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Summaries of Theoretical Concepts

While not necessarily published articles, these summaries are great introductions to a variety of theories relevant to group communication.

Here are the 22 resources from Summaries of Theoretical Concepts.

Showing 1 - 20 of 22     Next Page >>

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory is concerned with how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more causes to that behavior. According to Heider a person can make two attributions 1) internal attribution, the inference that a person is behaving in a certain way because of something about the person, such as attitude, character or personality. 2) external attribution, the inference that a person is behaving a certain way because of something about the situation he or she is in.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive dissonance is a communication theory adopted from social psychology. The title gives the concept: cognitive is thinking or the mind; and dissonance is inconsistency or conflict. Cognitive dissonance is the psychological conflict from holding two or more incompatible beliefs simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance is a relatively straightforward social psychology theory that has enjoyed wide acceptance in a variety of disciplines including communication.

Deliberative Dialogue to Expand Civic Engagement: What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need? Great for Beginners Highly Recommended

Martha McCoy and Pat Scully, Study Circles Resource Center. National Civic Review, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 117-135, 2002.

Martha McCoy and Pat Scully of the Study Circles Resource Center wrote this excellent article that distinguishes deliberation from dialogue and discusses the merits of “the marriage of deliberation and dialogue.” Although the article focuses on the Study Circles process, it is a great introduction to public engagement processes and their principles. This is a very readable 19-page article that we highly recommend you take the time to read.

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Dialogue and Systems Thinking: Building a bridge for the practitioner new

John G. Bell, Antioch University Seattle and Robin R. Fenske, The Evergreen State College. This paper was submitted to and presented at NCDD's 2004 conference in Denver, Colorado..

Systems thinking is a way of mapping diverse opinions and exploring that territory. The tools of systemic thinking provide the breadcrumb trail that mark the dialogical practitioner's journey. This journey is a process that happens within a complex self-organizing system that enables people's multi-modal engagement, in multiple ways on multiple levels.

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Dialogue as Pedagogy: Deliberative Learning with Democracy Lab in High School and College Classes Recently Updated

James T Knauer, PhD and Paul Alexander, PhD.

This 10-page document was distributed during Jim Knauer and Paul Alexander's workshop of the same name at the 2006 NCDD Conference in San Francisco. Deliberative dialogue can be used across the curriculum to integrate civic education without sacrificing disciplinary content or traditional learning objectives. The document not only outlines Democracy Lab (an online deliberation program for college students) and where it is headed, it also outlines existing research on dialogic pedagogy, describes William Perry's Scheme of Intellectual and Ethical Development, and explores the relationship between deliberative dialogue and learning.

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Elaboration Likelihood Model

The ELM is based on the idea that attitudes are important because attitudes guide decisions and other behaviors. While attitudes can result from a number of things, persuasion is a primary source. The model features two routes of persuasive influence: central and peripheral. The ELM accounts for the differences in persuasive impact produced by arguments that contain ample information and cogent reasons as compared to messages that rely on simplistic associations of negative and positive attributes to some object, action or situation.

Embedded Deliberation: Entrepreneurs, Organizations, and Public Action Recently Updated Highly Recommended

Elena Fagotto and Archon Fung. Final Report for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, submitted by the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. April 14, 2006.

This very meaty 151-page final report to the Hewlett Foundation includes detailed case studies on West Virginia’s National Issues Forums, Public Deliberation in South Dakota, Public Deliberation in Hawai’i, and Connecticut’s Community Conversations about Education. Elena Fagotto presented a workshop on her research at NCDD's 2006 conference called "Embedded Deliberation: Moving from Deliberation to Action." She decided to share the report with the NCDD community since many of her workshop participants requested it.

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Irving (1972, 1982) developed an influential theory of group decision making that he called groupthink. The idea is that groupthink is a kind of thinking in which maintaining group cohesiveness and solidarity is more important than considering the facts in a realistic manner. Thus groupthink is a result of cohesiveness in groups, which was first discussed by Lewin in the 1930s.

Kick Socrates Out of the Classroom! Developing A More Deliberative Classroom Discourse new

Jolanda Westerhof-Shultz, Grand Valley State University/College of Education. This paper was submitted to and presented at NCDD's 2004 conference in Denver, Colorado..

A new theory of democratic education and a rethinking of its philosophical foundations are needed. This need derives from the inadequacies of the deferred model of education, which suspends deliberation from the classroom, treating students as not yet qualified for and the learning process as not requiring their serious input. This false and destructive notion is rooted in guardianship theory, a popular alternative to democracy that rejects the fact that democracy is itself a developmental and educational process, one ideally suited to the purposes of the classroom. Classroom talk in this model is rooted in the Socratic method, that prevents students from thoughtfully examining a range of issues for and between themselves.

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Knowledge Gap

The knowledge gap theory was first proposed by Tichenor, Donohue and Olien at the University of Minnesota in the 70s. They believe that the increase of information in society is not evenly acquired by every member of society: people with higher socioeconomic status tend to have better ability to acquire information (Weng, S.C. 2000). This leads to a division of two groups: a group of better-educated people who know more about most things, and those with low education who know less. Lower socio-economic status people, defined partly by educational level, have little or no knowledge about public affairs issues, are disconnected from news events and important new discoveries, and usually aren't concerned about their lack of knowledge.

Ladder of Inference

The "ladder of inference" concept explains why most people don't usually remember where their deepest attitudes came from. The data is long since lost to memory, after years of inferential leaps. Being aware of the ladder of inference enables peopel to improve their communications and thinking by (1) becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoning (reflection); making your thinking and reasoning more visible to others (advocacy); and inquiring into others' thinking and reasoning (inquiry).

Language Expectancy Theory

Language Expectancy Theory is a formalized model about message strategies and attitude and behavior change. Message strategies include verbal aggressions like fear appeal, explicit opinions and language intensity which are more combat. Language Expectancy Theory assumes that language is a rule-governed system and people develop expectations concerning the language or message strategies employed by others in persuasive attempts (Burgoon, 1995). Expectations are a function of cultural and sociological norms and preferences arising from cultural values and societal standards or ideals for competent communication.

Leadership, Critical Thinking, and Dialogue: Steps toward an Integrative Framework

Marvin S. Cohen. Cognitive Technologies, Inc., 2002.

The purpose of this 31-page paper is to suggest and explore a common framework for processes of decision making and of influence. The framework may shed light on different ways that both influence and decision making can occur, provide a more theoretically illuminating and practically useful set of distinctions, and point the way to a more integrated and more effective approach to leader development. According to this framework, both decision making and influencing are exemplified in dialogue, with oneself or with others. Dialogue theory may supply a precise set of tools for analyzing how such orchestration occurs at the level of specific leader and subordinate behaviors. Ultimately, dialogue theory may serve as a bridge between training in thinking skills and leader development.

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Social Identity Theory

Social identity theory (SIT) focuses on the portions of our total identity that derive from our social group memberships. It claims that people gain self-esteem from their social group memberships to the extent that they can positively contrast their in-group with various out-groups. Social Identity Theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner in 1979. The theory was originally developed to understand the psychological basis of intergroup discrimination. Tajfel et al (1971) attempted to identify the minimal conditions that would lead members of one group to discriminate in favor of the ingroup to which they belonged and against another outgroup.

Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue new Highly Recommended

Katy J. Harriger and Jill J. McMillan. Kettering Foundation Press, 2007.

This book follows the “Democracy Fellows” - a group of 30 college students during their four years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina - to discover whether their experiences in learning and practicing deliberation might counteract the alienation from public life that has overtaken so many young Americans today. Their research design included classroom learning and practical experiences in organizing and conducting deliberative forums both on campus and in the Winston-Salem community. Observations gleaned from interviews, focus groups, and surveys of a comparison group and the larger student population indicate that, upon graduation, the Democracy Fellows had the skills and the interests needed to become more involved and responsible citizens than their fellow students.

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Spiral of Silence

The phrase "spiral of silence" actually refers to how people tend to remain silent when they feel that their views are in the minority. The model is based on three premises: 1) people have a "quasi-statistical organ," a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls, 2) people have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated, and 3) people are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated.

Systems Theory

Namsoo Hong, Wallid Al-Khatib, Bill Magagna, Andrea McLoughlin, and Brenda Coe.

System theory is basically concerned with problems of relationships, of structures, and of interdependence, rather than with the constant attributes of object (Katz and Kahn, 1966). Webster defines a system as a "regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole," which "is in, or tends to be in, equilibrium". Negandi says that "a system's attributes, which are the interdependence and interlinking of various subsystems within a given system, and the tendency toward attaining a balance, or equilibrium forces one to think in terms of multiple causation in contrast to the common habit of thinking in single-cause terms."

Systems Thinking

Kathy Popp.

Systems theory is the understanding that a system is comprised of interrelated parts, which all interact with each other. A system is bigger than the sum of its parts. In education all of the educational parts or components are important. These include the teachers, parents, administration, politicians, community leaders, students, and the environment in which the system exists. These components interact not only with each other, but with this surrounding environment....

The Evolutionary Role of Dialogue and Deliberation Recently Updated

What is the role D&D; people play in society's evolution? How can we call forth our potential for helping society evolve to be more conscious, effective, and wise? Tom Atlee and Peggy Holman asked these questions during their popular workshop at NCDD's 2006 conference in San Francisco. Download their handouts - a 7-page paper by Tom, a 10-page chapter from The Change Handbook by Peggy, and a 3-page document featuring three diagrams....

The Leadership Dilemma in a Democratic Society: Re-energizing the Practice of Leadership for the Public Good

The Society for Organizational Learning's Public Sector Community of Practice, 2003.

Produced by a group of people and agencies representing decades of public sector experience, this article introduces five "systems maps" which illustrate the current structures that have evolved from our perceived national values and system of governance. The group expressed interest in creating forums for dialogue throughout the country because its members believe that every citizen has a role to play in ensuring our democratic system thrives. Their goal is to create a greater understanding of governmental structures, and collectively improve the larger system that serves us. They encourage people to use the maps in their own environment to engage anyone who cares about the importance of leadership, the health of the civil service and the quality of public service all Americans deserve.

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