Acquiring Social Information
Charles R. Berger University of California, Davis
Kathy Kellermann University of California, Santa Barbara
The considerable diversity of social goals for which strategic communicators strive is reflected in the variety of titles of this volume's chapters. In their interactions with others, social actors and actresses seek to achieve such goals as controlling their conversations, comforting others, gaining compliance from others, and inducing others to like them ( Graham, Argyle, & Furnham, 1980; Kellermann & Kim, 1991). In these and other endeavors, persons employ their knowledge of themselves and others, their knowledge about social interaction processes and their communication skills to achieve their goals. These three components of goal-oriented communicative action do not always work together; that is, persons may know the optimal strategies for achieving a particular interaction goal but be unable to muster the requisite communication, skills to do so. Conversely, some persons may have high communication skill levels but be prevented from successful goal attainment by faulty knowledge.
Although faulty knowledge or lack of skill may prevent interactants from achieving their social goals, these deficits are not immutable. Persons are capable of acquiring information necessary for generating new knowledge, correcting faulty knowledge, and remediating skill deficits. This chapter focuses on the first of these three problems; nevertheless, the importance of the latter two should not be minimized. Knowledge may be power, but in the domain of strategic communication, praxis assumes an equally important role in the production of optimal performance. We assume that although individuals bring general