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CAS 202: 1/13/16

Introduction to Communication Theory

Theory takes us from specific to general or abstract

Scholarly Theory: theory that has undergone systematic testing/critique by experts

Social Scientific Communication Theory

-Humanistic vs. Social Scientific Approaches
Social Scientific focus of this class

Features of Social Scientific Approach

-Using scientific methods to study human behavior
-Generalization: From specific examples to population
-Objectivity: Standardized observations and measures (research)
-Distrust of individual mind as sole way of drawing conclusions
Social Scientists recognize that
-Human behavior is a function of cognitive processes (thoughts, feelings,
intentions) These include our motivations goals, intentions, desires, etc.
-Some external influences on human behavior and some cognitive
processes are outside of conscious awareness
-Determinism is 1960’s Communications, theories based around humans as more
like animals, without thoughts, feelings, choices
-Much of what we do is based on how we see the world, behavior, how much or
our behavior is driven by non-conscious awareness?
-Purpose of theory, research methods

Definition: Social Scientific Theory-an explanation for relationships between concepts

Concepts: Abstractions that represent an agreed upon aspect of reality
Relationships: How one thing affect another

Functions (and types) of Social Scientific Theory

Description: Focusing attention of key concepts
Explanation: Explicating how concepts are related; answering the “why?” question
Prediction: Forecasting what will happen
Control: Applying ideas to create change

Typology: just a classification, needs explanation

Scientific Theories: Uses all four functions, description, explanation, prediction, control
Interpretive Theories: Just uses Description, Explanation, more definitional, how can we expand
Criteria for Evaluating Social Scientific Theory
-Does the theory correctly explain and predict how communication works?
-Does scholarly research support the theory?
-How well can the theory be used to address real-world communication issues?
-Does it help us control what happens to create change?
-What is the quality of explanation? Does the theory make sense, logical?
-Internal consistency: Are the ideas of the theory logically built on one
-External Consistency: Is the theory consistent with other widely
accepted theories?
-Succinctness (Parsimony)
-Is the theory described as simply as possible, given its scope?
-Compare how much of communication is covered by the theory vs. how many
concepts and relationships are involved
-The ability of a theory to provide insight into an otherwise intricate issue-the
“aha!” factor
-Heuristic Value
-The extent to which a theory is used, especially scholarly testing, extension, and
-Related to all other criteria
(When scholars test a theory, it generates respect)