Posts filed under ‘Communication Accommodation Theory’

Communication Accommodation Theory Class Notes

“When two people from different ethnic or cultural groups interact, they tend to accomodate each other in the way they speak in order to gain the other’s approval.” – Em Griffin

Communication Accommodation Strategies

Covergence – adjustment of speech patterns to match each other and the surrounding environment

Involves delivery and content of a message

Environmental factors such as music also influence accommodation

Divergence – emphasizing the differences in communication between individuals

Maintenance (underaccommodation) – no adjustment is made in speech patterns

Overaccommodation – “talking down” to another person by raising voice, simplifying message

Motivations for convergence and divergence

Main motivation for divergence: desire for approval

Social Identity Theory

  • We often communicate not as individuals but as representatives of groups that define us.
  • Communication may be used to reinforce and defend ties to reference groups.
  • Divergence is the result if communicators feel the need for distinctiveness.
  • Initial orientation – the predisposition a person has toward focusing on either individual identity or group identity.

Five factors impact the perception of a conversation as an intergroup encournter.

  1. Collective cultural context
  2. Distressing history of interaction
  3. Stereotypes
  4. Norms or expectations for treatment
  5. High group solidarity and high group dependence

Recipient Evaluation of Convergence and Divergence

Giles and his colleagues beleive that listerners regard covergence as positive and divergence as negative

Covergent speakers are evaluated as more competent, attractive, warm and cooperative

Divergent communicators are seen as insulting, impolite, and hostile.

What ultimately important is how the communicator is perceived

Objective versus subjective accomdation

  • A disconnect may exist between what is actually happening and what a listener perceives is happening
  • Speakers who converge may also misperceive the other’s style

Attribution theory

  • Heider and Kelley suggest that we attribute an internal disposition to the behavior we see another enact
  • Listeners’ evaluation is based on ability, constraints, and effort

Our default assumption: “people who do things like that are like that.”

Stereotypes and Communication Accommodation

We place people into groups based on how we perceive them.

These stereotypes affect the accommodation strategies we use.

Example: intergenerational communication

Counteracting stereotypes:

  • We need to recognize people as individuals, not just part of a group
  • We must take time to understand how other groups communicate


Scientific Theory Criteria

Explanation of Data Yes
Prediction of Future Events Yes
Relative Simplicity Not Really
Testable Hypothesis Yes
Practical Utility Yes

December 3, 2010 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment