Social Penetration Theory

Topics: Interpersonal relationship, Intimate relationship, Family Pages: 4 (1326 words) Published: February 27, 2013
Social Penetration Theory
Social penetration theory, also known as the ‘Onion Theory’, was a theory formulated by professors Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor on 1973 on the development of interpersonal relationship. The social penetration theory states that as relationships develop, communication moves from relatively shallow, non-intimate levels to deeper, more personal ones. It mainly concentrates on the development and degree of self-disclosure, voluntary act of revealing or sharing of oneself on both a conscious and an unconscious level with another person. (Altman & Taylor, 1973) Altman and Taylor were convinced that the process of social penetration moves a lot faster in the beginning stages of a relationship but then it slows considerably. Some people get lucky to be able to share their core values and feelings. Those who are able to develop a long term, positive reward/ cost outcome are the same people who are able to share important matches of breadth categories. The early reward/ cost assessment have a strong impact on the relationships reactions and involvement. When you have expectancies in a relationship regarding the future it plays a major role on the outcome in the relationship. The members in the relationship that are called high revealers are the individuals are much more willing to rapidly disclose intimate information. The other members that are low revealers are very reticent. This theory enhances the intimacy and self-disclosure, which makes it a candidate for analyzing how various ethical issues, might affect the relationship. Social penetration theory is made for explaining level of intimacy and interaction between people. There are various degrees of how someone could respond to decisions about ethics or personal challenges. The reactions to problems regarding ethics and challenges are also based on personal characteristics, reward/cost assessments and situational factors. (Wikipedia) The metatheoretical assumption of this theory is that...

References: Altman, I., & Taylor, D., (1973). Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal Relationships. NewYork: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Carson Clews (July 7, 2011). Onion Theory: Social Penetration Theory. Retrieved from
Communication Capstone Theory workbook (Febuary 14, 2001)Social Penetration Theory: Interpersonal Context. Retreived from
Sheldon, P. (2009). "I 'll poke you. You 'll poke me!" Self-disclosure, social attraction, predictability and trust as important predictors of Facebook relationships . Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), article 1
Taylor, D. & Altman, I. (1987). Communication in interpersonal relationships: Social penetration processes. Interpersonal processes: New directions in communication research. p.257-277.
Wikipedia ;last modified on 1 Febuary 2012. Social Penetration Theory. Retrived from
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