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A theory according to Burgoon

a set of systematic informed hunches about the way things work

3 key features of Burgoon's notion of a theory

1. Theory consists of a set of hunches
2. Those hunches have to be informed
3. Hunches have to be systematic

Before developing a theory

There are articles to read, people to talk to, actions to observe, and experiment to run. At least the theorist should be familiar with alternative explanations and interpretations of the type of communication they are studying.

According to Jarboe: Theory

careful, systematic, and self0-conscious discussion and analysis of communication phenomena

Theories as nets

Karl Popper:

Theories as lenses

Many scholars see theoretical constructions as similar to the lens of a camera. The lens highlights the idea that theories shape our perception by focusing attention on some features of communication while ignoring other features

Theories as maps

communication theories are maps of the way communication works; we need theory to guide us through unfamiliar territory

What is communication

The relational process of creating and interpreting messages that elicit a response


a record of a message. <email, audio tape, & broadcast>


a type of creation. If someone wants to relay something they encode the information into a sentence.

Behavioral scientist:

applies the scientific methods to describe, predict and explain recurring forms of human behavior


studies the ways in which symbolic forms can be used to identify with people or to persuade them toward a certain point of view


:(social scientific) attempt to understand human beings as a whole.

Objective Approach

the assumption that truth is singular and is accessible through unbiased sensory observation; committed to uncovering cause-and-effect relationships

Source Credibility

perceived competence and trustworthiness of a speaker or writer that affects how the message is received


perceived association with an attractive role model`


Associated with subjectivity; observers' individual idiosyncratic responses to the world.


The study of the origin, nature, method, and limits of knowledge.

Major differences between the objective and interpretive approaches

1. Ways of knowing
2. Human nature


every move we make is a result of heredity

Free will

every human act is ultimately voluntary
(Interpretive Scholars)

Empirical evidence

data collected through direct observation
Interpretive scholars seek to expand the range of free choice


is liberation from oppression

What are the major social contexts in which communication is studied

1. Intrapersonal
2. Interpersonal
3. Small Groups
4. Mass Communication
5. Organizations
6. Public Communication
7. Societies


refers to the breadth of communication behaviors covered by the theory


are the limitations of a theory's scope

Level of generality

: can be grand, mid range, or narrow

-Logical consistency

refers to the interrelationships of the concepts (a theory can't use words in more than one way)

rule of parsimony

accept the simpler explanation over the more complex.


the requirement that a scientific theory must be stated in such a way that it can be tested and disproved if it is indeed wrong.

Practical utility

Increased control over oneself and environment


A research method that manipulates an independent variable in a tightly controlled situation in order to judge its effect on a dependent variable and thus establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

Independent Variable

In a scientific experiment, the factor that the researcher systematically alters in the quest to discover its effect on one or more dependent variables; the cause in a hypothesized cause-and-effect relationship.

Dependent Variable

In a scientific experiment, a measured outcome that presumably is influenced or changed by the independent variable; the effect in a hypothesized cause-and-effect relationship.

Survey Research

Research A research method that employs questionnaires and fact-to-face interviews to collect self-report data demonstrating what people think, feel, and intend to do.

Self-referential imperative

include yourself as a constituent of your

Ethical imperative:

Grant others that occur in your construction the same autonomy you practice constructing them. (Don't go into a situation with your mind made up)


satisfying; ingeniously simple; precise; as in "the elegance of the solution"

Critical theorists

use theory to reveal unjust communication practices that can create r perpetuate an imbalance of power

Textual Analysis

A research method that describes and interprets the characteristics of any text.


A method of participant observation designed to help a researcher experience a culture's complex web of meaning.

Sleeper effect

the tendency for source credibility to dissipate over time

• Cybernetics

the study of information processing, feedback and control in communication systems

• System

a set of objects or entities that interrelate with one another to form a whole.

• Information

: The opportunity to reduce uncertainty

• Noise

Anything that reduces the information-carrying capacity of the channel.

• Feedback

: Information that adjusts future behavior by introducing learning into the system.


: the art of using all available means of persuasion, focusing upon lines of argumentation, organization of ideas, language use, and delivery I public speaking

• Semiotics

the study of verbal and nonverbal signs that can stand for something else, and how their interpretation impact society

• Sign

: Anything that can stand for something else.

• Signal

Naturally related to its referent

• Symbol

• A special type of sign (including most words) that has no natural connection with the thing it describes.

• Proper meaning superstition

the mistaken belief that words have a precise meaning (see example of intimacy).

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

The world is perceived differently by members of different linguistic communities and this perception is transmitted and sustained by language."

Linguistic determinism

Language determines what can and cannot see or think or imagine. (our behavior can be explained by hereditary and society)

Linguistic relativity

If language shapes thought then speakers of different languages will experience the world differently.


: Theoretically reflective social action.
• To understand power structures, beliefs and ideologies
• To undercover oppressive social conditions
• To fuse theory and action (praxis)

Critical theorists challenge three features of contemporary society:

1. The control of language to perpetuate power imbalances
2. The role of mass media in dulling sensitivity to repression
3. Blind reliance on the scientific method and its results

The phenomenological tradition

communication as the experience of self and others through dialogue.


intentional analysis of everyday experience from the standpoint of the person who is living it. (The meaning of words is in the person)
• Knowledge is conscious
• The meaning of a thing consists of the potential of that thing in one's life.
• Language is the vehicle of meaning.


According to Carl Rogers, the match or fit between an individual's inner feelings and outer display.

Unconditional Positive Regard:

An attitude of acceptance of another person that is not contingent on his or her performance

Empathic Understanding

The active process of laying aside personal views and of entering into another's world without prejudice.

Interpersonal Messages

): no matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head

Impersonal Communication

communication between people

• Game

a sequence of behavior governed by rules

• Rule

: a guideline for behavior.
o A followable prescription (allows choice)

• System

a set if objects or entities that interrelate with one another to form a whole.

• Equifinality

Any outcome could have been effectively caused by any or many interconnected factors.

Achieving Meaning

being able to understand and make yourself understood

Symbolic interaction

theorycenters on the relationship between symbols and interactions. (SIT) argues that society is made "real" by the interactions of individuals, who "live and work to make their social world meaningful"


is a set of symbols


an arbitrary label given to a phenomenon


: a relatively stable set of perceptions people hold about themselves

Self-fulfilling prophecy

: a prediction about yourself causing you to behave in such a way that it comes true


is the ability to use symbols with common social meanings.


theory is used in research of many different context and phenomena


application to everyday conversations


: may be too broad, but has evolved to define parameters and clarify ideas better


more attention may be needed but visually succinct

Nonverbal communication

is information expressed by other than linguistic means.

o Metacommunitcates

communication about communication; a lot of the non verbal tells you how to interpret the communication. GIVES US INFO ON HOW WE ARE To INTERPRET

o Personal space

the "invisible, variable volume of space surrounding an individual which defines that individual's preferred distance from others"


is a person's ownership of an area or object
Primary space: individual (exclusive domain)
Secondary: individual identifies with an area
Public: open to all


are thoughts and behaviors anticipated in conversation, both verbal and non verbal


your pre-expectations; what you think about in advance
Interactional: skill in pulling off what your pre-expectation are

the reciprocity effect

the tendency to match other's behaviors in interpersonal interactions.

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