Human Communication Theories

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Jenny Bee
Comm. 300/Bowman

In this paper, I will briefly describe, and compare and contrast two theories discussed in the book, A First Look at the Communication Theory by Em Griffin: Uncertainty Reduction Theory and the Expectancy Violations Theory. Furthermore, I will also include real-life situations that apply to these theories.

Expectancy Violations Theory has its roots in Uncertainty Reduction research, therefore, there will be some similarities between these two theories. But before I compare the similarities, I will discuss the obvious differences. Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) is a theory developed by Charles Berger that is used to explain relational development between strangers and “how human communication is used to gain knowledge and create understanding” (Griffin, 130). In the beginning of every relationship there is a high level of uncertainty about the other person. The goal then is to reduce the uncertainty and to increase predictability by going through various levels of communication. According to Berger, there are three stages in every interaction, the entry stage, the personal stage, and the exit stage. The beginnings of an interaction between two strangers will typically follow a question and answer format in which the questions are often demographic and transactional. Such questions could include hometown, date of birth, or occupation. This is phase is what Berger calls the entry phase. When both people are satisfied with the first stage then they will move on from there. The Uncertainty Reduction Theory suggests strangers have a natural desire to gain information about others in order to reduce their own uncertainty and decrease levels of anxiety. This reduction of uncertainty is important to relational development because successful reduction of uncertainty provides for positive future interactions. In a study done by William Douglas in his journal article, “Uncertainty, information-seeking, and liking during initial interaction” (1990), he claims that in an initial interaction between two strangers, it is not uncommon for either parties to “self-disclose,” in order to acquire more information about each other, since disclosure of even mundane information can draw out similar disclosures from the other party. URT also describes two types of uncertainty, behavioral and cognitive. Behavioral uncertainty involves the prediction of behavior in certain situations, such as knowing that an interaction is running smoothly with non-verbal cues such as smiling. Cognitive uncertainty is associated with beliefs and attitudes people hold and is reduced through the acquiring of information (Knobloch, 2002). The Expectancy Violations Theory (EVT), developed by Judee Burgoon, attempts to explain people’s reactions to unexpected behavior in social settings. In an interaction, whether verbal or non verbal, people anticipate how the other person will behave and typically the expected behavior meets the standard of what is considered “normal” in today’s society. When people unexpectedly violate those expectations, humans interpret and evaluate their communication behavior and the way it makes them feel. The theory proposes that expectancy will influence the outcome of the communication as positive or negative and predicts that positive violations increase the attraction of the violator and negative violations decrease the attraction of the violator To personally test this theory out myself, I allowed myself to break some common non- verbal “rules.” I live in Manchester Village on the USD campus, and every morning, along with several others, I wait for the school trams to take me to class. At the tram stop, there are two benches that would each comfortably fit up to four people. However, I realized that I rarely even see three people sitting together on one bench, and I’ve honestly never seen more than three. In fact, most people stand, leaving open spots on the benches. Well one...
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