A Synthesis and
From the late 1970s constructivist theory proposed analyzing messages and relationships based on the cognitive trait of cognitive complexity as a predictor of various message features and outcomes (Littlejohn, 1989). This chapter provides a synthesis of some the available research and the test of a causal model consistent with the predictions of this theory. The goal of this chapter is to take the existing data consistent with the theory and combine the data to conduct a test of the underlying tenets.
There is much debate about the measurement of cognitive complexity using the Role Category Questionnaire (RCQ; Allen, Mabry, Banski, & Preiss, 1991; Allen, Mabry, Banski, Carter, & Stoneman, 1990; Beatty, 1987; Beatty & Payne, 1984, 1985; Burleson, Applegate, & Neuwirth, 1981; Burleson, Waltman, &Samter, 1987; Kellermann, Burrell, & Allen, 1987; Powers, Jordan, & Street, 1979). Even among constructivists there is disagreement about how to measure cognitive complexity (Fransella & Bannister, 1977, 1979; D. O'Keefe &Sypher, 1981), and how to interpret cognitive complexity within a theory of communication (Applegate, Burke, Burleson, Delia, & Kline, 1985; B. O'Keefe & Delia, 1982). The measurement issues remain at this date unresolved and the implications of using the RCQ remain unclear.