Everyday view of communication is the flow
of information from one person to another.
Communication: the process by which people
interactively create, sustain, and manage
Communication competence: balancing
effectiveness and appropriateness.
◦ Effectiveness: extent to which you achieve your
goals in interaction.
◦ Appropriateness: fulfilling social expectations for a
Understanding theory will allow for a proper
balance of effectiveness and appropriateness
Abstract understanding of communication
Move beyond describing a single event by
providing a means by which all like events can be
Defined: systematic summary about the nature of
the communication process.
◦ Focusing attention on particular concepts
◦ Clarifying our observations
◦ Predicting communication behavior
◦ Generating personal and social change
◦ Created through personal experiences
◦ Are often the basis for our decisions on how to
◦ E.g.: Never date a colleague; it always ends up badly
◦ Generalizations made in particular professions
about the best technique for doing something
◦ More systematic than commonsense theory
represent agreed-on ways of doing things in
◦ E.g.: Audience analysis should be done prior to
presenting a speech.
◦ Has undergone systematic research
◦ Provide more thorough, accurate, and abstract
explanations for communication
◦ Typically more complex and difficult to understand
◦ E.g.: The media do not tell us what to think, but
what to think about (agenda-setting theory)
◦ Correctly summarizes the way communication
◦ Look at research studies that use the theory and
see whether the research supports the theory or
fails to support it.
◦ How well the theory can be used to address real-
world communication problems
◦ A theory with more applications is better than a
theory without practical uses
◦ Look for how the theory has been used in the
research literature as well as a theory’s professional
◦ Is the theory formulated as simply as possible?
◦ Compare how much of communication is explained
by the theory versus how many concepts are being
used to explain it
◦ The most useful theories have internal and external
◦ Internal consistency means that the ideas of the
theory are logically built on one another
◦ External consistency refers to the theory’s
consistency with other widely accepted behaviors
◦ The ability of a theory to provide insight into an
otherwise intricate issue
◦ You need to think, “Wow, I never realized that!”
Case Study 1: Evaluating Groupthink
◦ How accurate is groupthink?
◦ How practical is groupthink?
◦ Is the theory appropriately succinct? Or is it overly
simple or overly complex?
◦ Is groupthink consistent with other theories about
group communication? Does it demonstrate internal
◦ Does groupthink demonstrate acuity?