The Cognitive Bases of Interpersonal Communication

By Dean E. Hewes | Go to book overview

2
An Action-Assembly Perspective on Verbal and Nonverbal Message Production: A Dancer's Message Unveiled

John O. Greene Purdue University

Sometimes I smile and act like I'm in a good mood even if things don't feel right. 'Cause . . . I'm . . . some of the girls . . . that's what I get complimented the most, besides what I look like, is my attitude, because I try never to be crappy towards a man. Sometimes they have money and sometimes they don't, and its my, my job is to party. You know, to act like I'm having a good time, even if I'm not. Most of the time its genuine; most of the time I don't mind. But its like with any other job, sometimes you just prefer not to be there.

--"Sully," 28-year-old bar dancer and narcotics addict

If called on to analyze or describe the previous message, the readers of this volume would doubtless produce widely divergent reports. We commonly recognize that communicative behavior lends itself to multiple, only partially overlapping conceptual schemes, each of which serves to illuminate a portion of the properties of a given message (and then only to the satisfaction of some). Hence, each conceptual scheme provides a perspective that emphasizes some details while leaving us blind to others. My aim here is to capitalize on this fact in explicating action-assembly theory by describing the way this passage "looks" from that vantage point. Such a treatment involves two interrelated issues: (a) How are we to conceive of social action (i.e., what are its essential properties as seen from this perspective)? and (b) How is social action so constituted to be explained?

In pursuit of these issues, the action-assembly perspective has developed along three distinct, but mutually coherent lines of inquiry. It is these three levels of analysis that I wish to examine here. The first of these focuses on metatheoretical concerns, the second on theoretical specification of the behavioral

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