Communication and Social Influence Processes

By Charles R. Berger; Michael Burgoon | Go to book overview

Inscrutable Goals, Uncertain Plans, and the Production of Communicative Action

Charles R. Berger

A ny communicative act, be it verbal or nonverbal, which is apprehended by another, will alter that individual's perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and motivations, even if ever so slightly; therefore, it is axiomatic that communication and social influence processes are inextricably linked. Accepting this postulate, however, does not obviate the necessity of specifying the processes responsible for the production of the communicative actions that induce social influence. Traditional approaches to the study of communication and social influence have focused on the source, message, channel and receiver variables responsible for producing attitude and behavioral changes in audiences ( Burgoon & Miller, 1985; McGuire, 1969, 1985), and numerous social psychological theories have been advanced to explain why individuals alter their attitudes and actions in response to persuasive messages ( Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Petty & Cacioppo, 1981).

In addition to theories and models of persuasion advanced by social psychologists, communication researchers have studied aggressively the strategies individuals say they employ to gain compliance from others and the conditions under which these compliance-gaining strategies are used ( Miller, Boster, Roloff, & Seibold, 1977, 1987; see Chapter 5). While all of these efforts have yielded insights into the processes by which individuals are influenced, the social psychological theories have focused almost exclusively on explaining why audience members are influenced and avoided the issue of how persuasive messages are produced in the first place. Moreover, even though compliance-gaining researchers have been concerned with

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