Communication Theories

Actor-Network Theory (ANT)
Actor-Network Theory suggests that human and non-human factors are equally influential in the success of technological innovation and scientific knowledge-creation. The theory looks at how networks are formed and how these networks contribute to these successes. It suggests that no one person or thing is solely responsible for these advancements. Therefore, both an actor and a network are responsible for achieving these outcomes.

Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST)
Groups and organizations create rules and resources which are defined as structures. These structures form social systems which develop a life of their own. The quality of the structure affects decision making, and decisions also affect the structure.

Agenda Setting Theory
Agenda Setting Theory states that mass media organizations determine what the general population considers newsworthy by deciding how much attention a news story receives. The term salience transfer is commonly used and refers to the ability of the media to transfer their agendas onto the public.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Cognitive Dissonance is the psychological conflict that results from holding two contradictory or incompatible beliefs or attitudes. For example, one can like a person, but disapprove of their habits. The theory suggests that a person looks for balance in their beliefs. Therefore, in order to reduce dissonance, one will avoid hearing opposing viewpoints or change their beliefs to match their actions.

Communication Accommodation Theory
Communication Accommodation Theory describes when people accommodate or adjust their communication styles to others. These changes in verbal and nonverbal styles are done through two ways: divergence and convergence. Divergence is used to highlight group identity through touting the differences of the group they identify with. Divergence is often used by groups with strong ethnic or racial pride. Convergence is used more often by powerless individuals for social approval and focuses on matching the communication styles of the person with whom they are speaking to.


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias is a theory which explains why people view the world selectively. It states that people continue to view the world selectively by choosing information and media which reinforces their beliefs.

People who are more cognitively complex will be more successful communicators because they possess the ability to create customized and sophisticated messages that pursue multiple communication goals.

Cultivation Theory
Cultivation Theory argues media shapes a persons sense of reality. Because many acquire information through mediated sources rather than direct experience, their world view becomes influenced by these sources. For example, Cultivation Theory suggests that people who would be defined as heavy television viewers see the world as more violent that it actually is.

Cultural Studies
Cultural Studies theorists suggest that mass media represents ideologies of the dominant class in a society. They believe that media is influenced by profit, since corporations run the media. Cultural Studies theorists are curious about the effect of power on culture.

Dramatism states that life is drama. Therefore, one can understand a speaker’s motive through the dramatistic pentad of act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose. The greatest motive of rhetoric is to purge guilt, and there can only be persuasion if the audience identifies with the speaker.

Elaboration Likelihood Model
The Elaboration Likelihood Model looks at how attitudes are formed and changed. It suggest there are two routes of persuasion. The central route is where attitudes are changed through a logical thought process. This route requires more attention, but is also allows for the major change. The peripheral route uses surface characteristics, such as speaker’s credibility, to judge the message. This route creates smaller shifts in attitude.

Face Negotiation Theory
Face Negotiation Theory highlights conflict style differences between collectivist and individualistic cultures. Collectivist cultures place value on the group and therefore adopt a conflict style of avoiding or integrating to give others mutual face. Individualistic cultures place value on the individual and in an attempt to protect self-face, they adopt a dominating conflict style.

“Frames” are defined as the way in which we interpret media presented to us, and that these frames function as a way to organize social meanings. Since the media decides what we view and how we view it, they also influence the way in which we interpret information. In a sense, they tell us what to think about, and how to think about it.

Genderlect theory sees masculine and feminine communication styles as two different cultural dialects — neither of which is more superior than the other. Genderlect states that these forms of communication are simply different in their focus: masculine discourse is based on building status and independence, while feminine conversation is used as a way to build rapport and connection.

Groupthink is when groups make faulty decisions because they fail to critically analyzing their options and weigh alternatives. This typically occurs in highly cohesive groups who are more concerned with maintaining group unity than finding the best option.

Hypodermic Needle Theory
The Hypodermic Needle Theory, also known as the ‘magic bullet’ theory, says the media has a powerful and direct effect on audiences by ‘injecting’ them with messages. The Hypodermic Needle Theory no longer carries the respect it once did since its accuracy was found to be questionable.

Muted Group Theory
Muted Group Theory states that because language is man-made women remain reduced and excluded. Because words and norms have been created by men, women are disadvantaged in public. As women become less muted and more vocal, the dominant position of males in society will diminish.

The Narrative Paradigm
The Narrative Paradigm suggests that we as a people are storytelling animals. It states that instead of using traditional logic, we are more open to judging the credibility of a speaker through narrative logic, which analyzes if their stories are well put together (coherence) and sound true (fidelity). Narrative logic allows those who are not educated in oratory and persuasion to make judgments; therefore, allowing for a more democratic system.

Priming refers to the ability of the media to control the interpretation of new information by feeding the public prior information. This prior context set frames of reference within the audience members, which ultimately effects their judgments. For example, the media has primed us as to what constitutes a credible person.

Proxemic theory looks at how different cultures develop and define space. On an unconscious level people internalize three types of space: 1) intimate space: our personal “bubble” for friends and intimates relationships; 2) social and consultative spaces: the space for routine social interactions with acquaintances and strangers; 3) public space: the space where impersonal and anonymous interactions occur. Each culture creates their own distances for what they feel is appropriate.

Social Exchange Theory
Social Exchange Theory posits an ‘economic’ exchange for in interpersonal relationships. Meaning, the relationships is enhanced by satisfying each others self-interest. In this theory, self-interest is not regarded as a bad thing, but rather as a concept that builds the relationship.

Social Learning Theory
Social Learning Theory argues that people learn from each other through observing, imitating, and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory explains how human behavior can be shaped by continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, an environmental influences.

Social Penetration Theory
Social Penetration Theory looks at how superficial relationships evolve to intimate relationships. The theory states it is a gradual evolution due primarily to self-disclosure between parties. But, while this self-disclosure can be effective in creating intimate relationships, it can also leave one or more persons vulnerable.

Spiral of Silence
The Spiral of Silence theory states that people are less likely to express their opinions if they are the minority. This is because they fear they will be isolated by the majority and suffer social rejection.

Standpoint Theory
Standpoint Theory claims that each person is seated in a different rank among the social hierarchy. Because of this, each person views the social climate from a different vantage point, which only provides a small look at the social whole. But the theory also claims that those who are lower on the social ladder tend to have a greater understanding of the social whole, rather than those higher up.

Symbolic Interactionism Theory
Symbolic Interaction Theory suggests that the concept of self is created by three principles: 1) Meaning: that we act towards and things according to the meanings we apply to them. 2) Language: that we negotiate meaning through symbols. 3) Thought: that thought modifies our interpretations. Symbolic interactionism implies that without communication there would be no self concept.

Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)
Theory of Planned Behavior is the same as Theory of Reasoned Action in that it says personal attitudinal judgments and social-normative considerations influence a person’s intentions to perform a behavior, but TPB adds a third element: perceived behavioral control. This element being the perception of how easy or difficult it is to perform the behavior.

Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)
Theory of Reasoned Action looks at how behaviors can be influenced by influencing a person’s intentions. TRA states that two main factors tell a person whether or not to perform a behavior: 1) personal attitudinal judgments: the evaluation of the action; and, 2) social-normative considerations: what one believes others think they should do.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Uncertainty Reduction Theory states that when strangers meet, their primary goal is to reduce levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty meaning, being unsure of how to behave (or how the other person will behave), and unsure of what to think of the other person. For example, if they like the person or do not like the person. According to this theory, they will use communication to reduce this uncertainty.

Uses and Gratifications Theory
The Uses and Gratifications Theory assumes audiences actively seek out media to satisfy individual needs. With this assumption, the Uses and Gratifications Theory looks to answer three questions: what do people do with the media, what are their underlying motives for using said media, and what are the pros and cons of this individual media use.


  1. These are theories that deals with all human factors that are equal to the innovation and scientific creation of the underlying motives for using a said media for the individual use

  2. good communication but can you help me with this question one type of communication theory and how it help the media today

  3. Nice theories! But can I ask you what theory best fit how a person’s profile affects his/her awareness about something?

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