Expectancy Violations Theory - University of Texas at Tyler

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Expectancy Violations Theory
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Theory Originator: Judee Burgoon
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Academic Area & Rank: Communication,
Professor
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Institutional Affiliation: The University of Arizona
Expectancy Violations Theory
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D-Epistemology: Social Scientific/Objectivist
Questions/Problems: What happens when
someone performs a nonverbal behavior that
surprises you? How are perceptions of surprising
and/or ambiguous nonverbal behavior related to
interpersonal attraction, credibility, influence, and
involvement?
 D-Method: Experimental, Survey
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Data: Nonverbal human behaviors (e.g., physical
touch, physical space, eye gaze, facial gestures, body
posture and lean)
Expectancy Violations Theory
Key Terms and Concepts
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Proxemics: The study of people’s use of
(interpersonal) space (an indicator or cultural norms)
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Proxemic Zones (4)
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Intimate Distance: 0-18 inches
Personal Distance: 18 inches to 4 feet
Social Distance: 4 to 10 feet
Public Distance: 10 feet +
Expectancy Violations Theory
Key Terms and Concepts

Expectancy: an expectation/prediction of nonverbal
behavior
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Violation Valence: process of assigning meaning,
positive or negative, to the nonverbal behavior
violation
 Communication Reward Valence: outcome of the
nonverbal violation. The sum of all positive and
negative attributes (see conditions) that the violator
brings to the table + the potential that the violator has
to reward or punish us in the future
Expectancy Violations Theory
Theoretical Propositions:
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Nonverbal behavior is symbolic behavior whose
meanings are culturally-situated.
People have expectations of and make unconscious
predictions about the nonverbal behavior that will occur
in a given interpersonal situation. (expectancy)
When nonverbal expectations are violated, people
search for and assign positive and/or negative
meaning(s) to those violations. (violation valence)
When the meaning of a nonverbal violation is unclear,
individuals will likely assign meaning that favors the
violator’s influence in our lives (reward valence)
Expectancy Violations Theory
Practical Utility
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Increases non-verbal behavior awareness
Gives practical advice on when it might be
advantageous and disadvantageous to be
nonconformist wrt to nonverbal behavior
– If you violate nonverbal expectations and/or use
nonverbal behaviors that are ambiguous, be sure
the receiver likes you and/or that s/he believes you
have something of value to offer them
– Otherwise CONFORM.
Theory Evaluation
Strengths
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describes & explains
simple, even elegant
testable/falsifiable
useful (practically, academically)
historically-grounded and interesting
Weaknesses
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fails to predict reliably
conclusions seem mundane

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