Chapter Ten

Report
Theories of Communication in
Developing Relationships
“Hello, I love you.
Won’t you tell me your name?”
Social Penetration Theory
 Social Penetration Theory (SPT) Altman
and Taylor
 SPT has been developed further by
communication scholars
 SPT is a post-positivist theory of the broad
scope of relational development
Social Penetration Theory: Stages
 Orientation Stage: Interaction ruled by
social convention and formulas
 Exploratory Affective Stage: Interactants
begin to share more information and are
more relaxed and friendly
 Affective Stage: Close friendships and
romantic relationships in which a great deal
of open exchange occurs
 Stable Exchange Stage: Continuing
openness and richness in interaction
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-bsf2x-aeE&feature=related
Social Penetration Theory:
Breadth and Depth of Exchange
 As people move through these stages, both
the breadth and depth of information
exchange increase (“onion model” of SPT)
 Self-disclosure: Any communication
shared about one’s self—intimate or not
 SD changes through relational
development:
Norm of reciprocity
 Peripheral before private
 Rate of disclosure begins to slow at deeper levels

A different view of the “onion”
Breadth
Depth
Metts add
 (1) The onion model not used much
anymore; self-disclosure is more cyclical
than continuously wider and deeper
Social Exchange Processes
 The motivation to move in and out of relationships is
explained by Social Exchange Theory
 Social Exchange Theory--“economic” model:
outcomes, comparison level and comparison
level of alternatives
 People motivated to be in relationships that provide
them with high levels of rewards and low levels of
costs.
Rewards
 positive consequences of being in a
relationship
• Emotional: positive affect when with
partner (love, warmth, etc.)
• Social: activities, events, other people
• Instrumental: partner helps accomplish
tasks
• Opportunity: relationship allows you to do
something you couldn’t do otherwise
Costs
 negative consequences of being in a
relationship
• Emotional: negative affect with partner
• Social: having to do socially undesired
activities/interact with partner’s friends
• Instrumental: partner prevents tasks
from being accomplished or creates more
work
• Opportunity: life experiences given up for
the sake of the relationship
Outcomes
 The outcome refers to the overall level of
“profit” or “deficit” in relationships
 rewards – costs = outcome
 Relationships are generally rewarding when
outcomes are positive, and generally costly
when outcomes are negative
Comparison Level
 Comparison level (CL) : “standard” by which
people evaluate their relationships
 how rewarding or costly you expect your
relationship to be
 based on prior experience, family model,
friends, media, etc.
 Outcome - CL= Satisfaction
• When outcome meets or exceeds the CL,
people are satisfied.
• When the outcome falls under the CL, people
are dissatisfied.
Comparison Level for Alternatives
 Comparison Level for Alternatives (CLAlt)
 perceptions that an alternative to the
relationship exists (another partner, being
single, etc.)
 Poor alternatives are related to more
commitment
 Good alternatives are related to less
commitment
Combined Effect of CL and CLAlt
CL Alt
The
Relationship:
Meets or
Exceeds CL
Fails to Meet CL
Poor
Satisfied and
Committed
Dissatisfied but
Committed
Good
Satisfied but
Uncommitted
Dissatisfied and
Uncommitted
Original Investment Model
Rewards
Costs
CL
Satisfaction
Investment
CLAlt
Commitment
Stability
Current Investment Model
Rewards
Costs
CL
Satisfaction
Investments
CL-Alt
Commit.
Benign
Attribs. &
Emots.
Accomm.
Stabl.
Behavior
Decision to remain
Accommodate partner
Not retaliate
Derogation of
alternatives
Willingness to sacrifice
Perc. rel. superiority
Metts add: Equity Theory
 Equity theory compares the ratio of
contributions (costs) versus benefits (rewards)
for each relational partner
 This ratio does not have to be equal for equity to
exist; rather it has to be equivalent.
Ex: Christy has a cost/reward ratio of 5/10
Steve has a cost/reward ratio of 3/6.
In an equitable relationship, both partners are
getting a “fair deal” based on their benefits vs.
contributions.
The Concept of Inequity
 When one partner is getting a “worse deal” in
comparison to the other partner, there is inequity.
 A person can feel under-benefited or over-
benefited.
 A person can have more rewards than costs and
still be under-benefited by comparison.
 Example:
Ted has a r/c ratio of 12/8 while his partner, Emily,
has a r/c ratio of 12/3.
SPT: Development and Tests of Theory
 Support for many predictions of SPT
 Esp. role of self-disclosure
 But difficult to test full range of theory over
development of “real-life” relationships
 SPT has also been criticized for being an overly
rational and economic model of rel.
development (where is emotion? Planalp)
 Metts add: Is it really the sum of costs and
rewards or the salient/magnitude?
SPT, cont.
 Paradoxically, it has also been critiqued for
the ideology of total openness as an ideal
 Knapp’s stage model is contemporary (1978)
but more communication focused (includes
social network, ritualized bonding, and
coming apart stages—next slide)
 More recent approaches are dialectical
theory (covered in ch. 11) and turning points
Turning Points analysis
Turning Points
Meeting Parents

C


O
M
M

I

T
M
E
N
T





First Sex
Reunion
First Fight
Time
Time apart
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
 Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT):
Berger & Calabrese (1975)
 URT originally designed to explain processes
of initial interaction
 URT considers ways in which interactants
attempt to reduce cognitive uncertainty
when we first interact with someone
 predictive and explanatory uncertainty
 cognitive and behavioral uncertainty
Form of URT
 URT is an axiomatic theory
 URT begins with 7 basic axioms (e.g., High
levels of uncertainty cause increases in information
seeking. As uncertainty levels decline, information seeking
decreases, p. 177, Table 10.1).
 Axioms are not unquestioned truths, but are
the untestable building blocks of the theory
 URT then logically combines these axioms
to derive 21 testable theorems
UNC
UNC
1. VC
2. NVA
3. InfoSeeking
4.
Intimacy
5. Recip
6. Simil
7. Liking
VC
NVA
InfoSkg
Recip
Intim
Simil
Liking
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Uncertainty Reduction Theory:
Developments
 URT has been extended to consider strategies for
reducing uncertainty.
 active (asking others, manipulating environ.),
 passive (observing)
 interactive (self-disclosure & questions)
 URT has been extended to consider motivations
for reducing uncertainty. These include incentives,
deviation, and possibility of future interaction
Uncertainty Reduction Theory:
Tests and Critiques
 URT has received some evidence for both basic
predictions and extensions regarding information
search and motivations
 URT has been critiqued in terms of the
motivational force that drives information seeking.
 Critics contend that anticipating future interaction
(anticipating positive and negative relational
outcomes) is more important than uncertainty
reduction (Sunnafrank—Predicted Outcome
Value)
Uncertainty Reduction Theory:
Expansions
 URT has been expanded to consider relationships beyond
initial interaction
 Events that increase uncertainty in established rels.
 Levels of uncertainty—self, partner, relationship
 URT has been expanded to uncertainty in intercultural
relationships—Gudykunst’s Anxiety Uncertainty
Management theory (includes social and cultural identity;
anxiety as emotion + uncertainty as cognitive, and intercultural
adaptation as outcome)
 The uncertainty concept has also been applied to research
in organizational socialization and social support

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