Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Everyone, please say hello to Sheldon. Sheldon is one of the best tv characters ever made.


Sheldon is a character played by Jim Parsons in the Big Bang Theory. He is a genius but he is also extremely socially awkward as proven by the video posted above.

But maybe his awkwardness comes from the fact that he doesn't know how to read people? Have you ever been told in your life that you read people well? ...That you always know what to say or how to handle a situation?

Well, you may be operating on a different end of a spectrum called Cognitive Complexity than Sheldon is. Cognitive complexity is just one part of a communication theory called Constructivism.

This theory in a nutshell works like this: If you have a higher cognitive complexity, you are better able to communicate in a social situation than your peers with low complexity.

Seems pretty simple, right?! Well let's take a moment to understand more about it, it will make you think about how "awkward" you may be ;)

First, lets start with the core of constructivism. That is, people look at the world through their own constructs. The constructs are learned from their own experiences and help them make sense of what is happening around them. 

Once you start to develop your own construct, you also start to develop a sense of cognitive complexity.

Would you know how to respond to someone with this look on their face? Well, then you would most likely have a higher cognitive complexity. That is, the ability to distinguish the subtle differences in personality and behavior between people. If you rank higher, you are more likely to be able better social skills because of your ability to read people.

Sheldon clearly in the video doesn't know how to react in social situations. He always says the wrong thing at the wrong time and doesn't really see how the other person is reacting. He probably doesn't have an ability to craft person-centered messages. Though somehow he has an ability to develop a friendship formula! Figure that one out...

Okay, back to comm theory. What are person-centered messages you may ask, well since I have your attention, I will explain in its three parts:
1.Tailor your messages for the situation and the person(s) you are speaking with.
2. The ability to predict how a person may respond to your message.
3. Being able to adjust your messages based on the direction that the conversation is headed.

Clearly, Sheldon doesn't really do any of these things. He will say anything to anyone. He REALLY can't read people. When you aren't as well adapted to tailoring your messages, you may find that your communication is running into more problems. You most likely (not always) will not have as successful communication as someone that has this skill.

This skill doesn't just happen to certain people and not others, typically there is reasons for people having higher cognitive complexity. 

Such as:

 Education- Through what you have learned, you can gain experiences to help you in social situations.

Age- you are more likely to have a higher complexity as you age and gain experiences.

Girls vs. Boys- Girls are more likely to have a higher cognitive complexity. Possibly because of how society teaches us about how to act and react.

Culture- You can pick up the cognitive complexity skills of others in your culture and learn to use it the same way.

As we saw in the video and have talked about, Sheldon doesn't have a high complexity but seems to manage. But having a higher complexity is actually something you should strive for, it can really help you in social situations. When you can predict how people are going to react and tailor your messages, you are more likely to obtain results that are consistent with your goals.

You may have friends who don't have a high complexity and it can make communicating with them sometimes awkward, they may at times be offensive on accident! They may be a Sheldon. So help them out! For those of you that are suave speakers and charming, use your skills.

I hope my cognitive complexity was high in relating this theory for those of you that are just learning it! It's a fun theory and makes you think about your own skills, I know I'm going to work on being a more successful communicator.

In the meantime....

Sunday, December 1, 2013


#JimmyFallon #JT #besties #funny #lol #latenight #comedy #singer #comedian #lol 

Okay, this is a blog about communication theory, right? So what the heck do JT and Jimmy Fallon have to do with that?! I mean they're funny and all, but like hashtags are just something to people do on twitter... right?

Well, you're in for a little surprise, because hashtags do have a place in comm theory! Specifically, the Symbolic Convergence Theory. Ill explain to you through this post how they work and you'll see their purpose is a little more than just something to put at the end of your tweet.

Everyone is part of a group in some way or at some point. Group communication is based on task functions  (ex. just a regular office scene, communicating for purpose) or in social function (ex. PARTY, communicating just because).

When you communicate as a group, cohesion is the part that makes the team work #teamworkmakesthedreamwork. Cohesion is important, it makes people feel bonded, they enjoy being part of the group, and they share an identity. 

This SCT (Symbolic Convergence Theory) explains just a little bit of that cohesion! Let me help you understand with an example.

Hashtags and their part of this theory couldn't be better explained, then a story with my two best friends. 
<------This is them!

One of us in the middle of the car ride, started speaking in hashtags. The hashtags were dramatizing messages according to SCT. This theory says that dramatizing messages are comments made by a group member that is imaginative, show a new scene, or relate to other situations. These could be things like; jokes, puns, figures of speech etc. Things like HASHTAGS.

This hashtag thing became a #realthing. We ALL started speaking in hashtags. I mean like having entire conversations just in our own hashtag language. This dramatizing message turned into a fantasy chain. You're probably like, "Okay Amanda, what term are you making up now?" I'm not! A fantasy chain is part of this theory. This is when a dramatizing message is picked up and used by the whole group. They keep adding layers, it's a next step.

Every time we were talking, texting or messaging it wouldn't be long until someone started a hashtag. It could be triggered by something we saw, something one of us said, something we wanted to share. These triggers are known as a symbolic cue. It started the fantasy chain all over. It happens so often sometimes, that other people around us get annoyed (#sorryimnotsorry).

When you start sharing these fantasy chains and continue sharing them, you create symbolic convergence. It brings people all on the same level, sharing a consciousness, it becomes a we and the group becomes more cohesive. You work better together, because you're all sharing this thing that bonded you in the first place.

You heard my story with hashtags, but hashtags are a global thing! Or even a community thing!

That's because these fantasy chains have the ability to move past a small group to the public at large. Hashtags created a shared symbolic reality. Enough so, that they inspired that video for Jimmy Fallon and JT. That's why they are the perfect example of this theory! Experiencing these fantasies bonds the group, whether large or small, because it is something you can all share. It brings in group cohesiveness and all goes back to how the group communicates!

So go on and share those hashtags, tell that joke, watch a show with your friends. When you share more, you become closer. That's kinda what this theory is about!



Sunday, November 24, 2013

"It's a cruel, cruel world"... Is it?!

Take a minute to think of your favorite Television show...

Gossip Girl: Drugging, Fights, physical altercations.
Law and Order: Sex Crimes, Murder, Suicides.
Pretty Little Liars: Death, Threats, Fighting.

Can you find a common link between these shows? Sure, they all have engaging and addictive story-lines but they also have VIOLENCE.

I'm not talking "Oh, she shoved me on the playground", "We got into a bar fight" type of violence. These shows have SERIOUS violence. The kind of stuff that sometimes makes you want to crawl under the covers or keep the lights on when you sleep.

This isn't just me. There is actually a communication theory based on violence in media. It's called the Cultivation Theory.

People watch a lot of T.V. I mean the talk around town the next day is usually always about what was happening on tv the night before. Especially in our culture, exposure to large doses of television each night is quite common. There are Heavy Viewers (over 4 hours a day) and Light Viewers (less than 2 hours a day).

T.V. tells us what is right, what is important, what is happening. It's our "storyteller". While we all love a good story.

Take my favorite show: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES 

(Personal plug: watch it, it's soooooo good).

This show is on a big network, the CW, has good viewership and has been on for 5 seasons. So you have to figure that its reaching quite a bit of viewers. Probably most of those between 10 and 30 years old.

It also comes with large doses of violence.

Made my case. The violence is never-ending. I mean people getting their necks snapped, people getting their hearts ripped out (literally), being hit by cars, drowning, stabbing, people getting their blood drained. I mean two of the main characters tortured their girlfriend/best friend/other main character.

If you don't know this show, it started off about two vampire brothers and one human girl. The show has gone much deeper and deals now with vampires, witches, werewolves etc. You would think that people watching this show would get that it's all fantasy. But... according to this cultivation theory, it actually rubs off on us.

There are some main effects we see from TV violence. Those "Heavy" viewers we talked about, they can develop exaggerated perceptions about the world. They get something that the theory calls, "Mean World Syndrome".

Just think of it like this: People from watching TV and violence from it, see the world as a much colder, harsher, and dangerous place than it really might be. Part of the theory talks about 4 cultivated attitudes that come along with this.

1. Chances of involvement with violence
2. Fear of walking alone at night
3. perceived activity of police
4. General mistrust of people.

Who could blame them people from having these perceptions? In a show like Vampire Diaries, not particular risqué in content, people are still seeing the world differently. These attitudes develop because they see dozens of people being murdered on the show, without thought or emotion and often in brutal ways. They see people getting attacked. They see people torturing their own family. When you watch these shows, it starts to make you think that things like this happen all the time.

This "Mean World" attitude is stemmed from violence on television, but it has some real world consequences. It can make people believe that this is normal, that everyone does it, and that it's a good way for us to solve problems. It makes us numb, we no longer see these acts as violent though they tend to be quite extreme.

I think what it also does is makes us paranoid, at least for me it does. It makes me think that something is always out there, that I'm not always safe. What people, and I, need to do, is realize that the world isn't quite as mean as T.V. makes it.

You have heard this theory, so now it's time for you to be the judge. Is T.V. creating this mean world view? Is violence on T.V. translating to violence in the real world? Are we becoming desensitized to it?

As always I hope you enjoyed this post.

Now let me get back to my show... 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me (or text, or email, or FB message, or tweet)

"and now, you just have to go around checking all these different portals, just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting!"

Okay, who hasn't this happened to? Most people get up in the morning and the first thing they do is check their texts, their emails, their Facebook, their Twitter, their Instagram, their blog and maybe even their Pinterest. ALL BEFORE THEY GET OUT OF BED.

Seems a bit crazy right? But, my generation is addicted to technology.

All this communication we do online is called "Computer Mediated Communication" (CMC) and is part of a theory called Social Information Processing Theory.

A challenged was presented to me: avoid CMC for 48 hours. My phone became just a phone and in the middle of last week, I signed off from Social Media.

It didn't go too well.. In fact, I lasted around a day before I had to log back on.

At first it was fine. I didn't have to check Facebook every hour, I could avoid emails, I wasn't aimlessly browsing over every site.

But, after a while, it became too hard. I wanted/needed to communicate with a group from class for a project. My friends kept texting me to check something out on this or that website, I needed to get online to communicate with my teachers. I became panicked!

The only relationship that I didn't have problems communicating with was my Dad. Call him old-fashioned, but he would rather talk on the phone then text. He's maybe the only person I communicate with consistently without the use of CMC.

But not all relationships function that way. Relational development differs in CMC vs F2F (Face-to-face communication).

Think of it as a sip vs. a gulp

When you communicate via CMC you get just a sip... a little view of a person. You don't absorb that much about them. 

You get a gulp when you meet a person face-to-face. This gives you a bigger view of who they are. The differential is 4 to 1. Meaning it takes you 4x the sips (CMC) to get what a gulp would give you!

I think this help to explain part of the reason we use emoticons, exclamation points and lols or haha to the max! We want to become closer to that person and show more relational affinity and that can be a lot harder over CMC.

Being without CMC was a challenge to say the least. I couldn't go long without it, I am self-professed addicted to technology.

But this challenge also showed me that I don't need it as much as I thought. I should cultivate more relationships like how I communicate with my dad and stop counting on texts to communicate! 

I need to be somewhere between a gulp and a sip, maybe a taste? mouthful? swallow?

CMC has created a faster, impersonal, more connective society. But, I don't think we all need it as much as we think.

I challenge you to sign off for a day, go hang out with friends and don't bring your phone, have dinner with your parents and don't check social media five times through one course. Become somewhat "old-fashioned". I'm going to make it my personal goal to do it more often!

In the meantime..."Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Violating your Expectations

Who recognizes this group of "gentlemen"?

The men you see in the picture above you all belong to "Jackass". If you haven't already seen a sketch or stunt by them, then let me catch you up. These men have made a living by doing outrageous pranks, eating weird food, dressing up and doing just about anything for the sake of a laugh. Their humor can be quite crude but it's often hard to turn your head away.

(I'm going to let you in on a secret... I personally love them. Seriously, its my guilty pleasure.)

That said, what does this have to do with anything in Communication?

Well, I will tell you just that. Jackass is a prime example of Expectancy Violations Theory.

Take this for example:

If you watch this clip, you can tell how people start to make a scene because they don't think what the grandpa is doing is correct.

That's because people predict what will happen in an interaction, they expect it to be a certain way and when interactions don't match their predictions, their expectations are violated. In this particular example, people expect the grandpa to be responsible for the child and not talk to him in that manner. They also expect the child of maybe 12 years, to not be smoking or drinking and even if he did, to not be having that happen in public.

What we expect from a situation is often dictated by communication norms, what we have been taught to react like. Let's take a small example, people are expected to say "how are you?" when they first greet you and you are supposed to say it back. At least for most people, don't ya think?

Well, what if someone were to say to you "My parents are getting a divorce, I just got in a car accident, I got evicted from my house and my dog ran away" you could feel pretty awkward. What you expected was a "good, thanks".

You may ask yourself, "why the heck is this person telling me all this information?!" It's because norms have taught us that this communication interaction, is supposed to be short and simple.

I think you now have the base of this theory, when people act differently then what you think they would, they violate your expectations and we are forced to re-evaluate how we interact ourselves.

Jackass can be seen as maybe a negative violation. Or in more communication terms, it can have negative violation valence. Because they are creating a situation that can make people uncomfortable and force them to act in ways they wish they hadn't.

But all violations are not negative!

Take Jerome Jarre for example. He is a hit on "Vine" and often uses improv to surprise people. Here is just one of his hundreds of videos.

This man had a positive valence for this situation. I'm sure he didn't expect people to come up in the park and do such an act, but it was all in good humor so it became a positive violation.

Jerome's videos in all their fun are becoming so popular that he was just on Ellen.

(Side note: He said that he has had very few bad experiences with people when he makes these.)

This shows us, that it's not always bad to have your expectations sent for a spin.

Maybe you can think of a time when this happened to you?


My boss pranked me at work... Seriously, she did.

I came back from a trip and my stapler was in the middle of jello, everything was saran wrapped and post-it notes covered everything.

She violated my expectations BIG TIME. And I had a choice in how I was going to react. Thats because as part of this theory we have been talking about, there is Communicator Reward Valence. Sounds complicated, right? It's not! It just means that when the person that "violates" us, we consider their ability to reward or punish us.

So, I could have reacted by throwing a fit and demanding she takes it all down. But that would probably get me a nice unemployment notice. In this situation, I considered her position in how I would react.

You ask how I reacted.... I laughed it off! It was a harmless prank and it was fun to come back to. It felt like a warm welcome from people who I respect. It solidified my place in the team. I reacted in regards to what the violation was and who it was coming from and the relationship I have with that person.

So I ask you, take a chance when people violate your expectations. When people give out free hugs in the quad, go ahead and give them a big squeeze! Yes, it may violate your expectations but we have seen that this could be good!

I hoped you all enjoyed the ride I took you on to learn this theory and place it in context of pop culture!

thanks for reading :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

This is Moi

So, this is me and this is my first blog. I have wanted to write a blog for a long time, but have never found the right reason.

What do I post?

Will anyone care?

How often do I do this?

The list could go on and on. But finally, this communications class has given me the push that I needed. So, now you get to learn some things about me. Let's start with the general info:

I'm 21 years young.
I'm a Senior at Oregon State University.
I have on track to graduate with a B.S. in Speech Communications and a minor in Public Health.
I was born in Chicago, IL and raised in West Linn, Oregon.
I am a proud member of the Greek Community. 
I work on campus for International Programs.

Here is basically how I see myself:

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am an extremely clumsy person... like it's bad. My family calls me a "Bull in a china shop" because of how many things I break/knockover/trip on/fall over. You get the picture.

Some of my favorite thing are as follows:


Seriously, I could eat the stuff for every meal... I cannot get enough of it.

I am obsessed with Elephants. My life will be complete the day that I own one. Seriously, it's on the bucket list.

This movie is the best. If you know me, you know my obsession with this film.

My number one in life is my family. I love them with all my heart. They are the ones that keep me sane and make me feel loved.

Now that you know a little bit more about me, I'm sure you are wondering... Why Communications?! What the heck am I going to do with that? Well, I can't quite answer that in complete detail but here is my story:

I started off coming into college and looking to do something with the Environment. I was inspired by the movie "The Day after Tomorrow" to pursue something in climatology and meteorology. While I was extremely interested by the topic being self-taught, I wasn't quite into the classes. I don't have much of a talent for math and while I am good at science, it no longer felt right.

I switched my focus then to Public Health. It seemed perfect at the time. It gave me the "science" feel I was looking for, without the commitment of a grand plan or immediate pursuing of a Doctorate. I loved it for a couple of years. I was doing well in the classes and enjoying the subject. After a while, I added Communications as a minor. It gave me a nice edge to be able to work better with people and the classes seemed interesting.

But, as I came into the final stretch of my Junior year, I had what I like to refer to as a "quarter-college crisis". I realized that while I loved the classes for Public Health, I didn't love what it could give me in the way of a career.

So I started thinking about what I was passionate about. The answers rounded into a lot of things, but some that stuck out were Film, Music and Popular Culture. Seriously, quiz me on just about any of these things and I will probably know the answer.

Public Health didn't really match this, but Communications does and since it was already my minor, it made the switch easy. I'm glad I had the courage to do it this late in the game. I love learning about how and why we talk and do the things we do. After all, you can't get me to shut up. The best things about the learning environment is that most people in your class are majors as well. It makes the discussions and that much more rewarding. As far as the future goes, I don't have the ideal job planned. I would love to start with an internship with a Communications Department of a major company. Kellogs, Dreamworks, ABC....?! Who knows! I also would love to inch my way into the Talent Realm of things. Working at a casting agency or for a talk-show. I don't know the next stop after college... but here's to taking the leap!

So know you know about me a little bit more about me and why I am in Communications. I hope in the series of this blog, that it will be infused with intelligence, comedy and always a dash of Pop Culture. Look out for pictures, gifs, memes, anything that you know and I know.

I hoped you enjoyed reading this and I can't wait for the next time!

P.S. ---Song obsession of the week- "Easy to Love" by the Jezabels. Check them out, awesome Indie Band from Australia.