Note: Please listen to your lecture on the Coordinated..

Note:  Please listen to your lecture on the Coordinated..

Note:  Please listen to your lecture on the Coordinated..

Note: The Coordinated Management of Meaning TheorysymbolsThe Coordinated Management of Meaningrules

Please listen to your lecture on the Coordinated Management of Meaning before responding to this discussion topic.

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Similar to Symbolic Interaction Theory,  attempts to explain how people co-create meaning in interaction with each other. Unlike Symbolic Interaction Theory which says that people use  to create symbolic worlds (i.e., meaning), however,  claims that people create meaning by establishing and following  for communicating in any given context, relationship, or situation. Rules for what behaviors are appropriate in a given context are called Regulative Rules. Rules for what behaviors should mean in a given context are called Constitutive Rules.

When people interact, they follow their own rules for communicating. These rules are determined by our life scripts and our culture. People use their “rules for communicating” to achieve what Pearce and Cronen refer to as Personal Meaning. Because people will use different rules for communicating based on different life scripts or cultural patterns, individuals’ personal meanings for any given context or situation may differ. This may lead to unwanted repetitive patterns in relationships and/or conflict. Our job then, as communicators, is to coordinate meaning between us (i.e., create interpersonal meaning). This may involve creating new rules for communicating, and then following these new rules to communicate (a) with this particular individual, (b) in this particular relationship, and (c) in this particular context. It is only through the creation of Interpersonal Meaning between the parties interacting that true coordination of meaning can take place.

Your Task:  Below is a hypothetical negotiation between two business executives.  Read the negotiation and then answer the questions which follow.

Business Executive #1: Sam from the United States

Business Executive #2: Yoshio from Japan

Sam’s Perspective: This is a business negotiation.  During a business negotiation it is appropriate to state one’s business, make offers and counter offers, use negotiation tactics to gain as much as possible, and then return home.  Topics of conversation such as families, hobbies, religion, or politics are inappropriate.  Brief inquiries about family or short discussions about sports can be used as small talk to break the ice, but the goal is to get down to business right away.  Sam has been away from home for over a week and is eager to get back to her family.

Yoshio’s Perspective: This is a business negotiation. Business transactions are an extension of one’s social and family life. One would not do business with strangers.  Therefore, a lot of time must be spent developing relationships before negotiating any business contracts.

Here is the Conversation:

Sam: It is very nice to meet you.  Shall we get down to business?

Yoshio: Fine.  I thought we might go to dinner tonight, then to the Kabuki tomorrow.  I want to show you my country because it is your first visit to Japan.

After several days of social activities, Sam is growing increasingly impatient. Yoshio is feeling rushed by Sam’s insistence on discussing the contract.  They begin contract talks.

This is the conversation:

Sam: This is my last price. Take it or leave it!  I have to be back at my desk on Monday and this is the best I can do.

Yoshio: I know you are trying to give us a good price for our products.

Sam: It’s a deal, then…?

Yoshio: (long silence…)…

Sam: Fine. I’ll have my people draw up the papers for your approval. We’ll meet here again tomorrow.

Yoshio: Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow…

Sam’s Interpretation: Fabulous! They agreed to all our terms! The Japanese are easier to negotiate with than I thought. I’ll be on a plane home by noon tomorrow!

Yoshio’s Interpretation: How rude Americans are!! I can see we have our work cut out for us if we are ever going to agree on a contract. To threaten us with words like, “take it or leave it”!  And, how uncivilized to refuse our hospitality! Tomorrow will be a very long day!

Discussion Questions:

1. Did Sam and Yoshio coordinate meaning?  Not coordinate meaning?  Partially coordinate meaning? How do you know?

2. What was the context for the communication?

3. What were the rules for this context?  For Sam? For Yoshio?

4. Let’s look at the speech act “Take it or Leave it!”

a. What were the constitutive (definition) rules operating?  Did they agree?

b. What were the regulative (behavior) rules operating? Did they agree?

c. Let’s look at the hierarchy of meaning.  How were each of the negotiators creating meaning for themselves (i.e., Personal Meaning)?

  • Content?
  • Speech Acts?
  • Contract?
  • Episodes?
  • Life scripts?
  • Cultural patterns?

5. What was the interpersonal meaning created between them? What was the result of this interpersonal meaning?

6. If you were a “consultant” on this particular project, how would you use your understanding of the Coordinated Management of Meaning to solve this problem and get negotiations back on track?

Cognitive Dissonance refers to the feelings of discomfort we have when confronted with inconsistent beliefs, attitudes, or values. We tend to seek consistency between our cognitions (thoughts) and our reality (i.e.,behaviors). Leon Festinger (1957) claims that when individuals become psychologically uncomfortable, they will seek to reduce their dissonance, as well as actively avoid situations and information that might cause or increase dissonance.

Here’s a good video (less than 5 minutes) that shows Leon Festinger, and another famous social psychologist, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, talk about how Cognitive Dissonance was developed in the 1950s. It even shows how the famous Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) $1 vs. $20 study was conducted!

Festinger and Carlsmith $1/$20 Study

As you listen to your lecture and read your materials about Cognitive Dissonance Theory, think about the “intrapersonal” dialogue that goes on when you feel an internal conflict. Do you dislike inconsistency between your attitudes and behaviors so much that you actively seek to restore consonance (i.e., cognitive consistency)?

Fundamentally, Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a theory of persuasion. The basic explanation of the theory lays out the process by which this occurs. When people have inconsistent attitudes (or inconsistent attitudes and behaviors), they experience cognitive dissonance. Because cognitive dissonance is unpleasant, they are motivated to reduce it. The greater the magnitude of their dissonance, the greater the motivation to reduce it. People reduce their dissonance by changing their attitudes, their behaviors, or both!

Please review the ways people can reduce their dissonance and then respond to the following questions using concepts from the theory and the research to support it.


1.  One important aspect of Cognitive Dissonance Theory is how it applies to the way we “manage” our perceptions through selection processes (e.g., selective exposure, attention, interpretation, retention).  Can you think of ways that you look for information that is consistent with your values and world view?

2.  One of the criticisms of CDT is its “testability”. Note that what makes CDT difficult to test is not that it can be proved, but that it is difficult to disprove. Why does that happen when researchers look at CDT?  Why is it hard to disprove the theory?  Can you think of a test that you could perform that would yield more definitive results?