The Language of Control in Interpersonal Communication
James J. Bradac
John M. Wiemann
University of California, Santa Barbara
In everyday discussions of intepersonal behavior, people say things like: "He's at the very top of the heap"; "She always seems to get her way"; "He's bossy"; "She's very demanding"; and "I really lost my temper when he laughed at me." These claims (and hundreds of others that we could produce) show that untutored persons (i.e., persons who are not social scientists) both think and talk about the concept of control. And a good deal of research has been done that is at least indirectly related to naive conceptions of control, although relatively few studies have focused on communication variables related to these conceptions. A much larger body of research has ignored naive conceptions of control altogether (not inappropriately), examining instead outcomes and processes defined as "controlling" by specialists or technical experts, that is, social scientists. In this chapter, we discuss research from both traditions, focusing on communication variables that are important in interpersonal contexts; but the largest (and we think most interesting and novel) part of the chapter focuses on naive conceptions, perceptions, and evaluations of control. We attempt to systematize where possible, and we also attempt to offer some novel insights and possibilities along the way.
The study of social power or interpersonal influence is one of the oldest and largest topics in social psychology, with many subareas embracing such well- known topics as social comparison, social facilitation, conformity, and leader-