A Theory of Dyadic Social Interaction and Meanings
In this paper, the author proposed and describes a theory of the social construction of meaning in dyadic communicative interaction. The author argues that necessary convergence communication is a theoretical framework useful for explaining how power may influence the process of meaning construction in interpersonal communication. This essay describes the features of this theoretical framework and provides theoretical suppositions for future empirical testing.
Child:Mom, look at the blue package!
Mother: It's not blue, it's teal.
Child:It looks like blue to me.
Mother: It's not though. It's got green in it too, so it's teal. Later that day
Friend: Oh, that's a pretty package. The blue matches your shirt. Child:It's not blue, it's teal.
To many of us this scene is not unusual. Children often learn from elders what any given symbol "means" and once children learn these meanings they incorporate them into their cognitive schemata. According to Piaget's (1972, 1954) theory of cognitive development, from approximately ages 4-7 children are in an intuitive phase where they can grasp logical concepts, but reality is not yet firm and is often dictated by authority figures. The role of authority figures to shape constructions of reality certainly does not end in childhood. Social constructionists such as Berger and Luckmann (1966) argue that individuals "together produce a human environment, with the totality of its socio-cultural and psychological formations and understandings; social meanings are a human product "(p. 52). It is not unusual, say, for an abusive romantic partner to convince his or her partner that the abuse is deserved or symbolic of care or even love. The dyadic construction of acts of abuse as signifying love or care may not be clearly understood by others outside the relational dyad, yet perceptions of abusive behavior as acts of love are common in abusive interpersonal relationships, along with sacrificing one's own interpretation of events so as not to lose the affection of the partner (Woods, 1999). In fact, in a recent episode of the popular television show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (Denoon & Platt, 2004) a teenager was placed in foster care due to a mother's complete and utter dominance over the child, with the episode focusing on the control the mother had over how her offspring interpreted the world around him. The psychologist in the episode did not have a name for this process of maternal domination, but compared the teenager to a "puppet," merely appropriating his mother's interpretations of the world out of fear; the fear of losing her love, protection and their relational structure. Although this essay does not focus on children or abusive relationships specifically, it outlines a theory addressing the social construction of meanings in dyadic communicative interaction wherein there is disequilibrium between members in that process. Berger (2005), in his review of the interpersonal communication up until the 21st century, pointed out that very few interpersonal communication scholars have developed theories addressing this central tenet of communication --meaning. His review argued that for the field to move forward interpersonal communication researchers should look more at interaction routines and the process of meaning-making between interactants. Around the same time as this review was being written, Koerner and Fitzpatrick (2002) published an article in Communication Theory arguing for a similar need for research examining intersubjectivity, meaning, and interactivity in the area of family communication. They argued the following: "...a complete explication of family communication needs to consider both intersubjectivity and interactivity (Fitzpatrick & Ritchie, 1993). Intersubjectivity refers to the sharing of cognitions...