Social Penetration Theory Wikipedia

Topics: Interpersonal relationship, Sociology, Scientific method Pages: 6 (1767 words) Published: October 2, 2011
Social penetration theory was formulated by psychology professors Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor as their attempt to describe the dynamics of relational closeness. They proposed that closeness occurs through a gradual process of self-disclosure, and closeness develops if the participants proceed in a gradual and orderly fashion from superficial to intimate levels of exchange as a function of both immediate and forecast outcomes.[1] This psychological theory, as with many others, is applied in the context of interpersonal relationships such as communications. It can also be defined as the process of developing deeper intimacy with another person through mutual self-disclosure and other forms of vulnerability. Self-disclosure is the voluntary sharing of history, preferences, attitudes, feelings, values, secrets, etc., with another person; transparency. Self-disclosure is the act of revealing more about ourselves, on both a conscious and an unconscious level. Altman and Taylor believe that only through opening one's self to the main route to social penetration - self-disclosure - by becoming vulnerable to another person can a close relationship develop. Vulnerability can be expressed in a variety of ways, including the giving of anything which is considered to be a personal possession, such as a dresser drawer given to a partner.[2] -------------------------------------------------

Onion Metaphor
First of all, Social penetration is perhaps best known for its onion analogy. Self-disclosure is referred to in terms of breadth and depth, the latter of which is described in units of layers. This analogy is used to describe the multilayered nature of personality. When one peels the outer skin from an onion, another skin is uncovered. When the second layer is removed, a third is exposed, and so forth. The outer layer of personality contains the public self, which is accessible to anyone who wants to look. The public self layer has a myriad of details which help to describe who one is, such as height, weight, gender, and other public information which takes little questioning to discover. Below the surface layer, however, the personality holds more private information like beliefs, faith, prejudices, and general relationship information. Held within the inner core are values, self-concept, and deep emotions. The inner core is the unique private domain of individuals, which, although invisible to the rest of the world, has a profound impact on the areas of life which lie closer to the surface.[3] The amount revealed can vary according to culture. -------------------------------------------------

[edit]Rewards and costs
Social Penetration Theory states that humans, even with out thinking about it, weigh each relationship and interaction with another human on a reward cost scale. If the interaction was satisfactory, then that person or relationship is looked upon favorably. But if an interaction was unsatisfactory, then the relationship will be evaluated for its costs compared to its rewards or benefits. People try to predict the outcome of an interaction before it takes place. Coming from a scientific standpoint, Altman and Taylor were able to assign letters as mathematical representations of costs and rewards. They also borrowed the concepts from Thibaut and Kelley's Social Exchange Theory in order to describe the relation of costs and rewards of relationships. Thibaut and Kelley's key concepts of relational outcome, relational satisfaction, and relational stability serve as the foundation of Irwin and Taylor's rewards minus costs, comparison level, and comparison level of alternatives. -------------------------------------------------

[edit]Outcomes: Rewards Minus Cost
This means that people want to minimize their costs and maximize their rewards when they are in a relationship with somebody. If your costs are greater than your rewards, the relationship could be harmful to you. For example, the costs of staying in a physically...
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