COMS 150 CSUN Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Essay

In a 2 -3 page essay, consider your own practices of verbal and nonverbal communication. Identify two different contexts/relationships in your own life where you communicate with others (with roommates, family, friends, coworkers, teammates, classmates, etc) and compare your communication styles. For each context/relationship, identify one communication-based strength you have, identify at least one area issue/weakness with your communication, and offer a suggestion for how to improve your communication.

A First Look at Communication
Main content
Chapter Introduction
1-1 An Introduction to the Author
1-2 The Value of Studying Communication
1-2a Personal Life
1-2b Personal Relationships
1-2c Professional Life
1-2d Civic Life
1-3 Defining Communication
1-3a Process
1-3b Systems
1-3c Symbols
1-3d Meanings
1-4 Models of Communication
1-4a Linear Models
1-4b Interactive Models
1-4c Transactional Models
1-5 Careers in Communication
1-5a Research
1-5b Education
1-5c The Nonprofit Sector
1-5d Mass and Digital Communication: Journalism, Broadcasting, Public
Relations, and Advertising
1-5e Training and Consulting
1-5f Human Relations and Management
1-6 Digital Media and Communication
1-7 Overview of Communication Mosaics
1-8 Chapter Review
1-8bExperience Communication Case Study
1-8cKey Concepts
1-8dReview, Reflect, Extend
Chapter Introduction
What we do in life is determined by how we communicate.
— Tony Robbins
How does communication affect your life?
Start with a quick engagement activity and review the chapter Learning Objectives.
Learning Objectives
Topics Covered in This
After studying this chapter, you should
be able to …
The Value of Studying
Differentiate among the three
beneficial outcomes of studying
communication: personal,
professional, and civic.
Defining Communication
Discuss the importance of each of the
four key terms in the definition of
Models of Communication
Diagram elements in the transactional
model of communication from your
observation of a specific
communication interaction.
Careers in
Identify six careers that value the skills
acquired by communication majors.
Digital Media and
Adapt the four key terms in the
definition of communication to the
context of digital media.
At the end of this term, the person you’ve been dating will graduate and take a job in a
city a thousand miles away. You’re concerned about sustaining the relationship when
you have to communicate across the distance.
At work, you’re on a team that includes people from Mexico and Germany. You’ve
noticed that in some ways they communicate differently from American-born workers.
You aren’t sure how to interpret their styles of communicating or how to interact
effectively with them.
You can’t keep up with the e-mail, texts, and posts on your Facebook page. Although
you love staying in touch with everyone, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the
sheer amount of communication that pours in.
You volunteer at a literacy center where you teach children as well as adults to read.
You believe the program would be more effective if the director did more to build a
sense of community among volunteers. You want to encourage her to do that without
seeming to criticize her.
You want to advocate for a proposal to decrease waste that is put in the local landfill,
but you don’t have formal training in public speaking. You wonder how to organize
your ideas to persuade others to support the proposal.
From the moment we arise until we go to bed, our days are filled with communication
challenges and opportunities. Unlike some subjects you study, communication is relevant to
every aspect of your life. We communicate with ourselves when we psych ourselves up for
big moments and talk ourselves into or out of various courses of action. We communicate
with others to build and sustain personal relationships, perform our jobs, advance in our
careers, and participate in social and civic activities. Even when we’re not around other
people, we are involved in communication as we interact with mass media and social media.
All facets of our lives involve communication.
Although we communicate continually, we aren’t always effective. People who do not have
strong communication knowledge and skills are limited in their efforts to achieve personal,
social, professional, and civic goals. In contrast, people who communicate well have a strong
advantage in all spheres of life. For this reason, learning about communication and
developing your skills as a communicator are keys to a successful and fulfilling life.
Communication Mosaics is written for anyone who wants to learn about human
communication. If you are a communication major, this book and the course it accompanies
will give you a firm foundation for advanced study. If you are majoring in another discipline,
you will gain a basic understanding of communication, and you will have opportunities to
strengthen your skills as a communicator, which will help you throughout life.
This first chapter provides an overview of the book and the discipline of communication. To
open the chapter, I first introduce myself and point out the perspective and features of the
book. Second, I describe how communication is related to our personal, social, civic, and
professional life. Third, I define communication and discuss progressively sophisticated
models of the communication process. Fourth, I identify careers that people with strong
backgrounds in communication are qualified to pursue. Finally, we discuss connections
between communication and digital media.
1-1 An Introduction to the Author
As an undergraduate, I enrolled in a course much like the one you’re taking now. In that
course, I became fascinated by the field of communication, and my interest has endured for
more than 40 years. Today, I am still captivated by the field—more than ever, in fact. I see
communication both as a science that involves skills and knowledge and as an art that
reflects human imagination and wisdom. Because communication is central to our lives, it is
one of the most dynamic, fastest-growing fields.
When I was a student, I always wondered about the authors of my textbooks. Who were
they? Why did they write the books I was assigned to read? Unfortunately, the authors never
introduced themselves. I want to start our relationship differently by telling you something
about myself. I am a middle-aged, middle-income, European-American woman who has
strong spiritual beliefs and a deep commitment to education. For 40 years, I have been
married to Robbie (Robert) Cox, a professor and a leader in the national Sierra Club.
As is true for all of us, who I am affects what I know and how I think, feel, and communicate.
Therefore, some of what you’ll read in this book reflects what I have learned in my research,
teaching, and life. I grew up in a small rural town in the South. I also grew up in an era
marked by movements for civil rights and women’s rights, which shaped my values and
fueled my commitment to civic engagement. I learned early that my experiences are not the
only source of knowledge. I talk with others who have different perspectives than my own
and I look to scholars to augment my direct observations and experiences. The hundreds of
references at the end of this book have shaped both my understanding of human
communication and the way I introduce you to the field.
Other facets of my identity also influence what I know and how I write. My thinking is
influenced by my roles as a daughter, sister, romantic partner, friend, aunt, teacher, scholar,
and member of civic groups. On a broader level, I am defined by the categories that
Western culture uses to classify people—for instance, race, gender, socioeconomic level,
and sexual orientation. The groups I belong to have given me certain experiences and
insights and, conversely, I lack the experiences and insights that come with membership in
other groups. As a woman, I understand discrimination based on sex because I’ve
experienced it multiple times. Being middle class has shielded me from personal experience
with hunger, poverty, and bias against the poor; and being heterosexual has spared me
from being the direct target of homophobia and understanding how it feels to be
marginalized because of my sexual identity. Because Western culture tends to treat whites
as the norm, not as a distinct racial category, I was not socialized to think about my race and
its meaning. However, critical race theorists have taught me to interrogate whiteness as fully
as any other racial category.
Although I can use cultural categories to describe myself, they aren’t as clear or definitive as
we sometimes think. For instance, the category “woman” isn’t as homogenous as the single
noun suggests. Women differ from one another because of race–ethnicity, sexual
orientation, socioeconomic status, ability and disability, and a range of other factors.
Likewise, a particular race is not a homogenous category. Members of any race differ greatly
as a result of factors such as ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic
status, spiritual and religious values, abilities and disabilities, and so forth. The same is true
of people we can place in any category—they are alike in the particular way that defines the
category, yet they are also different from one another in many ways.
Like me, your experiences and group memberships have shaped your identity and your
perspectives. How are you similar to and different from others who belong to the same
culturally defined groups in which you place yourself? If you are a man, for instance, how is
your identity as a man influenced by your racial and ethnic background, socioeconomic
status, sexual orientation, spiritual commitments, and so forth? What insights do your
experiences and identity facilitate and hamper?
Although our identities limit what we personally know and experience, they don’t completely
prevent us from gaining insight into people and situations that are different from our own.
As I mentioned before, critical race theorists have taught me to think analytically about
whiteness as a racial category. Mass media and computer-mediated communication (CMC)
give me knowledge of diverse people and situations all over the world. All of these
resources allow me—and you, if you choose—to move beyond the limits of personal identity
and experience to appreciate and participate in the larger world. What we learn by studying
and interacting with people from different cultures and social communities expands our
appreciation of the richness and complexity of humanity. In addition, interacting with
people whose lives and communication differ from our own enlarges our repertoires of
communication skills.
1-2 The Value of Studying Communication
Communication is one of the most popular undergraduate majors (McKinney, 2006;
Schmitt, 2014). One reason for this popularity is the relevance of communication knowledge
and skills to success in all aspects of life. In order to advance in professional life, you’ll need
to know how to present your ideas effectively, build good relationships with colleagues,
monitor your perceptions, manage conflicts constructively, and listen thoughtfully. To have
healthy, enduring personal relationships, you’ll need to know how to communicate support,
deal with conflicts, and understand communication styles that are different from your own.
To be an engaged citizen, you’ll need critical thinking skills and the verbal ability to express
your own points of view. In short, communication skills are vital to personal and
professional well-being and to the health of our communities and society.
Because you’ve been communicating all your life, you might ask why you need to study
communication formally. One reason is that formal study can improve skill. Some people
have a natural talent for music or athletics. Yet they can become even better musicians or
athletes if they take voice lessons or study theories of offensive and defensive play.
Likewise, even if you communicate well now, learning about communication can make you
more effective.
1-2a Personal Life
We develop our personal identities through the process of interacting with others (Mead,
1934). In our earliest years, our parents told us who we were: “You’re smart,” “You’re so
strong,” “You’re such a clown.” We first see ourselves through the eyes of others, so their
messages form the foundations of our self-concepts. Later, we interact with teachers,
friends, romantic partners, and co-workers who communicate their views of us. In addition,
we learn who we are and how others perceive us as we engage mass communication and
social media.
The profound connection between communication and identity is dramatically evident in
children who are deprived of human contact. Case studies of children who have been
isolated from others for a long time show that they have no concept of themselves as
humans, and their mental and psychological development is severely hindered by lack of
language. The ENGAGE! box below presents a dramatic example of what can happen when
human infants are deprived of interaction with other humans. A large body of research
shows that social isolation is as dangerous to health as high blood pressure, smoking,
obesity, or alcoholism (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010).
Ghadya Ka Bacha
Ghadya Ka Bacha, or the “wolf boy,” was found in 1954 outside a hospital in Balrampur,
India. He had callused knees and hands, as if he moved on all fours, and he had scars on his
neck, suggesting he had been dragged about by animals.
Ramu, which was the name the hospital staff gave the child, showed no interest in others
but became very excited once when he saw wolves on a visit to a zoo. Ramu lapped his milk
instead of drinking as we do, and he tore apart his food.
Most doctors who examined Ramu concluded that he had been socialized by wolves and
therefore acted like a wolf, not a person (Shattuck, 1980).
© Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1. In this photo, Ramu is eating raw meat. What do Ramu’s behaviors suggest about how
we develop self-concepts? Would you define Ramu as a human or a wolf?
Author Answer: Biologically, or genetically, Ramu was human. But if by human we
mean identifying with and participating in the human community, Ramu was not
human, but wolf.
Substantial research shows that communicating with others promotes personal health,
whereas social isolation is linked to stress, disease, and early death (Fackelmann, 2006;
Kupfer, First, & Regier, 2002; McClure, 1997). College students who are in committed
relationships have fewer mental health problems and are less likely to be obese
(Braithwaite, Delevi, & Fincham, 2010). Heart disease is more common among people who
lack strong interpersonal relationships (Ornish, 1998), and cancer patients who are married
live longer than single cancer patients (“Cancer,” 2009). Clearly, healthy interaction with
others is important to our physical and mental well-being.
1-2b Personal Relationships
Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence (2007), says humans are “wired to connect” (p.
4). And communication—verbal and nonverbal, face to face or mediated—is the primary
way that we connect with others. For that reason, effective communication is the heart of
personal relationships. We build connections with others by revealing our private identities,
asking questions, working out problems, listening, remembering shared history, and making
plans for the future. To learn more about Daniel Goleman’s work, go to the online resources
for this chapter.
A primary distinction between relationships that endure and those that collapse is effective
communication. Couples who learn how to discuss their thoughts and feelings, listen
mindfully, adapt to each other, and manage conflict constructively tend to sustain intimacy
over time. Friends also rely on good communication to keep in touch, provide support, and
listen sensitively, and families that practice good communication are more cohesive and
stable (Galvin, Braithwaite, & Bylund, 2015). Communication in personal relationships does a
lot more than solve problems or allow partners to make personal disclosures. For most of
us, everyday talk and nonverbal interaction are the essence of relationships (Schmidt &
Uecker, 2007; Wood & Duck, 2006a,b). Although dramatic moments affect relationships, it is
our unremarkable, everyday interaction that sustains the daily rhythms of our intimate
connections (Duck & McMahon, 2012; Goleman, 2011; Wood & Duck, 2006a,b). Partners
weave their lives together through small talk about mutual friends, daily events, and other
mundane topics. Couples involved in long-distance romances miss being able to share small
In addition to studying how communication enhances relationships, interpersonal
communication scholars investigate the role of communication in destructive relationship
patterns such as abuse and violence. Teresa Sabourin and Glen Stamp (1995) have
identified strong links between verbal behaviors and reciprocal violence between spouses.
Other communication scholars (Lloyd & Emery, 2000; Wood, 2001b, 2004b) have
documented a range of social and interpersonal influences on violence between intimates.
Sandy’s comment is the first of many student voices you’ll encounter in this book. In my
classes, students teach me and each other by sharing their insights, experiences, and
questions. Because I believe students have much to teach us, I’ve included reflections
written by students at my university and other campuses. As you read these, you will
probably identify with some, disagree with others, and be puzzled by still others. Whether
you agree, disagree, or are perplexed, I think you will find that the student voices expand
the text and spark thought and discussion in your class and elsewhere. I also welcome your
comments about issues that strike you as you read this book. You may send them to me in
care of Cengage Learning, 20 Channel Center Street, Boston, MA 02210.
When my boyfriend moved away, the hardest part wasn’t missing the big moments. It was
not talking about little stuff or just being together. It was like we weren’t part of each other’s
life when we didn’t talk about all the little things that happened or how we felt or whatever.
1-2c Professional Life
Communication skills are critical for success in professional life. The value of communication
is clearly apparent in professions such as teaching, law, sales, and counseling, where talking
and listening are central to effectiveness.
In other fields, the importance of communication may be less obvious, but it is nonetheless
present. Leaders at organizations such as The New York Times, FedEx, and GlaxoSmithKline
list communication as vital to their organizations’ success (O’Hair & Eadie, 2009). Health-care
professionals rely on communication skills to talk with patients about medical problems and
courses of treatment and to gain cooperation from colleagues, patients, and families for
continued care. Doctors who do not listen well are less effective in treating patients, and
they’re more likely to be sued than doctors who do listen well (Beckman, 2003; Levine, 2004;
Milia, 2003). Further, good communication between doctors and patients and among
medical staff is related to effective treatment of patients (Rosenbaum, 2011; Salas & Frush,
2012). The pivotal role of communication in healthcare makes it unsurprising that an
increasing number of medical schools base admissions, in part, on applicants’
communication skills, especially their ability to work in teams (Harris, 2011).
It’s not surprising that most employers list communication skills as one of the top qualities
in job candidates (Hart Research, 2013; Rhodes, 2010; Selingo, 2012). Even highly technical
jobs require communication skills. Specialists have to be able to listen carefully to their
clients and customers in order to understand their needs and goals. Specialists also need to
be skilled in explaining technical ideas to people who lack their expertise. Ann Darling and
Deanna Dannels (2003) asked engineers whether communication skills were important to
their professional effectiveness. The engineers reported that their success on the job
depended on listening well, presenting ideas clearly, and negotiating effectively with others.
Fully 75 percent of the engineers said that communication skills had consequences for their
career advancement. Sean, an older, returning student, makes this observation about the
relevance of communication skills to his professional success:
I’m taking this course because I need communication skills to do my job. I didn’t think I
would when I majored in computer science and went into technology development. But
after two years, another guy and I decided to launch our own technical support company.
We had trouble getting investors to provide start-up capital, because neither of us knew
how to give an effective presentation. We had the tech skills but not the communication
ones. Finally, we got our company launched and discovered that we didn’t know much
about how to supervise and lead either. Neither of us had ever taken courses in how to
motivate and support people who work for you. So I’m taking this course as a night student,
and I think it will make a major difference in how I do my job and whether our company
Slobodan Vasic/
Communication skills are critical for
career success.
1-2d Civic Life
Communication skills are vital to the health of our society. From painting on the walls of
caves to telling stories in village squares to interacting on the Internet, people have found
ways to communicate with each other to organize and improve their common social world
(Keith, 2009). To be effective, citizens in a democracy must be able to express ideas and
evaluate the ethical and logical strength of communication by public figures. To make
informed judgments, voters need to listen critically to candidates’ arguments and responses
to questions. We also need to listen critically to proposals about goals for our communities,
the institutions at which we work, and the organizations on which we depend for services.
Civic engagement is more than paying attention to politics and voting. It is also working with
others—formally and informally, in small and large groups—to identify needs of
communities and society and then to find ways of meeting those needs. John Dewey, a
distinguished American philosopher, believed that democracy and communication are
intricately connected. He argued that while democracy depends on citizens’ voting, it is
more basic and important that citizens interact. Dewey insisted that it’s vital that citizens
talk and listen to each other—they must share ideas, question each other’s positions, debate
and argue, and collaborate to build communities that are stronger than any individual could
build. Without sustained, vigorous communication among citizens, democracy fails. To learn
more about John Dewey and his philosophy, go to the book’s online resources for this
Bowling Together?
When Robert Putnam published Bowling Alone in 2000, it caused quite a stir. In it, he claimed
that Americans are increasingly disconnected from one another and their communities.
Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, amassed evidence showing that Americans
at the end of the 20th century were 25 to 50 percent less connected to others than they had
been in the late 1960s.
Because he believed that diversity is a strength and that working together makes
individuals and the country stronger, Putnam wanted to know what could bring us back
together. Working with Lewis Feldstein, who has devoted his life to civic activism, Putnam
began searching for examples of people who were connecting with each other to work on
community and collective projects.
In Better Together (2003) Putnam and Feldstein present 12 stories of diverse people who are
working together to build and strengthen their communities. Although the 12 examples are
diverse—ranging from Philadelphia’s Experience Corps, in which volunteers tutor children
from impoverished backgrounds, to UPS: Diversity and Cohesion, which has changed the
UPS company from one run almost exclusively by white males to one in which minorities
and women have a strong presence in management—they have one thing in common:
building and using social capital. The people involved in these efforts realize that they need
to build networks of relationships and then draw on those networks to reach goals that are
not attainable by individuals working (or bowling) alone.
To promote civic engagement, Putnam, Feldstein, and others established a Better Together
initiative at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. If you’d like to learn more
about building and using social capital, go to the Better Together website by going to the
book’s online resources for this chapter.
1. To what extent do you agree with Putnam’s claim that people are increasingly
disconnected from one another?
Author Answer: In one sense, people in developed countries are more connected than
ever in history. Mass and digital media allow us to keep touch with many people and
be aware of issues and events all over the world. Yet there is some evidence that
many of our connections via social media are superficial (e.g., having five hundred
Facebook friends).
Communication skills are especially important for effective interaction in an era of
globalization, where we have daily encounters with people of different races, genders,
sexual orientations, and traditions. Diversity in the United States, as elsewhere, is the norm.
In 2000, 64 percent of Americans were Caucasian, but the prediction is that there will be no
single majority race by 2043 (Cooper, 2012; Milbank, 2014). We live, work, and socialize with
people who communicate differently than we do. Friendships and workplace relationships
between people with different cultural backgrounds enlarge perspective and appreciation
of the range of human values and viewpoints. Scott Page (2008), a professor of complex
systems, points out that people with greatly different backgrounds and perspectives make
for more productive, creative organizations. In much the same way that the health and
evolution of a species depends on a rich genetic mixture, the well-being of human societies
depends on diversity.
A recent survey shows that nearly half of first-year students at colleges and universities
think that learning about other cultures is essential or very important (Hoover, 2010).
Colleges and universities provide superb opportunities to get to know diverse people and to
learn about their experiences, values, and cultural traditions. The number of students from
countries other than the United States who enroll in U.S. colleges and universities is at its
all-time high (McMurtrie, 2011).
I used to feel it was hard to talk with people who weren’t raised in the United States like I
was. Sometimes it seems that they have a totally different way of talking than I do, and we
don’t understand each other naturally. But I’ve been trying to learn to understand people
from other places, and it really is making me realize how many different ways of
communicating people have. With so many cultures now part of this country, nobody can
get by without learning how to relate to people from other cultures.
As an African-American male, I sometimes feel as though I am a dash of pepper on top of a
mountain of salt. I have attended many classes where I was the only African American out of
50 or even 100 students. In these classes, the feeling of judgment is cast down upon me for
being different. Usually what I learn about is not “people,” like the course says, but white
people. Until I took a communication course, the only classes that included research and
information on African Americans were in the African-American curriculum. This bothered
me because white Americans are not the entire world.
Luanne was a student in one of my courses, and David wrote to me after taking a basic
communication course at a college in the western United States. Luanne’s reflection shows
that she is aware of the importance of understanding the communication of people from
cultures that differ from her own. David’s comment illustrates the importance of weaving
diversity into the study of communication. Communication, then, is important for personal,
relationship, professional, and civic life. Because communication is a cornerstone of the
human experience, your decision to study it will serve you well.
U.S. Demographics in the 21st Century
The United States is home to a wide range of people with diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, and
geographic backgrounds. And the proportions of different groups are changing. Currently,
one in three U.S. residents is a minority. By 2043, non-Hispanic whites will be a minority.
The following shifts in the ethnic makeup of the United States are predicted to take place
between 2010 and 2050 (“Demographics,” 2009; Milbank, 2014; “Quick Facts, 2011”):
2010 (%)
2050 (%)
White, nonHispanic
Hispanics &
Numbers do not total 100 percent because some respondents marked multiple categories.
1. How do you think the predicted demographic changes might affect facets of culture
such as personal relationships and work?
Author Answer: We are likely to see more people forming close friendships and
romantic relationships with people of races and ethnicities different than their own.
We are also likely to see an increasingly diversified work force and, with that, a greater
range of perspectives on work processes and products.
1-3 Defining Communication
Main content
We’ve been using the word communication for many pages, but we haven’t yet defined it
clearly. Communication is a systemic process in which people interact with and through
symbols to create and interpret meanings. Let’s unpack this definition by explaining its four
key terms.
1-3a Process
Main content
Communication is a process, which means that it is ongoing and dynamic. It’s hard to tell
when communication starts and stops, because what happens before we talk with someone
may influence our interaction, and what occurs in a particular encounter may affect the
future. That communication is a process means it is always in motion, moving forward and
changing continually.
1-3b Systems
Communication takes place within systems. A system consists of interrelated parts that
affect one another. In family communication, for instance, each family member is part of
the system (Galvin, Dickson, & Marrow, 2006). The physical environment and the time of day
also are elements of the system. People interact differently in a classroom than on a beach,
and we may be more alert at certain times of day than at others. The history of a system
also affects communication. If a workplace team has a history of listening sensitively and
working out problems constructively, then when someone says, “There’s something we need
to talk about,” the others are unlikely to become defensive. Conversely, if the team has a
record of nasty conflicts and bickering, the same comment might arouse strong
Because the parts of a system are interdependent and continually interact, a change in any
part of a system changes the entire system. When a new person joins a team, he or she
brings new perspectives that, in turn, may alter how other team members behave. The
team develops new patterns of interaction and forms new subgroups; thus, team
performance changes. The interrelatedness of a system’s parts is particularly evident in
intercultural communication. When a corporation moves its operations to a new country,
changes infuse everything from daily interaction on the factory floor to corporate culture.
Systems are not collections of random parts, but organized wholes. For this reason, a
system operates as a totality of interacting elements. A family is a system, or totality, of
interacting elements that include family members, their physical locations, and their jobs
and schools. Before systems theory was developed, therapists who worked with disturbed
members of families often tried to “fix” the person who supposedly was causing problems
in a family. Thus, alcoholics might be separated from their families and given therapy to stay
sober. Often, however, the alcoholic resumed drinking shortly after rejoining the family
because the behavior of the “problem person” was shaped by the behaviors of other family
members and other elements of the family system.
In a similar manner, organizations sometimes send managers to leadership training
programs but do not provide training for the manager’s subordinates. When the manager
returns to the office and uses the new leadership techniques, subordinates are distrustful
and resistant. They were accustomed to the manager’s former style, and they haven’t been
taught how to deal with the new style of leadership.
Because systems are organized wholes, they are more than simple combinations of parts.
As families, groups, organizations, and societies evolve, they discard or adapt old patterns,
generate new patterns, lose some members, and gain new members. When new topics are
introduced on blogs, new bloggers join, some established members go silent, and patterns
of communication are reconfigured. Personal relationships grow beyond the two original
parts (partners) to include trust or lack of trust, shared experiences, and private
vocabularies. Systems include not only their original parts but also changes in those original
elements and new elements that are created as a result of interaction.
Systems vary in how open they are. Openness is the extent to which a system affects and is
affected by outside factors and processes. Some tribal communities are relatively closed
systems that have little interaction with the world outside. Yet most cultures are fairly open
to interaction with other cultures. This is increasingly true today as more and more people
immigrate from one culture to another and as people travel more frequently and to more
places. The more open the system, the more factors influence it. Mass media and
communication technologies expand the openness of most societies and thus the
influences on them and their ways of life.
A final point about systems is that they strive for but cannot sustain equilibrium. Systems
seek a state of equilibrium, or homeostasis. That’s why families create routines,
organizations devise policies and procedures, individuals develop habits, groups generate
norms, online communities develop conventions and abbreviations, and cultures generate
rituals and traditions.
Yet no living system can sustain absolute balance or equilibrium. Change is inevitable and
continuous. Sometimes, it’s abrupt (a company moves all of its operations to a new country);
at other times, it’s gradual (a company begins to hire people from different cultures).
Sometimes, influences outside a system prompt change (legislation affects importing and
exporting in other countries). In other cases, the system generates change internally (an
organization decides to alter its marketing targets). To function and survive, members of
systems must continually adjust and change.
Communication is also affected by the larger systems within which it takes place. For
example, different cultures have distinct understandings of appropriate verbal and
nonverbal behaviors. Many Asian cultures place a high value on saving face, so Asians try
not to cause personal embarrassment to others by disagreeing overtly. It is inappropriate to
perceive people from Asian cultures as passive if they don’t assert themselves in the ways
that many Westerners do. Arab cultures consider it normal for people to be nearer to one
another when talking than most Westerners find comfortable, and, in Bulgaria, head nods
mean “no” rather than “yes.” Different regions of the same country may also have different
ways of communicating as Steve notes in his commentary. Even within a single region, there
are differences based on ethnicity, religion, gender, and other factors. Therefore, to
interpret communication, we have to consider the systems in which it takes place. In
Chapter 8, we’ll discuss different communication practices in diverse cultures.
It took me a long time to get used to Southerners. I’m from the Midwest and there we don’t
chat everybody up like Southerners do. We talk if we have something to say, but we don’t
talk just to talk. When I first moved here, I thought most of the people I met were real
busybodies because people I hardly knew would say things like “you should come to my
church” or “mark your calendar for the supper to raise money for schools” like I wanted to
go to those. Then I started dating a girl who was born near here and she “decoded”
Southern culture for me. She explained that “you should come” is not a command, which is
what it sounded like to me, but an invitation because Southerners want to be hospitable and
include everyone. She also told me I was being perceived as very standoffish because I
didn’t chat back like Southerners do.
1-3c Symbols
Main content
Communication is symbolic. We don’t have direct access to one another’s thoughts and
feelings. Instead, we rely on symbols, which are abstract, arbitrary, and ambiguous
representations of other things. We might symbolize love by giving a ring, by saying “I love
you,” or by closely embracing someone. A promotion might be symbolized by a new title
and a larger office (and a raise!). In Chapter 4, we’ll look more closely at symbols. For now,
just remember that human communication involves interaction with and through symbols.
1-3d Meanings
Finally, our definition focuses on meanings, which are at the heart of communication.
Meanings are the significance we bestow on phenomena, or what they signify to us.
Meanings are not inherent in experience itself. Instead, we use symbols to assign meanings
to experience. We ask others to be sounding boards so we can clarify our thinking, figure
out what things mean, enlarge our perspectives, check our perceptions, and label feelings to
give them reality. In all these ways, we actively construct meaning by interacting with
Communication has two levels of meaning (Pinker, 2008; Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson,
1967). The content level of meaning contains the literal message. If a person knocks on your
door and asks, “May I come in?” the content-level meaning is that the person is asking your
permission to enter. The relationship level of meaning expresses the relationship between
communicators. In our example, if the person who asks, “May I come in?” is your friend and
is smiling, you would probably conclude that the person is seeking friendly interaction. But
if the person is your supervisor and speaks in an angry tone, you might interpret the
relationship-level meaning as a signal that your supervisor is not satisfied with your work
and is going to call you on the carpet. The content-level meaning is the same in both
examples, but the relationship-level meaning differs.
The relationship level of meaning is often more important than the content level. The
relationship level of meaning may affirm connection with another person (Gottman &
DeClaire, 2001). For example, this morning Robbie said to me, “I’ve got a meeting at noon, so
I won’t be home for lunch.” The content-level meaning is obvious—Robbie is informing me
of his schedule. The relationship-level meaning, however, is the more important message
that Robbie wants to stay connected with me and is aware that we usually eat lunch
together. Likewise, the content level of meaning of text messages is often mundane, even
trivial: On the relationship level of meaning, however, this
exchange expresses interest and a desire to stay in touch. The Engage box on the right
invites you to pay attention to both levels of communication in your interactions.
1-4 Models of Communication
Main content
To build on our definition of communication, we’ll now consider models of the human
communication process. Over the years, scholars in communication have developed a
number of models that reflect increasingly sophisticated understandings of the
communication process.
1-4a Linear Models
Harold Laswell (1948) advanced an early model that described communication as a linear, or
one-way, process in which one person acts on another person. This is also called a
transmission model because it assumes that communication is transmitted in a
straightforward manner from a sender to a receiver. This verbal model consists of five
Says what?
In what channel?
To whom?
With what effect?
Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949) refined Laswell’s model by adding the concept
of noise, which is anything that interferes with the intended meaning of communication.
Noise may distort understanding. Figure 1.1 shows Shannon and Weaver’s model. Although
linear, or transmission, models such as these were useful starting points, they are too
simplistic to capture the complexity of human communication.
Figure 1.1The Linear Model of Communication
Source: From Claude Shannon and Warran Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of
Communication. Copyright 1949, 1998 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Used with permission of the authors and the University of Illinois Press.
1-4b Interactive Models
The major shortcoming of the early models was that they portrayed communication as
flowing in only one direction, from a sender to a receiver. The linear model suggests that a
person is only a sender or a receiver and that receivers passively absorb senders’ messages.
Clearly, this isn’t how communication occurs.
When communication theorists realized that listeners respond to senders, they added
feedback to their models. Feedback is a response to a message. Wilbur Schramm (1955)
pointed out that communicators create and interpret messages within personal fields of
experience. The more communicators’ fields of experience overlap, the better they
understand each other. Adding fields of experience to models clarifies why
misunderstandings sometimes occur. You jokingly put down a friend, and he takes it
seriously and is hurt. You offer to help someone, and she feels patronized (Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2The Interactive Model of Communication
Source: Adapted from Schramm, 1955.
1-4c Transactional Models
Although the interactive model was an improvement over the linear one, it still didn’t
capture the dynamism of human communication. The interactive model portrays
communication as a sequential process in which one person communicates to another, who
then sends feedback to the first person. Yet people often communicate simultaneously.
Also, the interactive model designates one person as a sender and another person as a
receiver. In reality, communicators both send and receive messages. While handing out a
press release, a public relations representative watches reporters to gauge their interest.
The “speaker” is listening; the “listeners” are sending messages.
A final shortcoming of the interactive model is that it doesn’t portray communication as
changing over time as a result of what happens between people. For example, new
employees are more reserved in conversations with co-workers than they are after months
on the job, during which they get to know others and learn organizational norms. Figure 1.3
is a transactional model that highlights the features we have discussed.
Figure 1.3A Transactional Model of Communication
Source: Adapted from Wood, 1997, p. 21.
Consistent with what we’ve covered in
this chapter, our model includes noise that can distort communication. Noise includes
sounds, such as a lawn mower or background chatter, as well as interferences within
communicators, such as biases and preoccupation that hinder effective listening. In
addition, our model represents communication as a continually changing process. How
people communicate varies over time and in response to their history of relating.
The outer lines on our model emphasize that communication occurs within systems that
affect what and how people communicate and what meanings they create. Those systems,
or contexts, include the shared systems of the communicators (campus, town, culture) and
the personal systems of each communicator (family, religious and civic associations,
friends). Also note that our model, unlike previous ones, portrays each person’s field of
experience and his or her shared fields of experience as changing over time. As we
encounter new people and grow personally, we alter how we interact with others.
Finally, our model doesn’t label one person a sender and the other a receiver. Instead, both
are defined as communicators who participate equally, and often simultaneously, in the
communication process. This means that at a given moment in communication, you may be
sending a message (speaking or wrinkling your brow), listening to a message, or doing both
at the same time (interpreting what someone says while nodding to show you are
interested). To understand communication as a transactional process is to recognize that
self and others are involved in a shared process: Communication is we-oriented (How can
we understand each other? How can we work through this conflict?) rather than me-oriented
(This is what I mean. This is what I want.).
In summary, the most accurate model of communication represents it as a transactional
process in which people interact with and through symbols over time to create meaning.
1-5 Careers in Communication
Main content
You may wonder what kinds of careers are open to people with strong backgrounds in
communication. As we’ve seen, communication skills are essential to success in most fields.
Attorneys, accountants, bankers, doctors, and other professionals need communication
skills to be effective. In addition, people who major in communication are particularly
equipped for certain careers.
1-5a Research
Communication research is a vital and growing field of work. Many faculty members
combine teaching and research. In this book, you’ll encounter a good deal of academic
research that helps us understand how communication works—or fails to work.
In addition to academic research, communication specialists help organizations by studying
processes such as message production and marketing. Companies want to know how
people respond to advertisements, logos, and product names. Communication researchers
also assist counselors by investigating the ways in which communication helps and harms
1-5b Education
Teaching others about communication is another exciting career path for people with
extensive backgrounds in the field. Across the nation, communication teachers at all levels
are in demand. Secondary schools, junior colleges, colleges, universities, technical schools,
and community colleges offer communication classes.
The level at which people are qualified to teach depends on how extensively they have
pursued the study of communication. Generally, a bachelor’s degree in communication
education and a teaching certificate are required for teaching in elementary, middle, and
high schools. A master’s degree in communication qualifies a person to teach at community
colleges, technical schools, and some junior colleges. The doctoral degree in communication
generally is required of university faculty, although some universities offer nontenured,
fixed term positions to people with master’s degrees.
Although generalists are preferred for many teaching jobs, college-level faculty members
often specialize in certain areas of communication. For instance, my research and teaching
focus on interpersonal communication and gender and communication. Other college
faculty members specialize in areas such as intercultural communication, family
communication, health communication, and organizational dynamics.
Communication educators are not limited to communication departments. In recent years,
more and more people with advanced degrees in communication have taken positions in
medical and business schools. Doctors need training in listening sensitively to patients,
explaining complex problems and procedures, and providing comfort, reassurance, and
motivation. Similarly, good business people know not only their businesses but also how to
explain their businesses to others, how to present themselves and their companies or
products favorably, and so on.
1-5c The Nonprofit Sector
Main content
Communication skills and knowledge are vital to careers in the nonprofit sector. Former
students of mine who are in nonprofit careers are working with homeless citizens, securing
housing for poorer citizens, advancing environmental goals, and teaching literacy. Jobs such
as these require strong communication skills. You have to be willing and able to listen and
learn from people who are quite different from you in their backgrounds, goals, abilities,
and dreams. You must know how to encourage, motivate, and support others and how to
build strong teams of staff and volunteers. You must be able to establish a climate of
mutual trust and respect with populations that—often for good reason—don’t easily trust
others. All of these are communication skills.
1-5d Mass and Digital Communication: Journalism,
Strong communication skills are necessary for careers in journalism, public relations,
broadcasting, and advertising (Ihlen, Fredrikson, & van Ruler, 2009; Nerone, 2009; Smith,
2009). Good journalists know how to listen carefully and critically when conducting
interviews. They also know how to write clearly, whether for newspapers or blogs, so that
readers are drawn to their stories and speak effectively so viewers understand what their
broadcast reports.
Effective public relations depend on understanding actual and potential clients and
consumers and adapting messages to their interests, goals, and concerns. Effective
advertising professionals help companies brand products so that consumers associate a
product with a particular key message or theme. McDonald’s advertising team has been
effective in branding McDonald’s as family-friendly; Porsche is branded as “the ultimate
driving experience”; and Nike is identified with the “just do it” attitude.
1-5e Training and Consulting
Consulting is another career that welcomes people with backgrounds in communication.
Businesses train employees in group communication skills, interview techniques, and
interpersonal interaction. Some large corporations have entire departments devoted to
training and development. People with communication backgrounds often join these
departments and work with the corporation to design and teach courses or workshops that
enhance employees’ communication skills.
In addition, communication specialists may join or form consulting firms that provide
communication training to governments and businesses. One of my colleagues consults
with nonprofit organizations to help them develop work teams that interact effectively.
Other communication specialists work with politicians to improve their presentational styles
and sometimes to assist in writing their speeches. I consult with attorneys as an expert
witness and a trial strategist on cases involving charges of sexual harassment and sex
discrimination. Other communication consultants work with attorneys on jury selections
and advise lawyers about how dress and nonverbal behaviors might affect jurors’
perceptions of clients.
Careers in Communication
Learn more about careers open to people with strong training in communication. The
National Communication Association publishes Pathways to Careers in Communication. In
addition to discussing careers, this booklet provides useful information on the National
Communication Association and its many programs. Visit the National Communication
Association’s website using the link provided in the online resources for this chapter.
1-5f Human Relations and Management
Because communication is the foundation of human relations, it’s no surprise that many
communication specialists build careers in human development or in the human relations
departments of corporations. People with solid understandings of communication and good
personal communication skills are effective in public relations, personnel management,
grievance management, negotiation, customer relations, and development and fundraising.
Communication degrees also open doors to careers in management. The most important
qualifications for management are not technical skills but the abilities to interact with others
and to communicate effectively. Good managers know how to listen, express ideas, build
consensus, create supportive climates, and balance tasks and interpersonal concerns in
dealing with others. Developing skills such as these gives communication majors a firm
foundation for effective management. The ENGAGE! box you how to learn about careers in
communication that might appeal to you.
1-6 Digital Media and Communication
In every chapter, we will explore connections between chapter content and digital media.
The ideas we have discussed in this introductory chapter are related to social and online
media in several ways. First, consider how the values of communication that we identified
are achieved using digital media. For instance, we rely on social media to maintain personal
relationships. On social networking sites such as Facebook, we post updates and photos
that let friends know what’s happening in our lives and to learn what is happening in others’
lives. We also use social media to establish and maintain professional ties. LinkedIn, for
example, allows people to network professionally. We also use online and social media to
engage in civic life—signing online petitions, blogging about issues that matter to us, and
reading online newspapers and the blogs of others whose opinions we respect.
You might also consider what the definition of communication implies for interacting via
digital media. When we talk with people face-to-face, we are aware of their immediate
physical context, which is not the case with much online and digital interaction. We may not
know who else is present and what else is happening around a person we text. When the
systems within which communication occurs are unknown to us, it’s more difficult to
interpret others. For instance, does a delayed response mean the person you texted is
angry, is thinking over what you said, or is talking with people he or she is with? Also,
because nonverbal communication is restricted online and especially digitally, we may miss
out on meaning, particularly on the relationship level.
© Eugenio Marongiu/
Social media can enrich or compete with face-to-face communication.
Our definition also emphasizes process—changes in communication that happen over time.
Think about how online and digital communication have evolved in the course of the past
two decades. When e-mail first emerged, most people treated it much like letter writing: An
e-mail started with “Dear” or “Hello” and ended with a closing such as “Thank you” or
“Sincerely.” As e-mail became more popular and as all of us were flooded with e-mail
messages, the opening and closing courtesies largely disappeared. As e-mail traffic
continued to increase, abbreviations started being used: BRB (be right back), LOL (laughing
out loud), and so forth. Texting and tweeting brought more innovation in use of symbols.
Vowels are often dropped; single letters serve for some words (u for you, r for are); and
phrases, rather than complete sentences, are acceptable. The rules of grammar, syntax, and
spelling have also been loosened by digital natives who assume the autocorrect function
edits correctly.
1-7 Overview of Communication Mosaics
To provide a context for your reading, let me share my vision for this book. Its title reflects
the idea that communication is an intricate mosaic composed of basic processes and skills
that are relevant to the range of situations in which we interact. Although all of the basic
processes and skills affect communication in every situation, the prominence of each one
varies according to context. For instance, in public speaking, presentation style stands out,
and communication climate is less obvious. Conversely, in team interaction, communication
that nurtures a productive climate may be more pronounced than a commanding
presentational style.
Communication Mosaics is divided into three parts. Part I includes this and one additional
chapter that introduces the discipline of communication by explaining its history, research
methods, contemporary breadth, and career options.
Part II introduces you to six basic communication processes, concepts, and skills:
Perceiving and understanding others
Engaging in verbal communication
Engaging in nonverbal communication
Listening and responding to others
Creating and sustaining communication climates
Adapting communication to cultural contexts
Part III explores seven communication contexts that are common in our lives:
Communication with yourself
Interaction with friends and romantic partners
Communication in groups and on teams
Communication in organizations
Public speaking
Mass communication
Digital media
Chapter Review
Main content
In this chapter, we’ve taken a first look at human communication. We noted its importance
in our lives, defined communication, and discussed models, the most accurate of which is a
transactional model that emphasizes the dynamism of communication. Next, we discussed
career paths for people who develop strong communication skills. We then traced
relationships between the foregoing topics and digital media. Finally, we previewed the
remainder of the book so that you have a clear overall sense of what lies ahead.
The Field of Communication from Historical and
Main content
Chapter Introduction
2-1 The History of the Communication Field
2-1a Classical Roots: Rhetoric and Democratic Life
2-1b Liberal Education
2-1c Broadening the Field
2-2 Conducting Research in Communication
2-2a Quantitative Research
2-2b Qualitative Research
2-2c Critical Research
2-2d Rhetorical Criticism
2-3 The Breadth of the Communication Field
2-3a Intrapersonal Communication
2-3b Interpersonal Communication
2-3c Group and Team Communication
2-3d Public Communication
2-3e Organizational Communication
2-3f Mass Media
2-3g Computer-Mediated Communication
2-3h Intercultural Communication
2-3i Other Curricular Emphases
2-3j Blurring the Lines
2-4 Unifying Themes in the Communication Field
2-4a Symbolic Activities
2-4b Meaning
2-4c Ethics
2-5 Digital Media and Communication
2-6 Chapter Review
2-6bExperience Communication Case Study
2-6cKey Concepts
2-6dReview, Reflect, Extend
Chapter Introduction
There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and
—John Dewey
What similarity can you identify among the words common, community, and communication?
Start with a quick engagement activity and review the chapter Learning Objectives.
Learning Objectives
Topics Covered in This
After studying this chapter, you should
be able to …
The History of the
Communication Field
Given historical milestones outlined in
the text, explain how the field of
communication responds to the
changing character and needs of
individuals and society.
Conducting Research in
Recognize the four primary
approaches to communication
The Breadth of the
Communication Field
Identify the eight primary areas of the
modern communication field.
Unifying Themes in the
Communication Field
Discuss three themes that unify the
diverse areas that comprise the field of
Digital Media and
Reflect on how the three unifying
themes of communication relate to
digital communication.
My father loved to tell me stories about my ancestors—his parents, grandparents, and
great-grandparents. When I was seven years old and bored with his stories, I asked my
father what any of that “ancient history” had to do with me. He responded by telling me that
the family members who came before me shaped his identity and my own. He went on to
tell me that I couldn’t understand who I was without understanding the history of my family.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate my father’s wisdom, but I did start listening with more
attention to his stories of our family history. In the years that followed, I realized he was
right. My father’s parents and grandparents had been farmers. Although he became an
attorney, my father retained a deep love of animals and land, which he passed on to me and
my siblings. I discovered that my impulsive personality was not new in the family; Charles
Harrison Wood, my great-grandfather, had been known for being rash. Later, when it
became clear that I had a keen talent for organizing, I felt a kinship with my father’s mother,
whose organizational skills had been well known in our home county.
Just as you can’t fully appreciate who you are without knowing your family’s history, you
can’t understand an academic discipline without learning about its history. This chapter
introduces you to communication field’s evolution. We first discuss the long and rich
intellectual history of the discipline. Second, we discuss methods of conducting research
that are used by communication scholars. The third section of the chapter surveys the
major areas of the contemporary field and highlights themes that unify the different areas.
The final section of the chapter applies what we’ve discussed to digital media.
2-1 The History of the Communication Field
Main content
As the title of this book suggests, communication is a mosaic, each part of which contributes
to the overall character of the field. The mosaic has become more complex since the
discipline’s birth more than 2,500 years ago.
2-1a Classical Roots: Rhetoric and Democratic Life
One theme in the mosaic is that communication plays a vital role in democratic societies.
The art of rhetoric was born in the mid-400s b.c. in the Grecian port city of Syracuse on the
island of Sicily. At that time, the Sicilians had just overthrown the oppressive political regime
led by a tyrant who had taken their land and impoverished them. After ousting the tyrant,
the citizens established a democratic society. The first order of business was to regain
property that the former government had taken from the people. A man named Corax,
along with his pupil Tisias, taught citizens how to structure speeches, build arguments, and
present cases for recovering their property in law courts. In other words, the
communication field came into existence to answer a pressing need of citizens in a
Aristotle played a particularly key role in developing the first theories of rhetoric (Borchers,
2006). He understood that citizens could participate fully in democracy only if they were able
to speak well and engage in discussion and debate about issues of the day. Building on the
teachings of Corax and Tisias, other ancient teachers, notably Plato and Aristotle, taught
their students how to analyze audiences, discover ideas and evidence to support claims,
and organize and deliver speeches clearly and dynamically.
Learning from Ancient Theorists
You can study with great ancient rhetorical theorists online. To read Gorgias, one of Plato’s
most famous texts, and to read a summary of Aristotle’s views of rhetoric, go to the book’s
online resources for this chapter.
One of the enduring contributions to our knowledge of rhetoric was Aristotle’s thinking
about how persuasion occurs. He theorized that there are three ways to persuade (Figure
2.1). Ethos is based on a speaker’s credibility (trustworthiness, expertise, and good will).
Pathos is appeals to listeners’ emotions. Logos is logic and reasoning. If you think about
your experiences in listening to speakers, you’re likely to discover that, like people in
Aristotle’s time, you respond to ethos, pathos, and logos.
Figure 2.1The Three Pillars of Persuasion
© Cengage Learning
2-1b Liberal Education
Centuries after Aristotle taught, rhetoric held a premier spot in liberal education in Europe
and the United States. By the 19th century, many of the most prestigious universities in the
United States established chairs of rhetoric, held by distinguished scholars and civic leaders.
Among these was President John Quincy Adams, who held the first Boylston Professor of
Rhetoric Chair at Harvard University (Foss, Foss, & Trapp, 1991). In the 1800s and early
1900s, rhetoric was taught as a practical art that prepared people for responsible
participation in civic life. The emphasis on teaching that marked this period explains why the
first national professional organization, founded in 1914, was named the National
Association of Teachers of Public Speaking.
In the 1900s, the communication discipline began to broaden beyond public speaking. In the
early 20th century, philosopher John Dewey championed progressive thinking. For Dewey,
this also meant championing communication in a broad sense. He realized that to have any
impact on cultural life, progressive thinking must be communicated. In others words, people
must be able to voice their ideas and to listen thoughtfully and critically to the ideas of
others; they must talk, listen, debate, and discuss.
Dewey’s interest in progressive thinking grew out of the political context of postwar
America. After the two world wars, communication professionals felt an urgent need to
understand the development of prejudice against social groups, willingness to follow
authoritarian leaders such as Hitler, the effects of propaganda, and changes in attitudes
and beliefs.
In the early 1900s, two major professional communication organizations were formed. The
first was the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC),
which was founded in 1912. AEJMC promotes both academic and applied journalism, and it
sponsors research journals and conferences on journalistic practice, scholarship, and
teaching. Today, AEJMC has more than 3,500 members worldwide.
The second organization was founded in 1914. Because its original members were speech
teachers, it was called Speech Teachers of America (STA). However, that name did not
endure. The organization has changed its name three times, each change signaling
evolution in the organization’s scope and view of itself. The current name is the National
Communication Association (NCA), and it has thousands of members in 20 countries.
In the mid-20th century, another part of the mosaic of communication was added: scientific,
quantitative research, which gained prominence in almost all of the social sciences. The
formation of the International Communication Association (ICA) in 1950 signaled a growing
interest in scientific research in the communication field. Today, both NCA and ICA have
international memberships, and both promote research of all types.
2-1c Broadening the Field
The 1960s and 1970s saw yet another addition to the communication mosaic. In the United
States, this was a time of exceptional social and political upheaval. The civil rights movement
and the second wave of the women’s movement shook up long-standing patterns of
personal and social relations. At the same time, youth culture ushered in new ideas about
how people should interact and what was important in life. Many college students felt that
personal relationships should receive more time and attention than the traditional
curriculum provided. Responding to these currents in social life, the communication
discipline expanded to include interpersonal communication. Many colleges and
universities began to offer classes in family communication, nonverbal communication, and
interaction in intimate relationships
© Catherine Jones/
Communication is a primary tool in protests for social change.
Beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present day, the relationship between
communication and power in cultural life has become increasingly prominent in the
communication mosaic. The tumultuous 1960s and 1970s were marked by social and
political movements that questioned established power hierarchies. As mentioned above,
two of the most notable of these movements were the civil rights movement, which
challenged racial discrimination in the United States, and the women’s movement, which
challenged conventional gender roles in both public and private realms of life. Many
scholars and teachers of communication embraced a critical focus on social movements
and began to investigate the communicative dynamics that social movements employ and
the ways in which social movements affect individuals and society.
The expansion of the field’s interests to questions of power reflects the influence of French
philosopher Michel Foucault (1970, 1972a, 1972b, 1978), who was deeply concerned with
who is and who is not allowed to speak in a society. More specifically, Foucault illuminated
the ways in which culturally entrenched rules—often unwritten and unacknowledged—
define who gets to speak, to whom we listen, and whose views are counted as important.
Building on Foucault’s ideas, a number of communication scholars study the ways in which
some people’s communication is allowed and other people’s communication is disallowed
or disrespected. Equally, these scholars seek to empower people whose voices historically
have been muted so that they can participate fully in public and private interactions that
shape the character of personal and collective life. Consider one example. Historically,
decisions about environmental issues that affect the health and environment of
communities have been made almost entirely by privileged citizens: scientists and people in
white-collar and technical professions. Left out of these vital discussions have been many
blue-collar workers, unemployed or underemployed people, and citizens without formal
education (Cox & Pezzullo, 2016; Martin, 2007). These citizens often are made voiceless by
institutional barriers and administrative practices that define their concerns and their ways
of speaking as inappropriate. Pezzullo (2007, 2008) and others (Agyeman, 2007; Norton,
2007; Sandler & Pezzullo, 2007) engage in research that increases our understanding of
ways to empower those who suffer environmental hazards and who have not had a voice in
their communities and the larger society.
Interest in the relationships between communication and power has reshaped many areas
of the field. Rhetorical scholars have broadened their focus beyond individual speakers.
Many of today’s rhetorical scholars study gay rights, pro-life and pro-choice, environmental,
and other social movements. They examine coercive tactics, symbolic strategies for defining
issues (think of the power of terms such as pro-choice and pro-life compared with proabortion and anti-abortion or pro-choice and anti-choice), and how social movements
challenge and change broadly held cultural practices and values.
Scholars in other areas of the field share an interest in how communication shapes and is
shaped by the historical, social, and political contexts in which it occurs. Today, faculty in
interpersonal and organizational communication conduct research and teach about how
new technologies affect personal relationships and reshape societies, how organizational
cultures and practices affect employees’ productivity and job satisfaction, and how national
trends such as downsizing and outsourcing affect workers’ job commitment.
As this brief historical overview shows, the field of communication responds to the changing
character and needs of individuals and society. Perhaps this is why the field has expanded,
even during periods of downsizing at many colleges and universities. Just as Aristotle’s
students found that communication skills allowed them to participate in their society,
today’s communication faculty equip students with skills for understanding and
participating in the present era.
2-2 Conducting Research in Communication
Main content
Like other scholarly disciplines, communication is based on knowledge gained from
rigorous research (Baxter & Beebe, 2004; Carbaugh & Buzzanell, 2009; Reinhard, 2007). So
that you can understand how scholars acquire knowledge, we’ll discuss four primary
approaches to communication research. These approaches are not incompatible; many
scholars rely on multiple approaches. Further, even scholars who do not use multiple
methods in their own research stay abreast of research that employs a range of methods.
2-2a Quantitative Research
Communication scholars rely on quantitative research to gather information in numerical
form. One quantitative method, descriptive statistics, measures human behavior in terms of
quantity, frequency, or amount. For example, researchers used descriptive statistics to show
racial bias in children’s books: Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 93 were
about black people (Myers, 2014).
A second method of quantitative research is surveys, instruments, questionnaires, or
interviews that measure how people feel, think, act, and so forth. Surveys are valuable when
a researcher wants to discover general trends among a particular group of people—
members of an institution, for example, or Americans in general. Surveys often are used in
organizations to gain information about employee morale, response to company policies,
and job satisfaction. Once survey data are gathered, they may be analyzed using a variety of
statistical methods.
A third method of quantitative research is experiment in which researchers measure how
one variable (called the independent variable) that can be manipulated affects other variables
(called dependent variables). Norman Wong and Joseph Cappella (2009) designed a series of
experiments to test the effectiveness of different types of messages designed to persuade
people to stop smoking. Some participants received messages that were high in threat and
high in efficacy (claiming that smoking is dangerous and quitting is possible) whereas other
participants received messages low in threat and efficacy. They found that the higher threat
and efficacy message was more effective in motivating participants to seek help to quit
2-2b Qualitative Research
A second approach used by many scholars of communication is qualitative research, which
provides nonnumerical knowledge about communication. Qualitative methods are
especially valuable when researchers want to study aspects of communication that cannot
easily be quantified, such as the meaning of experience, the function of rituals in
organizational life, and how we feel about online communication (Schiebel, 2009). Three
methods of qualitative research are most prominent in the communication discipline.
Textual analysis is the interpretation of symbolic activities—for example, how couples
manage conflict or how attorneys interrogate witnesses. Texts are not limited to formal
written texts or speeches, but also include AIDS quilt, community-building rituals among
refugees, tours of toxic waste sites, self-disclosures in chat rooms on the Web, and stories
told in families. In each case, communication practices are interpreted, rather than
measured, to understand their significance.
Another qualitative method is ethnography, in which researchers try to discover what
symbolic activities mean by immersing themselves in naturally occurring activities and
natural contexts that have not been manipulated by researchers. By spending significant
time in these contexts, ethnographic researchers are able to gain insight into the
perspectives of those who are native to the context. At the center of ethnographic research
is a commitment to understanding what communication means from the perspective of
those involved rather than from that of an outside, uninvolved observer. Katy Bodey (Bodey
& Wood, 2009) explored how girls in their late teens use social media to develop identities.
She visited their blogs and sites, talked in-depth with girls about what they did online and
why, and blogged herself. Bodey found that their blogs and pages on social sites are places
where they talk about issues such as pressures to be skinny, drink (or not), have sex (or not),
and dress particular ways. Bodey noticed that the girls were not just recording what they
thought or did related to these pressures, but they were actually working out what they
thought and wanted to do in the process of blogging or chatting online. In other words,
social media were platforms for them to actively construct identities and get responses
from others.
A third method of qualitative scholarship is historical research, which examines past events,
people, and activities. Scholars rely on historical research to learn about the contexts in
which ancient thinkers such as Aristotle developed their ideas. The data for historical
scholarship include original documents, such as drafts of famous speeches and notes for
revision, records that describe events and public reaction to them, and biographical studies
of key figures.
2-2c Critical Research
A third approach to communication scholarship is critical research, in which scholars
identify and challenge communication practices that oppress, marginalize, or otherwise
harm individuals and social groups (Ono, 2009). In other words, critical research wrestles
with power relationships and their impact.
Critical scholars perceive specific communication practices as means of reflecting,
upholding, and sometimes challenging cultural ideology. For example, the practice of
punching a time clock, used in many organizations, upholds the notion that workers must
account for their time to those who have the means to own and run businesses. The
meaning of punching a time clock is tied to an overall ideology that stipulates who has
power over whom.
Some critical scholars contribute through original theorizing that helps us understand how
certain groups and practices become dominant and how dominant ideologies sometimes
are challenged and changed in a society. Other critical scholars engage in empirical work to
reveal how particular practices function and whom they benefit and harm. For example,
critical scholars have noted that women are underrepresented in films. Only 6 of 2013’s 50
top-earning movies had a female lead character, and 20 percentage of all films in 2013
didn’t have women as secondary characters (Duca, 2013). Critical media scholars also raise
questions about how communication technologies shape individual thinking and social
relationships and about who profits from digital media (Steiner-Adair, 2013).
Although the quantitative, qualitative, and critical approaches are distinct orientations to
conducting research, they are not necessarily inconsistent or incompatible. In fact, scholars
often rely on more than one research method in an effort to gain multifaceted
understanding of what is being studied. Likewise, scholars often combine different kinds of
data or theoretical perspectives to gain a fuller understanding of what is being studied than
they would get from any single type of data or theoretical lens.
Studying phenomena in multiple ways is called triangulation. Communication researchers
employ different types of triangulation. Data triangulation relies on multiple sources of data.
For example, to study gender bias in sports reporting, researchers (Eastman & Billings, 2000)
used three sources of data: The New York Times, CNN’s Sports Tonight, and ESPN’s
SportsCenter. Researcher triangulation occurs when two or more researchers gather and
analyze data so that the data are interpreted through multiple perspectives. Methodological
triangulation involves using two or more methodologies to study a phenomenon. To study
the relationship between stereotypical media messages about race and ethnicity, and
consumers’ social judgments of races and ethnicities, Dana Mastro (2003) employed both
quantitative and critical methods.
2-2d Rhetorical Criticism
The final mode of research we will discuss, rhetorical criticism, dates back to the earliest
teaching and research in the field. Rhetorical criticism is “the process of examining a text to
see how it works communicatively” (Renegar & Malkowski, 2009, p. 51). However, as noted
earlier, scholars have a broad view of what counts as a message or a text. In addition to
speeches, texts include any and all symbolic activities—nonverbal actions and artifacts such
as the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, verbal but not vocal messages such as written
messages and cartoons, films, images, web videos, and everyday performances of identity.
Rhetorical criticism aims to understand how particular texts work. How do they have impact
—or fail to have impact—on listeners and viewers? Why do they have the impact they do, or
not have the impact their creator intended? To answer such questions, a rhetorical critic
first defines the object of criticism—what text is to be studied. Then, because all texts exist
within contexts, the critic examines the context (social, economic, political, etc.) in which the
text is situated.
Rhetorical critics have deepened our insight into pivotal texts, such as Elizabeth Cady
Stanton’s speech, “The Declaration of Sentiments,” which was the keynote address at the
first women’s rights convention in 1848 (Campbell, 1989); Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I
Have a Dream” speech (Cox, 1989); and George W. Bush’s on slavery at Goree Island
(Medhurst, 2010).
In summary, communication scholars rely on quantitative and qualitative research, critical
research, and rhetorical criticism. Each approach is valuable, and each has contributed to
the overall knowledge that makes up communication as a scholarly discipline.
2-3 The Breadth of the Communication Field
Main content
As we have seen, the communication discipline has grown substantially since its beginnings
in ancient Greece. The modern discipline can be classified into eight primary areas and a
number of other areas that are part of curricula in some schools.
2-3a Intrapersonal Communication
Intrapersonal communication is communication with ourselves, or self-talk. You might
wonder whether intrapersonal communication is another term for thinking. In one sense, yes.
Intrapersonal communication does involve thinking because it is a cognitive process that
occurs inside us. Yet because thinking relies on language to name and reflect on ideas, it is
also communication (Vocate, 1994). Chiquella makes this point in her commentary.
I figure out a lot of things by thinking them through in my head. It’s like having a trial run
without risk. Usually, after I think through different ideas or ways of approaching someone, I
can see which one would be best.
One school of counseling focuses on enhancing self-esteem by changing how we talk to
ourselves (Ellis & Harper, 1977; Rusk & Rusk, 1988; Seligman, 1990, 2002). For instance, you
might say to yourself, “I blew that test, so I’m really stupid. I’ll never graduate, and, nobody
will hire me.” This kind of talk lowers self-esteem by convincing you that a single event
(blowing one test) proves you are worthless. Therapists who realize that what we say to
ourselves affects our feelings urge us to challenge negative self-talk by saying, “One test is
hardly a measure of my intelligence. I did well on the other test in this course, and I have a
decent overall college record. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.” What we say to ourselves
can enhance or diminish self-esteem.
We engage in self-talk to plan our lives, to rehearse different ways of acting, and to prompt
ourselves to do or not do particular things. Intrapersonal communication is how we remind
ourselves to make eye contact when giving a speech, show respect to others (“I should listen
to Grandmother’s story”), check impulses that might hurt others (“I’ll wait until I’m calmer to
say anything”), and impress prospective employers (“I need to research the company before
my interview”).
Intrapersonal communication also helps us rehearse alternative scenarios and their
possible outcomes. To control a disruptive group member, you might consider telling the
person to “shut up,” suggesting that the group adopt a rule that everyone should participate
equally, and taking the person out for coffee and privately asking him or her to be less
domineering. You think through the three options (and perhaps others), weigh the likely
consequences of each, and then choose one to put into practice. We engage in internal
dialogues continuously as we reflect on experiences, sort through ideas, and test alternative
ways of acting.
2-3b Interpersonal Communication
A second major emphasis in the field of communication is interpersonal communication,
which is communication between people. Interpersonal communication is not a single thing
but rather a continuum that ranges from quite impersonal (interaction between you and a
parking lot attendant) to highly interpersonal (interaction between you and your best friend)
(Figure 2.2). The more we interact with a person as a distinct individual, the more
interpersonal the communication is.
Figure 2.2The Communication Continuum
© Cengage Learning
Scholars of interpersonal communication
study how communication creates and sustains relationships and how partners
communicate to deal with the normal and extraordinary challenges of maintaining intimacy
(Wood & Duck, 2006b). Researchers have shown that cross-sex friends engage in everyday
talk less frequently than same-sex friends when communicating face-to-face and by phone.
However, cross-sex and same-sex friends do not differ in how much they engage in
everyday communication online (Ledbetter, Broeckelman-Post, & Krawsczyn, 2011).
2-3c Group and Team Communication
Main content
A third branch of the field is small-group and team communication. Research in this area
focuses on leadership, member roles, group dynamics, agendas for achieving group goals,
and managing conflict (Levi, 2010). Because groups involve more than one or two people,
much teaching and research in this area focuses on how members coordinate their
resources to arrive at collective decisions.
2-3d Public Communication
Public speaking remains an important branch of the communication field. Even though
many people will not pursue careers that call for extensive formal speaking, many of us will
be in situations where speaking up is a responsibility. My editor makes presentations to her
sales representatives to explain what her books are about and how to spotlight important
features to professors who may want to use them in their courses. I recently coached my
doctor, who was asked to address her colleagues on a development in treatment of renal
disease. My brother-in-law relies on public speaking skills to try cases in court, and my sister
gives public speeches to raise money for a center for abused children. My editor, doctor,
brother-in-law, and sister don’t consider themselves public speakers, but public speaking is
a part of their lives.
Within the area of public communication are subareas such as argumentation and political
communication. Argumentation focuses on how to build effective arguments by using
sound reasoning and strong evidence and by developing ideas in ways that respond to
listeners’ beliefs, concerns, and goals. Scholars of political communication are particularly
interested in how politicians connect or fail to connect with voters, how political campaigns
succeed or falter, how social movements build awareness of issues such as the
environment (Cox & Pezzullo, 2016), and how rhetorical skills influence the process of policy
making (Cox & McCloskey, 1996).
2-3e Organizational Communication
Communication in organizations is another growing area of interest. The work of
communication scholars has identified communication skills that enhance professional
success and traced the effects of various kinds of communication on morale, productivity,
and commitment to organizations. Scholars of organizational communication focus
substantial attention on organizational culture, which is understandings about an
organization’s identity and codes of thought and action that members of an organization
share. Some organizations think of themselves as families. From this understanding emerge
rules for how employees should interact and how fully they should commit to work.
Another area of increasing interest is personal relationships between co-workers. In
addition to romantic relationships, co-workers may form friendships, which can become
complicated if one person has higher status than the other or if one person is required to
maintain confidentiality, which may be perceived as not trusting a friend.
It was a real hassle when my supervisor and I started going out. Before, he gave me orders
like he did all the other servers, and none of us thought anything about it. But after we
started dating, he would sort of ask me, instead of tell me, what to do, like saying, “Mel,
would you help out in section seven?” Another thing was that if he gave me a good station
where tips run high, the other servers would give me trouble because they thought he was
favoring me because we go out. And when he gave me a bad station, I’d feel he was being
nasty for personal reasons. It was a mess being his employee and his girlfriend at the same
2-3f Mass Media
Mass media represent and influence cultural values. For instance, the use of young female
models in ads and glamorous young women as reporters and news anchors perpetuates
the cultural feminine ideal, which centers on youth and beauty. Films that portray men as
daring, brave, and violent perpetuate strength and boldness as masculine ideals.
As noted previously in this chapter, mass media sometimes reinforce cultural stereotypes
about race and ethnicity. Communication scholars heighten awareness of how media shape
—and sometimes distort—our perceptions of ourselves and society. Franklin’s commentary
addresses this point.
I hate the way television shows African Americans. Most of the time they are criminals or
welfare cases or drunks or Uncle Toms. When I watch TV, I understand why so many people
think blacks are dumb, uneducated, and criminal. We’re not, but you’d never know it from
watching television.
2-3g Computer-Mediated Communication
Main content
Scholars of computer-mediated communication study how newer technologies and the
accompanying acceleration of the pace of interaction influence how we think and work and
how we form, sustain, and end relationships. Some scholars caution that new technologies
may undermine human community, whereas others celebrate the ways that mediated
communication facilitates building community. Clearly, the verdict on digital media will not
be in for some time. Meanwhile, we all struggle to keep up with our increasingly
technological world. Today, students conduct much of their research on the Web or through
specialized information services on the Internet, and friends and romantic partners text to
stay in touch throughout the day. Communication scholars will continue to study whether
emerging technologies merely alter how we communicate or actually change the kinds of
relationships we build.
2-3h Intercultural Communication
Studying intercultural communication increases our insight into different cultures’
communication styles and meanings. For example, an international student in one of my
graduate classes seldom spoke up and wouldn’t enter the heated debates that are typical of
graduate classes. One day after class, I encouraged Mei-Ling to argue for her ideas when
others challenged them. She replied that doing so would be impolite. Her culture considers
it disrespectful to contradict others, particularly elders and teachers. In the context of her
culture, Mei-Ling’s deference did not mean that she lacked confidence.
© Andrew Rich/
1. How do digital media change how we relate to others?
Author Answer: They change our communication in many, many ways. One way that is
suggested by this photo is that digital media often replace face-to-face interaction. A
second way is that digital media encourage us to abbreviate messages so we use
phrases, abbreviations, and emoji for words.
One focus within intercultural communication research is different social communities
within a single society. Cultural differences are obvious in communication between a Nepali
and a Canadian. Less obvious are differences in communication between people who speak
the same language. Within the United States there are distinct social communities based on
race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors. Members of social communities such as
these often participate both in the overall culture of the United States and in the more
specialized norms and practices of their communities. Recognizing and respecting different
communication cultures increases personal effectiveness in a pluralistic society. Meikko’s
commentary reminds us of how cultural values are reflected in language.
What I find most odd about Americans is their focus on themselves. Here, everyone wants
to be an individual who is so strong and stands out from everyone else. In Japan, it is not
like that. We see ourselves as parts of families and communities, not as individuals. Here, I
and my are the most common words, but they are not often said in Japan.
Scholars and teachers of intercultural communication do not limit their work to minority
cultures and social communities. In addition, they study whiteness by examining what it
means to be white. Members of dominant or majority groups often perceive their identities
and communication as “standard” or “normal” and perceive the identities and
communication of all other groups as different from those of majority groups. Studying
whiteness as its own racial category helps us realize that white (and other dominant groups)
is just as much a race–ethnicity as black or Native American, and that white communication
practices are shaped by cultural influences as much as those of other groups are.
2-3i Other Curricular Emphases
Main content
The eight areas we have discussed are primary ones that are taught at most colleges and
universities around the country. In addition to these widely accepted curricular offerings,
there are other areas of communication that are emphasized at particular schools. These
include ethics, health communication, journalism, performance studies, religious
communication, and speech and hearing. Coursework in health communication is often
offered at universities that have premier medical schools, and training in religious
communication is desired at schools that have religious missions.
2-3j Blurring the Lines
The areas of the field that we’ve just discussed are not as discrete as they may seem. Just as
technologies of communication have converged in significant ways, so, too, do areas of the
communication discipline converge and interact. For example, my niece Michelle and I enjoy
face time on our iPads. Our face time exchanges are both social media and interpersonal
communication. Similarly, a CEO who hosts a company awards ceremony is simultaneously
engaging in public speaking and team building.
The National Communication Association’s magazine, Communication Currents, provides
stories about research and teaching in many of the areas in the field of communication. The
online resources for this chapter provide a link to this magazine.
2-4 Unifying Themes in the Communication Field
Main content
After reading about the many different areas of study in communication, you might think
that the field is a collection of unrelated interests. That isn’t accurate. Although there are
distinct elements in the communication mosaic, common themes unify the diverse areas of
the discipline, just as common colors and designs unify a tile mosaic. Three enduring
concerns—symbolic activities, meaning, and ethics—unify the diverse areas of
2-4a Symbolic Activities
Main content
Symbols are the basis of language, thinking, and nonverbal communication. Symbols are
arbitrary, ambiguous, and abstract representations of other phenomena. For instance, a
wedding band is a symbol of marriage in Western culture, and a smile is a symbol of
friendliness. Symbols allow us to reflect on our experiences and ourselves. Symbols also
allow us to share experiences with others, even if they have not had those experiences
themselves. We will discuss symbols in greater depth in Chapters 4 and 5, which deal with
verbal and nonverbal communication, respectively.
2-4b Meaning
Closely related to interest in symbols is the communication field’s concern with meaning.
The human world is a world of meaning. We don’t simply exist, eat, drink, sleep, and
behave. Instead, we imbue every aspect of our lives with significance, or meaning. When I
feed my cats, Rigby and Rowdy, they eat their food and then return to their feline
adventures. However, we humans layer food and eating with meanings beyond the mere
satisfaction of hunger. Food often symbolizes special events or commitments. For example,
kosher products reflect commitment to Jewish heritage, and turkey is commonly associated
with commemorating the first Thanksgiving in the United States (although vegetarians
symbolize their commitment by not eating turkey). In some families meals are times for
coming together and sharing lives, whereas in other families meals are battlefields where
family tensions play out. Humans imbue eating and other activities with meaning beyond
their functional qualities. Our experiences gain significance as a result of the values and
meanings we attach to them.
Because we are symbol users, we actively interpret events, situations, experiences, and
relationships. We use symbols to name, evaluate, reflect on, and share experiences, ideas,
and feelings. In fact, as Benita’s commentary points out, when we give names to things, we
change how we think about them. Through the process of communicating with others, we
define our relationships. Do we have a friendship, or something else? How serious are we?
Do we feel the same way about each other? Is this conflict irresolvable, or can we work it out
and stay together?
It’s funny how important a word can be. Nick and I had been going out for a long time, and
we really liked each other, but I didn’t know if this was going to be long term. Then we said
we loved each other, and that changed how we saw each other and the relationship. Just
using the word love transformed who we are.
To study communication, then, is to study how we use symbols to create meaning in our
lives. As we interact with others, we build the meaning of friendship, team spirit, family,
national identity, and organizational culture.
2-4c Ethics
A third theme that unifies the field of communication is concern with ethical dimensio…

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