Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Communication Theories

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A. Muted Group Theory

Cheris Kramarae is one of many feminists who tried to unmask the female silence. She began her research of how women are portrayed and positioned in society at the University of Illinois in 174. Kramarae first studied women’s portrayals in cartoons. She found out that men made all of the forceful statements and women were depicted as being emotional and wishy-washy. After this research, Kramarae developed the Muted Group Theory to help explain and alter the muted status of women.

It was Edwin Ardener, a social anthropologist from Oxford University, who first came up with the idea of women as a muted group. He emphasized that because of women’s lack of power, many are mute.

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Muted Group Theory is a critical theory because it is concerned with power and how it is used against people. While critical theories can separate the powerful and the powerless any number of ways, this theory chooses to bifurcate the power spectrum into men and women.

Muted Group Theory begins with the premise that language is culture bound, and because men have more power than women, men have more influence over the language, resulting in language with a male-bias. Men create the words and meaning for the culture, allowing expression of their ideas. Women, on the other hand, are left out of this meaning creation and left without a means to express that which is unique to them. That leaves women as a muted group. The theory rests on three assumptions. First it says that men and women perceive the world differently because they have different perception-shaping experiences. Second, it states that men enact their power politically, perpetuating their power and suppressing womens ideas and meanings from gaining public acceptance. Third, it asserts that women must convert their unique ideas, experiences, and meanings into male language in order to be heard.

Such premise and assumptions lead to a number of hypotheses about womens communication. According to the theory women have a more difficult time expressing themselves than do men; they understand what men mean more easily than men understand what they mean; they communicate with each other using media not accepted by the dominant male communicators; they are less satisfied with communication than are men; and, they are not likely to create new words, but sometimes do so to create meanings special and unique to women. Thus, women use diaries, journals, letters, folklore, gossip, art, poems, songs and other means to express themselves.

B. Constructivism Theory

Jesse Delia is a scholar from the University of Illinois who has played a leading role in developing the theory of constructivism.

Constructivism is a scientific theory that attempts to explain why some people are more successful in attaining their interpersonal communication goals than others. According to the theory, people who are cognitively complex in their perceptions of others have a greater capacity for sophisticated communication that will achieve positive outcomes. This is because people who are cognitively complex can employ a rhetorical message design logic which involves the creation of person-centered messages.

Constructivism makes three assumptions regarding communication. It says that all communication is intentional; it is goal-driven; and, negotiation comes into play with shared interpretation (meaning).

Thus, constructivism focuses on individuals rather than interactions. It tries to account for why people make the certain communicative choices. Constructs are the basis of constructivism. They are dimensions of judgment and can be thought of as filters, files, templates, or interpretive schemas.

C. Social Judgment Theory

Mr. Muzafer Sherif, a psychologist at the University of Oklahoma, is responsible for the development of the Social Judgment Theory. He postulated three latitudes of attitudes which are the latitudes of acceptance, rejection and non-commitment. The latitude of acceptance consists of the information a person finds pleasing and acceptable; the latitude of reflection comprised of information that is objectionable; and, the latitude of non-commitment includes information which is neither acceptable nor objectionable.

In summary, social judgment theory states that every person has a statement or message either accepted or rejected based on his/her cognitive map. He/she accepts or rejects a message based on his/her ego-involvement and if it falls within his/her latitude of acceptance. Its five principles include the following

Principle 1 We have categories of judgment by which we evaluate persuasive positions.

Principle When we receive persuasive information, we locate it on our categories of judgment.

Principle Our level of ego-involvement affects the size of our latitudes.

Principle 4 We tend to distort incoming information to fit our categories of judgment.

Principle 5 Small to moderate discrepancies between our anchor positions and the one advocated will cause us to change; large discrepancies will not.

D. Groupthink Theory

Irving Janis is a psychologist who coined the term Groupthink in 17. Janis contends that Groupthink - defined as a mode of thinking which arises when concurrence-seeking behavior in a cohesive group becomes so dominant that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative approaches - is a major explanation for fiascoes in decisions making processes involving major policy and business decisions.

Janis, in his research, found out that groupthink was a viable explanation for the bad decisions taken in the two cases studied (Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Vietnam War Escalation). According to his analysis the groupthink behavior has the following symptoms Firstly, there exists in the group a shared illusion of invulnerability that leads to over-optimism and willingness to take extraordinary risks. Secondly, a collective rationalization process is developed in order to discount warnings and negative feed-back. Thirdly, there is an unquestionable belief in the morality of the group. Fourthly, stereotypes of enemy groups and leaders are created and sustained, even in the light of insufficient information. Fifthly, direct pressure is applied against any expression of dissident views. Sixthly, there is a tendency to conform to group consensus. Seventhly, there is an illusion of unanimity concerning all the judgments made by the group. Lastly, members of the group appoint themselves as mind guards of group consensus and morality

The consequences of group behavior exhibiting all or some of these symptoms are poor decisions which lead to negative outcomes. These poor decisions arise from weak decision making processes caused by groupthink behavior. This type of behavior according to Janis can be avoided by using group members as critical evaluators, having parallel policy analysis teams, using outside experts, evaluating former decisions and having a leader with an impartial stance in terms of desired outcomes. Other examples of groupthink disaster as mentioned by Janis are the Roosevelts complacency before Pearl Harbor, Trumans invasion of North Korea, Watergate, Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima and Regans Iran-Contra arms deals.

E. Face Theory

Erving Goffman, a sociologist, developed the face theory. According to him, face is a favorable social impression that an individual wants others to have of him/her. The three important characteristics of the face are

1. Face is social, meaning it is only created in relational contexts

. Face is a positive impression of an individual as held by others

. Face refers to the favorable social attributes that an individual wants others to have of him or her

Meanwhile, Goffman also stated the face-needs such as the need for control or the people’s need for others to acknowledge their individual autonomy and self-sufficiency; need for approval or the need for others to acknowledge one’s friendliness and honesty; and, the need for admiration or the people’s need for other to acknowledge their talents and accomplishments.

F. Cultivation Theory

George Gerbner is the dean emeritus of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He also leads the Cultural Indicators Project, which for the past couple of decades has been the most comprehensive study of television’s impact on viewers.

The cultivation theory got its start with the cultivation hypothesis, created by Gerbner, which states attempts to understand how heavy exposure to cultural imagery will shape a viewers concept of reality. Stemming directly from his work on the Cultural Indicators Research Project, Gerbner used the cultural analysis research strategy to cumulate his theory on television cultivation.

Essentially, the theory states that heavy exposure to mass media, namely television, creates and cultivates attitudes more consistent with a media conjured version of reality than with what actual reality is. The cultivation theory asserts that heavy viewers attitudes are cultivated primarily by what they watch on television. Gerbner views this television world as not a window on or reflection of the world, but a world in itself. This created version of the world entices heavy viewers to make assumptions about violence, people, places, and other fictionalized events which do not hold true to real life events.

Sill, according to the cultivation theory, the television creates a shared view of the world (because of its dominance); homogenizes different cultures; portrays the world/society as a bad place in which to live (if it bleeds it leads); have small effects, gradual, indirect but can accumulate over a long time and because of the television, people become distrustful of the world/society.

G. Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic Interactionism developed as a sociological theory from the work of American philosophies, especially George Herbert Mead (186-11). Mead’s major contribution was the concept of ‘self’ as essential to the process of becoming a human being. Social interaction takes place through symbols, including language. Symbols are created by humans to refer to the ways in which objects and events are perceived rather than to their intrinsic nature. Mead’s student, Blumer systematically developed the theory and named it in 17.

Symbolic Interactionism, as thought of by Herbert Blumer, is the process of interaction in the formation of meanings for individuals. Blumer came up with three core principles to his theory. They are meaning, language, and thought. These core principles lead to conclusions about the creation of a persons self and socialization into a larger community. Meaning states that humans act toward people and things based upon the meanings that they have given to those people or things. Meanwhile, Language gives humans a means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. It is by engaging in speech acts with others, symbolic interaction, that humans come to identify meaning, or naming, and develop discourse. Lastly, Thought modifies each individuals interpretation of symbols. Thought, based-on language, is a mental conversation or dialogue that requires role taking, or imagining different points of view.

On the whole, Symbolic Interactionism is based on three assumptions first, communication occurs through the creation of shared significant symbols; second, the self is constructed through communication; and, third is a social activity becomes possible through the role-taking process.

H. Coordinated Management of Meaning

Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen are communication scholars from the Fielding Institute and the University of Massachusetts, respectively, who co-created the theory of coordinated management of meaning. Pierce and Cronen asserted that the quality of our personal lives and of our social worlds is directly related to the quality of communication in which we engage. Their theory, Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM), is based on the assertion that persons-in-conversation co-construct their own social realities and are simultaneously shaped by the worlds they create. They presented CMM as a practical theory designed to improve life. Instead of seeking truth claims, they value multiple stories of local knowledge and consequences.

The theory believes on the following premises (1) the social world is not found or discovered, but created; () the experience of persons-in-conversation is the primary social process of human life; () the way people communicate is often more important than the content of what they say; (4) the actions of persons-in-conversation are reflexively reproduced as the dialogue continues; (5) CMM see people as curious participants in a pluralistic world

The Coordinated Management of Meaning theorizes communication as a process that allows us to create and manage social reality. As such, this theory describes how we as communicators make sense of our world, or create meaning. Meaning can be understood to exist in a hierarchy, depending on the sources of that meaning. Along this hierarchy there are stories told, stories lived and stories that are unexpressed in each person’s life. Stories told (Coherence by Pearce) involve relationship, self-concept, and the culture in which shape what we say and others have said. Coordination on the other hand is the result of the meshing of stories we lived. It is the process by which people come together in conversation to exhibit what they feel is necessary, noble, and good and to stay away of things they fear, hate, or despise. Finally, mystery is the final component of the three and deals with a sense of wonder for stories not yet heard.

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