The social penetration theory is a theory composed by Altman and Taylor in which people are compared to onions. This may seem like an absurd comparison, but when explored more deeply it makes quite a bit of sense. The social penetration theory is a description of the multi-layered nature of people's personalities. As the outer skin of an onion is peeled away another layer is found beneath it, and if you remove that layer you will expose another layer, and so forth. The same holds true for people; as we get to know someone better we expose more layers of their personality and hence become closer to the core of the individual, or the private self The outer layers of our personality is the public self, or characteristics that are apparent to people we do not know very well. Some of these characteristics include a person's world view, studies, and tastes (Griffin, 1997, p. 145). Altman and Taylor proceed to say that in order for people to develop close and meaningful relationships penetration must occur; this process requires self-disclosure and vulnerability in order to be achieved. People are able to choose who they want to become closer to and to decide how much of their private self they want to expose.
According to Sidney Jourard, author of Transparent Self (1980), "You cannot collaborate with another person toward some common end unless you know him. How can you know him, and he you, unless you have engaged in enough mutual disclosure of self to be able anticipate how he will react and what part he will play?" (p. 3). One main reason Jourard says people may be reluctant to self-disclose is that they dread the moral judgment of their friends, family. minister, or the law. This is the same as becoming vulne...
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...e amount of penetration that occurs; in any case it would be very interesting to talk about in relation to the social penetration theory.
I have definitely enjoyed learning about the social penetration theory and social exchange theory the most. They are very important theories that happen every day with people we know and people we don't know. I believe that they are among the most important theories that need to be used in order to achieve and maintain close, meaningful relationships throughout our lives. In analyzing my own level of penetration with a close friend, I have discovered a little bit more about myself and how prone I am to self-disclose for a potential relationship.
Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Jourard, S. (1980). The transparent self. New York, NY: Macmillan.