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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 8 Goal-Driven Message Production Theories


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Simply put, a goal is a desired end state that motivates behavior directed toward its achievement. The goal concept has been well explicated by several authors (for example, Dillard, 1997), and will get only cursory discussion here. Goals are desired future states toward whose achievement a person’s actions may be directed. As motivators, goals stand with needs as fundamental explanatory principles in scientific communication theory. Although the difference between the two is to some extent arbitrary, the sense of each term differs in that a need can be seen as a push from behind whereas a goal as a pull from ahead. This has resulted in the claim that goals cannot explain behavior at a given point of time because their achievement occurs in the future. This is, however, inaccurate; at a given point of time, one’s conception of a desired future state (goal) can motivate subsequent action.

A person’s behaviors directed toward goal achievement can be said to be intentional, although not necessarily in that person’s awareness. One reason that people may or may not be aware of all of their goals is that both goals and related behaviors exist in hierarchies, such that high-level “conscious” goals (such as Alice attempting to verbally persuade Bob to go dancing with her) are achieved by means of low-level, “subconscious” goals (Alice moving her lips, tongue, and mouth in specific ways in order to pronounce the words...

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