Academic journal article Communication Studies

A Test of the Initial Processes of the Goal-Planning-Action Model of Interpersonal Influence

Academic journal article Communication Studies

A Test of the Initial Processes of the Goal-Planning-Action Model of Interpersonal Influence

Article excerpt

There are many theoretical models of how and why interpersonal influence works on the target, and relatively few describing the internal processes of the actor. Dillard (1990a) proposed a model of the cognitive and behavioral sequences undertaken by the agent. One region of the model that requires testing most is the initial three stages. This region is questioned because the model suggests that two mediating constructs are transposed depending on the initial perceptions of the agent. Essentially, it is a question of which comes first, the decision to engage the target in an influence attempt or the generation of strategies to use in the attempt. According to the GPA the answer lies in whether the primary influence goal is stronger or weaker than the relevant secondary goal or goals that can constrain the attempt. A more parsimonious model may exist, however, that would allow for both of these forces to act simultaneously without requiting any reversal of the ordering of decision to engage and plan generation. Given the fact that the remaining variables in the GPA maintain their ordering under both conditions, these initial processes are most critical in assessing the proposed revision of the GPA. To date, however, this part of the process has not been tested. Therefore, this paper focuses on the initial processes of the GPA, identifying the relationships proposed by Dillard and assessing whether the order of the endogenous variables is reversed according to the initial perceptions of the primary and secondary goals.

Dillard's (1990a) model of interpersonal influence outlines several cognitive stages that are required to result in persuasive attempts. He refers to the model in terms of the central constructs of goals-planning-action (GPA). The sequence involves six stages, five of which are central to the actor's initial thinking. First, the actor assesses the goals of the interaction including primary (influence) and secondary goals. Second, the actor decides whether or not to engage the target in an influence attempt. Third, the actor generates tactic plans that seem appropriate to the influence situation. From these plans, the actor selects the tactic(s) that he or she will actually use. Fifth, the actor actually implements the selected tactic(s). The final stage of the GPA model allows for target responses to affect the actor's goal assessment and/or plan selection for any subsequent attempts as a feedback mechanism, recognizing the potential for influence episodes to occur over a sequence of speaking turns in interaction. On its face the model seems simple, but Dillard allows for a contingency that adds to the model's complexity. While the order of the fourth through sixth stages remains stable, there is variation allowed in the ordering of the first three stages. This variation will become apparent in a close examination of the first stage.

The first stage, goal assessment, is conceptualized as a region of conflicting cognitive forces simultaneously demanding the approach toward and avoidance of the influence attempt. The primary goal acts as the approach force in that it is only concerned with the need to influence the target. Countering that singular force are several types of secondary goals that can act individually or in combination to prevent the influence attempt. Dillard, Segrin and Hardin (1989) identified four types of secondary goals--identity, interaction, resource, and arousal management. Identity goals are served by adhering to personal standards of conduct that limit the range of acceptable behaviors, while interaction goals represent a focus on managing one's impression. When the actor is concerned with maintaining or increasing personal or relational assets, the actor is focusing on resource goals. Finally, when the actor's focus is on maintaining a personally comfortable level of arousal (e.g., apprehension or pleasure) he or she is focusing on the arousal management goal. Secondary goals can constrain or remove the actor from the influence situation. …

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