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A Survey of Scientific Communication Theory

Charles Pavitt

This detailed survey of present-day scientific communication theory rejects the outmoded «levels» organizational scheme in favor of a system based on the underlying model and fundamental explanatory principle each theory presupposes. In doing so it shows the fundamental similarities among all communication-relevant contexts. Most theories included in the book are causal in nature, derived from one of three underlying models: message production, message reception, or interactive. A few theories take on a functional form, sometimes in dialectic or systemic versions. An introductory chapter describes what is meant by scientific explanation, how that concept is instantiated in scientific communication theory, and delineates the three causal models prevalent in these theories. A useful resource for scholars, this book is suitable for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in communication theory.
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Chapter 5 Understanding-Driven Interactional Theories


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Understanding-driven interactional theories share the following characteristics: Two or more people motivated by the need for understanding alternatively think about a message delivered by the other, design a message in response, and deliver that message. As a consequence of their interaction, the interactants’ relevant understanding will generally increase. There are only a few theories that qualify for this category. One is the original version of uncertainty reduction theory (URT), and the discussion here will cover URT and those theories that were proposed in response to it. Two others are theories relevant to the manner in which social influence occurs during small-group decision making.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory and Its Progeny

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