The Cognitive Bases of Interpersonal Communication

By Dean E. Hewes | Go to book overview

and current-situational information, persons can "both make sense of and impose sense upon the world" ( Alloy & Tabachnik, 1984, p. 141).

The benefit of an interpersonal-communication focus on social cognition is that research moves away from "relatively simple and nondemanding information processing situations" to "real world social situations (which) require that information be processed about several different people or events at once" ( White & Carlston, 1983, p. 538) and focuses attention on relational-social knowledge. However, it may be difficult to generalize to the perceptual processing and resulting social judgments of interactants engaged in conversation from the results of the studies described here. All respondents in these studies were observers of, not participants in, interaction. Generally, social actors engaged in interaction (a) should be less likely to take their own actions into account ( Wyer & Carlston, 1979), (b) should have a greater array of objectives to accomplish, (c) often have access to information about emotions and thoughts that observers do not, and (d) are engaged in dynamic person-perception processes, and, thus, would be likely to process nonverbal-relational communication and make social judgments in a different manner than would observers of that interaction ( Cappella & Street, 1989). However, research by Honeycutt ( 1989, 1990) and Ickes, Patterson, Rajecki, and Tanford ( 1982) indicated that conversational interactants with strong friendly or unfriendly preinteraction expectancies made postinteraction social judgments that reflected these expectancies, although they tended to sit closer, look at, initiate talk, and talk more to their partners than interactants with no expectancies. Cappella and Palmer ( 1990) found that both attitude similarity and nonverbal behaviors contribute to attraction and satisfaction. Thus, there is some evidence that both assimilation and accommodation occur for participants in and observers of interaction. Future research should attempt to discover how perceptual processing of relational communication and resulting social judgments differ in social actors engaged in communication from social actors who are observers of communication ( Cappella & Street, 1989), while taking into account the relationship between data and expectation.

The benefit of a social-cognitive perspective on interpersonal communication is that it can provide insight into the ways that communicators represent and utilize relational knowledge to interpret and produce relational messages. The utilization of a social-cognitive perspective can help communication scholars to answer the why and how questions that have intrigued us for so long. The union of social cognition and interpersonal communication is one that will benefit scholarship in both areas.


REFERENCES

Alloy L. B., & Tabachnik N. ( 1984). Assessment of covariation by humans and animals: The joint influence of prior expectations and current situational information. Psychological Review, 91, 112-149.

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