In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Communication Apprehension

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • CA across, between, and within Cultures

Communication Communication Apprehension
Evan K. Perrault
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0184


One cannot discuss the construct of communication apprehension (CA) without bringing up the scholar James C. McCroskey. McCroskey coined the concept with his graduate students during his time on faculty at Michigan State University, and published the first article in 1970 utilizing the term. CA is generally defined as people’s fear or anxiety related to actual or anticipated communication with others. As many of the references in this article will show, McCroskey went on to author or coauthor dozens of publications concerned with CA over the years. CA is divided into two general categories: trait CA and state CA. A person has trait CA when he or she has fear or anxiety about speaking across the entire spectrum of communication contexts. On the other hand, state CA occurs when a person has fear or anxiety about speaking in just one situation or context. In other words, people may be low in trait CA but have high state CA in certain situations. For example, someone may experience fear or anxiety about communicating with a physician during a medical consultation (i.e., high state CA), but not have any other fear or anxiety surrounding communication in other interpersonal contexts (i.e., low trait CA). Research into CA has generally been focused on finding ways to reduce CA among individuals, as it has usually been framed as a negative attribute.

General Overviews

The naissance of communication apprehension research began in trying to develop measures to identify individuals with it. McCroskey 1970 developed the Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA), and McCroskey 1978 (as well as Levine and McCroskey 1990) subsequently validates versions of the PRCA as reliable and valid measures of CA through factor analysis and by analyzing the research of those who have used the measure previously. Seven years after its development, McCroskey 1977 synthesized the state of the research surrounding CA and its measurement, as well as provided the definition that most scholars use in the early 21st century: “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons” (p. 78). Future research then strove to refine how CA was conceptually distinct from other similar constructs. For example, McCroskey and Richmond 1982 discusses operational differences between CA and the concept of shyness, proposing that CA is one subcomponent of being shy; and McCroskey 1992 discusses CA’s difference with the variable of Willingness to Communicate (WTC), where the latter is a person’s predisposition to initiate or avoid conversations with others. Both Allen and Bourhis 1996 and Patterson and Ritts 1997 provide comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses on the state of CA research. McCroskey 2009 also provides a comprehensive overview of CA research throughout the decades since the construct’s creation.

  • Allen, M., and J. Bourhis. 1996. The relationship of communication apprehension to communication behavior: A meta-analysis. Communication Quarterly 44:214–226.

    DOI: 10.1080/01463379609370011

    This meta-analysis of thirty-six studies discusses the overall negative relationship that CA has with various other communication behaviors such as quality of communication, quantity of communication, and graded classroom communication.

  • Levine, T. R., and J. C. McCroskey. 1990. Measuring trait communication apprehension: A test of rival measurement models of the PRCA-24. Communication Monographs 57:62–72.

    DOI: 10.1080/03637759009376185

    This study assessed the commonly employed PRCA-24 using a nationwide sample, determining that a second-order factor model is the best fit for the data. The study also discusses suggested refinements to the scale, potentially eliminating four items to reduce measurement error, as well as potential problems in using the scale among nonnative English speakers or those of other cultures.

  • McCroskey, J. C. 1970. Measures of communication‐bound anxiety. Speech Monographs 37:269–277.

    DOI: 10.1080/03637757009375677

    This is a seminal work that outlines measures of CA for four different audiences and contexts: college students, tenth graders, seventh graders, and public speaking apprehension.

  • McCroskey, J. C. 1977. Oral communication apprehension: A summary of recent theory and research. Human Communication Research 4:78–96.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1977.tb00599.x

    In this piece, McCroskey discusses issues surrounding the measurement of CA and other outcomes that are correlated with high CA.

  • McCroskey, J. C. 1978. Validity of the PRCA as an index of oral communication apprehension. Communication Monographs 45:192–203.

    DOI: 10.1080/03637757809375965

    This article looks at previous research that utilized the PRCA to measure CA to assess the scale’s validity and reliability.

  • McCroskey, J. C. 1992. Reliability and validity of the Willingness to Communicate scale. Communication Quarterly 40:16–25.

    DOI: 10.1080/01463379209369817

    This piece discusses the concept of WTC, how it can be reliably and validly measured, and how it differs from other related concepts.

  • McCroskey, J. C. 2009. Communication apprehension: What have we learned in the last four decades. Human Communication 12:157–171.

    This publication provides a general overview of the state of CA research over the decades, discussing how the variable has been refined over the years, as well as many prominent critiques.

  • McCroskey, J. C., and V. P. Richmond. 1982. Communication apprehension and shyness: Conceptual and operational distinctions. Central States Speech Journal 33:458–468.

    DOI: 10.1080/10510978209388452

    This piece seeks to distinguish how CA is different from the concept of shyness and provides survey evidence supporting the distinction between the two.

  • Patterson, M. L., and V. Ritts. 1997. Social and communicative anxiety: A review and meta-analysis. Annals of the International Communication Association 20:263–303.

    DOI: 10.1080/23808985.1997.11678944

    These researchers provide a review and synthesis of the various research present in the literature seeking to measure communicative anxiety and its common correlates.

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