Saylor 1 Eddie Saylor Dr. Rachel E.

Williams CO 330: Communication Theory 16 April 2008 Social Penetration Theory One of the most profound examples of interpersonal relations, human closeness, intimacy, and emotional bonding that can be seen, evaluated, and used is in a new born and its mother bonding minutes after birth. Babies that are born in a hospital are typically returned to their mothers shortly after birth to strengthen their connection. This alone can attest to the weighty substance of the need for interaction. Communication is innate within every human being; and intimacy is a fundamental characteristic of many interpersonal relationships. Within the new relationship the mother discloses herself to her new born in soft gentle calming words and sounds of affection as well passionate caresses to woo the child, soon after the child usually responds or learn to respond and recognize the intentions, meanings, and verbal cues of the mother. This communication with the child demonstrates the essence self disclosure undiluted and unrestrained, it is self disclosure in its purest and absolute condition. Interpersonal communication is inescapable, we cannot not communicate. The new born child communicates with its mother as the mother communicates through sound and tone of voice, gesture, and facial expression. In this paper I present the mother and child as a model of interpersonal relationships to demonstrate the necessity of interpersonal relations and communication. Social Penetration is basically the study of the development of relationships and how they penetrate deeper and deeper into private and personal matters. The first assumption of this theory is relationships progress from nonintimate to intimate. This assumption explains that interpersonal communication at first is initially superficial and as communication continues it

Saylor 2 becomes intimate based on the persons involved and their intentions. Another assumption states that the development of relationships are generally systematic. This systematic development the second assumption of SPT according to Altman and Taylor exposes susceptibilities and apprehensions, so trust has to be developed along the way just as the child develops trust in the mother in the new intimate and interpersonal relationships so do we have to develop trust in order to move from non intimate to intimate. This assumption alludes to the idea that relationships must follow some kind of path or theme. The third assumptions states that relational development includes depenetration and dissolution as well meaning that it will not remain idle or inactive, it will either progress into something or noting. The Fourth is that self disclosure is the core of relationship development. Interpersonal relationships are also based on need just as the mother need the child and the child its mother. It is safe to say that a relationship is a reciprocated filling of needs, the child fills the mother’s need to nurture and the child’s need is filled by being nurtured. Remembering as stated before this relationship between mother and child demonstrates interpersonal relations in its plainest form because of the two are in essence make plain their communication and the intention is clear. When we parallel this to the relationship of a man and women we have much more to consider. The stages of the social penetration process are the orientation, exploratory affective exchange, affective exchange, and stable exchange. Dr. Mark Knapp author of Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships has what is considered one of the most popular models of relationship development and is explained in five stages; Initiation, Experimenting, Intensifying, Integrating, and Bonding. According to Dr. Knapp the Initiation stage is usually very short and the persons involved demonstrates concern with making good impressions, similar to the first orientation stage of Altman an Taylor’s first

Saylor 3 stage that states the interactions are superficial and only bits of information are revealed. His Experimenting stage the individuals ask questions about each other parallel to the Exploratory Affective Exchange, the stage of social penetration that results in the emergence f our personality to others. Interestingly this stage in Altman and Taylor’s SPT and Dr. Knapp’s Experimenting stage compliments each other because asking questions about each other may result in the emergence of our true self. In Dr. Knapp’s third stage Intensifying, self disclosure becomes more evident and when compared to SPT’s process Affective Exchange the interactions are more free and casual and it represents a further commitment and they understand each other’s non verbal communication better. This Affective Exchange can only happen when they understand each other on a somewhat intimate level. A mother can understand a her child’s cry because of her care and constant involvement with the her child. So again the stages from Dr. Knapp and of the SPT work with each other. His Integrating stage is when the individuals become a pair and are recognized as a couple compared to SPT’s Stable exchange is honesty, intimacy, and open expression of thought. Dr. Knapp goes a step further by including marriage in his final stage the Bonding Stage. Social Penetration Theorist believe that although self disclosure can lead to more intimate relationships, it can leave one or more persons vulnerable as well and most at this stage would prefer to avoid embarrassment and vulnerability it is termed as face saving in the Face Negotiating Theory by Stella Ting-Toomey a theory we will get into later. Richard West and Lynn Turner stated on page 3 in their book Introduction to Communication Theory that communication depends on our ability to understand each other, in other words communication is useless if the message is not understood by the receiver or recipient. A relevant question would be if communication relies on our ability to understand each

Saylor 4 other than how significant is self disclosure? Based on the research of Irvin Altman and Dalmas Taylor they state that self disclosure is the foundation of relationship development and is defined as purposeful progression of revealing yourself. In the example of the mother and child relationship there is an expression of self disclosure in the mother to her child in the form of sounds, reassuring words, and touching. Research by Jeremy Frase on SPT states that self disclosure cannot truly be if we don’t share psychological information with another which includes individual traits, feelings, attitudes, and more personal information, in other words there is a psychological context in interpersonal communication and in self disclosure. According to Altman and Taylor epistimologically, this theory makes the statement that if self disclosure is high, then the relationship will develop. Which makes the theory a scientific one based on the “if then =>” statement. For example if Mary shares personal significant information with Joey than Joey will be drawn closer to Mary. The fourth assumption of SPT states that self-disclosure is at the core of relationship development and in Mary sharing personal information with Joey it will most likely influence the evolution of their relationship. Interpersonal communication is contextual, for example talking to a significant other who is from a different background or country in a counseling session about marriage. In that there are four contexts that are to be considered. The first was the psychological context the second is the Relational context which attends to your reactions to the other person; in the previous example the couple is in a relationship considering marriage. The third is Situational context and this focuses on the situation in which they are exchanging, and they are in a counseling session. The fourth is the Environmental context similar to the preceding context but centers on the actual environment which in their situation the setting most likely will be an air-conditioned room with comfortable seating. The last is the Cultural context which relates to the learned behaviors and

Saylor 5 rules from a culture. Within each context is positioned a great unending amount of complexity that has been the root and inspiration of many books such as How to Be an Adult in Relationships : The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo, Kathlyn Hendricks; Journey from Abandonment to Healing : Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson; Relationship Rescue : A Seven-Step Strategy for Reconnecting with Your Partner by Phillip C. McGraw; and The Five Love Languages : How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. Movies and television talk shows such as Hitch starring Will Smith, and Dr. Phil’s TV show have great influence on how we view relationships and these media permeates our lives fixes our perceptions even in relationships. The way men perceive differs from the way women do, new research has even confirmed that the way men and women cope with and suffer from pain is different due to biological differences. We are raised differently and are expected to think and act differently. Boys are dealt with differently, communicated to differently with a different language while girls are dealt with in a completely different way as well. Dr. Lillian Glass one of the world’s foremost authorities on improving communication skills states in her book He Says She Says Closing the Communication Gap Between the Sexes on page 66, that studies confirm that our brains develop at different rates and based on that it creates a considerable amount of differences between the sexes. She states that research shows that the left side of a girl’s brain develops faster than a boy’s causing an increase in the development in verbal functioning and may be the reason why girls learn to talk sooner than little boys, have better vocabulary, read earlier, and excel in memory at a younger age. She also says that boys develop the right side of their brain faster than girls and have earlier visual-spacial, logical, and perceptual development and may be the reason why boys tend to be better in mathematics, problem solving, building, and at figuring out puzzles

Saylor 6 earlier than girls. Dr. Glass further explain these neurological differences saying that several studies have shown that girls as they develop are more interested in playing with toys with faces while boys prefer toy blocks or toys that can be manipulated. Dr. Roger Gorski of UCLA confirms the structural differences between men’s and women’s brains stating that the corpus callosum which is the band of fibers uniting the right and left side of the brain is bigger and wider in women than in men. The differences are clear and evident that men and women are quite different and communication is often challenging and difficult. Men have different body language, different gestures; consider how a mother talks to her child and how a father talks to the child imagine the huge differences. In addition to these differences we have to consider self image or our face which is a communication theory researched by Stella Ting Toomey. It is a metaphor for the public image people display. One of the assumptions of Face Negotiation Theory state that self-identity is important in interpersonal interactions, with individuals negotiating their identities differently across cultures. It is an image of what they want people to see and accept. SPT’s onion analogy explains the importance of revealing yourself. The layers of the onion represent the assortments of a person’s personality; the outer layer serves as the public image. The assumptions of Social Penetration are relationships progress from nonintimate to intimate, which we have dealt with earlier, relational development is generally systematic and predictable which refers to the notion that relationship development follows some pattern or acceptable standard but relationships do not always go in the direction we would like them to. Communication can also cause relationships to move from intimacy to nonintimacy. For example if the communication is unhealthy or conflictual, the intimacy will deteriorate. If the mother severs her communication with her child it will cause a loss of trust and intimacy and

Saylor 7 their relationship will suffer and may eventually end. With depenetration it doesn’t always mean that the relationship will end completely it just experiences the author of the text book calls transgressions, violations of relational rules, practices, and expectations. In the field of communication specifically Journalism

Saylor 8

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.