Communications theory

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Communications Theory


Within this paper the reader will find an organized list of references such as journal articles. Each article will be followed by a description of each item. The summaries will include the main purpose of the study, how the theory was used and the major findings. I will be describing articles relating to the theories that were gone over in Dr. Trammel's Communications Theory class.

Symbolic Interactionism

Solomon, M. (1983). The Roles of products as social stimuli: a symbolic interctionism perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 10, 319.

This article is describing how symbolic interactionism relates to the average consumer. It pretty much says that a large percentage of the products that consumers buy carry depend more on their social meaning more that their functional utility. Symbolic Interactionism is used throughout the whole journal article. It explains that research on symbolic consumption phenomena is often flawed by the inconsistent nature of relevant concepts and the descriptive nature of results (cf. Hirschman 1981: Holman 1980).

Serpe, R. (1987). Stability and change in self: a structural symbolic interactionist explanation. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50(1), 44-55.

This particular journal entry concentrated on the change in structure of oneself as it is related directly to the person's movement within the social structure. Serpe spent a great deal of time explaining the nature of self-structure and how it can be influenced by one's surroundings. He says that his approach views the relationship between self and social structure as central to a developing understanding of social action.

Cultural Approaches to Organization

Smith, V. (1993). Approaching organizational culture versus cultural approaches to organization: lat's close the gap. Contemporary Sociology, 22(3), 417-421.

This particular article is actually quite fascinating. Smith does a wonderful job at explaining how corporate executives hire consultants to “cure” cultures that are ill. When she says ill one can only assume that she means needs help to the corporate executive's standards. She goes on to say that they funded academic research that produced a brush fire effect. She says that it appeared this way after judging a plethora of articles, books, and special journals dedicated to the study of organizational culture. Apparently the goal of the corporate executives was to improve the dysfunctional culture, but one cannot help but wonder who sets the standards. Smith then goes on to talk about a few books on cultural organization and it starts to seem as if she is promoting instead of arguing her point.

Ghorashi, H. (1987). The Paradoxes of cultural diversity within organizations. The International journal of Diversity within Organizations, Communities, and Nations, 7(5), 223-230.

Ghorashi starts off this article by describing the discourse in most European countries in regard to new migrants from Islamic countries. He explains how their culture and religion are in contrast to the norm, so all of them tend to be generalized. He says that it is impossible to go through life without being categorized, and that ethnic boundaries between groups should be considered constructions that are situational, contextual, and changeable, instead of traits that are culturally inherited. According to Ghorashi ethnicity and cultural diversity within organizations is the broader focus on diversity in organizations.

The Rhetoric

McCloskey, D. (1983). The Rhetoric of economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 21(2), 481-517.

McCloskey comes off as a very opinionated economist within this journal entry. She says that when economist write they are “tendentious” meaning that they already know, and they concentrate on a high standard of mathematical proof rather than a scholarly documented facts about the real world. She thinks that her colleagues should spend more time in the archives, and write more research papers. I didn't really understand why. She says, “No one really believes a scientific assertion in economics based on statistical significance.” I think this is a very broad statement, and I'm sure a lot of economists disagree with her. She comes off as arrogant and very judgmental. The true purpose of her journal entry is easily overlooked because she spends so much time bashing her colleagues.

McQuarrie, E. (1996). Figures of rhetoric in advertising language. Journal of Consumer Research, 22, 424.

According to McQuarie rhetorical figures are defined as artful deviations in the form taken by a statement. Rhetorical figures often appear in print advertisement yet their incorporation into advertising theory and research is barely noticeable. This particular article distinguishes rhetorical figures between figurative and nonfigurative text, and among the four rhetorical operations. This article also explains the importance of the proposed framework for future rhetorical structure research.


Wittig, S. (1974). Toward a Semiotic theory of the drama. The John Hopkins University Press, 441.

According to Wittig, semiotics derives from a theory of language-systems and is built upon a powerful explanatory model capable of being widely applied in a variety of disciplines. She says that semiotics has the ability to explicate itself and its own assumptions by the application of its own methodologies. The primary focus of her paper was to suggest that semiotics is a sturdy and serviceable theory of art. She thinks that it can be used as a means of understanding multi-media art forms.

Mick, D. (1986). Consumer research and semiotics: exploring the morphology of signs, symbols, and significance. Journal of Consumer Research, 13, 196.

Mick made it clear that the importance of signs and symbols are widely recognized, but he claims that only a few consumer researchers truly understand semiotics, or the doctrine of signs. His article breaks down the emergence and primary perspectives of semiotics and its applications for consumer research. He describes semiotics as the nucleus of consumer behavior. He claims that it is hard to concentrate on the symbolic meaning of objects and behavior. He says that it is much more simple to deal with the objects or behaviors seperatly.

Framing Theory

Drake, Laura. (1996). Communicative framin theory in conflict resolution. Communication Research, 23(3), Retrieved from

Drake states that her article evaluates the framing concept and its utility for communication research in conflict resolution. Apparently there are three rehabilitative steps to recover from the potential heuristic value. The first is to define frames as communicative, rather than cognitive, constructions. The second is to provide a theoretical framework for explicating the communicative framing process and its potential impact in conflict, and the last is to explore the effects of particular framing patterns on actual conflict interaction. She goes on to mention other theories that were not gone over in class such as the negotiated order theory, the speech act theory, and the speech accommodation theory. One can only assume that they all tie together. Drake eventually found a positive relationship between frame convergence and frequency of agreements.

Hayes, S. (1996). Criticisms of relational frame theory: implications for a behavior analytic account of derived stimulus relations. The Psychological Record, 46,

This is by far one of the most confusing journal articles that I have ever read. Hayes' opening paragraph uses the terms stimulus A, and stimulus B with reckless regard. He never gives his reader any indication of what stimulus A and B actually are. He tries his best to explain the phenomenon called stimulus equivalence among behavior analyst, but helped very little. He goes on to say that this analysts has generated a lot of attention and excitement over the past couple of years among researchers. He mentions 20 years of research but he doesn't mention by who or when it started.

Cultivation Theory

Sergin, Chris. (1998). Does Television viewing cultivate unrealistic expectations about marriage? Journal of Communication, 52(2), 247-263.

According to Sergin one explanation for the high divorce rate in our society focuses on the idealistic expectations with which many people enter into marriage. Somehow he manages to blame the media. Marriage is already suppose to be an eternal bond between so I honesty cannot see how the expectations can get any higher. A test was done with 285 never-married students. When the results were tallied Sergin somehow came to the conclusion that television does indeed set an unrealistic standard for marriage. First of all, one cannot help but wonder why he did this survey with students. Secondly, none of them have been married so how would they know that the standards shown on television are unrealistic? This article did nothing to fixed my already skewed view on the cultivation theory.

Nabi, R, & Sullivan, J. (2001). Does Television viewing relate to engagement in protective action against crime? Communication Research, 28(6),

For one reason or another everyone seems to believe that the television viewing influences beliefs and opinions of the real world. But after reading these articles on the cultivation theory I cannot help but wonder if it is possible to truly test this. The only solution I can come up with is for someone to not expose themselves to television and see if they still feel the same way about society. But that idea is flawed because of the expulsion that they have already had to television. Nabi's study attempted to elaborate the cultivation theory by using the theory of reasoned action perspective to determine if heavy television viewing influences not only beliefs and attitudes about violence in society but also intentions to take and actual engagement in protective action. Of course like all of these other cultivation theory experts his findings did not contrast his hypothesis.

Agenda Setting Theory

Rogers, E, Dearing, J, & Bregman, D. (1993). the anatomy of agenda-setting research . Journal of Communication, 43,

This article was actually more like a story. Rogers, Dearing, and Bregman spent a great deal of time telling the story about a World War I veteran by the name of Walter Lippman, and how his story relates to a Harvard professor by the name of Graham Wallas. Then somehow this story related to Maxwell McCombs walking into a UCLA book store and buying a book that has nothing to do with any of these guys. They go on to talk about what McCombs was doing before he bought the book, and how he eventually found his way to Chapel hill and his “classic” study of agenda setting with Donald Shaw. The agenda setting theory is the theory that mass-news media has a large influence on audiences by their choice of what stories to consider, and I honestly have no idea how the story that was told by Rogers, Dearing, and Bregman relate to that definition.

Kliennijenjuis, J, & Reitberg, E. (2006). Parties, media, the public and the economy: patterns of societal agenda-setting. European Journal of Political Research, 28(1), 95-118.

According to Kleinnijenhuis and Reitberg, the purpose of this study is to assess the relative strength of the reciprocal causal relationships between the political agenda, the mass media agenda and the public agenda. They go on to admit that research literature is confusing and inconclusive and give a list of three causal patterns. The public choice theory, theories on political agenda, and the mediocrity theory were all given as suggestions. Issues in the Netherlands and linear structural equations models were used to test these three causal patterns. They eventually concluded that political science journals have to incorporate findings from political communication research.

Spiral of Silence

Scheufle, d, & Moy, P. (2000). Twenty-five years of the spiral of silence: a conceptual review and empirical outlook . International Journal of Public Opinion Research , 12(1), 3-28.

Pretty much all these guys did was break down the spiral of silence. They keyed in on three specific areas and went over them in greater detail. They first reviewed the main assumptions and theoretical statements of the spiral of silence. Then they examined how these conceptual issues translated into operational ones. Then they outlined the areas that have been greatly overlooked for the past 25 years.

Willnat, L, Lee, W, & Detenber, B. (2002). Individual-level predictors of public outspokenness: a test of the spiral of silence theory in singapore . International Journal of Public Opinion Research , 14(4), 391-412.

Willnat, Lee, and Detenber used this paper to examine the influence of individual-level characteristics on the spiral of silence effect in Singapore. They did not explain why they chose Singapore. A phone survey was done in Singapore in September 2000. A total of 668 adults were asked to indicate how likely they would be to publicly discuss the controversial issues of equal rights for homosexuals and interracial marriage. Their experiment was based on the assumption that outspokenness is largely a function of a person's psychological predispositions. Their findings provide partial support for the spiral of silence hypothesis.

Standpoint Theory

Martin, P, Reynolds, J, & Keith, S. (2002). Gender bias and feminist consciousness among judges and attorneys: a standpoint theory analysis. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 27(31), 95-118.

We are all aware that discrimination based on gender does exist. Martin, Reynolds and Keith did not say which one, but they said that in a study of federal judges that were appointed to bench by President Jimmy Carter, one judge was asked about his greatest problems as a man/judge/lawyer. The guy responded that he had none as a man, but many as a lawyer. 81 percent of women that were asked a similar question responded had suffered from sexual discrimination. For some odd reason these differences suggest that women are more aware of gender inequality than men. They argue that these differences cause women to develop feminist tendencies.

Hekman, S. (1997). Truth and method: feminist standpoint theory revisited. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 22(21), 341.

Susan Heckman opens up her article by talking about Nancy Hartsock's 1983 publication Money, Sex and power, and how it changed the landscape of feminist theory. The explains that the primary focus of the book is Hartsock's epistemological and methodological argument. Her objective is to define the nature of the truth claims that feminist advance and provide a methodological grounding that will vouch for those claims. Apparently, this publication has allowed Nancy Hartsock to me the voice of hope for feminist throughout the past few decades. In a nutshell this article give females excuses to be jerks. It generalizes all women and it comes up with excuses for why a select few of them react the way they do.

Muted Group Theory

Wall, Celia. (1999). A Sentence made by men. European Journal of Woman Studies, 6(1), 21-29.

Wall wrote this article with hopes to give a different look at the Ardener' muted group theory, which was originally applied in social anthropology. This was later taken up by the women's movement. The theory was broken down in a way which makes it a little easier to understand the communication process between females and males but there is an exception to every rule.

Orbe, M. (1998). From the Standpoint(s) of traditionally muted groups: explicating a co-cultural communication theoretical model. Communications Theory, 8. Retrieved from

This article was written to describe the rise of a co-cultural communication theoretical model that focuses on how people are marginalized within a societal structured society. This article draws from several inquires that have been gathered from 89 people of color, women, gay/lesbian/bisexuals, and those from lower socioeconomic status. According to Orbe the goal of this article is to give the reader a better understanding of how co-cultural theoretical framework has emerged from the oral narratives of traditionally muted groups.