ERIC Number: ED403615
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996-Mar-28
Reference Count: N/A
Social Penetration: A Description, Research, and Evaluation.
Allensworth, Nicole J.
Social penetration has been described by S.W. Littlejohn (1992) as "the process of increasing disclosure and intimacy in a relationship." The phrase "social penetration" originated with I. Altman and D. Taylor, the foremost researchers in this area. From other theories, Altman and Taylor developed a unified theory which provided a stable base from which researchers could study. Before an understanding of the theory can be obtained, there must be knowledge of the philosophical perspective behind the orientation. Using the systems perspective, the definition of communication that supports social penetration theory is, as follows: communication is the process of exchanging symbols and gaining understanding and sharing from the exchange. Social penetration is consistently viewed as having 4 stages of penetration, summarized by Michael Roloff (1981): (1) orientation, with a ritualized conversation and disclosure of superficial information; (2) exploratory affective exchange--communication about superficial topics is expanded and there is movement toward inner layers; (3) affective exchange--movement to the central layers of personality; and (4) stable exchange, achieved in a few relationships. In research studies that use social penetration theory in their framework, its relation to individuals on a daily basis can be seen. For example, a longitudinal study of college roommates investigated developmental changes in social penetration processes. Another study investigated Japanese students at American universities and paired them with American student friends, examining their cross-cultural relationships. Exploring social penetration theory is of great importance to the study of communication. (Contains 2 figures and 17 references.) (NKA)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Information Analyses; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Research Suggestions; Theoretical Orientation
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern States Communication Association (Memphis, TN, March 27-31, 1996).