Monday, 6 June 2011

Chapter notes - Beyond initial interaction

1. Berger CR. Beyond Initial Interaction. In: Giles H, St. Clair R, eds. Language and Social Psychology. Basil Blackwell; 1979:122-144.

This chapter expands on the earlier work done on uncertainty reduction theory by looking at the strategies that people employ to get to know another.

The chapter starts by discussing the various reasons someone might increase the attention they pay to the behaviour of another in social situations. They outline three reasons:

  1. Incentives - the other person could reward them.
  2. Deviation - the other person is acting in a way that is not in keeping with the social norms. 
  3. Future interaction - the likelihood of meeting the person again. People do not care about the behaviour of others so much if they will never meet them again. 
Having decided it's worth getting to know someone, there are then eight strategies of three different types identified: 
  1. Passive strategies - the other person is observed but not interacted with. 
    1. Reactivity search - watch the other person interacting with others. 
    2. Social comparison - watch the other person interact with people you know.
    3. Disinhibition search - watch the other person in an environment where their guard is down. Access as a non-interactive observer to that kind of environment can be tricky!
  2. Active strategies - the other person is observed in situations that you have controlled to some degree, but still not interacted with directly, 
    1. Asking others about the target. This brings the danger that news of your inquiry could get back to the individual you're asking about. 
    2. Environmental structuring - set up a situation for the other person to negotiate. This sounds really intrusive and difficult, but could be as little as putting a range of magazines out on a table. 
  3. Interactive strategies - talk/interact with the other person.
    1. Verbal interrogation - ask the subject questions. There's a delicate balance between asking too many questions of too personal a nature in too short a space of time (and therefore prejudicing the other person against you) and not getting the information you need. 
    2. Self-disclosure - tell them about yourself. Most people reciprocate. 
    3. Deception detection - work out if the person is bragging, flattering or omitting information. 
These strategies focus on one individual learning about another, not necessarily mutual understanding. Also makes the point that discussing strategies does not identify the tactics used to employ these strategies, and there is no indication of which strategies would be adopted in which situations. 

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