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Communication Social Interaction
by
Valerie Manusov
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 May 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0028

Introduction

The study of social interaction involves the careful assessment of the practices of everyday communicating between people in various (usually) real-life contexts, such as doctor-patient visits, organizations, and human-computer communication. Scholars who center their work in this area tend to be in one of two research lines: qualitative researchers who focus on the intricacies of language and nonverbal communication (i.e., commonly, those who align themselves with the area called language and social interaction) and scholars who use a variety of methods, but particularly social science approaches, to assess the constructs and patterns involved when people interact with one another. These research avenues can be very different from one another, and are sometimes seen as incompatible, but together allow the reader to witness the complexity of human engagement. They also stem from different traditions, most notably sociological, following symbolic interactionism; psychological, with a particular focus on cognitive and emotion-based processes that people bring with them to their interactions; and linguistic, with a concern for language practices and the consequences of such practices. The citations in this article focus on the key theories and methods that span these contexts of study.

Textbooks

Most of the textbooks in this area tend to be the product of scholars whose focus is on the constructs and patterns of human communication (i.e., a social science approach) rather than on the qualitative assessment of language and social interaction (for an exception, see Tracy and Robles 2013). They also help reveal the range of real-life contexts studied by social interaction researchers. Some, such as Beebe and Masterson 2012 and Gastil 2010, focus on interaction in small groups; others, such as Floyd 2017; McCornack and Morrison 2019; and Stewart, et al. 2005, emphasize interpersonal interaction. Additionally, Galvin, et al. 2015 centers on the family; Martin and Nakayama 2018 discusses intercultural interaction; and Eisenberg, et al. 2017 includes interactions in organizations and other institutions.

  • Beebe, Steven A., and John T. Masterson. 2012. Communicating in small groups: Principles and practices. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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    The tenth edition of this text provides a focus on basic principles and applications of group communication. It centers on teamwork, technology, and ethical collaboration, some of the foundations of social interaction in groups.

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  • Eisenberg, Eric M., Angela Tretheway, Marianne leGreco, and H. Llyod Goodall Jr. 2017. Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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    Aiming for a higher-level audience but still accessible, this textbook uses the metaphor of creativity (getting what one wants) and constraint (following established rules) to explain the processes involved in interacting within and about organizations.

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  • Floyd, Kory. 2017. Interpersonal communication. 3d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    This introductory undergraduate text takes a social science approach to understanding human interaction, putting a particular focus on the ways in which social interaction fulfills important human needs. Like many of the others in this area, it covers the self in interaction, perception processes, language and nonverbal communication, and social relationships, but it also provides coverage of cultural and gender issues and their shaping of social interaction.

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  • Galvin, Kathleen M., Dawn O. Braithwaite, and Carma L. Byland. 2015. Family communication: Cohesion and change. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315663982Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This undergraduate textbook presents the family as a communication system with identifiable interaction patterns. The authors work specifically to relate communication theories to family engagement. They use a framework of family functions, first-person narratives, and current research as their primary structure.

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  • Gastil, John. 2010. The group in society. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This volume is meant to be read by advanced students and scholars of small group interaction. It emphasizes research on discussion and deliberation, two of the hallmarks of social interaction in groups. It also looks at roles that people play and identities that they assume in the group context.

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  • Martin, Judith N., and Thomas K. Nakayama. 2018. Intercultural communication in contexts. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    This undergraduate text provides a blend of social scientific, language, and social interaction, and more critical approaches to its discussion of what occurs in the process of communicating with people from other cultures. The critical perspective allows the authors to present and critique intercultural interaction within its political context.

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  • McCornack, Steven, and Kelly Morrison. 2019. Reflect and relate: An introduction to interpersonal communication. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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    This undergraduate textbook features people’s stories that help illustrate the concepts discussed by the authors. It features many of the same concepts as other texts (self, verbal and nonverbal communication, and listening) but also emphasizes areas of (dis)similarity (e.g., gender and culture), and includes separate chapters on four relationship types (romantic, friends, families, and workplaces).

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  • Stewart, John, Karen E. Zediker, and Saskia Witteborn. 2005. Together: Communicating interpersonally. 6th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This undergraduate text provides an approach that focuses on the creation of shared meaning, the construction of identities, and engagement with others. Whereas it has the features of many texts in this area (e.g., chapters on perception, listening, language, and nonverbal communication), it is distinctive it its approach on the applicability of the ideas to everyday life.

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  • Tracy, Karen, and Jessica S. Robles. 2013. Everyday talk: Building and reflecting identities. 2d ed. New York: Guilford Press.

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    This text follows a language and social interaction tradition. It offers a book for undergraduates that centers on how people engage with one another in ordinary conversation and how language in particular allows them to develop and express identities and relationships and to learn how it can also be the cause of relational problems.

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Anthologies

Social interaction researchers have created a range of excellent handbooks and other collections that bring together scholars whose work focuses on a certain subset of social behavior. Braithwaite and Schrodt 2015 offers a set of easy-to-read essays for advanced undergraduates or graduate students synthesizing theories relevant to interaction between people; Frey 2003 focuses on interactions among group members; Giles and Maass 2016 centers on intergroup interaction; Glenn, et al. 2003 provides essays revealing interaction studies from a language and social interaction approach; and Chen 2017 focuses on intercultural interactions. Further, the authors in Knapp and Daly 2011 speak about interpersonal interaction, Motley 2008 provides examples of interaction processes in real life, Manusov and Patterson 2006 structures essays on interaction through nonverbal means, and Oetzel and Ting-Toomey 2013 brings together authors whose work emphasizes conflict in interaction.

  • Braithwaite, Dawn O., and Paul Schrodt, eds. 2015. Engaging theories in interpersonal communication. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This updated collection of essays written by scholars who work with particular theories relevant to the interpersonal communication context is geared primarily toward advanced undergraduate students. It provides an accessible overview of a range of theories relevant to social interaction processes.

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  • Chen, Ling, ed. 2017. Intercultural communication. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

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    The set of chapters on pp. 239–259 provides readers with an array of topics relevant to social interaction with people from other cultures. Chapters discuss some of the historical foundations for studying intercultural interactions, provide comparisons of communication across cultural groups, and emphasize challenges to and competence in communicating with people from other cultural groups.

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  • Frey, Larry R., ed. 2003. Group communication in context: Studies of bona fide groups. 2d ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    This collection reveals many of the ways that people engage in social interaction in small groups within real-world contexts, such as business consulting teams, crisis communication, and support groups. It represents an array of scholarly approaches to interacting in groups and shows the consequentiality of such groups.

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  • Giles, Howard, and Ann Maass, eds. 2016. Advances in intergroup communication. 2d ed. New York: Peter Lang.

    DOI: 10.3726/b10467Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This collection of nineteen chapters centers on the interaction between people based primarily on their group membership. It offers papers that focus on computer-mediated communication, “invisible” identities, gender and sexism, and other contexts and situations where people can be challenged by difference or search for similarity across diversity.

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  • Glenn, Philip J., Curtis D. leBaron, and Jenny Mandelbaum, eds. 2003. Studies in language and social interaction: In honor of Robert Hopper. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    The volume brings together prominent scholars in the qualitative assessment of language and social interaction, providing an orientation to this approach/field, applications of social interaction processes in particular settings, and speaking specifically to Robert Hopper’s contribution to the field.

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  • Knapp, Mark L., and John A. Daly, eds. 2011. Handbook of interpersonal communication. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    The fourth edition of a mainstay of the social interaction field, this edition has nineteen chapters written by some of the most important scholars in this field and representing a range of perspectives. The primary emphasis is on social scientific approaches to interpersonal communication, although chapters on cultural meaning, discourse analysis, and the moral of stories provide additional perspectives.

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  • Manusov, Valerie, and Miles L. Patterson, eds. 2006. The SAGE handbook of nonverbal communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This collection provides a single resource for learning about nonverbal communication. It is structured into four sections: foundations of nonverbal communication, factors influencing nonverbal communication, functions of nonverbal communication, and important contexts and consequences of nonverbal communication. The collection represents a wide range of expertise, issues, and disciplines whose work focuses on nonverbal communication.

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  • Motley, Michael T., ed. 2008. Studies in applied interpersonal communication. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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    This collection of fourteen essays provides a glimpse into the many ways in which interpersonal communication plays out in our everyday lives. It concerns some of the more problematic forms of communication, such as unwanted relational pursuit and unwanted sexual intimacy, as well as applications in forgiveness communication and the dynamics of humor.

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  • Oetzel, John G., and Stella Ting-Toomey, eds. 2013. The SAGE handbook of conflict communication: Integrating theory, research, and practice. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This volume includes thirty-one chapters that provide foundational and research overviews and chapters that deal with interpersonal, organizational, community, and intercultural/international conflict. Whereas not all of them speak to issues of concern to social interaction scholars, most do, including chapters on dialogue, conflict, and community; family conflict; and hostage negotiation.

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Definitions and Foundations

A range of important texts from across a number of fields speak to the plethora of definitional bases to the complex and varied nature of social interaction. Gergen 2009; Goffman 1967; Mead 1967; Philipsen 1992; Watzlawick, et al. 1967; and Wood and Duck 2005 represent original and foundational monographs, while Cupach and Spitzberg 2014 and Parks 2006 are applications of less studied social interaction processes and/or contexts. All provide important grounding for scholarship in social interaction.

  • Cupach, William R., and Brian R. Spitzberg. 2014. The dark side of relationship pursuit: From attraction to obsession and stalking. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

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    In this volume, the authors highlight a range of largely problematic forms of social interaction related to personal relationships, and work to explain how these forms of interaction arise. It reviews a set of important processes long overlooked by social interaction scholars, providing a counterpoint to the more positive interaction processes often studied.

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  • Gergen, Kenneth J. 2009. An invitation to social construction. 2d ed. London: SAGE.

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    This book helps to capture the primary arguments behind a dialogic approach to social interaction, making the case that we create a social reality through our conversation and engagement with others. Gergen argues that, given the potential for social interaction to construct a particular reality, people can choose to use different analogies in their discourse to form other understandings than their current vision of humans and the world.

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  • Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction ritual: Essays on face-to-face behavior. New York: Doubleday.

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    With Goffman considered by many scholars to be the founding parent of the study of social interaction, this collection of his essays reveals some of the practice of social interaction in everyday lives and provides a glimpse into the nuanced ways in which such interaction unfolds and introduces such ideas as facework, deference, and demeanor.

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  • Mead, George Herbert. 1967. Mind, self, and society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226516608.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mead’s book introduced his concept of symbolic interactionism. The primary argument underlying this approach is that human action is best seen as symbolic and that social systems are composed of interconnected interactions in which people interpret human behavior, language, and thought in symbolic terms.

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  • Parks, Malcolm R. 2006. Personal relationships and personal networks. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    In this book, Parks provides an overview of the research that he and others have done, showing the ways in which people connect with one another through formal and informal channels. In doing so, he provides a unique perspective on what social interaction involves.

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  • Philipsen, Gerry. 1992. Speaking culturally: Explorations in social communication. Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    This monograph summarizes investigations of two cultures, focusing on the “ways of speaking” in each culture. Philipsen grounds his conception of culture squarely in the patterns of interaction and the meanings for interaction that people in those cultures use, providing a uniquely situated understanding of social interaction and of culture.

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  • Watzlawick, Paul, Janet H. Beavin, and Donald D. Jackson. 1967. Pragmatics of human communication: A study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    This book provides the foundations for showing that talk has both content (i.e., what is talked about) and relational aspects. Those relational aspects include the contention that people attempt to take or give away the control of the interaction and the relationship.

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  • Wood, Julia T., and Steve Duck, eds. 2005. Composing relationships: Communication in everyday life. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

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    This small collection reflects the argument that social interaction is a relational act in which we create and enact our understanding of ourselves and others. It provides an important perspective on the nature of social interaction that Duck emphasizes across his work.

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Journals

Just as in all parts of the study of social interaction, a range of journals allows researchers to present a diverse set of research, including premier journals, such as Communication Monographs, that publish a wide variety of topics and methods. Some journals focus on a particular interaction context, such as close relationships (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Personal Relationships, and Journal of Family Communication) or intercultural engagement (Journal of Intercultural Communication), but publish a range of methodologies. Others tend to publish research that uses a particular method, such as experimental work (e.g., Communication Research and Human Communication Research), conversation analysis (Research on Language and Social Interaction), or critical discourse (Discourse & Society).

Theories

There are myriad theories that speak to what occurs in social interaction and why interaction works as it does. Many of these are aligned with a more cognitive or developmental approach to interaction (attribution theory, attachment theory, uncertainty reduction theory), an area of our field that often emphasizes theory-driven approaches to social interaction. Others are more socially based (communication accommodation theory, communication privacy management, facework theories, narrative theories, relational dialectics, symbolic convergence theory). The theories of interest to social interaction researchers originate from within a range of academic disciplines, including communication, psychology, linguistics, and social psychology.

Attachment Theory

This theory, derived from sociology and social psychology and particularly Bowlby 1982 and Ainsworth 1989, focuses on the ways in which babies in infancy form attachment with their caregivers, and how different forms of attachment affect subsequent behavior in adulthood. For many scholars, it is a primary explanation for differences in social interaction behaviors. Most scholarly works, such as Guerrero and Burgoon 1996 and Trees 2006, focus on particular relationships.

Attribution Theory

This social psychological theory is based on the premise that people work to explain their own and others’ behaviors, including those that occur in social interaction. Original conceptions, such as Heider 1958, focus on cognitive interpretations, but scholarly works interested in social interaction, such as Bradbury and Fincham 1992 and Manusov 2018, have moved attention toward how attribution making works as and within interaction. Attributions have also been studied as they occur within conversations, as evidenced in Burleson 1986.

  • Bradbury, Thomas N., and Frank D. Fincham. 1992. Attributions and behavior in marital interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63:613–628.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.4.613Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article, one of many by these authors and their colleagues, studies the ways in which married couples make attributions for one another’s behaviors and how those attributions play out in their own actions.

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  • Burleson, Brant R. 1986. Attribution schemes and causal inference in natural conversations. In Contemporary issues in language and discourse processes. Edited by Donald G. Ellis and William A. Donohue, 63–85. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    This chapter provides evidence for the ways in which people talk about the causes of events, showing how attributions make up interaction content in addition to their acting as cognition about interactions.

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  • Heider, Fritz. 1958. The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.

    DOI: 10.1037/10628-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The book provides an in-depth look at Heider’s emerging theory, later known as attribution theory, which centers on how people work to make sense of their everyday social lives.

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  • Manusov, Valerie. 2018. Attribution theory: Who’s at fault in families? In Engaging theories in family communication. 2d ed. Edited by Dawn O. Braithwaite, Elizabeth A. Suter, and Kory Floyd, 51–61. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter overviews several scholars whose theories have been called “attribution theory” and emphasizes the ways in which such theories speak to interaction processes in families.

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Communication Accommodation Theory

Once known as speech accommodation theory, and developed largely in Giles 1973 and Giles 1980, the theory of communication accommodation theory (CAT) explains the nature of how people’s interaction behaviors are in some ways a reaction to one another’s. It has been applied in a variety of settings, but most notably in what has come to be known as intragroup and intergroup contexts, as Soliz and Colaner 2018 explains.

  • Giles, Howard. 1973. Accent mobility: A model and some data. Anthropological Linguistics 15:87–105.

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    In this paper, Giles reveals the ways in which people adjust their communication to another’s talk by either converging toward (i.e., becoming more similar to) or diverging from (i.e., speaking differently than) another’s way of speaking.

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  • Giles, Howard. 1980. Accommodation theory: Some new directions. York Papers in Linguistics 9:105–136.

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    This essay summarizes what was then called speech accommodation theory and where scholarship at the time was and should be heading.

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  • Soliz, Jordan, and Colleen W. Colaner. 2018. Communication accommodation theory and communication theory of identity: Theories of communication and identity. In Engaging theories in family communication. 2d ed. Edited by Dawn O. Braithwaite, Elizabeth A. Suter, and Kory Floyd, 75–86. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter overviews CAT and applies it to intergroup communication broadly and family communication specifically.

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Communication Privacy Management

Petronio 2002 outlines a theory focusing on the ways in which people manage tensions between wanting to engage and be open with others, and requiring privacy and closeness, and Petronio and Child 2019 offers a more recent update. It is a particular application of a larger theory in Altman and Taylor 1973, which espouses the movement people make to get closer to or further from others. Frampton and Child 2013 shows how the theory applies to social media.

Facework Theories

Several related theories use the conception of facework in Goffman 1959 (i.e., the argument that people in interaction present certain “faces” or self-presentations to others and that those others typically engage in behavior that accepts the other’s self-presentation) and look to explain the ways in which people support one another’s self-presentation and work, generally, to not impose on one another in their social interactions. Metts and Cupach 2015 outlines Goffman’s face theory, and Goldsmith and Normand 2015 reviews politeness theory. Politeness theory, which emerged in Brown and Levinson 1987, suggests that people typically engage in behaviors that respect the other’s face presentation (i.e., positive politeness) and avoid placing constraints on others’ behaviors (i.e., negative face).

  • Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511813085Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this text, the authors present what they define as a set of interaction strategies of social politeness used across cultures. Although there are cultural differences, the authors argue that pan-cultural patterns of communicating also exist that help to maintain relations in each culture.

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  • Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.

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    This foundational work reflects Goffman’s contention that we are all actors on the stage of life and that much can be learned by using the metaphor of a drama to explain our interactions with others.

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  • Goldsmith, Daena, and Emily L. Normand. 2015. Politeness theory: How we use language to save face. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. 2d ed. Edited by Dawn O. Braithwaite and Paul Schrodt, 229–240. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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    In their chapter, Goldsmith and Normand lay out the main features and assumptions of politeness theory, referencing both Goffman and Brown and Levinson, two forces important to the development of this theory on interaction management.

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  • Metts, Sandra, and William R. Cupach. 2015. Face theory: Goffman’s dramatistic approach to interpersonal interaction. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. 2d ed. Edited by Dawn O. Braithwaite and Paul Schrodt, 229–240. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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    In this chapter, Metts and Cupach discuss symbolic interactionism, the larger perspective reflected in Goffman’s work, and detail his use of the drama metaphor to explain human interaction, the “face” we present to others in our interactions with them, and the ways in which others work with us typically to maintain that self-presentation.

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Narrative Theories

This set of theories is based on the belief that humans are storytellers inherently, as Fisher 1989 claims. Koenig Kellas 2008 offers an overview of narrative theories, and Koenig Kellas, et al. 2017; Mandelbaum 1987; and Mumby 1993 offer applications.

Relational Dialectics Theory

In Baxter and Montgomery 1996, the authors move through a complex theory of social interaction asserting that change is inherent in interaction and relationships because of the underlying tensions or dialectics that provide a constant pull between competing needs and desires. It is based on the premise in Bakhtin 1981 about the dialogic nature of social interaction, particularly that tensions exist in the “deep structure” of all human experience and that people work together to deal with those tensions, and on the argument in Berger and Luckmann 1966 that all interaction is dialectical. Rawlins 1988 applies relational dialectics to the interactions of friends. Baxter 2011 suggests a more discourse-based application of dialectics.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail M. 1981. The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Edited by Michael Holquist; and translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

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    This book contains four of Bakhtin’s essays as well as an introduction to him and his philosophy of language.

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  • Baxter, Leslie A. 2011. Voicing relationships: A dialogic perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    In this monograph, Baxter lays out a new direction for what the author calls relational dialectics 2.0 in which she calls for greater investigation of dialectics in everyday discourse.

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  • Baxter, Leslie A., and Barbara M. Montgomery. 1996. Relating: Dialogues and dialectics. New York: Guilford Press.

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    This monograph lays out the foundations of Baxter and Montgomery’s theory of relational dialectics and its philosophical underpinnings.

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  • Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. London: Penguin Books.

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    Berger and Luckmann’s monologue is foundational in social interaction scholarship and contends that society and the individual are not separable, but rather intertwined through the complex give-and-take of interaction.

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  • Rawlins, William K. 1988. A dialectical analysis of the tensions, functions and strategic challenges of communication in young adult friendships. In Communication yearbook 12: Cultural identity and modes of communication. Edited by James A. Anderson, 157–189. Newbury, CA: SAGE.

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    This chapter provides analysis of some ways in which dialectical pulls affect the development and enactment of friendships.

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Symbolic Convergence Theory

Braithwaite, et al. 2006 describes this small group communication theory, developed in part by the work in Cragan and Shields 1977 and elaborated on in Bormann 1985, as blending social science and humanistic approaches to the ways in which people communicate with one another. Symbolic convergence theory is concerned with the processes and outcomes of group communication most specifically as they occur through “fantasy themes” (i.e., interpretations of events that become imbedded in group interactions).

  • Bormann, Ernest G. 1985. The force of fantasy: Restoring the American dream. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.

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    In this book, Bormann reiterates the basic tenets of symbolic convergence theory, focusing primarily on his conception of fantasy themes and their emergence in group interaction.

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  • Braithwaite, Dawn O., Paul Schrodt, and Jody Koenig Kellas. 2006. Symbolic convergence theory: Communication, dramatizing messages, and rhetorical visions in families. In Engaging theories in family communication. Edited by Dawn O. Braithwaite and Leslie A. Baxter, 146–161. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This chapter applies symbolic convergence theory to what can occur in family interaction. It focuses on particular kinds of messages where the theory is particularly applicable.

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  • Cragan, John F., and Donald C. Shields 1977. Foreign policy communication dramas: How mediated rhetoric played in Peoria Campaign ’76. Quarterly Journal of Speech 63:274–289.

    DOI: 10.1080/00335637709383388Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article lays out the premises of symbolic convergence theory as a means by which people build collectively a common symbolic understanding of their world.

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Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Uncertainty reduction theory (URT) helps to explain the ways in which we communicate when we are unsure of what surrounds us. Based on the work of Charles Berger and his colleagues (particularly Berger and Calabrese 1975), URT was focused originally on interaction among strangers and later developed to explain other interpersonal communication processes. Knobloch 2008 offers a recent overview of work grounded in this theory, which has been applied in Afifi and Schrodt 2003 to family interactions and in Gudykunst, et al. 1985 to intercultural interactions. Solomon, et al. 2016 explains a recent related theory on relational turbulence.

  • Afifi, Tamara D., and Paul Schrodt. 2003. Uncertainty and the avoidance of the state of one’s family in stepfamilies, post divorce single-parent families, and first-marriage families. Human Communication Research 29:516–532.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2003.tb00854.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Families of all kinds face uncertainty, but particularly when those families are “different” or “new.” This article looks toward those uncertainty processes and the ways in which they are associated with communicative avoidance.

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  • Berger, Charles R., and Richard. J. Calabrese. 1975. Some explorations of initial interaction and beyond: Toward a developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research 1:99–112.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1975.tb00258.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This groundbreaking article was the first to lay the foundations of what has come to be known as uncertainty reduction theory.

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  • Gudykunst, William, B., Seung-Mock Yang, and Tsukasa Nishida. 1985. A cross-cultural test of uncertainty reduction theory: Comparisons of acquaintances, friends, and dating relationships in Japan, Korea, and the United States. Human Communication Research 11:407–454.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1985.tb00054.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interested in whether uncertainty reduction processes are universal or tied to culture, the authors assess cognition in three cultures and across an array of relationships.

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  • Knobloch, Leanne K. 2008. Uncertainty reduction theory: Communicating under conditions of ambiguity. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. Edited by Leslie A. Baxter and Dawn O. Braithwaite, 133–144. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This essay lays out the primary foundations of URT and shows some applications within the larger interpersonal context, including established relationships.

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  • Solomon, Denise H., Leanne K. Knobloch, Jennifer A. Theiss, and Rachel M. McLaren. 2016. Relational turbulence theory: Explaining variation in subjective experiences and communication within romantic relationships. Human Communication Research 42:507–532.

    DOI: 10.1111/hcre.12091Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study applied relational turbulence theory, a theory derived from uncertainty reduction theory, to the communication of US service members and their partners following the return from a tour of duty by evaluating the three turbulence markers of relational maintenance, partner responsiveness, and turmoil appraisals.

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Methods

A few books focus on or provide examples of ways in which scholars can study social interaction. Given the range of definitions about what social interaction is, it is not surprising that there are a range of methods for accessing social interaction. These areas include Multi-Methods, Conversation Analysis, Ethnography, Experiments, Interaction Analysis, and Interaction Coding.

Multi-Methods

Some books provide a set of methods that can be applied to the same set of interactions or that provide several ways in which one can study social interaction. Leeds-Hurwitz 1995 and Montgomery and Duck 1991 are relevant broadly to social interaction, and Manusov 2005 is focused more on a specific part of interaction: nonverbal cues.

  • Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy, ed. 1995. Social approaches to communication. New York: Guilford Press.

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    This diverse set of essays presents a range of ways in which interaction can be assessed critically and qualitatively. It is unique in its acknowledgment of the researcher’s role in establishing not only the research questions but also the research context.

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  • Manusov, Valerie, ed. 2005. The sourcebook of nonverbal measures: Going beyond words. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    This collection of chapters provides the background for and measures to assess an array of nonverbal cues and processes basic to social interaction. It also includes overviews of experimental work, ethnography, self-reports, and other methods that capture actual or reported interaction.

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  • Montgomery, Barbara M., and Steve Duck, eds. 1991. Studying interpersonal interaction. New York: Guilford Press.

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    This set of eighteen chapters describes a range of issues and methods for studying social interaction. The authors use a common sample research problem—an argument that occurs between one couple that is witnessed by a second couple—to present different methodologies or data sources (e.g., narratives, content analysis) for studying social interaction.

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Conversation Analysis

This qualitative method requires researchers to assess repeatedly and closely the intricacies of human interaction. Scholars are encouraged to videotape naturally occurring interaction and work with others to find out what emerges in the pattern of an ongoing interaction. Some works in this area, such as Glenn, et al. 2003, present exemplars of the research method rather than a “how to.” Others, such as Schegloff 2007 and Antaki 2004, are more clearly primers for learning how to conduct conversation analysis studies. Mandelbaum 2008 shows the interconnectedness of theory and method inherent to conversation analysis.

  • Antaki, Charles. 2004. Conversation analysis. In Understanding research methods for social policy and practice. Edited by Saul Becker and Alan Bryman, 313–317. London: Policy Press.

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    In his chapter, Antaki provides an overview of the processes involved when doing conversation analysis, with a particular application for using interaction data in public policy decisions.

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  • Glenn, Phillip J., Curtis D. leBaron, and Jenny Mandelbaum, eds. 2003. Studies in language and social interaction: In honor of Robert Hopper. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    The volume presents an array of conversation analytical studies on social interaction. Although not meant to be an overview of how to do such work, it offers a set of exemplars for doing this kind of social interaction scholarship.

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  • Mandelbaum, Jenny. 2008. Conversation analysis theory: A descriptive approach to interpersonal communication. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. Edited by Leslie A. Baxter and Dawn O. Braithwaite, 175–188. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This overview interweaves the theory and method of conversation analysis, which is an observation-based approach to understanding and depicting naturally occurring conversation.

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  • Schegloff, Emanuel. 2007. Sequence organization in interaction. Vol. 1, A primer in conversation analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791208Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first in a series on doing conversation analysis, its particular focus is on sequence organization, or the ways in which turns-at-talk are ordered to make actions take place in conversation.

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Ethnography

Ethnography is a qualitative methodology grounded in anthropology but well suited to the study of situated social interaction. Philipsen 1992 is particularly important in cultivating this particular mode of investigation, sometimes referred to as the ethnography of communication, for the study of social interaction (i.e., observing interaction as it occurs in its natural setting), one that is based on the findings in Hymes 1974. Other volumes, such as Emerson, et al. 1995, and chapters, such as Philipsen 2008, provide more specific guidelines for doing this kind of scholarship.

  • Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. 1995. Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226206851.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With the goal of helping readers conduct ethnographies, this book focuses on the ways in which ethnographic data are collected and the nature of accurate and useful field observation of social interaction in cultural and institutional settings.

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  • Hymes, Dell H. 1974. Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    This foundational book outlines Hymes’s contention that the study of language should be part of an inquiry into communicable conduct in general. He argues that language practices speak to the larger community in which they occur, reflecting the values and traditions of that community.

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  • Philipsen, Gerry. 1992. Speaking culturally: Explorations in social communication. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    This work overviews two separate ethnographic studies that reflect the situated nature of social interaction and provides models for conducting work on the ethnography of communication.

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  • Philipsen, Gerry. 2008. Speech codes theory: Traces of culture in interpersonal communication. In Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. Edited by Leslie A. Baxter and Dawn O. Braithwaite, 269–280. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This chapter shows the interconnection between the theory and practice of taking a speech codes approach to the study of interaction.

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Experiments

Experiments are a mainstay of many social scientific investigations of social interaction. They typically are concerned with studying the effects of particular variables, such as amount of talk, on outcomes, such as group decision making. Some books, such as Campbell and Stanley 1963, are meant for researchers doing experiments in any field related to social behavior. Others, such as Gottman 1979; Aron, et al. 1997; and Crowley, et al. 2018, are more specific to a certain context.

  • Aron, Arthur, Edward Melinat, Elaine N. Aron, Robert D. Vallone, and Renee J. Bator. 1997. The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 23:363–377.

    DOI: 10.1177/0146167297234003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This empirical article discusses the results of three experiments designed to look at the ways in which self-disclosure brings about relational closeness.

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  • Campbell, Donald T., and Julian C. Stanley. 1963. Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

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    Campbell and Stanley’s book is the primary read for scholars interested in conducting experimental research with human subjects. Focused on design primarily, it is a must-read for researchers in this area.

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  • Crowley, John P., Ryan Allred, Julianna Follon, and Carly Volkmer. 2018. Replication of the mere presence hypothesis: The effects of cell phones on face-to-face conversations. Communication Studies 69:283–293.

    DOI: 10.1080/10510974.2018.1467941Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This empirical article uses experiment design to test whether having a cell phone present during interaction affects that interaction and people’s experience of it.

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  • Gottman, John, M. 1979. Marital interaction: Experimental investigations. New York: Academic Press.

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    This book looks at specific ways in which the experimental paradigm can be applied effectively to social interaction, particularly the study of marital discord.

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Interaction Analysis

This set of research strategies focuses largely on the quantitative assessment of patterns of interaction, particularly as it occurs between intimates. This description is accurate for Margolin and Wampold 1981 and Pike and Sillars 1985, where the primary goal is to look for the ways in which one marital partner’s behaviors affect or are otherwise linked with another’s. But the same process can be assessed in other forms of interaction, as seen in Manusov, et al. 1994, where the context is child custody mediation sessions. Street and Cappella 1985 provides a collection of papers that showcase interaction analysis.

Interaction Coding

A range of specific coding procedures have been developed to quantify the types and patterns of behavior that occur as part of social interaction. Some, such as the development of the Relational Communication Control Coding System (RCCCS) (Rogers and Farace 1975), are consistent with larger positions on the nature of communicating (in this case, assessing patterns of communication control, i.e., one up/taking control and one down/acceding control, in conversational turns of talk). Others, such as those presented in Gottman 1979; Poole, et al. 1987; and Putnam 2006, are tied to a particular relationship (i.e., marriage) or interaction type (i.e., interpersonal).

  • Gottman, John M. 1979. Marital interaction: Experimental investigations. New York: Academic Press.

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    In addition to its focus on experimental setting, Gottman uses this text to discuss coding schemes that can be used to study negative communication processes that are predictive of relational decline.

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  • Poole, Marshall Scott, Joseph P. Folger, and Dean E. Hewes. 1987. Analyzing interpersonal interaction. In Interpersonal processes: New directions in communication research. Edited by Michael E. Roloff and Gerald R. Miller, 220–256. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This chapter provides ideas for coding interpersonal interaction and is part of an important collection of essays that set the stage for the next decade’s research on interpersonal communication processes.

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  • Putnam, Linda L. 2006. Communication and interaction patterns. In The negotiator’s fieldbook. Edited by Andrea K. Schneider and Christopher Honeyman, 385–394. Washington, DC: American Bar Association.

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    This chapter provides an overview of Putnam’s approach to coding negotiation discourse.

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  • Rogers, L. Edna, and Richard Farace. 1975. Relational communication analysis: New measurement procedures. Human Communication Research 1:222–239.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1975.tb00270.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article was the first to outline the RCCCS and show the ways in which patterns of conversational control can be seen in the exchange of speaking turns across an interaction.

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