4 Interaction/discourse Centered

4.1 Evolutionary Theories

theoretical framework to study biology and interpersonal communication (i.e., biosocial approach)

Some traits remain relatively stable in species.

Five principles:

  1. Basic Theory of evolution: “perpetual change in the living world where nothing is constant or repeated exactly”

  2. Common decent

  3. Multiplication of species

  4. gradualism

  5. natural selection

    1. Individuals are variable. (i.e., variation among organism in the same familial lineage)

    2. Advantageous traits are passed on to off-spring.

    3. Individuals produce more offspring than the environment can support. Then, scarcity of resources kick in to favor individuals that have traits more advantages in acquiring resources (i.e., Adaptation), which operates at the genetic level (not individual).

    4. traits are passed on gradually which lead to new species in the population

(Tooby and Cosmides 2015) evolutionary psychology study the functions of brain, which is known as psychological adaptation that evolve to solve problems in its environment.


  • Controversial regarding sex (i.e., biological make-up of men and women are different). Biological determinism is in contrast to “bi-directional nature of hormonal responses and the fact that individuals’ communication can influence their physiological responses and vice versa.”
  • Controversial over culture and individual differences:


  • (Denes, Afifi, and Granger 2016) “high testosterone/no orgasm individuals may be the least likely to experience the beneficial effects of post sex communication.”
  • (Aloia and Solomon 2014) “positive association between conflict intensity and cortisol reactivity, and this association was attenuated for individuals who reported higher, rather than lower, levels of childhood exposure to familial verbal aggression.”

4.1.1 Affection Exchange Theory

(AET) (Floyd 2001) contemplates that “people give and receive affection in ways that are adaptive or evolutionarily advantageous for their relationship.” There is evidence that affection reduces stress.

Assumptions of AET:

  • procreation and survival are superodinate human goals
  • Communication helps achieve these goals (consciously or unconsciously)
  • traits that are desirable (i.e., advantageous) for superordinate goals will be passed on
  • human communicative behaviors are only partially controlled by humans.

AET’s propositions:

  • “the need and capacity for affection are inborn”

    • we don’t need to learn to feel affection(i.e., innate)

    • the need for affection is fundamental

  • “affectionate feelings and affectionate expression are distinct experiences that often, but need not, covary”

  • “affectionate communication is adaptive with respect to human viability and fertility”

  • “humans vary in their optimal tolerances for affection and affectionate behavior”

  • “affectionate behaviors that violate the range of optimal tolerance are physiologically aversive”

(Floyd and Morman 1998) propose 3 forms of affection display:

  • Verbal communication (e.g., spoken or written)
  • Direct nonverbal (e.g., nonlinguistic or paralinguistic behaviors)
  • Indirect Nonverbal (e.g., behaviors that convey affection via social or material support)

Types of affectionate communication research:

  • Relationships: certain relationships are more affectionate than others because it relates to the relatedness of genes’ survivability

    • fathers gives more attention to children with higher probability to reproduce.

    • “humans engage in affectionate behaviors, both genuinely and deceptively, within selective romantic relationships in order to increase relational trust, closeness, and satisfaction.” which in turn, increase survival and procreation.

  • Health

    • One can have health benefits by offering affection.

    • “highly affectionate people report higher self-esteem, general mental health, social engagement, and life satisfaction,a s well as lower susceptibility to depression and stress, than less-affectionate people”(Floyd 2002)


(Floyd et al. 2009)

  • kissing improves perceived stress, relationship satisfaction, and total serum cholesterol

(Horan and Booth-Butterfield 2013)

  • motivation for deceptive affection:

    • face-saving

    • conflict management/ avoidance

    • emotion management

  • feelings of affection is different from communicating affection

    • feeling affection: the feeling of warmth and fondness toward an individual

    • communicating affection: feelings of fondness, support, and love

(Shardé M. Davis and Afifi 2019)

  • Controlling images (.e.g, angry black woman or mammy). Black women are thought to be self-sufficient, perseverant, authentic.

  • Strong Black woman collective theory: “Black women enact communication behaviors that affirm strength in each other … to delineate a safe space to concurrently promote solidarity within the collective and confront oppressive force.”

    • Black women use “distinct communication practices (i.e., code-switching, assertive and verbal messages, and culturally-nuanced speech codes)”

    • the assemblage of Black women

    • members reinforce each others virtues of strength

    • enable members to confront oppressive structure, but also impede vulnerability and emotionality within

  • Strength regulation like emotion regulation

  • “strength regulation contributed to more derogative comments about aggressors during supportive discussions, and support seekers were less satisfied in their relationships with white women after the derogative conversations”

(Gilchrist-Petty and Bennett 2019)

  • engaged-to-be-married has the highest negative attitudes regarding cross-sex best friendships.
  • attitudes toward cross-sex best friendships mediate the relationship between (how jealousy experienced and expressed) and (reactive jealousy experience and destructive jealousy expression)

4.1.2 Tend and Befriend theory

Under the fight or flight framework, people tend to affiliate with others under stress (Taylor 2012). Women have different level of fight or flight tendencies, which is due to hormones and evolutionary tendencies.

4.1.3 Attachment theory

(Bowlby 1982) As child, we form attachments to our parents, which affect how we perceive and approach relationship in the future. Oxytocin is a hormone that facilitates social bonds (Campbell 2010)

4.2 Intergroup Theorizing

4.2.1 Communication Accommodation Theory

Varying communicative styles are reflections of personalities, roles, temperaments, and social identities.

Communication Accommodation theory (CAT) explains why we communicate differently with different people (i.e., our communication choices change based on the relational, identity we engage in).

Accommodation is “a process concerned with how we can reduce (and, in some cases, even magnify) communicative differences between people in interaction” (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 237). It “enhances interpersonal similarities, and reduces uncertainties about the other” (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 237). Speakers will be seen as more competent and credible (Aune and Kikuchi 1993). Accommodation manifests via convergence in language (i.e., dialect), nonverbal cues (e.g., speech rate, posture) (Li 2001). Those with more social power are often accommodated. (however, I think less social power should be accommodated, for example, patients and doctors, benefactors and beneficiaries)

Nonaccommodacaiton can signal lack of respect or liking to the other person (could be intentional or unintentional), or authenticity. Divergence signal membership in groups, culture, and communities (their social identity).

Symmetricality and accommodation lead to strengthened interpersonal relations, and vice versa.

Principles of accommodation:

  1. Speakers will, up to an optimal level, increasingly accommodate the communicative patterns believed characteristic of their interactants the more they wish to

    1. Signal positive face and empathy

    2. Elicit the other’s approval, respect, understanding, trust, compliance, and cooperation

    3. Develop a closer relationship

    4. Defuse a potentially volatile situation

    5. Signal common social identities

  2. When attributed (typically) with positive intent, patterns of perceived accommodation increasingly and cumulatively enhance recipients’

    1. Self-esteem;

    2. Task, interactional, and job satisfaction;

    3. Favorable images of the speaker’s group, fostering the potential for partnerships to achieve common goals;

    4. Mutual understanding, felt supportiveness, and life satisfaction;

    5. Attributions of speaker politeness, empathy, competence, benevolence, and trust.

  3. Speakers will (other interactional motives notwithstanding) increasingly nonaccommodate (e.g., diverge from) the communicative patterns believed characteristic of their interactants, the more they wish to signal (or promote)

    1. Relational dissatisfaction or disaffection with and disrespect for the others’ traits, demeanor, actions, or social identities.
  4. When attributed with (usually) harmful intent, patterns of perceived nonaccommodation (e.g., divergence) will be

    1. Evaluated unfavorably as unfriendly, impolite, or communicatively incompetent;

    2. Reacted to negatively by recipients (e.g., recipients will perceive speaker to be lacking in empathy and trust)

CAT absorbs both interpersonal and intergroup process, even though they are considered orthogonal.


(Chen et al. 2016)

  • The characteristics of their communication partner (mediated by specific communication behaviors imagined by the participant for two of the three trait dimensions such as overaccommodation for perceptions of competence, humorous communication for perceptions of sociability) influences participants’ stereotypes of older adult

    • overaccommendation can be seemed patronizing, which reinforces stereotypes
  • Imagined interaction involves individuals’ spontaneous thoughts regarding interpersonal communication with a real person, which typically occurs before an actual interaction with the person (Honeycutt 2014).

  • based on stereotype content model (SCM), groups are stereotyped based on two dimensions: warmth and competence (Fiske, Cuddy, and Glick 2007). Later warmth was further segmented into sociability and morality (i.e., trustworthiness)

4.2.2 Communication Theory of Identity

Stem from psychology and sociology in the 50s and 60s. “Similar to the psychological tradition, the self was still most often discussed in unitary terms with social roles reserved for the various different manifestations” (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 254).

There isn’t one core genuine self, but multiple selves (i.e., multiple identities). Self emerges out of one’s social interactions and the perceptions of others (Stryker, McCall, and Simmons 1979).

Identity/Communication (identity is not separable from communication) leads to communication satisfaction.

CTI conceptualizes layers of identity as both changing and stable, and both subjective and ascribed. 4 layers are interdependent:

  • Personal: individual, sense of self-being
  • relational: identity defined in relationship, and ascribed
  • Enacted: performance of identity, through verbal and nonverbal messages
  • Communal: how society defines identity and identities (i.e., group membership)

The gap between personal and enacted identities is called identity gaps (Jung and Hecht 2004), leads to negative psychological outcomes (e.g., depression). But it could also help individual try to close the gap (cognitive dissonant).

We want others to value the same attributes that we ourselves value (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 261) Application

(WILLER and SOLIZ 2010)

  • Socially aggressive face threats (SAFTs) are “messages that threaten one’s identity or positive face”

  • social aggression can damage self-esteem, social standing.

  • Face is the self or image that people present and expect others to main or support during interaction (Cupach and Metts 1994), which includes two desires:

    • positive face needs: desire for approval, appreciation, and liking

    • negative face needs: desires for freedom from action ad imposition

  • and two threats

    • positive face threats: similar to socially aggressive messages. Hence, the authors use the terms SAFTs.
  • Negative affect negatively associated feelings of forgiveness (measured by feelings of revenge and avoidance, avoidance)

(Nuru 2014)

  • transgender is when “self-identify with a gender that ‘’contradicts’’ socially acceptable gender roles and expectations as dictated by external genitalia and assigned birth sex.”

    • “any divergence from conventional social norms that tie gender identity to role expectancy and biological sex” (Bornstein 2013)
  • Gender identity may overlap sexuality, they are two distinct processes of negotiation.

  • Genital sex can differ from social and psychological gender.

  • Gaps between personal, enacted, and relational layers are prevalent.

  • Strategies to mitigate tension:

    • Closeted enactment

    • disengagement

    • passing: intentional disguise to preserve relationship

    • label changing

(Harris and Janovec 2018)

  • In the context of bullying, studies have traditionally been White-oriented. Hence, there is a need for diverse sampling.

  • Due to political climate in 2016, students are reported to be more anxious and new wave of political bullying was on the rise.

  • race is a social construct that relates to power, privilege, and systemic oppression. racist draw societal power from being members of the majority group. Racism is different from racial prejudice and racial discrimination (i.e., everybody can be racially prejudice, but only macro culture members can be racists).

  • Bullying can happen between group (macro vs. micro cultures), and within group (in-group bullying, i.e., Mexican American and Mexican immigrants).

  • Marginalized status triggers victim status

    • family socioeconomic status (SES) and test scores are correlated
  • Intersectioanality and Race in Bullying

4.3 Critical Approaches to IPC Research

List of interpersonal communication theories under critical approaches:

  • Relational dialectics Theory
  • Narrative performance Theory
  • Family of Feminist theories

Difference between postmodern critical approach and modern tradition is how power is conceptualized, but both agree that power has impact on communicative life with the goals of emancipation and empowerment.
Critical modern hope to free people from socially oppressed system, but postmodern critical scholars view the world as constant struggle for dominant discourses.

Power definition:

  • Post-positivistic tradition: “as an individual level variable based on the various kinds of resources the individual posses” (Berger, 1994).
  • modern critical: “as a systemic construct that exists external to the individuals who operate within those systems.” (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 273)

Critical Modern Tradition:

  • False consciousness: lack of awareness of constraints imposed by system (Pine, 1993).

  • goal: dismantle false consciousness to free people

  • Communication is a reflection of systematic constraint

  • Application:

    • Gender as a social system, gender is a range of ideals (masculine and feminism).

    • Relational Labor as a social system

Postmodern Tradition

  • Resist thinking of power as top-down, and advocate for power is bottom-up-and-out dynamics and power is constantly met with resistant, which means it is unstable and fluid.

  • Comminciaiton is the social world (not a reflection of it).

  • Application:

    • Uncertainty as positive precondition for change

    • Self-making instead of Self-disclosure: individuals are not intact.

To evaluate critical approaches to interpersonal communication, we need to consider:

  • ethics: (1) how your position impacts what is identifiable, and that which is beneficial
  • change: can your change emancipate the marginalized and oppressed?

4.4 Critical Feminist Theories

  • Feminist Theories

    • “Feminism” is “defined as the belief that men and women are equal and should have equal rights and opportunities in all spheres of life—personal, social, work, and public.” (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 290)

      • Gender (different from sex): social meaning attached to biological distinct, which is embedded in communication

      • Patriarchy: " a system that reflects primarily the interests, values, perspectives, and experiences of men, as a group." (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 290)

  • Critical Theories:

    • "identify prevailing structures and practices that create or uphold disadvantage, inequity, or oppression, and to point the way toward alternatives that remote more egalitarian relationships, groups, and societies. (L. Baxter and Braithwaite 2008, 292)
  • The production of the two theories:

    • The recursive relationship between how cultural structures and practices differently and inequitably shape women’s and men’s lives and communication practice and vice versa.
  • Assumptions:

    • “members of groups defined by sex, race, and other factors occupy distinct positions in a society - those are their social location.”
  • Methodological Implication: examination of power that is both formal and informative ones.

  • Power:

    • in relation to unequal status, privilege.
  • Communication: with less communication on a subject, we’d have less knowledge of it, or even notice it.

    • Hence, we should name and increase social awareness of women’s experiences.
  • Examples

    • Sexual harassment

    • Date rape

    • Marital rape

    • Second Shift

    • Conversational maintenance work

  • Evaluation:

    • Parsimonious: few concepts (gender, power, dominance).

    • Limited explanability since it focuses on sex and gender, and limited utility: small subset of people.


(Sanford et al. 2019)

  • Based on Co-Cultural Theory, the authors found that even when they constitute a large part of an institution’s population, Hispanic students still feel the need to behave under White norms (assimilationist strategies).

(K. A. Ross and Bell 2016)

  • Modification s to office logistic and and practitioners’ behavior can increase a healthy communication environment among trans-patient-practitioner

(Nuru, Coleman, and Coleman 2018)

  • memorable messages about race:

    • denial of racism

    • preparation for bias

    • promotion of mistrust

  • these memorable message help make sense of racial hierarchies in Cost Rica and racial socialization in the global contexts.

(Suter 2017)

Critical Interpersonal and Family Communication framework should consider:

  • power
  • bi-directionality between private and public realms
  • critique/resistance/transformation of the status quo in the service of social-justice ends
  • author reflexivity

“(a) What is my impetus for speaking and writing? (b) Where am I speaking from? (c) To whom am I accountable in this process? (d) What are the potential material and discursive effects resulting from my speaking and writing” (Yep, 2010, p. 173)