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Communication Accommodation Theory of Howard Giles ch 31

by: AmberNicole

Communication Accommodation Theory of Howard Giles ch 31 COMM 1001

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These notes were covered in class and will be on the exam. (power points not provided on blackboard.) hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions - I would be more than happy to help....
Intro to Communications
Dr. Richards
Class Notes
communication, Communications, Theory, Howard, giles, howard giles, speech accommodation, notion, comprehensive, comprehensive communication theory, scope of the theory, communication accommodation theory, CAT< communication accommodation strategi
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by AmberNicole on Thursday April 7, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to COMM 1001 at East Carolina University taught by Dr. Richards in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 6 views. For similar materials see Intro to Communications in Communication at East Carolina University.


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Date Created: 04/07/16
Communication Accommodation Theory of Howard Giles Chapter 31 Introduction  Giles claimed that when two people from different ethnic or cultural groups interact, they tend to accommodate each other in the way they speak in order to gain the others approval  He specifically focused on the nonverbal adjustments of speech rate, accent, and pauses  Speech accommodation is a strategy frequently used to gain the appreciation of people who are from different groups or cultures A simple Notion Becomes a Comprehensive Communication Theory  The scope of the theory expanded to answer relevant questions that it raised  In 1987 Giles changed the name of the theory to communication accommodation theory (CAT) and offered it as “a theory of intercultural communication that actually attends to communication”  Accommodation o The constant movement toward or away from others by changing your communicative behavior o CAT researchers have shown consistent interest in exploring communication accommodation in an intergenerational context Communication Accommodation Strategies  Giles has consistently contrasted two strategic forms of communication that diverse people use when they interact o Convergence and divergence  He sees both types of behavior as accommodation because they each involve constant movement toward or away from others through a change in communicative behavior  Strategy 1: Convergence o A strategy of adapting your communication behavior in such a way as to become more similar to another person o It is a form of audience adaptation used to reduce nonverbal differences o Discourse management another form of audience adaptation, is the sensitive selection of topics to discuss  Strategy 2: Divergence o A strategy of accentuating the differences between you and another person o Divergence is a form of counter-accommodation  A direct way of maximizing the differences between two speakers o Self-handicapping  For the elderly, a face-saving strategy that invokes age as a reason for not performing well o Maintenance (under accommodation)  Persisting in your original communication style regardless of the communication behavior of the other; similar and has same results as divergence o Over accommodation  Demanding or patronizing talk; excessive concern paid to vocal clarity or amplification, message simplification, or repetition  Ex: baby talk to an elderly person Different Motivations for Convergence and Divergence  CAT theorists have always regarded desire for social approval as the main motivation for convergence  Desire for approval  convergence  positive response  However, this motivational sequence cant explain why we frequently communicate in a divergent way, and the causal chain doesn’t take into account the fact that we often act as a representative of a group  Social Identity Theory o Tajfel and Turner suggested that we often communicate not as individual actors, but as representatives of groups that help define who we are o If one (or both) of the interactants regards self or other as a representative of a group of people, Tajfel and Turner said that their communication will likely become divergent because of their need to emphasize their distinctiveness o Need for distinctiveness (social identity)  divergence  Negative response  Social Identity o Group memberships and social categories that we use to define who we are  Our group memberships – whether formal associations or allegiances only in our minds – can greatly affect our communication  Initial Orientation o Communicators’ predisposition to focus on either their individual identity or group identity during a conversation o Predicting which route (personal identity or social identity) a person will take is difficult, but the additive presence of five factors increases the odds that a communicator will see the conversation as an intergroup encounter.  1. Collective cultural context  Individualistic type of personality  2. Distressing history of interaction  Previous uncomfortable interactions with another speaker  Ex: men are just like that  3. Stereotypes  the more negative images people have another group the more likely it is to become a stereotype  4. Norms or expectations for treatment  These expectations can affect the way one person in a group looks at another person in another group as one of them.  5. High group solidarity and high group dependence  Initial intergroup orientation and high dependence on it for her sense of self because of her connections and reliability of group so she acts as reprehensive of group Initial Orientation  No single factor determines a person’s initial orientation  However, if all five factors line up in the direction of public identity, its almost certain that a communicator will approach a conversation with an intergroup mindset Recipient Evaluation of Convergence and Divergence  Listeners regard convergence as positive and divergence as negative  Converging speakers are viewed as more competent, attractive, warm, and cooperative  Diverging speakers are often seen as insulting, impolite, or hostile  What’s ultimately important is not how the communicator converges or diverges, but how the other perceives the communicator’s behavior  Objective Vs. Subjective Accommodation o Early in his research, Giles realized that there was a disconnect between the communication behavior that he and other neutral researchers observed what participants heard and saw o He described the gap as the difference between objective and subjective accommodation o A speaker’s accent, rate, pitch, and length of pauses could actually be shifting toward a conversational partner’s style of speaking, but the partner might regard it as divergent o In light of the discrepancy, Giles says it’s the recipients’ subjective evaluation that really matters, because that’s what will shape their response  Attribution Theory o Giles draws from attribution theory to cast light on how we’ll interpret our conversational partners’ convergent or divergent behavior o Attribution  The perceptual process by which we observe what people do and then try to figure out their intent or disposition o Heider and Kelly suggest that we attribute an internal disposition to the behavior we see another enact o Our default assumption is that people who do things like that are like that o Yet three mitigating factors come into play  1. The other’s ability  2. External constraints  3. Effort expended Applying CAT to Police Officer-Citizen Interaction  CAT can be applied to any intercultural or intergroup situation where the differences between people are apparent and significant  Giles has employed CAT to analyze routine traffic stops for issues of communication accommodation and race  Study predicted different race conflict would be worse than those of the same rate Critique: Enormous Scope at the Cost of Clarity  CAT can be evaluated using the six criteria for good social science theories o Explanation of the data  CAT not only describes communication behavior, it explains why it happens o Prediction of the future  CAT has consistently predicted what will happen in specific situations o Relative simplicity  CAT is an extraordinarily complex theory presented in multiple versions that are sometimes offered simultaneously. Even the meaning of accommodation within the theory is slippery o CAT can be evaluated using the six criteria for good social science theories  Testable hypothesis  CAT is not falsifiable as testing “the whole of the theory” is not possible  Quantitative research  Tests of CAT have used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods  Practical utility  CAT can be beneficially applied to any situation where people from different groups or cultures come into contact


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