to focus attention on particular concepts, clarify our observations, and predict communication behaviour.
Type of theory Common sense theory (personal experience)
• • •
Working theory (generalizations made in professions about the best way to do things) Scholarly theory (has undergone systematic research)
Example Never data a co-worker, it will always end badly. The squeaky wheel gets the grease The more incompetent you are, the higher you’ll get promoted Audience analysis should be done prior to presenting a speech. To get a press release published, it should be newsworthy and written in journalistic style. Effects of violations of expectations depend on the reward value of the violator The media do not tell us what to think but what to think about
Evaluating theory All theories have strengths and weaknesses. Scholars should always evaluate the usefulness of a theory. There are five criteria to keep in mind when evaluating a theory: 1. Accuracy: Has research supported that the theory works the way it does? The best theories correctly summarize the way communication actually works. 2. Practicality: Have real-world applications been found for the theory? 3. Succinctness: Has the theory been formulated with the appropriate number of concepts (as few as possible) and is it not overly complex? 4. Consistency: Does the theory demonstrate coherence with its own premises and with other theories? a. Internal consistency: the ideas of the theory logically build on each other. b. External consistency: is the theory coherent with other widely held theories? 5. Acuity: To what extent does the theory make clear and otherwise complex experience?
Chapter 2 – Theory development There are two types of research where the difference lies in what to start with: •
Inductive: research comes before theory (grounded theory); the best theories emerge from the results of systematic study. Based on the research results, they develop a theory. Deductive: theory comes before research; a hypothesis, or working theory, needs to be developed before any research is conducted. Once the theory has been developed, the researchers collect data to test or refine the theory.
What is research Research has been defined as disciplined inquiry that involves studying something in a planned manner and reporting it so that other inquirers can potentially replicate the process if they choose. With this, we refer to the methodological gathering of data as well as the careful reporting of the results of the data analysis. How the research is reported differentiates two types of research: 1. Primary research: reported by the person who conducted it (academic papers, often more valued than secondary research as a source of information). 2. Secondary research: reported by someone other than the person who conducted it (newspaper articles, textbooks, internet, readers risk the chance that writers have misunderstood the initial research).
Research methods in communication There are four methods used in the development of scholarly communication theory: 1. Experiments: experimentation is concerned with causation and control. It is the only research method that allows researchers to conclude that one thing causes another. The researcher is concerned with two variables (any concept that has two or more values, such as gender, masculinity, colour, etc.): a. Independent variable: the presumed case, cannot be ‘changed’. “Do bright colours affect people’s willingness to buy products? The independent variable is the colour, bright vs dull. b. Dependent variable: the presumed effect, the value that changes. The amount of willingness to buy a product, number of dollars spend, etc. The researcher controls the participant’s exposure to the independent variable, which is termed manipulation. Experiments take place in two settings; laboratory (controlled environment) and field (participants’ natural surroundings) settings. 2. Surveys: researchers cannot claim one thing causes another. The strength of survey research is that it is the only way to find out how someone thinks, feels, or intends to behave. Surveys capture people’s perception. There are two types of survey research: a. Interview: participants respond orally. Small discussions led by a researcher are called focus groups. b. Questionnaire: participants respond in writing and provide more anonymity. You should think carefully about sampling and questioning when performing surveys. Questions can be open-ended or closed. Samples can be random or non-random. 3. Textual analysis: a text is any written or recorded message. Textual analysis is used to uncover the content, nature, or structure of a message. It can also be used to evaluate messages. There are three forms: a. Rhetorical analysis: a systematic method for describing, analysing, interpreting, and evaluating the persuasive force of messages.
b. Content analysis: seeks to identify, classify, and analyse the occurrence of particular types of messages. A deviation on this is text or data mining; the use of advanced data analysis tools to discover previously unknown, valid patterns and relationships in large data sets. c. Interaction analysis/conversation analysis: focus on interpersonal or group interactions that have been recorded, with an emphasis on the nature or structure of the interaction. It takes place in a natural setting, but misses the actual effects on the audience because you focus on just text. 4. Ethnography: involves the researcher immersing himself into a culture or context to understand communication rules and meanings for that culture or context. There are three roles: a. Complete participant: fully involves in the social setting, and the participants do not know the researcher is studying them. b. Participant-observer: researcher becomes fully involved with the culture or context, but has admitted the research agenda before entering the environment. c. Complete observer: researcher does not interact with the members of the culture or context, which means they do not interview any members of the group under study.
Research method Experiments
What it reveals Cause and effect
Respondent’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions The content, nature, and structure of messages Rules and meanings of communica-
Textual analysis Ethnography
tion in a culture or context
What it conceals Whether the cause-effect relationship holds true in less controlled environments Cannot establish causality, cannot determine what people actually do The effect of the message on receivers May provide a highly subjective/biased view of the culture or context
Social science and the humanities Communication has been described as both an art and a science. There are some differences between the two approaches. While humanism is subjective, one ’s own interpretation is of interest, science is objective, observation with careful standardization.
Issue Belief about human nature
Why are theories developed? Process of theory development Focus of research Research methods
Social Science Determinism; past experience, personality dispositions, and more conditions cause people to behave in certain ways. Understand and predict
Humanities Pragmatism; people have control over their behaviour and make conscious choices to communicate to meet their goals, people act dynamically. Understand only
Particularism; standardize and control. Experiments, quantitative research, and textual analysis
Holism; looking at the big picture Ethnography, qualitative research, and textual analysis
How theories change and grow Theory growth by extension means the theory adds more concepts and builds on what was already established. Growth by intension means scholars gain a deeper understanding of the srcinal concepts presented in the theory. 5
Chapter 3 – Cognition and Interpersonal Communication Messages have no meaning without an individual’s interpretation. Everyone should make sense of messages and meaning lies in our interpretation of the words or actions.
Cognitive process After psychologists have research behaviourism (Pavlov), they moved on to a cognitive approach for understanding behaviour. They stopped focussing on just outside effects, but also took mental processes into account. They described cognition as the process of reducing, elaborating, transforming, and storing stimuli. It refers to what happens in the mind that causes us to behave in certain ways. Four theories about cognitive and intrapersonal aspects of communication are explored; attribution theory, uncertainty reduction theory, expectancy violations theory, and cognitive dissonance theory.
Attribution theory This explains the process by which individuals assign causation or motivation to their own or others’ behaviour. This theory can be applied to all human behaviour. The judgements and conclusion that conclude reasons for behaviour are called attributions. In 1958, Heider already researched attribution theory. He found that individuals try to determine whether a behaviour was caused by dispositional (personal/internal) or situational (external/ uncontrollable) factors. External factors vary more than internal factors, because they are not based on stable personality traits. Expanding Heider’s work, Jones and Davis (1965) were concerned with the intentionality of dispositional behaviour. They argued that when a perceiver attributes the cause of a behaviour to dispositional factors, the perceiver also makes judgements about the actor’s intentions. Jones and Davis refer to these judgements of intentions as correspondent inferences. When a behaviour is intentional, the judgement can correspond. However, determining intentionality is not easy. Several factors can be considered when determining the purpose of someone ’s behaviour, such as choice, social desirability, prior expectations, hedonic relevance (the degree to which you believe an actor ’s behaviour directly affects you), and personalism (do you think the behaviour changes when you are not present?). A more holistic approach to attribution theory is Kelley ’s covariation model. It explains the causal nature of the complete attribution process. This model has a greater scope than Jones and Davis ’ theory has. Kelley identifies four factors that judge causality of behaviour: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Consensus, would other people react similarly in the same situation? Consistency, does the person engage in similar behaviours over time? Distinctiveness, does the person act unique in this situation? Controllability, consensus, consistency and distinctiveness combined: an actor has an interior locus of control if he could have controlled the behaviour, an exterior locus if the behaviour appears to have been uncontrollable.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory Berger and Calabrese’s (1975) URT holds that social life is filled with ambiguities. Guided by assumptions and axioms human behaviour, URT seeks to explain and predict when, why and how individuals use communication to minimize their doubts when interacting with each other. Three assumptions guide the uncertainty reduction framework: 1. The primary goal of communication is to minimize uncertainty humans have about the world and the people therein. 2. Individuals experience uncertainty on a regular basis, which is unpleasant. 3. Communication is the primary vehicle for reducing uncertainty. There are two types of uncertainty: •
Behavioural uncertainty: considers your insecurity about which actions are appropriate in each situation. Cognitive uncertainty: individuals experiencing behavioural uncertainty question how they should act in each situation, those who experience cognitive uncertainty are unsure as to what to think about someone or something.
Because we face so many uncertainties during the day, it is impossible to reduce all of them. Therefore, there are three preceding conditions that influence whether people have the motivation necessary to reduce their uncertainty: 1. Anticipation of future interaction suggest you are more motivated to reduce uncertainty about someone you are likely to see again. 2. Incentive value: you are prompted to learn more about someone when the individual in question has the potential to provide you with rewards or punishments. What can this person do for you? 3. Deviance: if a person is odd, eccentric, bizarre, or unusual in some way that counters your expectations, URT suggests individuals will be more likely to reduce their uncertainty about the individual. The process of reducing uncertainty is described in 8 axioms:
There are three strategies to reduce uncertainty: 1. Passive: individuals observe their surroundings and gather clues (without others noticing) about which behaviours are appropriate as well as which attitudes and beliefs others hold. 2. Active: involves seeking information from a third party. You talk to someone else about it. 3. Interactive: you go straight to the source in question and ask as much information as possible.
Expectancy Violations Theory Developed by Judee Burgoon (1978, 1994), EVT explains the meaning people attribute to the violation, or infringement, of their personal space. What happens when privacy or personal space is violated? It relies on some assumptions: 1. Humans have competing needs for personal space and for affiliation. 2. People desire a certain amount of closeness with others, or affiliation. 3. People respond to a violation by (when your desire is compromised you do something): a. Reciprocating, or matching, one’s behaviour b. Compensation, or counteracting, one ’s behaviour The core concepts of expectancy violation theory include:
Expectancy: refers to what an individual anticipates will happen in each situation. Expectancy is like the idea of social norms and is based on three primary factors that judge whether behaviour is expected and/or acceptable: •
Context of the behaviour
The relationship with the other person
The communicator’s characteristics
How do you respond to something you did not expect depends on: •
Violation valence: a breach in expectation. The positive or negative evaluation you make about a behaviour you did not anticipate. You judge someone’s behaviour as unexpected in that situation or context, which results to judging the person in question. Communicator reward valence: (also rewardingness of partner). This is an evaluation you make about the person who committed the violation. How rewarding or interpersonally attractive do you perceive this person to be? If someone is likeable/attractive/powerful, the person will likely have a positive reward valence.
After assessing these three concepts, it is possible to make specific predictions about whether the individual who perceived the violation will reciprocate or compensate for the behaviour in question. Predicting reactions when expectations are violated: •
Cognitive dissonance theory This theory is a way of understanding how persuasion may be understood as a cognitive event whereby an individual is motivated to create balance between one’s own beliefs and behaviour. Often, persuasion theories assume that someone must influence a person enough to change its behaviour (like getting smokers to quit with daunting messages about sickness and death). However, this might be incorrect (there are still a lot of smokers despite the consequences). CDT explains that persuasion is not simply the result of injecting new or refined beliefs into others. Instead, CDT predicts that influence is often an intrapersonal event, occurring when incongruence between our attitudes and behaviour creates a tension, resolved by altering either our beliefs or our behaviours, thereby effecting a change. According to Festinger (1957, 1962), when presented with a new or unfamiliar stimulus, individuals use schemata; cognitive structures for organizing new information. These schemata must be linked to previous experiences to understand this new phenomenon. When new info is inconsistent with previously established beliefs, we experience an imbalance or dissonance. It is this dissonance that becomes a persuasive tool because humans feel so uneasy with holding contradictory beliefs and actions they will make every attempt to minimize the discomfort. There are three possible relationships between beliefs and behaviour: 1. Irrelevance: refers to beliefs and behaviours that have nothing to do with each other. 2. Consonance: occurs when two stimuli or pieces of information are in balance or achieve congruence. Humans strive to feel consistency between actions and beliefs. 3. Dissonance: occurs when two stimuli or pieces of information contradict each other. People can think they do not have a problem but their behaviour suggests they do. CDT predicts dissonance will give discomfort. Discomfort can be avoided by changing beliefs or behaviour. The magnitude of dissonance can be measured by: a. The perceived importance of the issue. b. The dissonance ratio; which affects the amount of discomfort one feels. It is the proportion of incongruent beliefs held in relation to the number of consonant beliefs. c. The ability to rationalize, or justify, the dissonance. This also affects the amount of discomfort felt. A related issue is perception. The perceptual process of selective exposure, attention, interpretation, and retention can help minimize dissonance. CDT argues that individuals selectively perceive various stimuli to minimize dissonance: •
Selective exposure: a person actively avoids information inconsistent with previously established beliefs or behaviours. Selective attention: suggests that if you must expose yourself to a situation incongruent with your beliefs, you will only attend to information that reaffirms your beliefs, disregarding any information that fails to support your views. Selective interpretation: individuals will carefully decipher ambiguous information so it is perceived to be consistent with their established beliefs. Selection retention: to uphold your viewpoints while more easily dismissing or forgetting information that creates dissonance.
CDT is often considered to a postdecision theory, meaning individuals attempt to persuade themselves after a decision has been made or course of action has been enacted that the decision or behaviour was okay. Communicators can use CDT as a tool to persuade others by exploiting dissonance while also offering a solution to minimize discomfort.
Chapter 4 – Individual and social approaches to c ommunication One of the fundamental questions of philosophy is the extent to which humans are shaped by their biology versus the environment in which they are raised. Different researchers have different standpoints, which are positions from which you view and understand the world. More and more scientists are recognizing that evolution and genetics play large roles in communication practice. The communibiological approach is grounded in neuroscience. It argues that neurobiological structures create different temperaments or traits, and these traits are genetic. The different traits and temperaments create differences in communication behaviour. The following theories focus on the interplay of individual traits and social expectations in predicting or explaining communication activity.
Social role theory This theory argues that perceptions of men and women’s behaviour are always filtered through our stereotypes of how men and woman should behave. Social role theory also focusses (like EVT) on our expectations for behaviour and how we respond to violations. However, SRT suggests this only leads to negative reactions. SRT assumes sex is genetically determined, sex is a dichotomous variable. Gender is more fluid, it is the consensual beliefs about the attributes of women and men. One of the central ways people stereotype women and men is in terms of communal and agentic qualities. Communal qualities are stereotypical female attributes, which demonstrate a concern for other people through the expression of affection, sympathy, helpfulness, etc. Agentic qualities are stereotypically associated with men (assertive, controlling, confident, ambitious, etc.). SRT suggests people assume a connection between gender roles and individual dispositions. Because leadership is most often described in masculine terms, social role theory has been extended to focus on sex differences in the realm of organizational leadership. Role congruity theory suggests that women in leadership positions are likely to experience two types of prejudice: 1. Descriptive prejudice: women have less leadership potential than men because they lack agentic qualities. 2. Prescriptive prejudice: women are less effective than men. How women “should” behave. Women acting as leaders are blamed for being unfeminine. These prejudices leave women in a double bind: if they conform to traditional gender roles, women are not having the potential to lead, if they adopt agentic qualities, they are evaluated negatively for not being feminine. Research has found some support for the role congruity theory. In terms of communication, research suggests we are more similar to the opposite sex than different.
Emotional intelligence and transformational leadership This theory suggests that personal and professional success might not be explained by an individual ’s intelligence quotient (IQ), but by the extent to which the individual is attuned to emotional experiences. Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor one’s owns and other ’s emotions. Also, EI is an ability that ’
explains differences in individual s problem solving and relationship maintenance. EI makes one able to carefully discriminate between emotions, and use emotional information strategically to make decisions and achieve goals. EI is not genetic, but it changes with age and experience. • •
Intrapersonal EI: the ability to symbolize complex and highly differentiated sets of feelings Interpersonal EI: the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals ’ moods, temperaments, motivations, and intentions.
Mayer and Salovey’s theory suggests that emotional intelligence is comprised of four branches, arranged from most basic to most complex, the ranges also go from intrapersonal, to interpersonal intelligence: 10
One intriguing connection links EI to transformational leadership (the ability to change employees and the organization through communication). Managers can be both transformational and transactional at times, both are concerned with achieving organizational goals: •
Transactional leadership: seeks to achieve solid, consistent performance from subordinates through a process of bilateral exchange. Leaders fulfil the needs of the employee in exchange for the employee meeting performance expectations. Needs are to be met as soon as possible. Transactional leaders have three characteristics: o o o
They work with subordinates to develop clear and specific objectives. They exchange rewards and promises of rewards for employee effort. They are responsive to the self-interest of the workers, particularly when the needs can be met while also getting the job done.
Transformational leadership: is founded on attitudes and behaviours that support organizational change. It seeks to inspire exceptional performance. Subordinates’ ideas and actions are central to transformations. This style of management has four facets: o Idealized influence, which refers to the fact that transformational leaders serve as role models for employees. It involves establishing trust, pride, and respect among all members of the organization. o Inspirational motivation, requires leaders to present their employees with a clear vision and desirable future. o Intellectual stimulation, leaders challenge their own assumptions and encourage new approaches. o Individualized consideration, the leader considers everyone’s needs and abilities while supporting development and mentoring efforts. Acting as a coach, encourage creativity, etc.
Individuals high in EI can succeed in the workplace because they can recognize, manage, and use their own and others’ emotions strategically. Criticism on this theory includes: •
Can transformational leadership be learned?
Is being a transformational leader the same as being charismatic?
Is transformational leadership better? 11
Message design logistics This theory proposes that variations in beliefs about communication explain problematic communication encounters (O’Keefe, 1988). A message design logistic is your belief about communication that links through the construction of messages. People ’s view about the nature and function of communication affect their messages. There are three types of design logistics from which people operate: 1. Expressive logic: a sender-focussed pattern. A person using this pattern is concerned primarily with self-expression. Communication is viewed as a means for conveying the sender ’s thoughts and feelings. People who use this logic have a hard time holding back thoughts, they value openness, honesty, and clarity in communication and are mistrustful of anyone who seems overly strategic in his/her communication. 2. Conventional logic: views communication as a rule-based game played cooperatively. Those using conventional MDL are concerned with appropriateness, these individuals view communication contexts, roles, and relationships as having guidelines for behaviour. They want to say the “right” thing in every situation. 3. Rhetorical logic: Individuals using this view communication as a powerful tool used to create situations and negotiate multiple goals. Instead of emphasizing self-expression or social appropriateness, they focus on the effect of messages on the recipient. This approach has flexibility, sophistication, and depth of communication skills. When two individuals use the same communication styles, they recognize differences and see that this are communication problems. When people use different styles, they often blame their problems on other things. Miscommunications can arise:
Genuine differences in opinion prevent communicators from achieving any connection. Ritualistic messages are taking literally by the expressive person.
Messages viewed as unnecessarily elaborate and indirect, sender is seen as dishonest.
Message recipient Conventional MDL Expressive remarks perceived as embarrassing or crude due to inappropriateness. Differing views of appropriateness of the situation lead to perceived inappropriate behaviour. Failure to see coherence of complex messages because of focus on “correct” context.
Rhetorical MDL Expressive person perceived as inconsiderate and uncooperative. Conformity to appropriateness viewed as rigidity, overly conservative approach to interaction. Incompatible assumptions about goals can lead to misunderstanding of others’ intent.
Interactional perspective This approach explains why there is so much focus on the communication difficulties among members of different generations in the workplace. According to the Palo Alto Group, there are five axioms of communication: 1. It is impossible NOT to communicate. All behaviour has the potential to be communicative (silent treatment, always being late, answering your phone whilst in a meeting). 2. All communication has both content and relationship levels. When people interact with each other, they are sending messages which are considered the content level. These messages may be verbal or nonverbal. At the time they are sending content, they are also sending additional information. The relationship level is characterized as how the content should be understood, particularly in terms of the relationship between communicators (the way you say something matters, people can see something as a simple question, or a command). 12
3. Communicators have the tendency to punctuate sentences of behaviour. Punctuation refers to the use of marks to separate sentences, clauses, etc. This is the same with talking. Often, two people communicating feel like their communication has different causes and effects. 4. Communication entails both digital and analogic codes: a. Analogic codes are those in which the symbol resembles the object it represents (holding up two fingers to indicate the number two). In spoken word, this is not often the case. Analogic communication involves onomatopoeia, in which the word sounds like what it means (buzz, click). Analogic communication is rarely misunderstood. b. Digital communication is that in which the symbol and its meaning contrast with one another (there is nothing catlike about the word “cat”). The meanings of these symbols are culturally determined. When people have different languages and cultures, miscommunications can occur (the OK signal has different meanings across countries). 5. Communication can be symmetrical (communicators behave in the same manner) or c omplementary (communicators behave in different ways, not always opposite). Combined, these axioms explain several potential reasons for miscommunication. A popular context for investigating workplace miscommunications involves differences in values, beliefs, and behaviours of members of different generations. Twenge and Campbell (2008) argued that each generation is influenced by specific events (twin towers, JFK was shot, etc.). Growing up in the 1990s was different from growing up in the 1950s. There are four generations in the USA:
Date of birth Core values
1922 1945 –
View of work Satisfaction comes from Preferred rewards
Communication style Leadership style Loyalty
Baby Boomers Live to work 1946 1964 –
Generation X 1965
Millenials/ Generation Y 1980
pline An obligation
A job well done
Making a difference
Changing the rules
Delayed and intrinsic (did their duty, private praise) Formal, letters and memos
Primarily intrinsic (feeling good about yourself) Face-to-face discussion, meetings
Extrinsic (recognition through time, money and freedom) Direct, comfortable with technology
Very extrinsic (recognition through immediate praise, opportunity, and status) Constant connection, heavy reliance on technology Passive-aggressive
A mechanism for success Lots of recognition
The following table seeks to blend the axioms proposed by the interactional perspective with some of the implications for generational variations:
Axiom The impossibility of not communicating
Content and relationship levels
Implications for interpersonal communication Members of different generations might not intend for their behaviours to cause workplace conflict, but those from different generations might interpret others’ behaviour as disrespectful or inappropriate. The content of communication might not be problematic, but the relationship dimension of messages might highlight disagreements about how workplace communication should be handled. 13
The problem of punctuation
Digital and analogical codes Complementary and symmetrical communication
Members of different generations are likely to see the cause of the perceived disrespect/inappropriateness as starting from the other generations. It’s not them who have the problem, it’s the fault of the other generation. The same word (e.g. respect) might be understood very differently amongst other generations. Within the workplace, complementary patterns are likely to emerge when members of different generations work together. Saying something with a wink to make it not so literal.
Also, there are two types of change: • •
First-order change about changes the behaviours of people in the system (training/development) Second order change about resolving underlying differences in perspective.
Chapter 5 – Interpersonal commuication Interpersonal communication occurs between two individuals when they are in proximity, are able to provide immediate feedback, and use multiple senses. Other scholars add to this definition that the two people should be more than just acquaintances, or that IPC is used to define or achieve personal goals through interaction with others. IPC refers to both the content and quality of messages relayed and the possibility of further relationship development.
Politeness Theory This theory clarifies the strategies individuals use to maintain their “face”, or sense of desired public image. The theory was developed by Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987) and it clarifies how we manage our own and others’ identities through interaction, in particular through the use of political strategies. Three primary assumptions guide politeness theory: 1. PT assumes all individuals are concerned with maintaining face. Face refers to your desired selfimage, the identity you wish to present to others. Not only does face refer to the image you want others to have for you, it also includes the recognition that your interactional partners have face needs of their own. There are two dimensions of face: a. Positive face: includes a person ’s need to be liked, appreciated, and admired by selected persons. b. Negative face: assumes a person’s desire to act freely, without constraints or impositions from others. Acting in a way to gain approval restraints your free, unconstraint behaviour. It is therefore difficult to achieve positive and negative face at the same time. 2. PT assumes humans are rational and goal oriented, at least with respect to achieving face needs. You have choices and make communicative decisions to achieve your relational and task-oriented goals within the context of maintaining face. 3. Some behaviours are fundamentally face threatening. Face-threatening acts (FTA) include common behaviour such as apologies, compliments, criticism, requests, and threats. To create and maintain face, individuals must use facework (specific messages that prevent or minimize FTAs). Preventive facework strategies include communications people use to help themselves or others avert FTAs (avoiding topics, changing the subject, etc.). Similar to preventive facework is corrective facework. This consists of messages people use to restore their own face or to help others restore face after an FTA. Corrective facework includes the use of strategies such as avoidance, humour, apologies, etc. According to PT, individuals can choose one of five suprastrategies when communicating in a manner that could threaten someone else ’s face: 1. Avoidance: the speaker chooses not to communicate in a way that would create embarrassment or a loss of face for another. 2. Going off-record: the speaker subtly hints of or indirectly mentions the face-threatening topic. 3. Negative politeness: the speaker tries to recognize the other ’s negative face needs. He/she appeals to the receiver’s negative face through apologies and self-effacement to make him/herself appear vulnerable to the other, while also acknowledging that the FTA is impolite and inhibits the other’s dependence. 4. Positive politeness: the speaker emphasises the receiver ’s need for positive face. By integrating the receiver with flattery and compliments, you hope to camouflage your FTA. 5. Bald-on-record: the speaker makes no attempt to protect the other’s face and simply commits the FTA.
There are some factors influencing politeness strategies: • • •
Prestige: if someone has more prestige than you, you will be politer. Power: if someone has power over you, you will be politer. Risk: if what you are going to say has a high chance of hurting someone, you will be politer.
Social Exchange Theory This theory evaluates relationships on the basis of rewards and costs; this ratio of benefits to drawbacks explains whether a relationship will continue as well as whether partners will feel satisfied (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959). Three assumptions guide SET: 1. Personal relationships are a function of comparing benefits gained versus costs to attain those benefits. 2. People want to make the most of those benefits while lessening the costs (minimax principle). 3. By nature, humans are selfish. SET entails three core components: 1. Outcome value: the outcome of a relationship is the ratio of rewards to costs in a given relationship (rewards – costs = outcome). Rewards include any benefits you perceive as enjoyable or that help you achieve specific aspirations (companionship, affection). Costs are those drawbacks we perceive as unpleasant or that prevent us from pursuing or achieving an objective (losing social independence, visits to the in-laws). 2. Comparison level: represents the rewards a person expects to receive in a particular relationship. Expectations may be based on model relationships (parents), your own experiences, media, etc. SET maintains that individuals compare their current outcome value with their CL. 3. Comparison level of alternatives: simply determining one’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a relationship is not enough to determine whether a relationship will determine or end. The comparison level of alternatives involves your alternatives on staying in the relationship. Only when the alternative of staying in the relationship is better than the current situation, you ’ll end your current relationship. Predictions are as follows: •
Outcome > CL Satisfied
Outcome < CL Dissatisfied
Outcome > CLalt Stay
Outcome < CLalt Terminate
CLalt > Outcome > CL
Dialectical perspective This perspective describes the contradictions individuals inevitably face within their personal relationships and explains how management of these contradictions can predict a relationship ’s success or failure. Baxter and Montgomery (1996, 1988) say relationships are dynamic and they will not reach a status quo. Four assumptions guide this perspective: 1. Praxis: the development of a relationship is neither linear, nor repetitive. A dialectical perspective assumes relationships can become more intimate or less intimate over time. 2. Change: a dialectical perspective assumes the only guarantee in a relationship is that it will change. (Maintaining relationships is wrong, because maintenance suggest a steady state) 3. Contradiction: relationships are grounded and interdependent, yet mutually negating. Within every relationship, both partners have essential, yet opposing, needs. Because these needs counteract each other in such a way that you cannot achieve both needs at the same time, ongoing tension results. (Partners need togetherness and independence but not at the same time) 4. Totality: emphasises interdependence between relationship partners. Dialectical approaches recognize that without interdependence a relationship cannot exist. A tension you feel will ultimately affect your relationship partner and vice versa, even if that person did not initially feel the tension. To sustain a relationship, it will constantly fluctuate, spiralling forward in time, while relational partners experience and try to satisfy dialectical tensions, or independent, yet opposing needs. Between any two relationship partners, there are three internal tensions and three external tensions that play a part:
Internal dialectics Autonomy-connection; desiring some independence but also desiring union with your partner.
Corresponding external dialectics Inclusion-seclusion; desiring to have strong friendship and family networks but also desiring
Openness-closeness; desiring to be completely open and honest but also desiring to have some private thoughts and feelings. Predictability-novelty; desiring a stable relationship but also desiring some excitement and spontaneity
alone time with your partner Revelation-concealment; desiring to tell your family and friends relational information but also desiring to have some private information Conventionality-uniqueness; desiring to have a traditional relationship but also desiring a unique relationship
These tensions can be handled in four ways (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996): 1. Selection: favouring one pole at the expense of another. 2. Cyclic or spiralling alteration: fulfil one pole or need now and shift to fulfil the other pole at a later time, creating a back-and-forth strategy of coping. 3. Segmentation: compartmentalizing the relationship so that issues coincide with one pole, and other issues are appropriate for the other pole. 4. Integration: incorporating aspects of both poles so as to create a more fulfilling experience.
Communication Privacy Management No part of the exam
Chapter 6 – Culture Understanding the differences between cultures, the dynamics of cross-cultural and intercultural communication is critical in today’s multicultural society and global economy. Culture (as defined by Collier, 1989) is one’s identification with and acceptance into a group that shares symbols, meanings, experiences, and behaviours. Cross-cultural communication and intercultural communication expand on this notion. Cross-cultural communication is the comparison of two or more cultural communities. Intercultural communication involves the actual interaction between members of different cultures. Four theories examine culture and how culture shapes, and is shaped by, communication ”
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions These dimensions provide a typology useful for assessing cultural differences across social contexts. His analysis resulted in five dimensions with which to differentiate and rank cultures. Each dimension is described as a continuum, with distinct cultures classified somewhere along the continuum: 1. Individualism/Collectivism: addresses how people define themselves and their relationship with others. Cultures that fall on the individualism side of the continuum share four characteristics: a. They consider the individual to be the most important entity in any social setting. b. They stress independence, rather than dependence. c. They reward individual achievements. d. They value each other’s’ uniqueness, standing out from the c rowd is valued. Collectivism refers to a social system based on in-groups and out-groups. Identity is understood through group membership. There are also four characteristics for collectivism: e. The views, needs, or goals of the group are more important than any individual needs. f. Behaviour is guided by duty, not by individual pleasure or rewards. g. The self is defined in relation to others, not as distinct from others. h. The focus is on cooperation, rather than competition. Collectivists prefer a high-context communication style (privileges relational harmony over clarity or directness, messages tend to be indirect, circular, or unspoken), while individualists prefer a low-context communication style (values direct, explicit expression of ideas, the truth may hurt). 2. Uncertainty avoidance: refers to the extent to which people within a culture are made nervous by situations which they perceive as unstructured, unclear, or unpredictable. Cultures that avoid ambiguity, are high in uncertainty avoidance. 3. Power distance: the extent to which people with little power in society consider inequity normal and acceptable. Cultures with high power distance accept power as a scarce resource; power differences are natural and unavoidable. These cultures have high centralization of power and a great importance based on status and rank. Cultures with low power distance value the minimization of power differences. Hierarchy might exist, but people higher in hierarchy are not assumed to be superior to people lower than them. Everyone reaches out to everyone. They believe that people can gain power through motivation and hard work. 4. Masculinity/Femininity: focuses on the relationship between biological sex and what is considered sex-appropriate behaviour. Masculine cultures use the reality of biological sex in the creation of distinct roles for men and women, men are expected to be assertive, ambitious, and competitive, while women should be nurturing, supportive, and deferent. Masculine countries believe managers should be decisive and assertive. Women are not equal in the workplace. Feminine cultures have fewer rigid roles for behaviour based on biological sex. Men and women are equally permitted to be assertive or deferent, competitive or nurturing. The focus is on the facilitation of interpersonal relationships and concerns for the weak. The preference is on quality of life instead of material success.
5. Long-term and short-term orientation: A long-term orientation is associated with thrift, savings, perseverance, and the willingness to subordinate one ’s self to achieve a goal. Employees often have strong work ethics and want to achieve goals. A short-term orientation centres on desire for immediate gratification. Individuals spend money to keep up with others and prefer quick results to long-term gain. Employees are less willing to sacrifice in the short run to achieve in the long run.
Arab countries Italy Japan Mexico South Korea Sweden United States Venezuela
Individualism/ Collectivism Both
Uncertainty avoidance Moderate
High individualism Both
Moderate collectivism High collectivism Moderate individualism Extreme individualism Extreme collectivism
Long-term/ Short term N.A. Short term Long term N.A. Long term Both Short term N.A.
There have been a lot of criticism on Hofstede ’s theory: •
Can you even measure culture with a survey?
He focusses on attitude instead of actual behaviour.
Is his sample representative? (Only IBM employees)
How are cultural differences within a country represented?
Communication accommodation theory This is a way of predicting when individuals will or should adapt to or diverge from another cultural group. CAT provides an informative platform from which to understand how we adapt our communication when we interact with others. When interacting with others, individuals will accommodate their speech and language patterns by either matching their partner’s speech, or differentiating from it. Giles and Coupland (1991) assumed individuals belong to a wide variety of social groups based on ethnicity, race, gender, and religion. They say that these groups shape each person’s collective identity. Humans categorize information to simplify and create understanding. These information clusters are divided into in-groups (social affiliations to which an individual feels he or she belongs) and out-groups (social affiliations to which an individual feels he or she does not belong). This can be sensed by the use of slang or jargon, for example. Individuals adjust their speech and conversational patterns either to assimilate with or to deviate from others. When a person wants to be part of an in-group, he/she will accommodate by convergence, altering their speech and behaviour so it matches that of the others. When people do not want to be associated with a group, they want to differentiate by using divergence. Rather than matching your partner ’s speech and gestures, you will make it different. Deliberately diverging from speech signals disagreement or rejection, it also illustrates one ’s cultural identity.
Accommodation is not always appropriate or effective. When in doubt, individuals rely on their social norms to inform their decisions to accommodate or not. Norms are implicit expectations that guide social behaviour. There are some consequences to accommodation:
Positive effects Increased attraction, social approval, increased persuasion Protects cultural identity, asserts power differences, increased sympathy
Negative effects Incorrect stereotypes of outgroup, perceived condescension, loss of personal identity Perceived disdain for outgroup, perceived lack of effort, increased psychological distance
The notion of accommodation has many practical implications. One link can be made between the notion of accommodation and a theory called leader-member exchange (LMX). This theory recognizes that leadership consists of an interpersonal relationship between a superior and a subordinate and that not all relationships are created equally; within organizations there are also in-and out groups. Relationships between superiors and subordinates can be placed on a continuum: •
Leader-member exchange: in-group relationships, are characterized by mutual trust, social support, and liking. There is more interaction in this type of relationship. These relations associate with higher employee job satisfaction, greater satisfaction with the managers, and higher organizational commitment. Subordinates show more innovative behaviour and greater organizational citizenship as well. LMX relations are beneficial to the organization. These relationships are shaped by high linking (similarities in norms and values) and high employee performance (high performing employees receive more trust). Supervisory exchange: interaction between the supervisor and subordinate is defined by roles they perform and contractual obligations provided by the organization. These are out-group relations, they are impersonal, with little superior-subordinate interaction taking place. Employees report lower job satisfaction, less satisfaction with the manager, and decreased organizational commitment. They also engage in nonconforming behaviour. Middle point relationships: on the mid-point of the continuum. These involve terms of both LMX and SX relationships.
Anxiety/uncertainty management theory AUM theory predicts that communication effectiveness and intercultural adjustment is a combined result of reducing intercultural anxiety and uncertainty (Gudykunst). The theory is based on uncertainty reduction theory, but it differs in context. Where URT focuses on interpersonal encounters, AUM focuses on intercultural encounters wherein people from different cultural backgrounds interact. AUM states that mindful awareness of intercultural anxiety and uncertainty motivates intergroup participants to manage the reduction of this apprehension. The theory entails some assumptions:
Face-negotiation theory Individuals typically try to balance their own positive and negative face needs while also attending to their partner’s face needs. This theory addresses how cultural differences with face influence conflict management (Ting-Toomey, 1988, 1991, 2005). Differing face needs influence one’s approach to conflict. Central to FNT are Hofstede’s dimensions of individualism/collectivism and power distance. FNT states that members of individualistic cultures primarily focus on negative face, they prefer to present themselves as confident, independent, etc. Members of collectivistic cultures present themselves as likeable, cooperative, etc. to preserve positive face. Members of low-power distance cultures prefer to be seen as individuals, while members of high-power distance cultures accept and rely on hierarchies and status differences. These cultural dimensions affect face management. Regarding FNT, conflict is defined as either the perceived or actual incompatibility of values, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more individuals. Among North-American relationships, there are five approaches to conflict, that vary on two dimensions (assertiveness and cooperation:
1. Avoiding: lacks assertiveness and cooperation, people withdraw from or seek to evade conflict altogether. 2. Accommodating: people cooperate with others, but demonstrate little assertiveness, typically conceding their partner’s requests. 3. Competing: highly assertive but lack of cooperation, people push their viewpoints onto others, sometimes to the extent of sacrificing the relationship altogether. 4. Compromising: moderate concern for self and others, the individual is somewhat assertive and fairly cooperative. It involves willingness to give up some demands to gain others. 5. Collaborating: people have a high regard for self and others, making the person very assertive and very cooperative. Collaboration occurs when one actively seeks to create new solutions that meet both partners’ interest without having to compromise. Individuals must consider their own and others ’ face needs when dealing with conflict. Mutual face concern is the recognition of both self-concern and other face needs. FNT predicts a causal relationship between culture, face and conflict style. It is possible to predict someone else ’s conflict style when you know their culture. The following graph shows the conflict styles different individuals maintain. Avoid, oblige/accommodate, dominate/compete, compromise and integrate/collaborate. Three other styles include: 1. Emotionally expressive: refers to an affective response to conflict as opposed to a cognitive response. It emphasizes responding to feelings or gut feeling. 2. Passive-aggressive: this person attempts to make his/her partner feel guilty. You do not avoid, but do not address the problem either. 3. Third-party help: this person is more comfortable asking someone from the outside of the relationship to manage the conflict.
Chapter 7 – Persuasion Advertisements are everywhere and we are constantly being exposed to them. Understanding how persuasion works is central for surviving in today ’s advertisement and media-blitzed society. Persuasion is human communication that is designed to influence others by modifying their beliefs, values, or attitudes. There are three central requirements for persuasion: 1. Persuasion involves the intent to achieve a goal on the part of the message sender. 2. Communication is the means to achieve that goal. 3. The message receipt must have free will. An attitude is a relatively enduring predisposition to respond favourably or unfavourably toward something. Attitudes influence people’s behaviour. Attitudes occur over time, people do not decide on them easily, but they can be changed. This chapter presents four theories of persuasive communication.
Elaboration likelihood model This ELM views persuasion primarily as a cognitive event, meaning the targets of persuasive message use mental processes of motivation and reasoning to accept or reject persuasive messages. Petty and Cacioppo ’s (1986) model depicts persuasion as a process in which the success of influence depends largely on the way receivers make sense of messages. ELM posits two possible routes/methods of influence that target different audiences: 1. Centrally routed messages: the more complex path, also referred to as “the elaborate route”. These messages include a wealth of information, rational arguments, and evidence to support a conclusion. Centrally routed messages are much more likely to create long-term change for the recipient than peripherally routed messages. However, for messages to succeed, two factors must be met: 1. The target must be highly motivated to process all given information 2. The target must be able to process the message cognitively (understand all things said) Understanding the audience is critical when choosing an appropriate route and constructing elaborated arguments, how will the audience react to your message, even if they are motivated and capable of understanding it. Elaborated arguments can be measured as strong, neutral, or weak. Strong messages create a positive cognitive response in the minds of receivers while also positively aligning receivers’ beliefs with those views of the persuader. The protect the receiver against counter persuasion and ensure long-term change that leads to the wanted behaviour. Repetition enhances the effect of strong messages, interruption diminishes its effects. Neutral messages do not result in attitude change and weak messages bring about negative responses and maybe even have a boomerang effect. 2. Peripherally routed messages: when motivation or ability to understand are lacking from the target audience, the persuader can use the peripheral route to persuasion. These messages rely on the receiver’s emotional involvement and persuade through superficial means. Peripheral messages only result in short-term change, if any change at all. There are seven cues of a peripheral message:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
Authority: to convince the audience to accept the beliefs presented. Commitment: emphasize a person’s dedication to a product, social cause, party, etc. Contrast: requires the communicator to set up uneven points of comparison. Linking: stress affinity towards a person, place, or object. Reciprocity: emphasize a give-and-take relationship. Scarcity: preys on people’s worry of missing out on something. Social proof: relies on the old-age notion of peer pressure. Peripheral messages can also be strong (yields weak attitude changes), neutral or weak.
The theory of planned behaviour This theory provides a template for how to persuade people to change behaviour. Simply changing someone’s attitude is not enough, you need to appeal to behaviour by offering attitudinal, social norm, and controllability incentives. The roots of the TPB lies in the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein and Ajzen). They recognized that something mediates the relationship between attitude and behaviour. At first, they assumed all behaviour was intentional. The assumption that there are reasons for all our actions led Fishbein and Ajzen to develop the notion of behavioural intention, which means you plan to act in a certain way. They believed there were two predictors of behavioural intention: 1. Attitude (the sum of our evaluation of the object and the strength of the beliefs) 2. Normative beliefs (your perceptions about what others in your social network expect you to do) To persuade someone, the message should appeal to attitude or normative beliefs in a way. The persuader can try to change the weights of the attitude and normative components. Ajzen extended the theory with a third predictor: perceived behavioural control. He recognized that sometimes we might intend to behave in a certain way, but our plans aren ’t carried out because we had no control over the situation. PBC exists of two components: 1. Self-efficacy: refers to an individual’s belief that he or she can actually perform the behaviour. 2. Controllability: recognizes that sometimes things are out of our control.
Inoculation theory This theory is about knowing how to resist persuasion. McGuire’s (1961) inoculation theory presents a way for this. An inoculation message presents a weaker form of a contrary argument, much like a vaccine includes a weaker form of a virus. Once exposed to this weaker argument, people are less likely to change their attitudes when presented with a strong form of the argument. They have developed a defence system. There are two major components to an inoculation message: 1. Threat: involves a forewarning of a potential persuasive attack on beliefs, making sure the target of the persuasive effort is aware of his or her susceptibility of the attack. It makes you aware to defend your beliefs. 2. Refutational pre-emption: the message should anticipate the counter persuasive effort by raising specific challenges and then contesting them.
Narrative paradigm The narrative paradigm stresses the effectiveness of influence through narration, persuasion through storytelling. Using a more subjective theoretical orientation, Fisher argues that human beings are fundamentally storytelling creatures, good narratives can convince us into engaging in a behaviour. Four assumptions drive Fisher’s (1987) explanations of the narrative paradigm: 1. What makes humans unique and distinct from other creatures is our ability and drive to tell stories. A narrative includes the symbolic words a nd actions people use to assign meaning. 2. Because individuals’ lives and understanding of reality are centred on these subjective narratives, people need a way to judge which stories are believable and which are not. Humans use narrative rationality, a logical method of reasoning by which someone can determine how believable the story is. It relies on good reasons as the basis for decision making. Good reasons allow us to validate and accept, or reject, someone’s narrative based on perceived truthfulness and consistency. When the narrative moves smoothly, makes sense and is believable, we say there is narrative coherence. Similarly, when the narrative appears truthful and congruent with our own experiences, we say there is narrative fidelity. Narrative coherence and fidelity together make narrative rationality. 3. What a person accepts as good reason is based on that individual ’s culture, character, history, values, experiences, etc. What one person thinks is fidelity, might not be agreed upon by another. 4. The world as humans know it is based primarily on sets of both competing and cooperative stories. Individuals must use the logic of good reasons to choose among these narratives, thereby creating and re-creating their social reality.
Chapter 8 – Group Communication When working in a company, you need to understand how to work in a group. Technically, a group is a system of three or more individuals who are focused on achieving a common purpose and who influence and are influenced by each other. A group is different from an aggregate, who do not have a common goal. A team is an ongoing, coordinated group of people working together. Teams have a task to finish together. Not all groups are teams, but all teams are groups. In group communication, the groups must balance: •
Task communication: communication focused on achieving the instrumental goal the group is trying to achieve. Socio-emotional communication: communication focused on developing, maintaining, and repairing the relationships between group members.
Group roles refer to patterns of communicative behaviours performed by one individual considering expectations held by other group members.
Functional group decision making This theory centres on the tasks communication achieves in the decision-making process, one of the central tasks in groups. Gouran and Hirokawa (1983, 1986, 1996) are the key researchers associated with the functional approach to group communication. A function refers to what communication does (a joke serves as tension release). The researcher wonder, “why do some groups make good decisions and others bad ones?” This has to do with four functions (requisite functions) that all have to be accomplished to maximise the likelihood of effective decision making: 1. Problem analysis: Focus on nature, extent, and likely cause of the problem. Be careful to differentiate between problems and symptoms of problems. 2. Goal setting: Identify what an ideal solution wo uld “look like”. What are the necessary elements, and what would be ideal but not necessary? 3. Identify alternatives: Generate many possible solutions: Quantify matters more than quality at this point. Brainstorming requires group members to come up with as many solutions as possible while following these rules: don’t evaluate ideas, don’t clarify ideas, encourage zany ideas, expand on ideas, encourage everyone ’s participation. 4. Evaluate and select: Evaluate each alternative using the established goals. Functional group decision-making theory makes claims about communication in groups. The theory argues that “communication is a social tool used to accomplish effective decision making. ” Humans being actively construct group experience based on their communication. The researchers identify three types of communication in small groups: •
Promotive communication: geared toward one of the requisite functions, helps the team stay on the task. (Task communication) Disruptive communication: diverts, retards, or frustrates the ability of the group to achieve the requisite functions. (Socio-emotional communication) Counteractive communication: messages that return a disrupted group back to the requisite function. “That’s enough talking, let ’s get back on track.”
Groupthink theory This theory provides a mechanism for explaining poor or ineffective group decision making (Janis, 1972). Groupthink is a Groupthink is a dysfunctional “wat of deliberating that group members use when their desire for unanimity overrides their motivation to assess all available plans of action. ” It was designed to explain and predict how bad decisions are made by groups. Janis articulated three antecedent conditions to groupthink, making it more likely for groupthink to occur: 1. Cohesion: the degree of connection, or sense of solidarity, between group members. Because group think emphasizes the preservation of group harmony, a high degree of cohesion is necessary for groupthink to occur. 2. Structural flaws: problems with the way the group is organized. There are four structural flaws, any of which might lead to groupthink: a. Group insulation: the group is somehow isolated from the larger world. b. Biased leadership: the leader has already made his/her mind up about the problem. c. Lack of procedural norms: not having a plan for solving the problem. d. Homogeneity: group members are very similar and less likely to change each other ’s’ ideas. 3. Situational characteristics: groupthink is more likely to occur in times of: a. High stress. For example, groups in the pharmaceutics industry might experience stress from the FDA requirements. b. Time pressure c. Recent failures d. Moral dilemmas Janis also argued you should examine how the group operates to observe symptoms of the groupthink process. He identified eight symptoms grouped into three categories: 1. Overestimation of the group : occurs when group members have an inflated view of the group ’s abilities. Two symptoms to look for include: a. An illusion of invulnerability (we can ’t fail) b. A belief in the inherent morality of the group (the group is good, so the decisions are also good) 2. Closed-mindedness: involves polarized thinking, viewing the world in extremes. Things are only perceived as right or wrong, black and white. This includes: a. Stereotyping out-groups: demonizing other groups and their leaders. b. Collective rationalization: group members tend to justify their decisions by talking themselves into it. 3. Pressure toward uniformity : individual group members actively suppress critical thinking. a. Self-censorship: group members tend to keep their mouths shut when experiencing doubt. b. Illusions of unanimity: group members perceive a consensus. c.
Self-appointed mind guards: members are careful not to present any contrary information. d. Direct pressure on dissenters: if someone has critique, challenges to the group are squashed.
To prevent groupthink, Janis recommends group members to take the following steps: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
Encourage critical evaluation Avoid having the leader state a preference Set up several independent sub groups to study the problem and propose solutions Discuss what is happening in the group with people outside of the group Invite outsiders into the group Assign someone to be a devil’s advocate Monitor the group for the symptoms Take time between initial decisions and the confirmation of the decision to analyse the decision critically.
Adaptive structuration theory This theory considers decision making, but it offers a broader perspective on group communication, focusing on how the communication process itself creates the norms for interaction (McPhee, 1985; Poole, 1985, 1988). The theory revolves around structures, patterns of relationships and patterns of interaction; they provide guidelines for behaviour. Structures serve five primary functions in groups and organizations: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
They provide means for control and coordination They assist members in defining their identities in the organization They provide a means to monitor member performance They help the organization to relate to its environment They serve a symbolic function, indicating to group members and outsiders the nature of the organization
Structures are not permanent, but need constant maintenance and repair. They are changed by communication. This process is known as structuration. There are two major assumptions of structuration theory: 1. The theory assumes humans are actors who make choices (agency). People have free will in terms of their communication behaviour. The notion of agency both creates and constraints interaction (duality of structure). Humans have complete free will, but their decisions create structures, which give them some direction to go in. Throughout the structuration process, humans can change the rules or adjust available resources. 2. Groups and organizations are produced and reproduced through structures in interaction. This assumption requires people to understand what is meant by: a. Structure: a non-physical entity, a set of rules and resources used by a group to meet its goals. Rules are how the group should accomplish its goals. Resources are the properties organizational members rely on to get things done. Allocative resources are material forms of assistance (time, money), authoritative resources are interpersonal characteristics of group members (cohesion, experience, status). b. Production: through behavioural choices, group members create/produce structures. When a group thinks time if more important than money, they ’ll create a structure that includes rapid decision making. c. Reproduction: future group members can turn back/reproduce this decision and prioritize something else. This theory states that structures are often borrowed from larger groups (organizational structures are much the same across companies), so they do not start from scratch. It also states that all social interactions include elements of communication, morality, and power. Organizational members operate within a given set of meanings or understandings. Morality include group norms, what is acceptable? 28
Power refers to implicit power structures (hierarchy, equality, authority) that affect the interactional choices made by group members. An adaptive structuration approach to decision-making centres on the extent to which given structures influence the process groups use to problem solve and decide on the actions. Poole and Roth (1989) identified three paths groups can take when making decisions: 1. Unitary path: the group uses the same process to generate solutions, regardless of the type of problem. 2. Complex cyclic path: group members cycle through the types of activities identified by functional group decision making, but they do so in a circular fashion, they sometimes iterate. 3. Solution-oriented path: group members make little or no effort to investigate the problem. They assume they understand the problem and immediately seek a solution that will satisfy group members. Rules centre on efficiency and results. AST can contribute to our understanding of virtual groups by providing a mechanism to understand how and why the technology necessary for geographically dispersed groups influences the way the group functions:
Symbolic convergence theory This theory explains the development of a group consciousness, including shared emotions, motives, and meanings (Bormann, 1982). SCT focusses on two aspects of group communication: 1. The creation of a group identity 2. The ways group identity influences norms for behaviour Several concepts are critical for understanding the explanation of group communication provided by SCT: •
Fantasy theme: fantasy (in this case) refers to a creative understanding of events that fulfils a psychological or rhetorical need. A fantasy theme starts with a dramatizing message (a joke, pun, figure of speech, etc.). These messages do not refer to present happenings; they reference events that have happened in the past or will happen in the future, the messages include some level of emotional revelation, typically with a surface and a deeper level. For example, someone did something well and in the next meeting, a colleague sings the superman theme. On the surface, this releases tension, but deeper, this acknowledged the good work done. When other people join in, a fantasy theme is created. Fantasy chain: continued embellishment of the fantasy theme can result in a fantasy chain. Here, the fantasy theme is developed through group interaction and enters group consciousness. For example, in a later meeting, those co-workers might name someone after another superhero, or even a villain.
Symbolic convergence: building fantasy chains results in group cohesion, a process called symbolic convergence. The emergence of a fantasy chain transforms the group from a collection of
people to an identifiable group with a group consciousness. For example, whenever the superhero theme is whistled/song again, and the other members laugh, they understood the reference. Others feel left out because they do not understand this joke. •
Rhetorical vision: the ways multiple fantasy chains combine within a group leads to a rhetorical vision. It is a unified way of viewing the world.
Chapter 9 – Organizational Communication While many organization members acknowledge the importance of communication, they still do not know how to communicate effectively. According to Feldner and D ’Urso (2010), modern approaches to organizational communication centre on the extent to which meaning is created between individuals in an organizational setting, between individuals and organizations, and between organizations and societies. Processes of communication interesting in organizations include relationships maintenance, the socialization of new members, the development of organization cultures, and more.
Systems metaphor Much of organizational communication relies on a systems metaphor. The core of this metaphor is a focus on the interdependence that develops whenever people interact with each other. A system is a group of individuals who interrelate to form a whole, such as a family or a sports team (Hall & Fagen, 1968). Systems are embedded in hierarchy, with system existing within other systems. A subsystem is a smaller part of a group as a whole (the siblings, the defence line). A suprasystem is the larger system in which that system operates (the FIFA, the industry of an organization). Systems theories hinge on the idea of nonsummativity; the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Individuals do not make or break the system, the system as a whole works together to achieve more than individuals could do alone. This is called positive synergy. A major reason nonsummativity takes place is because of interdependence. This means all system members are dependent on all other system members; if one group member drops the ball, the organization as a whole is unlikely to achieve its goals (e.g. with a newspaper, if the advertising sales rep cannot gather ads, there is no money to print the paper). Another principle central to systems approaches is homeostasis; it refers to the natural balance or equilibrium within the system. It is the tendency for a given system to maintain stability in the face of change. Stability can be positive (a good workflow) or negative (a lot of conflict). Group members ‘
adjust to this normal situation after something has changed in their team. A final concept is that of equifinality; it suggests multiple ways to achieve the same goal (to make more profit, you can increase the sales price, lower the manufacturing costs, selling more, etc.). In addition, at any given time, there are multiple goals to achieve for the organization. Companies might not only want to increase revenue, they might also work on new products, increase employee morale, etc.
Organizational culture This theory provides a language for understanding why and how organizations develop values, beliefs, behavioural norms, and ways of communicating. There are two competing views on organizational culture: one that views culture as something that the organization has, and one that views culture as something the organization is. The first approach is exemplified by Deal and Kennedy (1982), who argued that organizations become high performing when they have a strong organizational culture. They identified four central elements to culture: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Values: underscore the organization’s core beliefs. Heroes: the people who best personify these values. Rites and rituals: public performances that demonstrate the organization ’s values. Cultural network: the informal communication processes within the organization.
Given these components, Deal and Kennedy identify four organizational cultures, based on the degree of risk the company is willing to take and the type of feedback and reward system it has:
Feedback and rewards Slow
Risk Low Work-hard-play-hard culture Characterized by fun and action. Organizations encourage lots of activity, but the activities have high levels of certainty. Stress comes from the high pace of work, not the work itself. Process culture Employees can’t measure what ’
they do but focus on how it s done. The work is stable and consistent.
High Tough-guy macho culture Quickly taking gambles, with potential high rewards or huge losses. Employees need constant feedback, and are temperamental in demands. This culture values superstars and not team players. Bet-the-company culture High-stakes gambles that take years to pay off. Stress is a low-level constant. Begin deliberate is the name of the game.
Deal and Kennedy’s approach focuses on qualities of an organization that a manager can develop or change. The second approach (culture = organization), described by Smircich (1983), instead focuses on the process of communication that create, sustain, and constrain interaction within the organization. To illustrate this perspective, we focus on the work of Schein (1985, 1992). He states that culture refers to a pattern of shared assumptions that have been invented, discovered, or developed by a given group and are taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and behave. His model includes three levels of culture: 1. Level 1: Artefacts refers to the observable evidence of culture. The may take the form of physical entities, such as architecture, dress, and documents. They can also be patterns of behaviour, such as decision-making style, or forms of address. 2. Level 2: Values the preferences about how situations should be handled. These preferences represent shared beliefs about how things should happen. By nature, values are intangible, by organizational members are typically able to articulate them. Often, the leaders are the source of values. However, just because something is mentioned in the mission statement, it does not mean it is practiced every day. 3. Level 3: Assumptions refers to the v iewpoints organizational members hold about the world, including perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. These assumptions are subconscious because they have been reinforced over and over again as the organization faces challenges. Assumptions lie at the heart of organizational culture because such presumptions are made uniformly throughout the organization. (E.g. a child welfare agency might assume people can change.)
Organizational assimilation This theory focusses on how individuals become socialized into an organization, with a recognition on the role of organizational culture. Developed by Jablin (2001), the theory argued the process of being socialized into an organization is complex and takes place over years, it can be planned/rushed with teambuilding activities, for example. There are four stages of assimilation:
Description Developing a set of expectations and beliefs about the nature of work and work settings, e.g. the people I work with will be my close friends. Learning about a particular vocation, position, and organization, e.g. DanCo provides networking services to nongovernment organizations. Making sense of the organizational culture, e.g. unlike my last job, people at DanCo come to work late and stay late. Transitioning from outsider to insider, e.g. we work hard and we play hard, it’s just what we do here at DanCo.
Organizational identification and control This theory also builds on the notion of culture and assimilation, with a focus on how power is enacted in organizations. Research suggests team-based structures can have control over employees. This theory therefore centres on the way an individual ’s connection to the organization influences behaviour and decision making in team-based structures (Barker, 1999). Three main concepts tie this theory together: 1. Identification: refers to the sense of oneness with or without belongingness to an organization; when individuals experience identification, they define themselves in terms of the organization. Identification happens most frequently in the metamorphosis phase of organizational assimilation. (“We don’t operate that way here.”) 2. Control: an organization needs control to get things done. Organizations exert control via: a. Simple control: direct, authoritarian control (“do this or get fired”). Has to do with commands and threats. b. Technological control: using technology to manage what can and can ’t be done in the workplace (using a fast assembly line to control the pace of the workers, removing computer games from the PCs). c. Bureaucratic control: employee handbooks and other such formalized rule systems. d. Unobtrusive control: based on shares values within the organization. Employees make decisions in line with the mission of the company, not because they have to, but because they agree with it. The commitment to organizational values control the employee. e. Concertive control: happens when co-workers develop mechanisms to reward and control behaviour that influences the team. Concertive control is obvious and direct, just as simple control. It monitors other team members’ performance, and there is co-worker pressure on nonconforming members. 3. Discipline: this is achieved through a sense of responsibility to the work group because members identify with their organization and because they share common values and a vision for the organization. When individuals make a decision, they’ll rely on the company values to make it. If someone is not behaving in concert with organizational values, work group members tend to criticize that individual. Creating organizational missions and visions might have the explicit function of driving the organization’s business, and work teams might provide a mechanism for employee empowerment, but these initiatives also serve the implicit function of controlling the employees.
Weick’s organizing theory This theory puts communication processes at the heart of ultimate success or failure in an organization. Communication is the organization. Weick (1969) examined the process of organizing (a verb). This theory assumes organizations exist in an information environment. Rather than focusing on the physical environment, it focuses on the massive amounts of information organizations have available to them, from in- and external sources. Also, the information available is often ambiguous (equivocality). You can understand messages in several ways. According to Weick, there are ways to reduce equivocality: 1. Rely on rules, or recipes. This refers to guidelines for behaviour, organizations use these rules to analyse both the equivocality of a message and how to respond to it. Rules don ’t always work, but there are rules for every situation. 2. Have organizational members engage in communication cycles known as double interacts. Double interacts are suited for instances of high equivocality because they require organizational members to develop interdependent relationships in the process of communicating. A double interact consists of: a. An act communication behaviour initiated by one person or a group of people. b. A response the communication of the receiver(s). c. An adjustment e.g. a confirmation that everything is understood, or additional information gathering if the message is still equivocal. Organizing theory states that, if organizations do not adapt to their environment, they’ll collapse. Change is the key to organization success, and change occurs through the process of communicating. Weick proposed a three-stage process of sociocultural evolution for organizations: 1. Enactment: occurs when members of an organization take note of equivocal information in their information environment. 2. Selection: to reduce equivocality, organizational members must choose how to respond. 3. Retention: a form of organization memory, what was done and how was it done? Members can choose to do this again.
Chapter 10 – Mediated communication Media refers to large organizations responsible for producing the content we see on TV and in the movies, whereas social media refers to digital technologies that allow people to connect, interact, produce, and share content. The srcinal focus was to help people achieve individual goals, but it has now become a place where people push content onto you to reach professional, rather than personal, goals. No company can afford to neglect their social media presence. Four theories help us understand the role of social media in our lives. Mediated communication is communication in which something (a medium) exists between the source and the receiver.
Diffusion of innovations Rogers’ (2003) diffusion of innovation theory provides a framework for understanding why some inventions become popular and others never really catch on. This theory depicts the process whereby new media technologies are adopted in society. An innovation is an idea, practice, or object perceived as new. Rogers identifies six stages through which a person, group, or organization progresses in deciding whether to adopt an innovation: 1. Knowledge: the potential adopter becomes aware of the innovation and its potential uses. 2. Persuasion: occurs when the potential adopter goes beyond mere awareness of the innovation and actively seeks information about it. 3. Decision: the potential adopter weighs the benefits and costs of the innovation and chooses either to adopt the innovation or reject it. 4. Implementation: occurs when the adapter puts the innovation into use. The adapter must find out how it works and might even repurpose the innovation (use voicemail to leave a reminder for yourself). 5. Confirmation: the adaptor reconsiders his or her adaptation of the technology. Is it worth it? 6. Adoption: If the innovation is worth it, the adopter uses it. When the adopter DOES NOT adopt the innovation after stage 5, he/she discontinues its use of the innovation. This can take two forms: •
Replacement discontinuance: occurs when an innovation is replaced with either a new version or older version (using an older operating system on new machines). Disenchantment rejection/abandonment: the adopter simply stops using the innovation (after the iPhone, many people stopped using PDAs).
Rogers identified five qualities that influence the rate and likelihood of an innovation being adopted: 1. Relative advantage: the innovation must be better at achieving goals than other products. (Faster, cheaper, easier to use, cooler, etc.) 2. Compatibility: the extent to which an innovation is consistent with a potential adopter’s values, lifestyle, or experience makes it a more attractive option. 3. Complexity: the level of difficulty in understanding or using the innovation. If a technology is too hard to understand, it will be rejected. 4. Trialability: the extent to which potential adopters can try the innovation before making a final decision. (Test drives, sample packs, etc.) 5. Observability: people are more likely to adopt an innovation if they see the innovation in public of if the results of the innovation are visible.
When innovations are available, but no one adopts them, they have no impact. Innovations can be good, but if they do not have critical mass (the notion that if enough people adopt the innovation, additional adoption of the innovation becomes self-sustaining, aspiring future growth), it will not last. The rate of adoption, the relative speed with which an individual adopts the innovation, is at issue here. Innovators are the first to adopt, they tend to be younger, high in social class, and risk-takers, often connected to other innovators. The next group is the early adopters, who tend to be connected to others more locally and are opinion leaders who have a lot of influence. They play a central role in the diffusion of innovations. The early majority is next to adopt, they are no role models or opinion leaders, they carefully deliberate the adoption of the innovation. They are the group to reach critical mass. The fourth group, late majority, adopts because of peer pressure and are often sceptical. The laggards adopt latest, if they even adopt. Interactive media such as Facebook or Twitter entail reciprocal interdependence. Even if innovators or early adopters have the technology, they need others to adopt the technology to receive the maximum benefits. What is good about having a new app if no-one else uses it, can people than receive messages? Early adopters must persuade others.
Social network analysis One of the central concepts of social network analysis involves the fact they all of us are connected to others, who are connected to others, leading us to the “six degrees of separation” from all others around the world. According to Monge and Contractor (2001), communication networks are the patterns of contact between communication partners that are created by transmitting and exchanging messages through time and space. Network analysis involves mapping out those patterns, with a special focus on the type of links between members, the roles members play in the network, the mode or channel by which messages are exchanged, and the content of the messages. Social network analysis allows you to develop a picture of how individuals, groups, and organizations relate to each other to better understand structures of influence and the spread of ideas. Four attributes are considered in social network analysis: 1. Network mode: involves the channel(s) used by network members (phone, e-mail, etc.). 2. Content of messages: content focusses on the core identity of the company, or on the well-being of the customers. 3. Density: the number of interconnections among network members. Highly dense networks involve many connections between network members, less dense networks have few connections. A lack of social network negatively influences productivity. 4. Level of analysis: when conducting an analysis, is the focus on the individuals in the network, groups of organizational members, or connections among and between organizations?
Social network analysis also requires uncovering the nature of the connections between network members (Monge & Contractor, 2001). Seven potential links can be assessed:
Strength: the frequency, intimacy, or intensity of the connection. Direction: the extent to which the link is reciprocal between network members. Symmetry: whether two people share the same type o f relationship with each other. Frequency: how often the two people communicate with each other. Stability: the existence of the link over time. Mediation: whether the connections between network members exist because of a common link. 7. Multiplexity: the extent to which two network members are linked together by more than one 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
relationship or type of communication. Social network analysis also requires a consideration of the roles each member plays in the network. Network members are considered nodes, since networks are not always comprised on individuals. Five types of roles have been uncovered: 1. Isolate: belongs in a network but has no links (might work someplace but does not communicate with others). 2. Gatekeeper: controls the flow of information between one part of the network and another. 3. Bridge: a member of more than one group. 4. Liaison: has connections with two or more groups that would otherwise not be linked. However, liaisons are not nodes of either of those groups. 5. Star: a node highly central to the network. He often has more links than anyone else. For some clarity and examples, check the example on pages 182 and 183 of the book. Hubs are highly dense networks embedded within a larger organization. For example, the internet is a network, and Facebook, Google, or YouTube are hubs. The purpose of social media theory is to uncover the patterns of connections within a system. A social network analysis can allow us to uncover large-scale trends in ideas and influences. Scholars also use social network analysis to investigate semantic networks, which particularly focus on the content of communications. In this way, researchers can understand the spread of memes, ideas behaviours, or practices that spread from one person to another in a network.
Media richness theory This theory, developed by Daft and Lengel (1984), recognizes that as new communication technologies develop, the decision about the best way to send a message becomes more complex. Poorer media are not always worse than face-to-face communication. Communication professionals should match the communication channel to the content of the information. Media richness refers to the information-carrying capacity of the medium. The richness is determined by: 1. Speed of feedback, the ability to transmit multiple signals. 2. Ability to personalise messages 3. Availability of multiple cues, also: possibility of immediate feedback. 4. Language variety 37
Face-to-face interactions is the richest medium. People can use verbal communication, change the language, use facial expressions, use body language, etc. Communication tasks can be characterized in terms of their level of equivocality, applying to ambiguity and uncertainty: •
Uncertain situations: you need information before answering a question. (uncertainty = absence of information) Ambiguous situations: existence of conflicting and multiple interpretations: requires interactions and clarification Multiple interpretations of a communication is unlikely? Task is unambiguous Multiple interpretations are likely? Task is ambiguous
Rich media Lean media
Ambiguous task Effective communication; rich media matches ambiguous tasks Communication failure; too few cues to capture message complexity
Unambiguous task Communication failure; excess cues cause confusion and surplus meaning Effective communication; media low in richness matches routine tasks
Even though this theory is very rational, humans are not as rational as the theory suggest they are.
Uses and gratification theory This theory represents a different means by which to analyse and explain the use of mediated communication. UGT focuses on why a receiver uses media forms. UGT maintains that because humans have options and free will, individuals will make specific choices about which media to use and when to use them (Katz, Blumer & Gurevitch, 1973). The choices you make are based on personal needs and values you wish to fulfil. You can select various media for gratification of your own needs. Three primary assumptions drive our discussion of UGT: 1. Katz et al. (1973) believed audience members actively use various media to fulfil certain needs or goals. Media usage is not passive. The more media available, the wider the choice becomes. UGT suggests media use is active and goal driven based on individual’s needs. 2. Mass communication is not something that happens to you. Individuals choose to surf the Internet, making the term “media effects” misleading. Audience members pick a medium and allow themselves to be swayed, changed, or influenced, or not. 3. Media outlets compete with other available means of satisfying personal needs. There are many ways to fulfil individual needs. McQuail (1987) identifies four broad classes of motivations to use media that include several subcategories: 1. Entertainment: individuals can relax, escape from daily problems, feel some form of excitement or emotions, pass time, enjoy an artistic pleasure, etc. 2. Information: presents individuals with opportunities to learn about current and historic al events, to obtain advice, feel secure or satisfy curiosity by acquiring knowledge. 3. Personal identity: people use media to reflect, reinforce, or contrast their personal identity. People use media to gain insight into or assist in the development of their own attitudes and beliefs. 4. Personal relationships and social interaction: media exposure can help individuals learn about or connect with others through comparisons of interpersonal relationships and social situations. Certain media can even serve as a substitute for real-life relationships by offering companionship.
Chapter 11 – Mass Communication Mass communication- and media are different from mediated communication and social media. Mass communication is a process in which professional communicators use technology to share messages over great distance to influence large audiences. The source could be an announcer, reporter, writer, and so on, while technology used to mediate the mass message could include fibre optics, satellites, cable, etc. Mass media include organizations responsible for using technology to send mass messages to the public. Mass media and communication are connected, without organizations, it ’s difficult to reach a large audience. McQuail (2010) identified five characteristics of the mass media that have stood the test of time, despite advances in technology and the decrease in some mediums: 1. Mass media can reach an enormous amount of people instantly or almost instantly with information, entertainment, or opinions. Feedback from receivers is much slower. 2. The media continue to inspire universal fascination. People ’s preoccupation with shared stories continues, no matter the medium. 3. Mass media can rouse hope and fear in audiences. For example, when something bad that has happened keeps being covered on TV and the Internet. 4. The mass media influence and are influenced by the four sources of social power identified by Mann (2012): economic, ideological, military, and political power. 5. Mass media is a source of enormous power and influence. For example, think about the news. The news agency decides which stories are being broadcasted and which are not. Some stories might not even be complete or entirely true.
Agenda-setting theory McCombs and Shaw (1972) argued that public opinion is (in part) shaped by media coverage. They stated that the news media presents audiences with an agenda for what events the public should consider as important. Two key assumptions guide this theory: 1. The news media have an agenda and tell the audiences what news is considered as important. However, this is often limited. 2. It is believed most people would like help when trying to understand and evaluate politics and political reality. People need assistance determining their political viewpoint, audience members come to rely on news media to point out topics of importance. McCombs and Shaw derived two primary criteria for measuring the media ’s agenda: length and position of a news story. They found a clear association between what the news media present to audiences and what audiences perceive of the issues reported. Media framing issues involves the news agencies ’ gatekeepers (news editors who set the agenda) to highlight or deemphasise certain features of the stories. Almost 75% of the stories are never even broadcasted. This is not a bad thing, because the average person cannot keep interest that long. Framing can be done in four ways (see page 198 for examples): 1. 2. 3. 4.
Selection, what stories are chosen? Emphasis, what focus is taken? Elaboration, what is added to “beef up” the story? Exclusion, what aspects of the story are not reported?
Despite the media’s ability to influence, individuals’ thoughts, opinions, and actions are not predetermined by the news media ’s agenda. Certain issues are more likely to influence to influence audience thoughts than others. Also, individuals have different needs for external advice or direction, also known as the need for orientation. This need depends on the topic relevance and the person ’s uncertainty about the topic.
Cultivation theory This theory only focusses on TV, and more specifically about violence on TV (Gerbner and colleagues). Cultivation theory predicts that if people watch a lot of TV, they will overestimate the occurrence of reallife violence, thereby perceiving the world as a “mean and scary” place. The theory assumes the following: 1. TV has become central to American life and culture. Because of this, Gerbner believes TV has become the principal source of stories and storytelling in the USA. 2. TV influences audience perceptions of social reality, thereby shaping American culture in terms of how individuals reason and relate with others. TV only presents certain aspect of social life. The audience believe the social life depicted on TV is “normal”. 3. TV’s effects are limited, meaning TV is not the only factor (or the greatest) that affects an individual’s view of social reality. While the effects are not huge, they are constantly present and this makes the difference. Originally, the theory only looked at violence. Gerbner and his colleagues defined violence as “overt expression pf physical force (with or without weapons, against self or others) compelling action against one’s will on pain of being hurt and/or killed or threatened to be so victimized as part of the plot. Using this definition, they created the violence index, an objective research instrument that uses content analysis to measure prevalence, frequency, and role of characters involved in TV violence. They found that violence on TV differs between day- and prime time. Also, a symbolic double jeopardy exists on TV. Minorities are less visible on TV than in real-life and they are often victims of violence on TV. The more TV you watch, the more likely you’ll view the world in a way consistent with TV reality. People who watch more TV think they will be involved in violence much more than people who watch less TV. Gerbner calls this the mean-world syndrome; heavy viewers overestimate real-life danger. Next to this, people who watch a lot of make-over programmes (for example) are less satisfied with their body image than people who do not. Cultivation theory research suggests viewers’ attitudes are cultivated in two ways: 1. Mainstreaming: viewers develop a common view of social reality based on their frequent exposure to the repetitive and dominating stories, images, and messages depicted on TV. These people are more likely to perceive the world in ways parallel to TV (more violence, sexualisation, etc.). 2. Resonance: involves congruency between viewers’ own violent experiences and those they see on TV. When individuals who have faced acts of violence in their own lives then watch violent TV programming, they are forced to replay their own life situation again and again. It resonates with their personal experiences. It amplifies the cultivation effect.
Social cognitive theory of mass media Badura’s (1977, 1986, 1994, 2001) social cognitive theory of mass communication, srcinally developed as an extension of social learning theory, has been widely used to study the media’s influence on behaviour; particularly to understand the relationship between media use and violent behaviour. This theory posits that the media play a significant role in influencing behaviour through observational learning. It assumes the following:
1. This theory demonstrates specific concern with mass media’s influence on cultural ideology. Mass media, an TV are extremely influential in shaping our view of what is “normal”. 2. People can self-reflect. Humans are not only actors but also self-examiners of their behaviour. The quality of the self-reflection depends on the deductive reasoning process, information used, and one’s own biases. Bandura’s most central claim is that “most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action ”. You can learn about behaviour by observing what others do. This observational modelling saves individuals time and embarrassment from using a behavioural trialand-error approach: “learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do”. Observational learning is not positive or negative, it is just a process by which people learn. However, guided by four processes, or subfunctions, social cognitive theory maintains observational learning is more than monkey see, monkey do: 1. Attention: you can’t learn much if you don’t observe and pay attention to a behaviour. Selective attention to a situation is critical. An attention process is determined by both the observer ’s characteristics and the arrangement of intended behaviours. 2. Retention: learning by observation has many positive aspects (learn how to cook, get style advice, etc.) The retention process allows you to learn from the observed behaviours. 3. Reproduction: to do a behaviour, you need to have the skills (physically) to execute it. In the reproduction process, individuals can typically execute an accurate demonstration of a new behaviour through modelling, refinement is based on feedback and focusing on others. 4. Motivation: to go from observation to action requires the ability to replicate the behaviour as well as the desire, or motivation, to use the learned action. This process is inspired by three types of incentives: a. Direct motivation: more likely when you get rewarded for the modelling of a behaviour. b. Vicarious motivation: occurs when individuals are motivated by the success of others wo are like themselves. People are deterred when they see negative consequences. c. Self-produced motivation: individuals rely on their own personal standards, engaging in social activities they find personally worthwhile and refusing to participate in those activities of which they disapprove. This al describes a direct path of influence (media influences viewers directly). Another route, socially mediated path of influence, states that “media influences are used to link participants to social networks and community settings.” Through these social connections, people receive guidance, incentives, and social support, making behavioural changes more likely.
Encoding/decoding theory Four assumptions set the foundation for understanding encoding/decoding theory (Hall, 1973): 1. Hall calls the focus of his work cultural studies (not media studies), because he believes the media are simply one mechanism for the development and dissemination of cultural ideologies. An ideology is a mental framework used to understand the world; it includes language, concepts, categories, and images we use to make sense out of our experiences. Hall believes the media tend to produce messages that support the status quo, they support the dominant ideology. He argues that mass media messages are a cultural production because they provide a means to create, challenge, reproduce, or challenge cultural ideologies (articulation). 41
2. The meaning of a message is not fixed or determined entirely by the sender. In the process of encoding or creating a message, the sender typically develops a message using the signs and symbols of a cultural ideology. However, Hall suggest the interpretation, or decoding is not guaranteed. 3. All messages are encoded using an ideology. There is no “value-free” communication. 4. The theory believes in an active audience. Audience members can challenge the ideologies embedded in the message they receive. However, it’s easier to just accept what the media gives you. To encourage a critical analysis of what we encounter in the media, the central idea of encoding/decoding theory is that even though the media present us with messages that support the dominant ideology, media consumers do not have to interpret the messages in this way. Hall describes three ways to interpret/read a message: 1. Preferred reading using the dominant code: the reader uses the dominant code (dominant ideology) to interpret the content of the message. The receiver understands and accepts the values and beliefs embedded in the message: this type of reading is easy and natural. 2. Negotiated code: the receiver accepts the dominant ideology in general but engages in some selective interpretation to better fit his/her view of the world. 3. Oppositional code: the receiver recognizes the ideological bias in the message. They identify the preferred reading, but they deconstruct the message and reconstruct it from a different point of view.
According to Hall, it is only when mediated messages are decoded that they have any meaning and we can consider possible media effects. A full understanding is difficult, because people confuse denotative (literal) and connotative (associated) meaning.