Project #38180 - Comm 300 discussion

Question 1: Symbolic Interaction Theory


 Chapter 4, West and Turner bring up two concepts that are pretty familiar to most of us.  The first is self-fulfilling prophesy.  That’s when self expectations cause a person to behave in such a way that the expectations are realized. 

The second may also be familiar to you—it’s called the Pygmalion effect.  It’s based on a play by George Bernard Shaw that was made into the musical “My Fair Lady.”  The play was based on an old legend about an artist named Pygmalion who sculpted the figure of a woman out of ivory.  He prayed to Venus, the goddess of love, that the statue could be made into the artist’s ideal woman.  Venus granted his wish.

Your text defines the Pygmalion effect as what happens when the expectations of others govern one’s actions.  They use as an example Eliza Doolittle, the poor flower girl in the play and the film.  Eliza learns through her relationship with Henry Higgins (“Pygmalion”) that the difference between a poor flower girl and an upper class lady is not her behavior, but rather it’s based on how others treat her.  As she learns how to act as an upper class lady, she is treated as such.  In a hilarious scene. Professor Higgins introduces Miss Doolittle to his mother and her friends at a garden party, without revealing her background. 

(If you would like to know more about the film, go to  

So, what do you think of the relationship between these two concepts?  How are they similar?  How are they different?



Question 2: Coordinated Management of Meaning

Like the Dramatism theory, the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) theory views the world as if it were a stage play.  Any play requires rules, such as the need for the actors to read the lines provided in the script instead of improvising, in order to avoid confusing the other actors or the audience.  So, how do we establish rules in communication? 

Your text says “CMM focuses on the self and its relationship to others; it examines how an individual assigns meaning to a message.  The theory is especially important because it focuses on the relationship between an individual and his or her society.” 

The authors of your text also point out that CMM relies on certain assumptions:

·         Centrality of communication: We recognize that human beings live in a communication environment.  It is a dynamic process that involves more than talk; it is also a way of creating and doing things.  

·         Social reality: Human beings co-create a social reality.  When we communicate, we construct a perspective that guides our actions.  

·         Control: When humans converse, they bring into the conversation their own experiences.  Because the experiences of each of us are unique to us, our perceptions may be different.  

The effort to come up with rules concerning communication and relationships is best described in a scene from the film “When Harry Met Sally.” During their first meeting, Harry tries to explain to Sally why men and women can never be friends:

(For more background on the film, go to

How are Harry’s and Sally’s experiences different?  How do those different experiences influence their perceptions?  How does their exchange illustrate the assumptions on which CMM is based?  




Question 3: Cognitive Dissonance

A lot of people misunderstand the term “cognitive dissonance.”  They think it’s a fancy way of saying “confusion.”  However, it's more subtle than that.  Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that results from inconsistent attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. 

For example, imagine that you have a male friend whom you have known well for years.  You think you know almost everything about him.  However, one day he informs you that he is gay.  How do you feel about that?  Perhaps you never thought of his sexual orientation.  Or perhaps you assumed that he was “straight.”  Suddenly, your perception—and perhaps your feelings—toward him change.   It may be an uncomfortable feeling, finding that your assumptions, your preconceptions, even your relationship, are suddenly different.  That’s cognitive dissonance. 

The authors of your text cite an experiment conducted by Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist who is best known for his research into cognitive dissonance.  (By the way, Festinger studied under Kurt Lewin, whom we quoted in Week 1 as saying “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.”)  Festinger and his colleagues describe an experiment in a theory that he called “minimal justification.”  Minimal justification has to do with offering only the minimum incentive required to get someone to change feelings.  Fortunately, Festinger’s experiment was recorded on film and is explained by Philip Zimbardo.

(Isn’t it interesting that Dr. Zimbardo introduces us to the Cognitive Dissonance Theory in a used car lot, when one example of the theory is known as “buyer’s remorse”?) 

What do you think of Festinger’s experiment?  Did it provide you with a clearer understanding of cognitive dissonance?  Did it provide a convincing case that cognitive dissonance even exists?  Why or why not?

Question 4: Expectancy Violations Theory

Chapter 7 is about the Expectancy Violations Theory.  The theory suggests that people hold expectations about the nonverbal behavior of others.  I think this theory is very practical because it applies to so many daily occurrences, such as the way people behave standing in an elevator or when a stranger seems to invade your “space.”  It explains why we don’t mind being close to family and friends, but that in a classroom, we prefer to sit in the second or third row.  It also explains why we like to keep politicians at arm’s length (although that may be to keep them from picking our pockets!). For example, notice how Jerry Seinfeld's parents react when they are introduced to a "close talker."   

Moreover, every culture has its own expectations about nonverbal behavior.  People from the American South behave somewhat differently from people from the North.  People in Europe behave differently than Americans.  Some peoples’ expectations may be very different from your own, and we often don’t understand when we’ve violated someone’s sensibilities. 

What are examples of nonverbal expectations that you have learned from your culture?  For example, when do you feel comfortable looking directly into someone’s eyes and when do you feel that you must avert their gaze?  What are some similarities and differences between our expectations of nonverbal behavior?





Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 08/25/2014 12:00 am
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