SOCIAL PENETRATION THEORY

SOCIAL PENETRATION THEORY by IRWIN ALTMAN AND DALMAS TAYLOR

Explains how relational closeness develops.

Altman is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah

Taylor is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, Arlington

Predict who will end up as friends in a gradual and orderly fashion from superficial to intimate levels.

SOCIAL PENETRATION THEORY- Explains how relational closeness develops.

Once penetration has been achieved, a passage has been cut through the different layers of a person personality through which another can return again and again.

DEPTH OF PENETRATION IS THE DEGREE OF INTIMACY:

This applies to equally to intimacy in friendship as to romance.

Observations of the social penetration theory:

  1. Peripheral items are exchanged more frequently than private information
  2. Self disclosure is reciprocal, especially in the early stages of relational development
  3. Penetration is rapid at the start but slows down quickly as the tightly wrapped inner layers are reached. Instant intimacy is a myth. There is internal resistance to quick forays into the soul and there are societal norms against telling too much too soon.
  4. Depenetration is a gradual process of layer by layer withdrawal. A relationship deteriorates as we begin to close off areas that had earlier been open
REGULATING CLOSENESS ON THE BASIS OF REWARDS AND COSTS
  1. Social penetration theory also depends on a cost-benefit analysis that each person performs as he considers the possibility of a closer relationship.
  2. We sort out the plus and minuses of a friendship
  3. We compute a bottom line index of relational satisfaction
  4. If the perceived mutual benefits outweigh the costs of greater vulnerability, the process of social penetration will proceed.
Social penetration draws heavily on the social exchange theory of psychologists John Thibaut and Harold Kelley who studied social exchange, relational outcome, relational satisfaction and relational stability. OUTCOME REWARDS MINUS COSTS
  1. The idea of totaling potential benefits and losses to determine behavior isnít new
  2. Philosopher John Stuart Mill stated his own principle of UTILITY.
  3. The MINIMAX principle claims that people are compelled to maximize their benefits and minimize the costs.
  4. So the higher we index a relational outcome the more attractive we find the behavior that might make it happen.
  5. We base our decision to open up with another person on the perceived benefits-minus-cost outcome
SATISFACTION- COMPARISON LEVEL (CL)

Evaluating outcomes is a tricky business

Social exchange theory offers two standards of comparison

1. Relative satisfaction- how happy or sad an interpersonal outcome makes a participant feel. This has been called the comparison level or CL. Satisfaction depends on expectation.

2. Sequence plays a large part in evaluating a relationship. The result of each interaction is stored in an individual memory. This constitutes a total relational history.

STABILITY -COMPARISON LEVEL OF ALTERNATIVES (CL alt)

CL alt is the level pegged by the best payoffs available, or the worst outcome a person will accept and still stay in a relationship. As more attractive outside possibilities become available, or slide below an established CL alt, relational instability increases.

A theory of economic behavior e.g. Battered wife feels trapped and distressed about her situation stays because she views being alone in the outside world is even worse.

She will only leave when she perceives the outside alternatives promise her a better life

www.breakupgirl.com

www.sparks.com

www.hallmark.com

www.adolescentadulthood.com

www.lovestories.com

www.gentlehints.com

www.calgary-web.com/annie

Used to average 10,000 hits of people watching her at her office.

CRITIQUE:

Contrary to the initial prediction that reciprocity of self-disclosure would be the highest at the exploratory stage of relationship, it has been shown that natural sharing is most frequent in the semiprivate middle range of penetration.

Males are less open than females

The break up of relationships is a reverse type of penetration process where both parties seal off inner layers of their lives and slowly drift apart.

Doesnít account for the amount of pain and anger caused by the process of breaking up. It is far more chaotic than the theory would predict.

Even marriage counselors indicate that the depth of self disclosure often increases dramatically in the final stages of deterioration.

The bottom line is that openness and separateness between participants characterize social relationships.

The tension between openness and closeness results in cycles of disclosure and withdrawal. The transition from "me" to "we.

Sources:

The Calgary Herald September 13, 1999.

Griffin, E.M. (1997). A First Look at Communication. 3rd edition United States; McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~dabrent/agt/melodylec

http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~pk988494/pjkbib

http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~buell/201/overheads/social_penetration

http://twist.lib.uiowa.edu/36c60/lect17

http://www.indiana.edu/~eric_rec/bks/meaning

http://chadwick.jlmc.iastate.edu/theory/spt

http://www.magna.com.u/~max/liz/irc/chapt.2

SOCIAL PENETRATION THEORY

Explains how relational closeness develops.

DEPTH OF PENETRATION IS THE DEGREE OF INTIMACY:

REGULATING CLOSENESS ON THE BASIS OF REWARDS AND COSTS SATISFACTION- COMPARISON LEVEL (CL)

Social exchange theory offers two standards of comparison

STABILITY -COMPARISON LEVEL OF ALTERNATIVES (CL alt)

CL alt is the level pegged by the best payoffs available, or the worst outcome a person will accept and still stay in a relationship

CL alt > Outcome