Theories of Interpersonal Communication

Directions: Respond to the two essay questions. Essays should be well-organized and well-written. The first question two asks you to synthesize the relationships between cognitive structures, cognitive processes, and communication. The second question asks you to integrate material from attribution theory with constructivism in order to develop your own new theory. Your ability to analyze and synthesize material is necessarily dependent on your ability to write clearly and effectively. So, I expect that your writing process will involve a good deal of editing and rewriting (and editing and rewriting some more). Please double space your exam and use 12-point font and set one-inch margins to allow room for feedback. This take-home examination is due on March 5.

Question 1

Constructivism (Chapter 6) is a theory that describes the relationship between cognition and communication. Employing the terminology of constructivism, describe the relationships between cognitive structures or cognitive complexity (pp. 111-112), social perception processes (pp. 109 to middle 111), and person-centered forms of communication (pp. 112-117). What is cognitive complexity and why is it important to constructivists? What forms of social perception should be related to cognitive complexity? Be sure to define what constructivists mean by “person-centered communication.” Include in your discussion the three specific forms of person-centered communication we discussed in class and be sure to describe what makes each form more or less person-centered. Why are the three forms of person-centered communication important? Incorporate Wilson’s discussion of goals to explain how and why cognitive complexity and social perception are related to the three forms of Person-centered communication? What kinds of goals does cognitive complexity shape? Wilson discusses cultural syndromes that shape goal formation. What is a cultural syndrome and what kind of cultural syndrome might shape the development of cognitively complex people that might ultimately shape goal formation?

Question 2

Part one of Q2

This question asks you to apply Kelley’s Covariation Model to a situation of your choosing (a hypothetical situation or an actual situation). Describe this situation in detail. Your description should be thorough enough that a reader who was not a part of this situation would understand the situation and would understand the nature of the social actors in your situation (their mannerisms, attributes, and their ways of treating other people) without knowledge of the covariation model. Your description of this situation should be relatively free of the theoretical terms that make up the Covariation Model. Next describe Kelley’s Covariation model in detail. What are the assumptions of the model? What is the purpose of the model? What are the key concepts that constitute this model? What are the three types of information the model assumes people work with to make attributions. Next, apply this model to your hypothetical situation and use it to illustrate the appropriate attribution in your situation.

Part two of Q2

We discussed a number of biases that we fall victim to in our everyday lives. Select three of the biases identified below. Define each of the biases and describe how each of the three might lead one to depart from the logic of the covariation model as described in your hypothetical situation.

Consensus bias (described as second-guessing in chapter 4), ego bias (described as self-serving bias in chapter 4), projection bias, fundamental attribution error, nonverbal bias (snap judgments), and attributions of success and failure, defensive attributions, the availability heuristic, representative heuristic.

The study of attribution models and biases make very different assumptions about people. Develop an explanation that integrates these two lines of research into a more coherent “attribution theory.” You might think about our desire to make good attributions or what we “get” from some of the different attribution biases.

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