Engaging Theories in Interpersonal Communication: Multiple Perspectives

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Edited by: Leslie A. Baxter & Dawn O. Braithwaite

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    Preface

    This project began as we reflected on the current state and scope of interpersonal communication theory and scholarship. We observed that there are some fine books available about interpersonal communication, and that most are committed to examining communication at the different stages of relationships or are focused on the different interpersonal communication processes in play. In most books, theories play a supporting role and most often receive brief coverage. We wanted to produce a book where interpersonal communication theories take center stage.

    A second motivation for this book came from a sense that the time was right to reflect on the maturity of the study of interpersonal communication theories. Tracing its roots in the college classroom back to about 1970, we saw this anniversary of approximately 35 years as a good time to take stock and to contribute to new generations of students and scholars. We have often heard communication scholars complain that we borrow theories from other disciplines more than create our own, and thus we wanted to examine the state of interpersonal communication theory, those that are homegrown (that is, constructed by scholars whose primary professional affiliation is Communication Studies) as well as those from other disciplines. While many disciplines say that they study communication, our goal was to focus on the unique contributions of Communication Studies scholars and theorists to understand what is foundational in our close relationships.

    Third, both of us have felt frustrated at times when we read research that lacks a theoretical foundation or contribution. We are fans of theory-based research whenever it is feasible. We believe that we can best understand the breadth and strength of the study of interpersonal communication by focusing on the group of theories used most by researchers in recent years.

    Last, our impetus for the present book sprang from our own sense and experience that, taken as a whole, interpersonal communication scholarship was not as inclusive or broad as it could or should be. We found it disheartening over the years to see that some scholars who began their careers in interpersonal communication had found homes elsewhere in our national associations, and that they have not perceived interpersonal communication to be open to different ways of studying and understanding. While we shared this perception ourselves, we had not done the work to track what theories were being used most in interpersonal communication and what meta-theoretical discourses or paradigmatic perspectives were perhaps over- or under-represented. As a result, we embarked on a study to examine the state of interpersonal communication research today in order to prepare for this book project.

    Chapter 1 presents our interpretation of the landscape of interpersonal communication. We are grateful to Dr. Jill Tyler at the University of South Dakota who completed the study of interpersonal communication scholarship while she was a doctoral student at the University of Iowa. We entrusted to her the important task of compiling all of the empirical studies in interpersonal communication from 1990–2005. This was both a challenge and an education. Her careful, thoughtful work helped lay the groundwork for us to understand the state of interpersonal communication theory, and to choose what theories should be represented in this book. You will find theories that you would expect to see in the book because they have been used widely by interpersonal communication scholars, you will find some of the newer up-and-coming theories, and you will find some theories that you may have not seen explicitly connected to interpersonal communication in the past.

    In our first chapter we trace the development of interpersonal communication theory from its beginnings, and we organize theory and research within the larger discussion of meta-theory, or paradigms. We asked the different authors to talk about the roots and paradigmatic homes of their individual theories in each of their chapters. While this task appears simple at first glance, it actually turned out to be quite knotty at times, because there were times when authors had different perspectives on meta-theory, even concerning what to call the different categories. To complicate matters, as we expected, some of the theories do not fit neatly into one category.

    Following our first chapter are 28 theory chapters written by outstanding scholars. To help the reader make sense of the big picture, we begin each of the three main parts of the book with a description of what binds the theories in that section together and the meta-theoretical discourses represented by the theories in the particular section. Each chapter then presents the purpose and meta-theoretical or paradigmatic assumptions, main features of the theory, conceptualization of communication in the theory, uses of the theory, strengths and limitations of the theory, and directions for future research and applications.

    This book would not exist without the expertise and dedication of this group of authors, many of whom created the theories about which they wrote. All of them have been active as theorists and researchers, challenging and refining the theories as they use them to enlighten us about interpersonal communication.

    The authors have been more than cooperative and responsive during this project, benefiting all of us with their excellent work. We also appreciate the important contributions of Todd Armstrong, Senior Acquisitions Editor of Communication, Media, and Cultural Studies at Sage Publications, along with Katie Grim, his Editorial Assistant at Sage. We thank, as well, the several reviewers of this book in its draft stage: their detailed comments were very helpful to the contributing authors and to us during the revision stage of the project: Katherine L. Adams (California State University, Fresno), Karla Mason Bergen (College of Saint Mary), Marianne Dainton (La Salle University), Réne Dailey (University of Texas, Austin), Kathleen M. Galvin (Northwestern University), Daena J. Goldsmith (Lewis & Clark College), Maureen P. Keeley (Texas State University, San Marcos), Clark D. Olson (Arizona State University), Sally Planalp (University of Utah), Paul Schrodt (Texas Christian University), April R. Trees (Saint Louis University), Anita L. Vangelisti (University of Texas, Austin), and Stephen Yoshimura (University of Montana).

    Finally, this book project also reflects our own interpersonal communication at every level. Our work as research partners, coeditors, and close friends has resulted in a project we are both proud of. Leslie thanks Dawn for her friendship—both personal and professional—over the years. She dedicates this book to her daughter, Emma, who, once again, heard from her mom the refrain, “Not right now. Give me just a little longer while I finish this task on the book.” Dawn is grateful to Leslie for many years of friendship, good work, and family celebrations. She dedicates this book to Betsy, Leslie, Sandra, Steve, Clark, and Laura for being friends, to Chris for being Mom, and to Chuck for being the love of her life.

    Dawn O.Braithwaite & Leslie A.Baxter
  • About the Editors

    Leslie A. Baxter (PhD, University of Oregon) is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research interests are centered in communication and relating in personal and familial relationships. She has published more than 100 articles and chapters, and has written or coedited six books. She has been the recipient of numerous scholarly awards, including the National Communication Association's Bernard J. Brommel Family Communication Award, the Woolbert Award for outstanding scholarship, and the Knower and Miller Awards in interpersonal communication. She is a Past President of the Western States Communication Association.

    Dawn O. Braithwaite (PhD, University of Minnesota) is a Willa Cather Professor of Communication Studies at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She focuses her scholarship on understanding communication in personal and family relationships, via relational dialectics, rituals, and social support. She has published 70 articles and book chapters and four books. She received the National Communication Association's Bernard J. Brommel Family Communication Award. She is a Past President of the Western States Communication Association. She has been the Research Board Director of the National Communication Association and will be the association's President in 2010.

    About the Contributors

    Walid A. Afifi (PhD, University of Arizona) is an Associate Professor in the Communication Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His primary research program revolves around development and testing of the Theory of Motivated Information Management, a framework that examines uncertainty processes and information-seeking decisions. He and his chapter coauthor are currently involved in an extension of that work involving crisis management. He is an author of more than 35 articles and chapters, and has served on the editorial board of several flagship journals.

    Charles R. Berger (PhD, Michigan State University) is a Professor and the Chair in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Davis. His research interests include the role that goals and knowledge structures play in the production and processing of verbal discourse and nonverbal behavior, and the ways in which threat-oriented messages are processed by rational and experiential information processing modalities. He is a Fellow and Past President of the International Communication Association.

    David B. Buller (PhD, Michigan State University) is a Senior Scientist at Klein Buendel, Inc., a health communication firm in Golden, Colorado. His research encompasses the strategic processes in deceptive communication and the effectiveness of traditional and new communication technologies in preventing chronic disease. His research on deception has been supported by grants from the U.S. Army Research Institute and Research Office. He has published three books and more than 100 articles and chapters.

    Judee K. Burgoon (EdD, West Virginia University) is a Professor of Communication and Site Director for the Center for Identification Technology Research, University of Arizona. Her deception-related research has centered on cues to deception in face-to-face and mediated contexts, training in deception detection, and development of tools for automated detection. This research has been supported by the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. She has published seven books and more than 250 articles and chapters.

    Brant R. Burleson (PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) is a Professor of Communication at Purdue University. His research examines communication skill acquisition and development, emotion in communication, effects of communication skills, and supportive forms of communication such as comforting. Author of more than 100 articles and chapters, he edited Communication Yearbook and recently coedited The Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills. His research has been recognized by awards from several regional, national, and international scholarly societies.

    William R. Cupach (PhD, University of Southern California) is a Professor of Communication at Illinois State University. His research pertains to problematic interactions in interpersonal relationships, including such contexts as embarrassing predicaments, relational transgressions, interpersonal conflict, and obsessive relational pursuit. He previously served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and is a Past President of the International Association for Relationship Research.

    James Price Dillard (PhD, Michigan State University) is a Professor and Head of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. His teaching and research focus on the communication processes by which individuals attempt to change the opinions and behaviors of others. Dillard has received the John E. Hunter Award for Meta-Analysis and the National Communication Association Golden Anniversary Award for article of the year. He coedited The Persuasion Handbook and served as editor of Human Communication Research.

    Wesley T. Durham (PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. His research agenda focuses on how individuals disclose health-related topics and issues to other family members. His primary research interests include disclosure and privacy processes in the contexts of family planning and crystal methamphetamine addiction.

    Kory Floyd (PhD, University of Arizona) is an Associate Professor of Human Communication and Director of the Communication Sciences laboratory at Arizona State University. His research focuses on the communication of affection in families and in other personal relationships, and on the physiological correlates of relational communication. He has received a number of awards for his research, including the G. R. Miller Early Career Achievement Award from the International Association for Relationship Research. He is currently Chair of the Family Communication Division of the National Communication Association, and is currently editor of Journal of Family Communication.

    Howard Giles (PhD, DSc) is an Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Director of the Center on Police Practices and Community, and Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research has won numerous awards, and has explored facets of applied interpersonal and intergroup communication research and theory. On editorial boards of dozens of journals across disciplines, he has been Founding Editor of two of his own, and is Past President of the International Communication Association.

    Daena J. Goldsmith (PhD, University of Washington) is an Associate Professor of Communication at Lewis and Clark College. She studies social support in personal relationships, with a particular focus on how relational partners cope with chronic illness. Other interests include the influence of gender and culture on communication patterns. She is the author of Communicating Social Support, and numerous articles and chapters.

    John O. Greene (PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison) is a Professor of Communication at Purdue University. His interests include communication theory, interpersonal communication, nonverbal communication, and aging and communication. He is a recipient of the National Communication Association's Woolbert Award, and is a past Editor of Human Communication Research.

    Laura K. Guerrero (PhD, University of Arizona) is a Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on relational communication, with emphases in attachment, emotion, and nonverbal messages. She has published more than 70 articles and chapters, as well as several books, including Nonverbal Communication in Close Relationships and Close Encounters: Communicating in Relationships. She received the Early Career Achievement Award from the International Association for Relationship Research.

    Mary Lynn Miller Henningsen (PhD, University of Wisconsin) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University. She has published articles and book chapters on dating relationship initiation, flirting and sexual harassment, group influence, and group decision making. She cochaired the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2004 National Communication Association convention in Chicago, and is the current book review editor for the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

    Colin Hesse (MA, Arizona State University) is a doctoral student in human communication at Arizona State University, where he also works in the communication sciences laboratory. His research focuses on the communication of affection and its associations with physical and mental health. He is currently coauthoring a book on biology and communication, and is serving as editorial assistant for Journal of Family Communication.

    James M. Honeycutt (PhD, University of Illinois) is a Professor of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He studies communication and physiology in personal and family relationships, conflict resolution, and cognitive processes, including mental imagery and imagined interaction in a variety of contexts. He has published three books and more than 60 articles and chapters.

    Jeff Judd (BA, Arizona State University) is a masters student in human communication at Arizona State University, where he also works in the communication sciences laboratory. His research focuses on the physiology of interpersonal communication. He has coauthored several journal articles and book chapters, and has served as editorial assistant for Journal of Family Communication.

    Jody Koenig Kellas (PhD, University of Washington) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She specializes in relational and family communication, including research on the processes, identity negotiation, and relational qualities associated with individual and joint storytelling in families, postdissolutional communication, face-work, and attributions. Her research has been published in Communication Monographs, Human Communication Research Journal of Family Communication, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and in several book chapters.

    Leanne K. Knobloch (PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois. Her research addresses how communication shapes and reflects people's understandings of close relationships, particularly with respect to relationship development, relational uncertainty, and interdependence.

    Jenny Mandelbaum (PhD, University of Texas, Austin) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University. She has published more than 20 journal articles and book chapters, and a book. Her research has focused on the organization of everyday interaction, with particular emphasis on storytelling and other communication practices through which relationships and identities are constructed and managed.

    Valerie Manusov (PhD, University of Southern California) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Washington. Her primary focus is on nonverbal communication, with a particular interest in the attributions of meaning made for nonverbal cues. In 2001, she coedited, with John Harvey, a book focusing on attributions in close relationships, and she has written more than a dozen articles and chapters focusing on attributions in communication.

    Masaki Matsunaga (MA, Seinan Gakuin University) is a Fulbright scholar and a doctoral candidate of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. His master's thesis investigated Japanese college students’ face-work strategy use in romantic and sexual relationship initiation. He studies interpersonal and intercultural communication, as well as measurement and methodology issues in human communication research. He also works with Dr. Walid Afifi in his research on ambient uncertainty and crisis communication.

    Steven McCornack (PhD, University of Illinois) is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Program in the Department of Communication at Michigan State University. His scholarly interests include deception and deceptive message production, and betrayal in romantic relationships. He has published more than 20 articles in various scientific journals, and has received a number of honors for excellence in undergraduate teaching, including a Lilly Endowment Teaching Fellowship, the Amoco Foundation Excellence-in-Teaching Award, and the MSU Teacher/Scholar Award.

    Rachel M. McLaren (MA, Pennsylvania State University) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Her research seeks to clarify the interplay of communication, cognition, and emotion in responses to significant experiences, such as hurtful interactions, within personal relationships.

    Sandra Metts (PhD, University of Iowa) is a Professor in the School of Communication at Illinois State University. Her research interests include relationship disengagement, deception, sexual communication, emotional expression, face-work, and politeness. She is the former President of the Central States Communication Association has served as Editor of Communication Reports, and Associate Editor of Personal Relationships and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

    Paul A. Mongeau (PhD, Michigan State University) is a Professor at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where he serves as Director of the Interdiscplinary PhD Program in Communication. His primary areas of scholarly interest focus on the earliest stages of dating relationships, including how relationships make the transition from platonic to romantic. He is currently editor of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

    Sandra Petronio (PhD, University of Michigan) is a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Indiana University—Purdue University, Indianapolis; Core Faculty in the Indiana University Center for Bioethics; and Adjunct Faculty in the Indiana Univeristy School of Nursing and the School of Informatics. She focuses on management of private disclosures. Her book, Boundaries of Privacy, won the International Association for Relationship Research Book Award and National Communication Association's Miller Book Award. She received the 2002 National Communication Associations Bernard J. Brommel Family Communication Award.

    Gerry Philipsen (PhD, Northwestern University) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Washington. He studies culturally distinctive ways of communicating, communication in small task-oriented groups, and the modern history of the communication discipline. He is a recipient of numerous awards for distinction in teaching and for distinction in research. He has served as Department Chair and as Chair of the University of Washington faculty.

    Jessica J. Rack (MA, University of Cincinnati) is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at Purdue University. Her research interests include communication regarding grief, social support, child maltreatment, communication apprehension, racism in language, and marital communication. She has coauthored two book chapters and has presented several authored and coauthored papers at regional and national conferences.

    L. Edna Rogers (PhD, Michigan State University) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Utah and a Past President of the International Communication Association. Her research interests include interpersonal and relational communication, with a central focus on the interactional study of marital and family relationships.

    Denise Haunani Solomon (PhD, Northwestern University) is a Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. She studies the role of communication in relationship transitions, such as forming social relationships with coworkers, establishing a committed dating relationship, and coping with breast cancer. Her work appears in journals devoted to both communication and personal relationships research. She serves on the editorial boards of five journals, and she is an Associate Editor of Personal Relationships.

    Brian H. Spitzberg (PhD, University of Southern California) is a Professor of Communication at San Diego State University. His primary focus is on interpersonal communication competence and on the dark side of interpersonal communication, including the study of conflict, stalking, and intimate violence. In 2004, he coauthored with William Cupach a book on the dark side of relationship pursuit, and coedited, with Professor Cupach, a new book collection of scholarly essays on the dark side of interpersonal communication.

    Laura Stafford (PhD, University of Texas, Austin) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky. Primary areas of research are relationship maintenance and long-distance relationships. She has published numerous research articles and chapters and two books. She has served as chair of the Interpersonal Communication Division of the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and is Editor-Elect of Journal of Applied Communication Research.

    Karen Tracy (PhD, University of Wisconsin) is a Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is a discourse analyst who studies communicatively interesting and problematic institutional practices. She is the author and editor of five books and more than 50 articles and chapters, and is a past Editor of the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction.

    Joseph Walther (PhD, University of Arizona) is a Professor in the Departments of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media, and Communication at Michigan State University. He studies interpersonal communication via computers, in personal relationships, work groups, and education. He has held appointments in psychology, information science, and education in the United States and in England. He was chair of the Organizational Communication and Information Systems division of the Academy of Management, and the Communication and Technology division of the International Communication Association.

    Cindy H. White (PhD, University of Arizona) is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She conducts research on interpersonal communication that explores how patterns of interaction form the foundation for personal relationships. She has published work on deception, relational loss, social support, and health communication. Her current research considers how communicators understand conceptual models or principles of communication, and how they learn to enact communication practices in training situations, such as parenting education and conflict mediation programs. She is coeditor of Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Spaces.

    Julia T. Wood (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is the Lineberger Professor of Humanities and professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She teaches and conducts research on personal relationships, intimate partner violence, feminist theory, and intersections of gender, communication, and culture. She also consults with attorneys on cases of sex and gender discrimination. During her career, she has published 23 books and has published more than 80 articles and chapters in books. She has received 13 awards for her research and 12 awards for her teaching.


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