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Alexander Sheppard Dr.

Troy Comeau Communication 629-99 25 November 2012 Expectancy Violation Theory in Contemporary Scholarship Expectancy Violations Theory (EVT) is a theory developed by Judee Burgoon. It seeks to explain the role of nonverbal communication in interpersonal communication. EVT proposes that nonverbal communications influences our reactions in situations and to further this point, EVT seeks to quantify the perceived positive or negative connotations of these actions. Personal space is the paramount idea explored in EVT. As defined by Burgoon (1978), personal space is the invisible, variable volume of space surrounding an individual that defines that individuals preferred distance from others (p. 129). With EVT, personal space is a condition of communication that supersedes the message. Everyone, whether knowingly or unknowingly, has a defined boundary of acceptable and expected distances from which communication should occur. The expectations arise from personal preferences and cultural conditioning. These expectations not only vary from person to person and from culture to culture but also from situation to situation. EVT posits that when expectations about personal space are violated, the focus of the communication is no longer on the message but on the proxemic violation. EVT has a broader application than only studying the proxemic distances between people in communication with each other. It also focuses on other nonverbal cues that arise in communication. She began to apply the model to a host of other nonverbal variablesfacial expression, eye contact, touch, and body lean, for example (Griffin, 88).

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EVT continues to evolve as a theory of communication. Though its not a hardline theory that can tout ultimate and objective universal laws that govern human behavior; it is used to predict the behavior of people in a myriad of different contexts. The following four studies illuminate EVT in contemporary communication scholarship. In a 2011 Study conducted by Noah E. Dunbar from The University of Oklahoma and Chris Segrin from The University of Arizona EVT is used to help understand the effects of clothing in communication. The study is focused on how communication is effected by the attire worn by teachers in a collegiate setting. This study is somewhat different than other studies that focus on the attire worn by teachers because this study applies the EVT concepts of communicator reward level and violation valence to the dialogue on the effect of dress in communication. Communicator reward level in this circumstance refers to whether the communicator, on balance, is deemed rewarding or not and whether or not interactions with the communicator are desired. We evaluate all communicators on a positive to negative continuum according to their apparent reward value for us (Dunbar and Segrin, 2) and violation valence the interpretation about the behavior made by the person observing the behavior, whether positive or negative (Dunbar and Segrin, 2). In this study Dunbar and Segrin used real students to test EVT on instructor clothing in a collegiate setting. First, a sample of students was shown pictures of male and female instructors dressed in attire that ranged from very informal to very formal. They were asked to rate each teacher on how appropriate their attire was. This was done to establish the expectations of the students; so the experimenters could develop outfits that violated the students expectations, positively or negatively, in a codified manner. In the implementation of the experiment, the male and female instructors both gave a

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total six different guest lectures to six different classes. They gave the guest lectures dressed in 3 different outfitsinformal, casual, and formal. For each outfit they gave the guest lecture with a positive and negative reward valence. In the positive condition the lectures gave the students a slide with four questions and told the class that these questions would be on their final exam. In the negative condition the instructor showed the students a slide with 45 possible exam topics for their final exam but did not give them enough time to write any of them down. Then at the end of the lecture the instructor gave the students a questionnaire to fill out about the effectiveness of the instructor. The study found that clothing formality appears to operate independent of teacher reward level. In this case, it was the teacher who wore the moderate attire who produced the greatest recall of lecture material (Dunbar and Segrin, 8). Dunbar and Segrin found that the reward valence of the instructors did not have a significant effect on the perceived credibility of the instructors. What they found was most important was the attire. When the instructors were dressed more formally they were perceived as more knowledgeable and credible; when they were dressed informally and casually they were perceived as less knowledgeable and credible with only slight differences between the two. In a 2006 study titled The Interactive Effects of Homosexual Speech and Sexual Orientation on the Stigmatization of Men conducted by Catherine W. Gowen and Thomas W. Britt, EVT is used to study the effect of stereotypical gay male speech patterns on the perceptions of admission counselor while applying for school. In this study the expectancy being evaluated is the speech pattern of a homosexual male. The study doesnt focus so much on the stigmatization of gay speech but it focuses on the deviations from expected speech, a homosexual man speaking in a homosexual linguistic

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pattern would confirm a perceivers expectancy for how the man should speak. However, a homosexual man speaking in a heterosexual linguistic pattern would violate a perceivers expectancy for how the man should speak, perhaps leading to negative affect and a greater likelihood of stigmatization (Gowen and Britt, 443). In the implementation of the study one speaker recorded six different versions of a speech. The speaker either used stereotypical gay speech or standard speech and for each condition he self identified as gay, straight, or neutral. The participants in the study listened to the speaker then made assessments about whether they would admit the speaker on the audio tape to the university, if they would give him a scholarship, if they thought he was likeable, and their attitudes towards homosexuals. The study concluded that homosexual speech isnt stigmatizing with a speaker that self identifies as homosexual. The most consistent pattern in the results was that homosexual applicants were stigmatized less when they spoke with gay speech than when they spoke with straight speech. This pattern was evident both for ratings of how much of a scholarship participants would give the applicant and how interpersonally close the participants would like to be to the applicant (Gowen and Britt, 450-1). The study shows results that are consistent with EVT. The greatest negative effect of gay speech was when the expectancy was violateda self-identified heterosexual spoke in a stereotypical homosexual linguistic pattern or a self-identified homosexual spoke in a standard heterosexual dialect. In a third study, Shelly Campo, Kenzie A. Cameron, Dominique Brossard & M. Somjen Frazer study the efficacy of Health Campaigns on college campuses using an EVT framework. Specifically, the study analyzes the expectancy that is violated when health campaigns use

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statistics to try to alter students behavior. The study posits Inherent to the success of social norms campaigns is the assumption that the discrepancy between the expected statistic and the statistic provided in the message will create a change in judgment toward the statistic provided in the message (Campo, Cameron, Brossard, and Frazer, 451). Participants in the study first filled out a questionnaire about their practices in drinking, smoking, and exercise. Then they were asked about their perceptions on drinking, smoking, and exercise across their campus. Then they were shown the actual statistic and asked to reevaluate their position on drinking, smoking, and exercise. The study evaluated students based on whether they overestimated or underestimated attitudes about drinking, smoking, and exercise. Participants that underestimated the amount of students that drank, smoked, or exercised were given a positive violation valence and students that overestimated were given a negative violation valence. The results of the study suggest that health campaigns have relatively little impact on the behaviors of students. Both groups registered insignificant changes after being presented with actual statistics. These finding do not support EVT but the researchers suggest this may be because they werent studying a traditional expectancy dealing with nonverbal cues: the violation in this study was a violation of a statistic, an inanimate object presented in a written format. In other tests of EVT, the violations have occurred as a result of interaction with another, causing violations of expected nonverbal behavior, or violations of expectations in the language used by the speaker (Campo, Cameron, Brossard, and Frazer, 466). In a 2010 study by Jennifer L. Bevan, EVT is used to study sexual resistance/compliance between close male-female partners. In this study, a sample of students was given a questionnaire to determine the demographics of the grouptheir relationship status, orientation,

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and experience. The participants were given a total of eight hypothetical scenarios in a 2 x 2 factorial design that measured relational context (long-term, intersexual friends v. long-term dating relationship) and message directness (indirect v. direct). After the participants read the scenarios they were asked to choose from a list of how they perceived and would respond to the hypothetical sexual advance. The participants were also asked to measure the expectedness/unexpectedness of the scenario in order to determine the expected behaviors and subsequently the positive/negative violation valence. The main goal of the research was to determine how sexual resistance affected the violation valence in long-term relationships v. cross-sex friendships. The study found that in long-term dating partners, when an expectation was violated the violation valence was more negative and unexpected. These ndings are consistent with the idea that cross-sex friendships are not inherently dened by romance or sexuality [and] that being sexually resisted by a new dating partner was more unexpected and uncomfortable than being resisted by a cross-sex friend. These four studies reflect the diverse and ever-changing applications of EVT. EVT is a practical way to develop an understanding of what people expect in certain contexts and what happens when the reality of a situation differs from their expectation. Though, it doesnt necessarily explain the why of human interactions, it goes a long way in determining the what and can be used in a plethora of ways to help predict and alter human behavior.

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Works Cited Bevan, Jennifer L. "Expectancy Violation Theory and Sexual Resistance in Close, Cross-Sex Relationships." Communication Monographs 70.1 (2010): 68-82. Web. Campo, Shelly, Kenzie A. Cameron, Dominique Brossard, and M. Somjen Frazer. "Social Norms and Expectancy Violation Theories: Assessing the Effectiveness of Health Communication Campaigns." Communication Monographs 71.4 (2004): 448-70. Print Dunbar, Noah E., and Chris Segrin. "Clothing and Teacher Credibility: An Application of Expectancy Violations Theory." International Scholarly Research Network(2011): n. pag. Print. Gowen, Catherine W., and Thomas W. Britt. "The Interactive Effects of Homosexual Speech and Sexual Orientation on the Stigmatization of Men: Evidence for Expectancy Violation Theory." Journal of Language and Social Psychology 25.4 (2006): 437-56. Print. Griffin, Emory A. A First Look at Communication Theory. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print. Judee K. Burgoon, A Communication Model of Personal Space Violations: Explication and an Initial Test, Human Communication Research, Vol. 4, 1978, pp.