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Protection Motivation Theory   (Carla Jagger)



Main Authors: Ronald Rogers (1975)



Description: Persuasive communication theory that describes adaptive and maladaptive coping to a health risk or threat. These coping methods are results of two appraisal processes, which include threat appraisal and coping appraisal. Adaptive responses are those that protect ones health and maladaptive responses are those that put an individual in a health risk. This theory proposes that someone’s intention to protect themselves depends on four factors which include: perceived severity of threatened event, perceived vulnerability or likelihood the event will happen to them, efficacy of recommended preventive behavior, and perceived self-efficacy. Threat appraisal incorporates that first two factors and is the estimation of the probability an individual will contract a disease, and estimating the seriousness of that disease. Coping appraisal deals with the second two factors, response efficacy: an individuals expectancy that carrying out recommendations can minimize/remove that threat and self-efficacy: belief that one can successfully carry out the recommendations.



Example Study:

Prentice-Dunn, S., Mcmath, B. F.,  & Cramer, R. J. (2009). Protection Motivation Theory and Stages of Change in Sun Protective Behavior. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(2), 297-305.


Relation to Ag Communication issues:

When I saw this theory the first thing I thought of was H1N1 (Swine Flu) and how consumers stopped buying pork products. There was really no way to predict that H1N1 was going to spread in the United States for us to be proactive in an approach to minimize the fears of pork products that consumers had. But maybe we could use this theory for other food safety preventative measures, educating consumers how to prepare their food safely so they don’t contract any diseases. It seems like every time there is mention of a food borne illness people stop buying products when in most cases if food is prepared properly no illness will contracted. This theory could also be used for environmental issues that may have an affect on our health and preventative measures that can be taken.  

Joy Goodwin – Wiki Theory #4

Theory Name: Participatory Theory        

Main Authors: John Stuart Mill (1962); Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1968)

Description: Participatory theory suggests that political participation should not be restricted to voting, but that it should involve a more active involvement of citizens in a community for decision making processes (Eksterowicz, , Roberts & Clark, 1998). Participatory theory focuses on achieving the “general will” of the public (Eksterowicz, Roberts & Clark, 1998). Participatory theory ensures that citizens have the power to decide and implement policies (Aragones & Sanchez-Pages, 2009).    

Example Study:

Eksterowicz A. J., Roberts R., Clark A. (1998). Public Journalism and Public Knowledge. Press/Politics. 3(2) 74-95.


Aragones E., Sanchez-Pages S. (2009). A theory of participatory democracy based on the real case of Porto Alegre. European Economic Review. 53: 56-72.


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

Much of what we hear today from our competitors such as animal rights organizations and environmental advocacy groups is that “we should let the public decide”. We should let the public decide agriculture policy. For example, after proposition 2 HSUS played heavily on the fact that the passing of this proposition was representation of the public speaking out. As we continue to be pressured to take agricultural issues to the public, it is important that as Ag Communicators we recognize the participatory theory. We must ask ourselves how we can make our industry present, in positive light, within the public in order to produce positive outcomes in political participation. What involvements in the community can we become a part of to influence the “general will” of the public? How can we provide the public with information to make policy decisions in favors of agriculture? It seems evident that our competitors are going to continue to go back to the public. By being aware of the participatory theory we can strategize and campaign more effectively in order to impact the “general will” of the public.


Joy Goodwin – Wiki Theory #3

Theory Name: Group Polarization           

Main Authors: Stoner J.F. (1961)

Description: Group polarization is described as an event that takes place when individual tendencies of members of a group are weighed heavily following group discussion resulting in a more extreme decision (Isenberg, 1986). Stoner described group decisions as being more risky than individual private decisions within a group (1961). The theory also suggests that groups with pre-existing extremist tendencies tend to shift farther to the extreme under polarization (Sunstein, 2002). Two general explanations given for group polarization are social comparison and persuasive arguments (Sunstein, 2002). Social comparison explains that people want to be perceived favorably within a group, therefore they adjust their opinions to be consistent with the dominate opinion contributing to the extreme ending result (Sunstein, 2002). Similarly, persuasive arguments introduce a common sense intuition in that an individual shifts their opinion so that it partially reflects a convincing argument within a group. Under persuasive arguments it is also noted that a group will have an inclination of arguments supporting their position not opposing it, causing individuals to feel the need to shift in the dominate direction (Sunstein, 2002). Lastly, group polarization is said to persist because of the social influences on behavior and the emphasis on limited argument pools within a group (Sunstein, 2002).   

Example Study:

Isenberg, D.J. (1986). Group Polarization: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 50(6) 1141-1151.


Sunstein, C.R. (2002). The Law of Group Polarization. The Journal of Political Philosophy. 10(2) 175-195


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

Group polarization can have many implications within the Ag industry. It can impact 4-H, extension, farming or commodity groups, classes, and any other group involved in agriculture that you can think of. Additionally, we can also look at how this theory is implemented in our competing organizations. Stoner initially identified group polarization as being “risky”. I feel that in some circumstance is can be risky while in others it can be beneficial. For example, say that extension is working on their budget for the upcoming fiscal year. If a large majority of the group feels that the budget should be weighed heavily in one direction, polarization may occur resulting in over-budgeting in that one area and under-budgeting in other important areas. This is an example of how polarization might be risky. On the flip side say the Farm Bureau is campaigning for the upcoming Ohio Livestock Board Amendment. They are speaking to a local community organization and the discussion is weighed heavily on the benefits of the proposed board. In this instance going to the extreme through polarization could benefit this campaign. I’m sure our competitors such as HSUS use group polarization to get to their desired extremes. In conclusion, I feel that group polarization can be implemented in the Ag communications field as a communication tactic, something to watch out for (when polarization is risky), and a way to continue to learn how our competitors obtain their support.    


Theory Wiki 3   (Libby McNeal)



Theory: Attribution Theory



Main authors: In 1958, Fritz Heider came up with a theory of attribution that he considered “commonsense” psychology. Bernard Weiner is thought of as an attribution theory expert. Weiner (1974, 1986) and colleagues built the attribution theory into a theoretical framework that works with social psychology and education. Others, such as Edward Jones (1972), contributed to the theory development.



Description of theory: The attribution theory assumes that people attempt to figure out the causes for behaviors. The theory is called the attribution theory because it poses that people attribute certain behaviors to certain causes. There are internal and external attributions. Internal attribute means that a person is behaving in a certain form because of something about the person’s personality. The external attributions form because a person is supposedly behaving in a certain way due to something about the situation, not the actual person. Attributions are also caused by emotions and need to place blame on someone besides oneself.  The motivational difference between successful people and lower achievers has been studied with the attribution theory. According to the theory, successful people approach responsibilities that will allow them to achieve because they would not attribute failure to themselves. Failure would be attributed to bad luck with a high achiever; whereas, a low achiever would attribute failure to his or her own inability and blame the disappointment on himself/herself. The attribution theory is primarily about searching for causes of an event.



Example study:

Coombs, W. T. (2007). Attribution Theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 135-139.




Relationship to Agricultural Communication:

The above article helped me figure out how organizations could use the attribution theory. The article described that organizations use the attribution theory after a crisis takes place. Crises are usually unpredictable and harmful. Even if we know that a crises could happen and we try to predict what is going to happen, we do not always know when, where, how, and the ramifications. After a crisis takes place, organizations attempt to figure out what caused the damage to happen. People search for reasons, whether the event occurred due to something the organization did or because of other factors within the particular situation. The attribution theory explains why and how organizations categorize their attributions.

In the world of Agricultural Communications, I tend to think about the “Swine Flu” crisis. Pork sales immediately decreased. The pork industry had to be using the attribution theory and trying to attribute factors that caused the decrease in sales. Did the pork industry claim internal or external attributes for the crisis? I would say that external attributes (the media calling H1N1 the swine flu) caused the crisis to occur. The attribution theory could help agricultural communicators with post-crisis situations, and it could be of help when trying to accredit success and failure to certain factors.




Joy Goodwin – Wiki Theory #2

Theory Name: Groupthink

Main Authors: Janis Irving (1972)

Description: Irving et al (1982, page 84) describe groupthink as “the mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive ingroup that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action.” In other words when every person in a group begins to think in the same way poor decision making could be in the horizon. This theory was developed on the grounds that sometimes people avoid voicing their opinion and creating a disagreement within a group because they don’t want to cause conflict or interrupt the “good feeling” within the group (Irving et al, 1982). This absence of challenge and questioning within a group then leads to decision making without consideration of other options.

Example Study:

Janis, I. L., Esser, J. K., Timmons, K., & Mihal, M. (1982). Groupthink. Psychology Today.


(I was having trouble getting this link to work...so I uploaded the Groupthink article I used under files)

Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

As Ag communicators it is our job to teach those in our industry how to communicate as well as communicate with the general public about agriculture. Although Groupthink is a negative theory in context, I feel that being aware of this situation can aide in the spread of effective Ag communication. If we can teach farmers how to speak out and be proactive (even when they are outnumbered) then maybe more of the public will understand agriculture and maybe more decisions will be made in favor of agriculture. It only takes one person to get a group to think about alternative options; I feel it is important for us to make sure agriculture is represented well in these situations. Additionally, groupthink can be applied within extension, 4-H, the Farm Bureau, and many other agriculture organizations. If more people are aware of groupthink it may encourage them to not hold back and to prompt a group to consider other options. For example, lets pretend that we are in a group at the California Farm Bureau prior to the November 2008 election. Proposition 2 is breathing down our back and we need to decide on a way to effectively communicate our position to the public. We discuss and decide that traditional means of campaigning (door to door, interviews, speaking at organizational events, flyers and so on) will most beneficial to our campaign. Sally sits silently and nods in agreement, but she has a notion that the campaign focus should really be driven toward the Internet. Sally says nothing and the Farm Bureau goes on with their traditional campaign. Proposition 2 passed, could Sally’s idea of Internet campaigning made a difference in the outcome of the election? Maybe. This example demonstrates how being aware of Groupthink can aid the Ag industry in being proactive.


Joy Goodwin – Wiki Theory #1

Theory Name: Interpersonal Deception Theory

Main Authors: Buller, D.B. and Burgoon, J.K. (1996)

Description: Interpersonal Deception Theory explains the relation between senders sending untruthful messages and receivers analyzing the validity of messages. The apprehension of the sender and suspicion of the receiver is analyzed as a part of this theory. This theory focuses on the relationship between the sender and receiver at three points in time: input (preinteractional), process (interactional), and output (postinteractional) (Burgoon, J.K. et al, 2003). Additionally, the difference between interactive and non-interactive deception is discussed as part of the Interpersonal Deception Theory (Burgoon, J.K. et al, 2003).  The theory suggests that most deceivers prefer to use non-interactive deception in which they prepare their message in advance for later reading, listening, or viewing (Burgoon, J.K. et al, 2003).

Example Study:

Burgoon, J.K. et al. (2003). Trust and Deception in Mediated Communication. Paper presented at the meeting of the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

As we all know our animal rights “friends” have been working hard to change the way that we raise our livestock and care for our animals. The Ag Industry often refers to these groups, such as HSUS, as sending deceptive messages to the public. By using this theory in Ag Comm we can understand how our competition works and why the deception of the animal rights groups isn’t being picked up by the general public. It can also teach us how to prevent feelings of suspicion amongst our receivers. The theory suggests that deceivers prefer to use non-interactive forms of messaging. When I think about it, most of the messages I see from HSUS are in the form of a video, blog, website, commercial and other messaging routes that allow them to pre-form and think out their messages before releasing them to the receivers. In addition, the non-interaction prevents them from giving away their deceptive apprehension through non-verbal cues. This explains exactly why the general public does not pick up on such deception. Interpersonal Deception Theory suggests that using the interactive form messaging can actually be beneficial. It suggests that through interaction senders are able to adjust, defend and explain their position where as in non-interaction this cannot be done. Interaction has the ability to form trust. I feel that the Ag industry could learn a lot about how their competitors work, improve their own interactions and build trust with their receivers through the principles presented in this theory.


Theory Wiki 2   (Libby McNeal)



Theory: Social Presence Theory  



Main authors: Short, Williams, and Christie (1976)



Description of theory: The social presence theory reminds me of the media richness theory that we discussed in class today. The social presence theory also expresses that face-to-face communication has greater effects than print. According to the theory, the degree of social presence within a medium determines the degree of social impact. There is more social presence when audio, visual, and physical contact are increased. For instance, face-to-face would have greater social “presence” than a telephone conversation, and a phone conversation would have much more presence than a billboard sign. Email and print are less social than video conferences and face-to-face communication.   


Example study:

Caspi, A., &  Blau, I. (2008). Social presence in online discussion groups: testing three conceptions and their relations to perceived learning. Social Psychology of Education, 11(3), 323 - 346.



Relationship to Agricultural Communication:

This theory stresses that social presence is important. Therefore, when working with communications projects and attempting to relay messages, it is important to keep in mind the amount of social presence within the medium. According to the theory, people are influenced more when they can connect a person with the message. The best type of communication would obviously be face-to-face (whether working with new clients, holding company meetings, discussing problems with a farmer, etc), but many times that is not the most efficient way to reach the target audience. Ag. Communicators should know the characteristics of their audience and use the medium that would have the most effective social presence factor for the particular group. Communicators could consider using podcasts and video conferences as opposed to sending information via snail mail. Also, when putting information on websites, keep in mind that pictures, sounds, and video help people feel social presence more than just words on a page. The visual and auditory aspects would allow individuals to feel a connection with a person. Emails, text messages, and other forms of communication are great tools to use in some circumstances, but when discussing sensitive issues within groups, it is best to keep the communication channels open and personal.   




Annie Specht – Wiki Entry #3: Resource Mobilization Theory



Main Authors

Zald & McCarthy (1987)




Social movements are generally viewed as agents of change, and resource mobilization is the process of amassing resources and instigating collective action among group members (Kendall, 2006). Resource mobilization theory states that “much of a social movement’s activity involves procuring and organizing resources in order to maintain its viability and effect social change” (Peckham, 1998, p. 318; Zald & McCarthy, 1987). It studies the variety of resources that must be mobilized, the linkages among social-movement groups, organizational dependence on external support for success, and the authoritative tactics used to control or incorporate movements (McCarthy & Zald, 1977). In has been theorized that computer-mediated communication and Internet technology play an increasingly prominent role in resource assembly and movement mobilization – researchers Johnston and Klandermans (1995) hypothesize that technological changes in the past twenty-five years have affected the “mobilization repertoire” of social-movement organizations and movement success.



Related Study

Langman, L. (2005). From virtual public spheres to global justice: A critical theory of internetworked social movements. Sociological Theory, 23(1) 42-74.



Relation to Agr. Communication Issues

In today’s society, agriculture faces opposition from a number of organizations, ranging from environmental watchdogs to animal-rights activists. These groups seek to foment social movement, influence policy-makers, and ultimately change the way America’s agricultural industry functions; some even desire the total ruin of modern agriculture. They are adept at utilizing online media to mobilize their members, collect funding, and spread their messages to non-members; modern resource mobilization theory, combined with collective-action framing and other social movement hypotheses and constructs, helps researchers understand why and how interactive, online communication technology is so effective at stirring collective action. Knowledge of what characteristics are most valuable in computer-mediated resource mobilization can also aid agricultural advocates as they counter anti-agriculture messaging with their own and develop pro-industry coalitions.


Theory Wiki 1   (Libby McNeal)



Theory: Uncertainty Reduction Theory 



Main authors: C.R. Berger and Calabrese in 1975; Derived from works of Heider (1952)



Description of theory: The foundation of the Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) began as sets of universal truths and propositions, but was later formed into a theory in 1975. The theory depends on people being motivated by uncertainty (do not like it) and communicating to reduce the uncertainty.  The theory involves a three step process: entry, personal, and exit. The level of communication begins at a very basic interaction with simple demographic information. Communication levels enter the personal stage when individuals begin to share more personal information such as attitudes and beliefs. In the final step, the exit stage, further interaction is discussed. Conversations do not have to go through all three stages; many interactions are ended before ever getting to the personal stage. When the uncertainty levels are higher, the amount of verbal communication is higher.



Berger also noted three ways of getting information about others: passive, active, and interactive strategies. These range from observing a person, to seeking information from others, to actually talking with the person in question. The theory has been used with interpersonal communication mostly, but also with group and organizational communication.



Of course, there are some problems with this theory. Some researchers have noted that sometimes communication makes the uncertainty greater if communicators were not expecting the answers. There can also be tolerance of uncertainty, and some researchers say that limited uncertainty can be beneficial in relationships.



Example study:

Kramer, M. W. (1999). Motivation to Reduce Uncertainty: A Reconceptualization of Uncertainty

            Reduction Theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 13(2), 305-316.





Relationship to Agricultural Communication:


I think of this theory to be used predominantly with interpersonal communication. Ag communicators could use this theory to help promote products or ideas. Many times Ag communicators, business people, and Extension professionals work with individuals in a one-on-one (interpersonal) situation. With the Ohio State Fair coming soon, I cannot help but think about the Ohio Farm Bureau building and the efforts to reach out to the public in an interpersonal setting. The building would be a great place to put this theory to use. As people walk by the booths, they will stop and look. The people at the different stations then have the opportunity to engage in conversation and work to “reduce uncertainty.” If the non-agricultural person has a good impression in the personal stage, then they might even seek further information. Even in a more widespread situation, uncertainty could be a benefit. According to the theory, when people are uncertain, they seek out information. This could mean that people seek out information on the web about the agriculture issues at hand. It could also be a bad thing if they find information opposed to agriculture’s goals.


Theory wiki #3 – Jen Villard



Theory: Experiential learning theory



Main authors: John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget, William James, Carl Jung, Paulo Freire, Carl Rogers (20th Century scholars), Alice Kolb, David Kolb (2005)



Description of theory: Experiential learning theory is transforming one’s experience in order to create knowledge (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).  It is about applying one’s skills to real life experiences.  “ELT as defined by Kolb posits that learning is the major determinant of human development, and how individuals learn shapes the course of their personal development” (Kolb & Kolb, 2005, p. 195).  This theory is built on six propositions: 1) Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes, 2) All learning is relearning, 3) Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world, 4) Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world – not just the result of cognition, but involves the integrated functioning of the total person, 5) Learning results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment, and 6) Learning is the process of creating knowledge.  “Experiential learning is a process of constructing knowledge that involves a creative tension among the four learning modes” (concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, reflective observation, active experimentation) “that is responsive to contextual demands” (Kolb & Kolb, 2005, p. 194).



Example study:

Lobley, J. & Peronto, M. (2007). Experiential learning in workforce preparation – An application

for success. University of Maine. Journal of Extension, 45(3), para. 4-6.




How relates to Ag. Communication:

I foresee this theory relating to Ag. Communication through hands-on learning activities at a county fair, for example.  At different points a young person or adult may see a farmer milking a cow, but has never been afforded the opportunity of trying for themselves.  Many times at county fairs or other agriculture events there are opportunities for people to see what milking a cow is all about.  These people have heard about this and seen it done, but never actually done it for themselves.  Through experience and experimentation a person that does not know much or anything about agriculture can learn about the everyday workings of life on the farm.



Another example was at COSI last summer where they had an exhibit known as Farm Safety Days.  Besides children being able to play on the tractors and other farm equipment, there was also a “game” they could play to help them understand what farmers have to do on a daily basis to keep their farm in working order and continuing the everyday tasks.  Each child learned about buying equipment, taking out loans from the bank, spinning a wheel to see what the market and economy would be like for them, which also the point when they discovered if their crops were infested with pesticides and insects, an activity where they learned about planting seeds and growing crops, learning about soil and water conservation, the Extension Service was present to discuss their role in the agriculture/farming industry, and so on.  This was an educational opportunity for kids to learn about life on the farm and learn about making decisions about how to maintain their farm, crops and animals.  They were able to put what they learn about to practice.  This real life application was also beneficial for the numerous parents with their children.  Farm Safety Days was an opportunity to reach out to the general public through hands-on learning.



Cultivation Theory  (Carla Jagger)



Main author: George Gerbner (mid- 1960’s)



Description: Cultivation theory suggests that television is responsible for shaping, or ‘cultivating’ viewers’ conceptions of social reality. The combined effect of watching a large amount of television over time subtly shapes the perception of social reality for individuals and, ultimately, for our culture as a whole. Cultivation theorists distinguish between ‘first order’ effects (general beliefs about the everyday world, such as about the prevalence of violence) and ‘second order’ effects (specific attitudes, such as to law and order or to personal safety). There is also a distinction between two groups of television viewers: the heavy viewers and the light viewers. The focus is on ‘heavy viewers’. People who watch a lot of television are likely to be more influenced by the ways in which, the world is framed by television programs than are individuals who watch less, especially regarding topics of which the viewer has little first-hand experience. Light viewers may have more sources of information than heavy viewers. ‘Resonance’ describes the intensified effect on the audience when what people see on television is what they have experienced in life. This double dose of the televised message tends to amplify the cultivation effect.



Example Study:

Quick, B. (2009, March). The Effects of Viewing Grey's Anatomy on Perceptions of

Doctors and Patient Satisfaction. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media,

53(1), 38-55.




Relation to Ag Communication issues:

I could see this theory having either a positive or negative effect on agriculture, and right now it seems like there are more negative messages/media of agriculture than positive ones. Since the majority of the population doesn’t have first hand experience with farming and the agriculture industry start to believe what they are seeing on the television to be true. As agriculturists I think we could be using this theory to benefit us, by showing the public how farms are really operated and that the negative images they see aren’t the rare minority of farming practices. This could help with the agriculture literacy of the general population, which could help us combat many of the other issues that face the agriculture industry.



Theory wiki #2 – Jen Villard



Theory: Implicit personality theory



Main authors: S. Asch (1940 – advanced the idea), H. H. Kelley (1950 – concept experiment)



Description of the theory:

Implicit personality theory means we each have “a mental catalogue of traits in our head.  As soon as we obtain information on one trait or a cluster of traits, we seem to assume automatically that other traits will also be characteristic of the person being observed” (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2005, p. 147).  The theory looks at how we perceive others to be like ourselves.  With that, we as human beings find a way in which to structure our surroundings so as to be able to organize and classify people as we perceive them, whether our perception is accurate or not.  This can lead to stereotyping, which gives us a way to simplify things to the point of being able to handle them.  Stereotyping can, however, cause problems because by making inferences about people we do not know, we potentially lose the opportunity of meeting and interacting with people we may have eventually cared about (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2005).



Example study: Components of Interpersonal Communication: Social perception – Ch. 7 (pp. 110-124)



How relates to Ag Communication:

It is easy, no matter what environment you are in, to stereotype someone different from you.  You classify a person based on how they look, act and/or present themselves.  However, this perception is not always accurate, especially when there has not been a chance to meet and interact with that person.  An example of differences of perception and falling into a certain stereotype is that we can all relate to the fact that the agriculture college seems to be very separate from those “across the river.”  That alone is a stereotype.  Students, faculty and staff perceive us on the agriculture side to be solely farmers – that is, born and raised on the farm.  I, myself, on the other hand, am obviously an agriculture major, but have no agriculture background other than my exposure to it through 4-H, and some of my family live on a farm.  I have never milked a cow, baled hay, or ridden/driven on a tractor.  But I am not completely ignorant about all the hard work and dedication that go into farming and advocating for it.



In being stereotypical and classifying another person into a certain trait category, we have already discussed a good example in class of this, which is that of the show “The Simple Life” starring Paris Hilton.  Known as a Hollywood icon with the glitz and glamour, she is put to work on the farm to understand the true value and importance of it.  From watching that show, the general public makes their own generalizations and bases their perceptions of agriculture on this show.  Based on class discussion it seems that the show made a mockery of agriculture and more specifically farming.  Is the show accurate?  I do not know because I have never seen it.  But I got the impression that the show demeans farming and agriculture industry.  This show is a good example of how the agriculture is perceived and what we can do as advocates of agriculture to alter any misperceptions the public may currently have.






Annie Specht – Wiki Entry #2: Media Richness Theory




Main Authors

R.L. Daft & R.H. Lengel (1986)





“Media richness” refers to a communication medium’s “ability to change understanding within a time interval” (Daft & Lengel, 1986, p. 560) and is determined by certain mechanical characteristics of the medium, including feedback speed, the number of cues, the degree of personalization, and the language variety (Yoo & Alavi, 2001). Media richness theory essentially means that the richer the medium, the more effective a means of communication it is. In traditional communication media, a rich representation “uses a wide variety of symbolic languages, such as graphics, voice inflections, and body gestures to convey information” (Lim & Benbasat, 2000, p. 451); media richness can be employed to create a sense of presence that facilitates group identification in online environments (Scott, 2007; Rock & Pratt, 2002). Digital media richness involves characteristics such as interactivity and multimodality.




Related Study


Lim, K.H., & Benbasat, I. (2000). The effect of multimedia on perceived equivocality and perceived usefulness of information systems. MIS Quarterly, 24(3), 449-471.




Relation to Agr. Communication Issues

Media richness theory has a strong impact on studies involving online communication. Agricultural communication has traditionally maintained a strong foothold in traditional mass media, like industry magazines and radio programming, but the emerging presence of agriculture in computer-mediated environments means that care must be taken to include various media to increase richness and thus communicative impact. Industry organizations have increasingly begun to utilize multimedia on their websites, such as YouTube videos, podcasts, and interactive feedback opportunities (like blog comments and message boards).




Annie Specht - Wiki Entry #1: Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects


Main Authors

M. Lea & R. Spears (1991)




The social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE) is an offshoot of social identity theory that posits that “lack of identity cues, when coupled with a shared group identity, amplifies the influence of the group by obscuring within-group interpersonal differences” (Lee, 2008, p. 647). The anonymity of the Internet allows for the “deindividuation” of the communicative dyad, in which users shift from the realm of the personal to the social, and it may also lead to over-reliance on the minimal sociocontextual cues afforded via CMC. This reliance may cause inflated impressions of communicative partners, diverts attention from within-group idiosyncrasies, and makes people more susceptible to group influence (Walther, 1996; Scott, 2007; Lee, 2006). It also promotes the salience of a social identity within an in-group. This increase in group influence and subsequent identification has strong persuasive ramifications: Establishing a strong collective identity, then, provides organization leaders with a heuristic capable of “overriding persuasiveness of arguments” (Lee, 2007, p. 140).



Related Study

Lee, E. (2007). Deindividuation effects on group polarization in computer-mediated communication: The role of group identification, public-self-awareness, and perceived argument quality. Journal of Communication, 57(2), 385-403.



Relation to Agr. Communication Issues

The SIDE model has strong persuasive implications related to social identity theory – it is a model of SIT in practice. Past studies of SIDE include analyses of interactive online games and the real-world response that users have to other game participants – agricultural communicators studying online communities, such as social-networking sites and message boards, can use SIDE to understand group cohesion and subsequent interactions among group members. For instance, a firmer grasp of SIDE may influence how a communicator chooses to set up an organizational message board to increase anonymity and promote group identity among members, which would theoretically contribute to the persuasive impact of the group’s messaging. It also provides a framework for studying how other organizations utilize interactive technologies for communication purposes and to what effect.



Theory wiki #1 – Jen Villard

Theory: Non-verbal Immediacy Construct



Main authors: Janis Andersen, Peter Andersen, Arthur Jensen (1979)



Description of the theory (in this case a construct):

A number of nonverbal behaviors make up the immediacy construct.  Some of the most common behaviors are touch, eye contact, facial expressions and meaningful movements, and whether they are viewed as positive or not.  Nonverbal immediacy is typically studied in parts and not as a gestalt.  Very little research has attempted to study the subfield in its whole, but rather has studied various parts, or effects, of some of the common behaviors that are typically more obvious.  According to Andersen et. al (1979), immediacy, though, “must also be studied as a gestalt for two reasons.  First, since many immediacy behaviors exist, it is unlikely that any study can systematically isolate all relevant immediacy behaviors or ascertain which combinations had the most effect. Second, some immediacy behaviors operate at low levels of awareness or at a subliminal level and cannot be accurately reported by either the interactants or trained observers when coding interactions.”  Housel and Wheeler (1980) say that nonverbal behavior plays a significant role in communicative interaction.  “It is the precise manner in which nonverbal reinforcement affects interaction in dyadic situations that is in need of additional clarification,” (Housel & Wheeler, 1980).  The investigation of reinforcement is only preliminary in developing this framework in dealing directly with interaction.



Example study: What does that smile mean?  The meaning of nonverbal behaviors in social interaction




How this construct relates to Ag Communication issues:

I relate this construct and agriculture issues together through the case of a first impression.  Regardless of the situation, the obvious immediacy behaviors are easily sought out, but not necessarily interpreted as having a particular meaning.  Because different behaviors mean different things and these vary depending on the situation, it is hard to say that interpretation of these behaviors is completely accurate.  I think this construct and the idea of how it plays a role in first impressions is completely applicable to communication in agriculture today.  Regardless of whether a person with very little or no knowledge of agriculture sees an advertisement on television or sees a farmer working in his/her field, that no-knowledge individual is going to make a judgment and have an initial impression of agriculture based on what has been put before him/her.  If on TV or even in person a farmer seems happy and friendly, gives a smile, a solid handshake, gives open and warming gestures to the no-knowledge individual, then that individual may have a different opinion of agriculture because of that interaction.  We are not always aware of the effect nonverbal cues can have on us, but they, in fact, can make or break an interaction and its potential in the future.  First impressions and the nonverbal cues drawn from them can many times have more of an impact than anything said (“actions speak louder than words”).


Theory Wiki:

There are a multitude of communication theories, more than any course can cover in a quarter well.  I want you to find three theories not discussed in class and post them to our Ag Comm theory wiki. Your entry shall include the following: Theory Name, Main authors, Brief Description, Link to an example study, how it can relate to an agricultural communication problem/issue. You will also present your theory briefly in class. Please be sure to put your name next to your additions.



Social Identity Theory  

(Carla Jagger) 


Main authors: Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1979)



Description: A person has multiple selves as opposed to one “personal self”; these selves correspond to widening circles of group membership i.e. family, personal, national levels of self. An individual will think, feel and act on these different levels of self, depending on the social contexts they are in. Social Identity Theory asserts that while in groups the membership of that group creates self-categorization and enhancement that favor the in-group at the expense of the out-group. An example of this is when you are with a group in another country (i.e. study abroad) you tend band together and in some cases by making comments about the natives of the country you’re in.



Example study:

 Turner, J., Brown, R., & Tajfel, H. (1979, June). Social comparison and group interest

ingroup favouritism. European Journal of Social Psychology, 9(2), 187-204.



Relation to Ag Communication issues:

I think that this theory relates to just about any issue we have in agriculture and ag communications. We always seem to put people in two groups those that know agriculture and those that don’t and all too often in conversation we draw ourselves to the group of people that we identify with the most (those that know about agriculture) by making fun of or commenting about how little the general public knows about agriculture.  When issues come up like animal welfare, environmental issues, etc. it might be a good idea to pull people from the out-group in so we get more perspectives of the problem and look at the issue in a 360 degree manner.



Kirk – Wiki Theory 1

Theory Name.  Social Marketing

Main Authors.  Kotler & Zaltman (1971);  Lefebvre & Flora (1988); Kotler, Roberto, & Lee (2002)

Brief Description.  Introduced in the early 1970’s as a “promising framework for planning and implementing social change (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971, p. 3), Social Marketing involves the “use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behavior for the benefit individuals, groups or society as a whole” (Kotler, Roberto, & Lee, 2002, p. 5).  It has been, and continues to be, used primarily in the public health promotion arena around the world.  Core elements generally include audience research, market segmentation, message tailoring, and multiple messaging pathways.  Additionally, the “five P’s” of effective marketing—product (behavior that needs changed), price (costs of not changing/benefits of changing), place (where messages are deployed), promotion (how messages are deployed), and positioning (increasing or decreasing psycho-social appeal)—guide Social Marketing practice.  Social Marketing may be more of an approach than an actual theory in its own right, as it builds on and incorporates many psycho-social, communication, and marketing theories (those that are most relevant for the given topic) to maximize the likelihood of behavior change.

Example Study Link-


Lyzun, K., & McMullen, A. (2009, February). 'Prostate Man', the ageing superhero: A unique approach to encouraging prostate health awareness among men over 50. Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 2(1), 7-19. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from Communication & Mass Media Complete database

How It Relates.  Social Marketing is useful as an over-arching umbrella approach that can help organize and guide a messaging campaign.  Perhaps the most useful part is the significant focus and effort it specifies be conducted up-front to develop a thorough understanding of the intended audiences.  From there, targeted messages to be delivered via specific communication channels can be created that will best reach the different segments of the audience.



Kirk – Wiki Theory 2

Theory Name.  Action Assembly Theory

Main Authors.  Greene (1984 & 2006)

Brief Description.  Action Assembly Theory is a cognitive/thinking theory concerned with how humans respond to social and psychological stimuli to select and/or invent “ideations” (ideations are conceptualizations, a.k.a. thoughts, of which a person is aware) which then form the foundation for what is said (out-loud or privately to oneself).  Ideations are products of an assembly process in which many past procedural records, mental storage units of past life experiences and actions that are linked to specific conditions and/or situation, are evoked by words, images, and non-verbal cues.  Procedural records that fit-together, as if completing a puzzle, come together in a process called coalition formation.  Only those coalitions that become sufficiently large endure long enough to enter consciousness, thereby becoming an ideation that can be acted upon.  The theory speculates that there are thousands and thousands of procedural records that are sifted through in spit seconds to arrive at an actual ideation.  If the stimuli are novel, the ‘best match’ of past procedural records are pulled that would most approximate the new stimuli.  This assembly and disassembly mechanism is how thoughts grow and change.  New bits of procedural records can be incorporated, while old bits that no longer fit can be left out, however, the old bits still jockey for their spot in the coalition, which can create tension once the though enters consciousness.  At that point, the executive function of the mind attempts to make sense of the conflicting information.  These coalitions and resulting ideations are more transient than they are stable, staying in consciousness only as long as the context and conversation require.  If needed, they will be reassembled again.

Example Study Link-


Hample, D., Gordy, C., Sellie, A., Wright, M., & Zanolla, D. (2008, July). Inventional Repertoires and Written Messages. Communication Studies, 59(3), 220-234. Retrieved July 7, 2009, doi:10.1080/10510970802257630


How It Relates.  Action Assembly Theory might help us better understand the ELM and central versus peripheral route processing.  When we are attentive, the assembly process is central, when we are not attentive, the assembly process may not become completely aware to us.  AAT also helps explain why having context that resonates with and is salient to the intended audience is important—the more relevant the content, the more likely that there are existing procedural records to draw upon in the coalition formation process.  AAT also suggests why making connections with “similar to” objects (e.g. HSUS showing a cute kitten when they are targeting turkeys raised in cages) may activate a “close enough” assembly process in the mind of the viewer.  It also seems to suggest that it might take incremental steps to alter ideations over time, especially if the only mechanism for experiencing the “object” is though mental manipulation.



Kirk – Wiki Theory 3

Theory Name.  Expectancy Violation Theory

Main Authors.  Burgoon and various colleagues (1976, 1978, 1988, 1993, 1995)

Brief Description. Expectancy Violation Theory (EVT) originated in the late 1970’s with the “personal space” research of J. Burgoon in which she examined expectations for and violations of personal space.  Over time, the theory evolved from being solely focuses on nonverbal to communication in general.  EVT has several components; it proposes that:

·         we have 2 kinds of expectations of others:

o   1) predictive, based on past experiences

§  e.g., my wife always gives me a goodbye kiss before leaving for work in the morning

o   2) prescriptive, based on social norms

§  e.g., we shake hands or give a pat when greeting friends in the US, but in France they greet with smooches on the cheek

·         our expectations are influenced by 3 things:

o   communicator characteristics – demographic type variables

o   relational characteristics – nature of our relationship with the communicator

o   context – environment and norms of social interaction given that context

·         violations of expectations will occur, and we view these violations with:

o   positive valence– the unexpected behavior is viewed positively

§  e.g., a usually rude bank teller is nice to you

o   negative valence– your friend always calls, but didn’t

·         the degree of valence depends on the degree of importance

·         communication that matches expectations (pos or neg) will be less impactful than communication that violates expectancies, with positive valence giving more positive outcomes than normal and negative valence giving more negative outcomes than normal

Example Study Links-(I like the 2nd one). 


Cohen, E. (2007, 2007 Annual Meeting). Expectancy Violations in Relationships With Friends and Media Figures. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association, Retrieved July 7, 2009, from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.


Stephens, K., Houser, M., & Cowan, R. (2008, 2008 Annual Meeting). R U Able to Meat Me: The Impact of Students' Overly Casual E-Mail Messages to Instructors. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association, Retrieved July 7, 2009, from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.

How It Relates.  EVT suggest that we need to understand the expectations our target audience has of us so that we can choose to maintain the status quo, or surprise them with an atypical, yet still positive, message, to possible gain greater favor or more positive regard.  It also suggests that we be cognizant of the characteristics of the communication channel we choose, the nature of our relationship with the audience, and the context in which the expectations were developed, as well as those in which they will be consumed.


Kelly Aue – Wiki Theory #1

Theory Name: Altercasting

Main Authors: Pratkanis

Description: Altercasting theory is a type of persuasion theory.  The term altercasting has been used, but is a theory in persuasion that has not been elaborated upon.  This method forces people into a social role, so they will be prone to act according to that role.  The assumption is that when a person accepts a particular social role, they will then be forced by social pressures to act according to that role.  It is a useful tactic because it can be easy to trap others in a role and therefore force a particular action.  Also, people often accept social roles offered to them.

There are two types of altercasting:

  • Manded altercasting- we tell people who they are by making an existing role prominent.  (i.e. You are a grad student and you should…)
  • Tact altercasting- we put ourselves as senders in a role that suggests a natural counter role for the other person.  (i.e. I am dependent, therefore you are my helper)

Example Study: 

Malone, M.J. (1995). How to do things with friends: Altercasting and recipient design.

Research on Language & Social Interaction, 28(2), 147-170.


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

One area that I believe this theory fits into is how the public forces agriculture into particular roles.  I have seen a few times when agriculturalists then fulfill that stereotype because that is the social structure.  I do think this theory works really well for leadership positions.  I remember that when I became an FFA state office, I suddenly had to fill this social role.  While I decided to become an officer, there were perceived roles that I did not understand.  Once in that role our adviser said “You are a state officer and you should…”  As officers we just accepted those roles and did not really question them.  I do have a problem with this theory though.  I feel like it assumes that people are like trained animals.  We will do what ever you tell us to.  You tell me that I am a leader of an organization and I should act a certain way.  This theory assumes that like a trained animal I will do just that.  But everyone’s personality is different.  I do believe that people have expectations of you in certain roles, and they might not be accepting of you if you challenge that perception.  But I do not believe people will automatically fulfill a certain social role a specific way because that is what is expected.

Kelly Aue – Wiki Theory #2

Theory Name: Argumentation

Main Authors: Perelman and Toulmin, Van Eermern and Grootendorst

Description: Argumentation theory was founded on Aristotle’s logical theory.  It is a verbal activity that is more verbal, even though nonverbal communication has accompanied argumentation theories.  These arguments are needed when people differ on points and the goal is to justify one’s standpoint or counter another person’s standpoint.  Pragma-dialectical theory, created by Van Eermern and Grootendorst, is the most popular theory within argumentation.  Argumentation starts with four principles: externalization, socialization, functionalization, and dialectification.  In VanEermern and Grootendorst articles they identify four stages of argumentative dialogue.  They are: confrontation, opening, argumentation, and concluding.

Example Study: 

Van Eermeren, F.H. & Houtlosser, P. (2007), The study of argumentation as normative pragmatics. Pragmatics & Cognition, 15(1), 161-177.


Book: Fundamentals of Argumentation


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

I think the theory of argumentation can work in so many facets of agriculture.  How many times are we battling the standpoints of the public?  Probably more than we would like to.  Whether it is battling stereotypes or animal rights organization we are always using argumentation to justify our standpoint and countering the opposition’s standpoint.


Kelly Aue – Wiki Theory #3

Theory Name: Social Support

Main Authors: Barnes and Cassel

Description: Social support theory looks at how networking can help people cope in stressful events and how is can enhance well-being.  This theory is used a lot in Health Communication to look at how stress affects health.  There are four types of social support: emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal support.  While social relationships have an impact on health, there is not a theory equipped to explain the link between social relationships and health. 


Example Study: 

Hye-Jin, P., Yu, J., & Beom, J. B. (2009). Is on-line health promotion culture-bound?. Journal of Advertising, 38(1), 33-47.


Gomez, L. F. (2009). Time to socialize. Journal of Business Communication, 46(2), 179-207.


Relation to Ag Communications Issues/Problems:

While this theory can be a stretch to work with agriculture, it could work in food safety.  I’m taking a leap because when I think of health communication and agriculture, I always think food safety.  However, social support theory makes me think of workplace dynamics.  How well you get along with coworkers, and the social support you have with them, can make working through crisis’ easier.    





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