Expectancy Violation Theory

The Expectancy Violation Theory was created by Judee K. Burgoon, who is a professor at the University of Arizona. This theory is classified to be under the objective approach, the reason for this is that it unveils our universal laws. To delve even deeper into this, the Expectancy Violation theory falls into the Socio-Psychological Tradition. It intertwines because the theory is between interpersonal interactions in casual/linear relationships. The summarized explanation for the Expectancy Violation Theory is the way to explain the unexpected behaviours between human interactions (Griffen, E.

, Ledbetter, A., & Sparks, G. 2014).

To further analyze the Expectancy Violation Theory, it is a theory that is trying to explain the expectancy of others for the people around them. While in a conversations people will generalize and create an expectation for those around them. This will create an expectation of those said people and create an image in there heads on how these people will react in certain situations. This theory is based on the violation of this expectancy and how the person whose expectations were shattered will react.

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These reaction can either positive or negative. A major influence to that reaction can be based on one’s own cultural norms, these values they have grown up with will be put on display in these situations.

To try and understand this theory better I decided to go into the theory’s origins and find out what has brought us to the current state we are at today. The origin of the Expectancy Violation Theory came from Judee K.

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Burgoon's Nonverbal Expectancy Violation Model. This Model explained one’s own personal space is key to interactions and that the violation of this space would lead to the reaction of the individual.

Personal Space can be defined as the volume of space one individual has placed upon themselves as a desired distance from individuals. Now how large this circle is entirely dependent on the individual, however the culture this said individual is from plays a huge role in the size of the circle. Now the reason this played a huge role is that when one individual wanted to test the waters of their relationship they would violate another’s personal space. This was known as the Threat Threshold. Crossing over the threat threshold can lead into to outcomes, the negative outcome in which you have discomforted the individual and have made them feel threatened or the positive outcome in which you have successfully broken there walls and gained a closer more intimate relationship with the individual (Griffen, E., Ledbetter, A., & Sparks, G. 2014).

However, there were many flaws with this model. The first flaw was the term Threat Threshold, the reason for this was that the outcome of crossing this line was not always negative so they retconned the term due to these studies (Griffen, E., Ledbetter, A., & Sparks, G. 2014). Another flaw was that violating one’s expectancy is much more dynamic than just invading their personal space. This led to Burgoon to reevaluate her Model in which she continued to push that one’s individual aesthetics and influence would play a part.

These revisions led to a few definition changes. The first change was to expectancy. Rather than it be what one desires it becomes what one is predicting. Expectancy is also now evaluated on one’s image, relationship, and there demeanor. Burgoon also placed under expectancy that all cultures possess the same structural integrity of expected communication behavior however, the area of effect is all dependant on an individual’s culture.

To continue on these revisions Burgoon added the Violation Valence. This is a term that defines the positive or negative viewpoints we have on unexpected events (Griffen, E., Ledbetter, A., & Sparks, G. 2014). Another term is the Communicator Reward Valence which in short is the positive or negative aspects one individual can bring to the table, as well as the potential they have in future endeavors. These were the revisions made to get us to where we are today in the Expectancy Violation Theory.

Now that we have talked about the history and current state of this theory, we now have to talk about how this theory is beneficial and a hindrance to our society. The reason this theory can be viewed in a positive light is that it benefits an organization. By placing certain individuals into an environment in which they need to branch out and break their walls can lead to increase productivity and profit. However, the other side of the coin for this is that the theory perceives that individuals view others in a more negative light. When in turn that is not the case with most individuals who perceive others in a more generalized state than a negative one (Expectancy Violation Theory in Psychology, Behavioral, and Social Science. n.d.).

The Expectancy Violation Theory has many intriguing articles throughout the web. The first one these articles being on swearing in the workplace. This study was done to investigate the general consensus of cursing in the workplace. The purpose behind this question was to see what individuals in the workplace perceived individuals who swear in the workplace as. The method used for this study was a questionnaire given out to students at Northeastern Comprehensive College. As these studies were taken in a hypothesis was formed and backed by the results. This hypothesis was that as a degree of surprise enhances, so does the perceived speakers incompetence. The key findings for this articles are that swearing is viewed as a expectancy violation in the workplace but not social gatherings, however this does not mean swearing is expected at social gatherings. The expectancy for one who swears does not change with those of power or sex as well, the only variant that matters on one's peer expectancy is the strength of those swear words you use in the work environment (Johnson, D. I., & Lewis, N. 2010).

Another article explains how adults would respond to the notifications of there cell phones when on a romantic outing with their significant other. The core reason for this article was to see the expectancy value of the significant other understanding the importance of the cell phone but viewing it in a negative context because this is suppose to be a time between just the two of them. The way they went about this investigation was by an anonymous survey given out to 225 participants who were currently in relationships. The results showed that other than not having the phone the romantic gathering was viewed in a negative light no matter the reason one would look at their cellphones. The key findings show that no matter the location, circumstance, type of relationship, or age that using your cellphone in a romantic setting breaches the expectancy violation of an individual and hinders the occasion due to the situation (Kelly, L., Miller-Ott, A. E., & Duran, R. L. 2017).

As a whole I can see myself integrating the Expectancy Violation Theory in my life in multiple instances. To start i can use some of the more recent events one of which was in my Communication Theory class.We were told to ad-lib a script presented to the entire class. So our groups needed to improvise the lines that were missing throughout the script as well as use the roles we were giving in secret to adhere this task. This lead to our group which had no acting experience to branch out of our comfort zones and complete this activity. Not only did we shed our personal space to act better, we shoved out any expectation we had of each other and let the person speak to adhere our new found expectancy of them.

Another instance in which I have used this theory was for my sisters wedding. I had perceived that the relationship between me and my brother in law was a close one but in know means an intimate one. However, a few months in advance he had asked me to be his best man at his wedding. This shattered my thoughts of our relationship and led us to a new beginning in which we both perceived ourselves as siblings and not just in laws. This is not where this story ends though, as I prepared the speech I was always thinking how can I change the expectancy of those in attendance that I was not some random pick to be a Best Man and that we were truly close. So I decided to use the comedic approach and show that I not only understood his sense of humor but that of my sisters as well. This took me out of my personal space and comfort zone because not only was I going to speak in front of an audience of many members who I have never known but my first impression will be that of a comedic one. So i needed to make an impact without hindering my reputation to those new faces. The day of the wedding came and I delivered my speech, I not only had my family, sister, and brother law laughing their heads off. I also broke the boundaries between those new faces and changed their perception of me to a comedic bit sincere part of their family. These were a few ways that the Expectancy Violation Theory has been in my life.

Now that I have spent the time researching the Expectancy Violation Theory I can see many things clearer now. So many situations were I had felt uncomfortable or broken barriers I shouldn't have can come back to this Theory. It has shown me a new mentality to have and how I can change the perceived notion of myself and view others in a different light than I had before. So in this regard Judee K. Burgoon’s Expectancy Violation Theory has truly been a breaking discovery in the communication field. It not only shows us how we perceive ourselves but it also explains to us how we perceive others. It places us in an area we truly feel discomforted in and allows us to either push through or avoid the situation entirely. So for all of these reasons I would have to say that the Expectancy Violation Theory may very well be the most interesting communication theory I have studied in recent memory.

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
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Expectancy Violation Theory. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/expectancy-violation-theory-essay

Expectancy Violation Theory essay
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