Explaining One's Self to Others: Reason-Giving in a Social Context

By Margaret L. McLaughlin; Michael J. Cody et al. | Go to book overview

Weber, Harvey, and Orbuch (chapter 14) review their considerable research on the topic of explanations for relationship dissolution. The authors consider the variety of roles played by the process of developing, refining, and communicating accounts among those who have experienced a relationship loss. Accounts can contribute to the ability to make sense of the loss and constitute a major portion of the "obsessive review" that some persons go through following dissolution. Accounts provide a vehicle through which the need to disclose, unburden, or confess may be implemented. For those who epitomize what has been called the "triumph of hope over experience," a coherent and face-preserving account of the reasons for the relationship break-up can be an invaluable tool in the process of dating and re-mating.

In the final chapter, McLaughlin, Cody, Dickson, and Manusov (chapter 15) report on their study of explanations for failure to follow advice. Like Weiner, McLaughlin et al. were interested in the differences between communicated explanations and "real reasons." The authors adopt the Leddo and Abelson premise that a good place to look for explanations for a failure event is in the sequence of actions required for the successful performance of that act.

McLaughlin et al. report that, in accounting for one's hypothetical failure to follow a friend's advice, most respondents did indeed regard script-based accounts (preparation failure, entry failure, doing failure, etc.) as good excuses, but tended to regard goal-based explanations such as forgetting or lack of will as more likely candidates for "real reasons."


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many of the chapters in this volume began as papers presented at a session on "Communicated Explanations" presented at the 40th annual meeting of the International Communication Association at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, in June of 1990. The editors would like to express their gratitude here to Sylvester Whitaker, Dean, College of Social Sciences and Communication, for his support of our efforts in organizing and presenting the program of papers.


REFERENCES

Brown P., & Levinson S. ( 1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Grice H. P. ( 1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics: Vol 3. Speech acts (pp. 41-58). New York: Academic.

Kintsch W. ( 1988). "The role of knowledge in discourse comprehension: A construction-integration model". Psychological Review, 95, 163-182.

Miller L. C., & Read S. J. ( 1991). On the coherence of mental models of persons and relationships: A knowledge structure approach. In G. J. O. Fletcher & F. Fincham (Eds.), Cognition in close relationships (pp. 69-99). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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