Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Communication is fundamental to most social behavior. Although the forms of communication are varied, it has been truthfully said that we can't not communicate. Early models of the communication process described a one way flow from a transmitter to receiver. More recent models stress that communication is a shared social system, with both partners bringing a set of expectations and understanding to the interaction. Both verbal and non verbal communications are part of this shared system.

We communicate through may channels, including language and para language, gaze, facial expression, body movements, and gestures, touch, and interpersonal distance. The study of our use of language, the most obvious form of communication, reveals how important intention and interpretation can be. The nonverbal behaviors, including gaze, serve a variety of purposes. Five specific functions are (1) to provide information, (2) to regulate interaction, (3) to express intimacy, (4) to exercise social control, and (5) to facilitate the accomplishment of tasks.

Facial expression convey a variety of emotions, and these basic emotional expressions can be identified by people in very different cultures. Cultures may differ, however, in the display rules that govern the circumstances in which an emotion will be expressed. Interpersonal distance is a more abstract form of communication, but it, too, is important means of conveying information. Four major zones (intimate, personal, social, and public) define the distance between people which accompany different type of interchange.

All of these verbal and nonverbal channels combine in the process of communication to convey meaning. Three major dimensions of communication have been identified (liking, status, and responsiveness), each of which is associated with a distinctive set of nonverbal cues. Two models have been proposed to explain how nonverbal cues are combined to convey liking. The equilibrium model proposes that participants in an interaction seek to archive a balance between pressures toward approach and avoidance, and compensate for an excess of pressure in one direction by sending nonverbal messages designed to restore balance. The arousal model suggests that the way a change in arousal level is interpreted depends on the way the situation is defined. Sometimes compensation will be the rule, and at other times reciprocity is more likely.

Conversations have a regular structure, and the elements of that structure—an opening, a body, and a close—are typically regulated by a set of rules of conventions. Conversations between partners in a close relationship tend to follow somewhat distinctive rules. Self-disclosure, for example, is both more common in such conversation and less subject to rules of strict reciprocity.

Deceptive communication is accompanied by specific patterns of verbal and non verbal behaviors. Although deceit may be leaked, however, observers are often unable distinguish the truth teller from the liar.

Self and social knowledge combine the communication process. Often a person's beliefs about another can influence that other person behavior, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Five step comprise the expectancy confirmation sequence in which belief of the perceiver are conveyed to a target, who interprets the message an then acts in accordance with that interpretation. The target's response may thus tend to confirm the perceiver's beliefs. In other circumstances the target will dis confirm expectations in order to communicate some other message back to the perceiver.

Deaux, Kay. 1984. Social Psychology. Cole Publishing Company

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