Social Penetration

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Social Penetration Theory

The Social Penetration Theory is an explanation by two communication theorists, Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor. This theory attempts to explain how relational closeness develops. Since we all have hundreds of different relationships, with thousands of different people during our lifetime, it is an important theory to study and understand. The Social Penetration Theory can be compared to an onion. The comparison stems from the idea that an onion has many layers, just like a human’s personality. There is an outside layer that is visible to everyone, but underneath that there are several layers that get deeper and deeper. All of us have met people for the first time, and have formed our first impression. Many times, however, our thoughts and ideas about them may change in a positive or negative way, when we get to know them better. The degree to which we get to know people is directly related to self-disclosure. People find out more about you by the information you are willing to disclose about yourself, and you learn more about others who are willing to disclose things about themselves. The things you choose to share about yourself, and the detail you go into about those things, are referred to as the breadth and depth of your relationship. People will choose to disclose more information about themselves if they feel they will gain some type of reward from it, such as gaining a new friendship or receiving advice about a personal problem. If the person feels as though disclosing personal information will be costly to them, they will limit the amount they tell you. The Social Penetration Theory can be understood through the popular film, Titanic. The relationship we look at in this film is the one between Rose and Jack. Rose is a member of the upper class and boards the boat with her mother and her fiancé. Although very unhappy about it, Rose is being pressured into marrying her fiancé since he is very wealthy and can...
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