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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 7 Other Need-Based Theories


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The previous five chapters described a large set of communication theories founded on presumptions consistent with the two dominant experimental psychological movements during the first half of the 20th century, learning theory and Gestalt psychology; the two chapters following this will concentrate on theories following from the tenets of their successor, cognitive psychology. Beside these central traditions, the study of personality psychology has and continues to have many adherents, and their work has likewise had an influence on communication theory. I begin this chapter with four theories rooted in personality psychology, in which people are viewed as motivated to a greater or lesser extent by one or another fundamental characteristic, with their communicative behavior differing to the degree that they possess the relevant characteristic.

As the twenty-first century continues to unfold, the goal orientation of cognitive psychology maintains its hold on the bulk of experimental psychological work. However, two other movements have appeared, and their influence is likely to expand in the coming years. The growth of what is called positive psychology and an accompanying interest in examining the factors that lead to human happiness and psychological well-being directs attention to the importance of maintaining a healthy view of the self. The role of self-esteem ← 213 | 214 → maintenance as a motivator for communicative action underlies the next four theories described in this chapter.

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