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Communication Apprehension

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To function effectively in today’s society people must communicate with one another. Yet for some individuals communication experiences are so unrewarding that they either consciously or unconsciously avoid situations where communication is required. (McCroskey & Richmond, 1979) The term ‘communication apprehension’ was coined by James McCroskey (1976a) and is defined as “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons” (McCroskey, 1984). In the last two decades communication apprehension and related constructs, such as reticence and unwillingness to communicate, have received extensive research and theoretical attention by scholars in communication and psychology. In 1984, Payne and Richmond listed over 1000 entries in a bibliography of publications and papers in this area (Payne & Richmond, 1984). Overwhelmingly the underlying theme of the articles has been the negative effects that these constructs can have on academic and social success. It has been forwarded that two out of ten people suffer some form of communication apprehension (CA). The focus of this paper is on communication apprehension as a construct and on how it affects the behavior and lifestyle of an individual.

Although constructs such as CA, communication reticence, and unwillingness-to-communicate have often been treated in literature as interchangeable, (McCroskey, 1982) particularly in earlier work, some researchers have found the need to distinguish between them. Reticence was originally thought of in relation to CA, particularly in connection with stage fright, and anxiety was identified as the causative agent that produced the characteristic behavior patterns. (McCroskey, 1977b; McCroskey, 1982) However during the 1970’s the constructs of reticence and CA evolved and changed to become quite disparate. According to McCroskey (1982) the contemporary view is that reticent people are those who do not communicate competently. Phillips (1984) further states that reticent people “avoid communication because they believe they will lose more by talking than remaining silent” (p.52). So while the construct of reticence was initially the same as CA, reticence is now perceived as a concept that represents a broad range of communicative incompetence while CA relates to communicative incompetence that stems fr...


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...eported Communication Competence: Finnish and American Comparisons. Communication research reports, Vol. 8, June, 55-64.

McCroskey, J.C. & Sheahan, M.E. (1978). Communication apprehension, social preference, and social behavior in a college environment. Communication quarterly, 26, 41 45.

Payne, S.K. & Richmond, V.P. (1984). A bibliography of related research and theory. In J.C. McCroskey & J.A. Daly (Eds.). Avoiding communication: shyness, reticence, and communication apprehension. (pp. 247-294). London: Sage Publications Inc.

Phillips, G.M. (1984). A Perspective on Social Withdrawal. In J.C. McCroskey & J.A. Daly (Eds.). Avoiding communication: shyness, reticence, and communication apprehension. (pp. 51-66). London: Sage Publications Inc.

Richmond, V.P. (1984). Implication of Quietness: Some Facts and Speculations. In J.C. McCroskey & J.A. Daly (Eds.). Avoiding communication: shyness, reticence, and communication apprehension. (pp. 145-155). London: Sage Publications Inc.

Scott, C.R. & Rockwell, S.C. (1997). The effect of communication, writing, and technology apprehension on likelihood to use new communication technologies. Communication education, 46, 44-62.



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