Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

8.2.1: Communication Glossary

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)







    Glossary of communication

    Compiled by Pertti Hurme
    Department of Communication
    University of Jyväskylä


    To the reader:

    This glossary is a work in progress, intended to help exchange students taking the Current Issues in Communication and Information Sciences in Finland Course. It was originally prepared for students in the Introduction to Communication Studies Course, given by the compiler at the Department of Communication, University of Jyväskylä, in the spring of 2001.

    The Glossary of Communication covers many areas and aspects of communication, but it is by no means a complete glossary of communication. As the entries are from books representing different approaches to communication, they do not necessarily form a consistent whole. However, all entries are from widely used textbooks covering large areas of interpersonal, group, organizational, mass, and intercultural communication.

    The glossary is based on the following sources. The abbreviations in square brackets are used in the entries to indicate the source.

    • Anderson, R. & V. Ross 1994. Questions of Communication. A Practical Introduction to Theory. New York, NY: St. Martin´s. [AR]
    • Baskin, O. & C. Aronoff 1992. Public Relations. The Profession and the Practice. Wm. C. Brown. [BA]
    • Dominick, J. 1987. The Dynamics of Mass Communication. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Random House. [D]
    • Drislane, R. & G. Parkinson 2001. Online Dictionary of Social Sciences. Athabasca University, Canada. Online:, quoted February 6, 2001. [DP]
    • Greenberg, J. & R. Baron 1995. Behavior in Organizations. Undestanding and managing the Human Side of Work. 6th Edition. London: Prentice-Hall. [GB]
    • Infante, D., A. Rancer & D. Womack 1997. Building Communication Theory. 3rd Edition. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. [IRW]
    • Seiler, W. & M. Beall 1999. Communication. Making Connections. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. [SB]
    • Stacks, D., M. Hickson & S. Hill 1991. Introduction to Communication Theory. London: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. [SHH]
    • Wilcox, D., P. Ault, W. Agee & G. Cameron 2000. Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. 6th Edition. New York, NY: Longman. [WAAC]
    • Witmer, D. 2000. Spinning the Web: A Handbook for Public Relations on the Internet. New York: Longman. [WI]
    • Wood, J. 1997. Communication Theories in Action. Belmont: Wadsworth. [WO97]
    • Wood, J. 1995. Relational Communication. Continuity and Change in Personal Relationships. London: Wadsworth. [WO95]

    See also a Finnish glossary of organisational communication.

    ABack to the top of the page.

    Acculturation. A process of cultural transformation initiated by contacts between different cultures. At a global level, acculturation takes place as societies experience the transforming impact of international cultural contact. The global trend towards modern economic organization and developed market economies has been accompanied by a process of cultural transformation. Individuals experience acculturation when their social roles and socialization are shaped by norms and values that are largely foreign to their native culture. [DP]

    Active listening. Process of analyzing and evaluating what another person is saying in an effort to understand the speaker's feelings or the true meaning of the message. [SB]

    Active public. People who are aware of a problem and will organize to do something about it. [BA]

    Ad hominem. A fallacy that attacks a person rather than the argument itself. This is also referred to as "name calling." [SB]

    Agenda. List of all topics to be discussed during a meeting. [SB]

    Agenda-setting. Function of mass media to the relative importance of our attitudes on issues. The perceived importance of issues is related to the attention given to those issues by the media. [IRW]

    Agenda-setting effect. The influence of the mass media created by emphasizing certain topics, thus causing people to perceive these same issues as important. [D]

    Artifact. Ornament or possession that communicates information about a person. [SB]

    Asynchronous communication. Also known as non simultaneous communication. Communication during which participants engage in the process at different times, such as bulletin boards or e-mail. [WI]

    Attitude(s). Learned predisposition to respond favorably or unfavorably toward an object. [IRW] Stable clusters of feelings, beliefs, and behavioral intentions toward specific objects, people, or institutions. [GB] A construct said to be composed of affective (feeling), cognitive (thoughts), and connotative (behavioral) components; internal feelings about some object; composed of opinions, beliefs, and values. [SHH] Evaluative disposition, feeling, or position about oneself, others, events, ideas, or objects. [SB]

    Audience. A group of individuals attending to a common media. They receive communication from the same source, but are not active participants and do not communicate with each other. [DP] Collection of individuals who have come together to watch or listen to someone or something, such as to listen to a speech. [SB]

    Authoritarian leadership style. The leader controls group goals and procedures. [IRW]

    Autocrat personality. A person who possesses a need to dominate others and distrusts the motives and creative potential of others. [SHH]

    Avoiding style. An approach to conflict which tries to manipulate circumstances so that conflict does not surface. [IRW]

    Aware public. People who know about a problem but don't act on it. [BA]

    BBack to the top of the page.

    Belief. An expectation about the way some event or sequence of events will occur. [SHH] Conviction or confidence in the truth of some-thing that is not based on absolute proof. [SB]

    Benchmarking. The process of seeking to improve quality by comparing one´s own products or services with the best products or services of others. [GB]

    Brainstorming. A technique designed to foster group productivity by encouraging interacting group members to express their ideas in a noncritical fashion. [GB]

    Bureaucracy. Organization characterized by hierarchical chains of command and power, each with its own separate function. The organization is governed by rules accepted by the members in order for efficient mass administration. [IRW] A formal organization with defined objectives, a hierarchy of specialized roles and systematic processes of direction and administration. Bureaucracy is found in earlier times in history, for example in administration of agricultural irrigation systems, the Roman army, the Catholic church, but it becomes most prominent in the large-scale administration of agencies of the modern state and modern business corporations. [DP]

    CBack to the top of the page.

    Campaign. In advertising, a large number of ads that stress the same theme and appear over a specified length of time. [D]

    Centralization. The degree to which information must flow through a specific central member of a communication network. [GB]

    Change agent. Individual who exerts influence on opinion leaders to adopt an innovation. [IRW]

    Charisma. An attitude of enthusiams and optimism that is contagious; an aura of leadership. [GB] The appeal or attractiveness that the audience perceives in the speaker, contributing to the speaker's credibility. [SB] Channel. Medium or route through which a message is sent for purposes of communication. [AR] The pathway by which a message travels from sender to receiver. [D] Means by which a message is conveyed from source to receiver (radio, television, telephone, face-to-face, for example). [IRW] Route (such as sound waves or light waves) by which messages flow between the source and the receiver. [SB]

    Cheesecake. Photograph of a scantily clad young woman used as a publicity device. Similar photographs of men are called "beefcake". [WAAC]

    Chronemics. The study of how people perceive, structure, and use time as communication. [SB]

    Code. Set of rules or symbols used to translate a message from one form to another. [IRW]

    Collaborative style. A problem-solving approach to conflict situations where consulting with affected parties is considered important. [IRW]

    Commitment. Desire of group members to work together to complete a task to the satisfaction of the entire group. [SB]

    Communication. The mutual process through which persons interpret messages in order to coordinate individual and social meanings. [AR] Human manipulation of symbols to stimulate meaning in other humans. [IRW] The proces by which a person, group, organization (the sender) transmits some type of information (the message) to another person, group, organization (the receiver). [GB] The simultaneous sharing and creating of meaning through human symbolic action. [SB]

    Communication apprehension. Fear or anxiety associated with real or anticipated communication with others. [IRW] Anxiety syndrome associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons. [SB]

    Communication competence. Ability to take part in effective communication, which is characterized by skills and understandings that enable communication partners to exchange messages successfully. [SB]

    Communication flow. The direction (upward, downward, horizontal) messages travel through the networks in an organization. [BA]

    Communication networks. The patterns of communication flow between individuals in organization. [BA] Pre-established patterns dictating who may communicate with whom. [GB]

    Communication policies. Final statements of organizational positions related to communication activities and behaviors and information sharing. [BA]

    Communitarian. A philosophy or belief system which places priority on the community or on social values. Often contrasted to individualism or libertarianism. It claims that meaning in individual life and individual liberty are only possible within a strong and vital community so government policies and individual choices should be responsive to social values. [DP]

    Community. A society where peoples relations with each other are direct and personal and where a complex web of ties link people in mutual bonds of emotion and obligation. In the social sciences, especially sociology, the idea of community has provided a model to contrast to the emergence of more modern less personal societies where cultural, economic and technological transformation has uprooted tradition and where complexity has created a less personal and more rationalized and goal-directed social life. [DP]

    Competitive style. A win/lose approach to conflict situations which typically involves a good deal of argumentation. [IRW]

    Compromising style. An approach to conflict which emphasizes all parties getting some of what they want. [IRW]

    Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). Any form of interpersonal, small group, organizational, or puclic communication that occurs with the use of computers. [WI]

    Conduit metaphor. The persistent bias within the English language toward assuming that communication is a transmission of meanings "contained" in words from "senders" to "receivers." [AR]

    Constructivism. Theory explaining communication as a fundamentally interpretive process through which persons organize and create personal reality; examines the complexity with which persons develop and organize different categories of perception called constructs. [AR]

    Contentious style. Tendency to challenge others when disagreements occur. [IRW]

    Controlled media. Those media that the public relations practitioner has actual control over, such as a company newsletter. [BA]

    Cool media. McLuhan´s term for media that are incomplete and, thus, require human involvement and participation. [WO97]

    Copyright. The protection of a creative work from unauthorized use. [WAAC] Legal protection from unauthorized use of intellectual property fixed in any tangible medium of expression. [BA]

    Corporate communications. Term covering all types of communication by a company to both external and internal audiences. [WAAC]

    Corporate image. The impression that people have of an organization. [GB]

    Corporate stories. Narratives that serve to convey the values, style, and history of an organization. Told to newcomers, stories perform socialization; told among veteran members of an organization, stories serve to bind members together and vitalize the organization´s ideology. [WO97]

    Counterculture. A set of cultural ideas that, to some extent, differ from and conflict with, those generally upheld in the society. A counterculture develops when members of groups identify common values that distinguish them from others. These groups may be based on common appearance, ethnic group, sexuality, status or social behaviour. The term is close in meaning to subculture, but the concept of counterculture stresses the idea of an open and active opposition to dominant cultural values. [DP]

    Credibility. Speaker's believability, based on the audience's evaluation of the speaker's competence, experience, character, and charisma. [SB]

    Crisis communications. Methods and policies a corporation uses in distributing information when its operations become involved in an emergency situation affecting the public. [WAAC]

    Critical analysis. Form of research that goes beyond description and explanation to argue for changes in communicative practices that are judged to be oppressive, wrong, or otherwise undesirable. [WO97]

    Critical theory/ies. Explains and critiques social communication by examining the implications of power relationships; Marxist and feminist scholars usually approach theorizing with these assumptions. Often identified with cultural studies approaches. [AR] Group of theories that seek to produce change in oppressive or otherwise undesirable practices and structures in society. [WO97]

    Critical listening. Listening that judges the accuracy of the information presented, determines the reason-ableness of its conclusions, and evaluates its presenter. [SB]

    Cross-cultural communication. Communication of different combinations of people. A cross-cultural communication study might compare and contrast Japanese and American negotiation tactics, for example. [IRW]

    Cultivation. Cumulative process by which television fosters beliefs about social reality including the belief that the world is more dangerous and violent than it actually is. [WO97]

    Cultivation analysis. Explains media, especially television, not in cause?effect terms but by describing longer?term tendencies of audiences to adjust their expectations about reality in the direction of prevalent media content. [AR]

    Cultivation theory. Point of view that claims television cultivates, or promotes, a view of social reality that may be inaccurate, but that viewers nonetheless assume reflects real life. [WO97]

    Cultural imperialism. The practice of systematically spreading the influence of one culture over others by means of physical and economic domination. Usually involves an assumption of cultural superiority (ethnocentrism). [DP]

    Cultural mainstream. General view of life in a society. Cultivation theorists argue that television constructs and presents images that define the cultural mainstream. [WO97]

    Cultural studies. Broadly based approach to studying communication through its cultural implications; often studies in this tradition adopt the tone of social commentary or criticism; closely identified with critical theory. [AR] Group of related theories that seek to unmask the techniques by which privileged groups maintain their privilege and power in society. [WO97]

    Culture. Traditions and patterns of thought which are passed down through generations of people. [IRW] The generally shared knowledge, beliefs and values of members of society. Culture is conveyed from generation to generation through the process of socialization. [DP] The set of values, customs, and beliefs that puople have in common with other members of a social unit (e.g., a nation). [GB] The deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, actions, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and artifacts acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. [SB] Structures and practices that uphold a given social organization by producing and reproducing particular values, expectations, meanings, and patterns of thought, feeling, and action. [WO95] Both the ideology of a society and the actual, concrete practices that occur in that society. [WO97]

    Culture shock. The tendency for people to become confused and disoriented as they find it difficult to become adjusted to a new culture. [GB]

    DBack to the top of the page.

    Decentralization. The extent to which authority and decision makng are spread throughout all levels of an organization rather than being reserved for top management (centralization). [GB]

    Decentralized networks. Communication networks in which all members play an equal role in the transmittal of information. [GB]

    Decoding. Process of translating a message into the thoughts or feelings that were communicated. [SB]

    Defensive communication. Behavior which occurs whenwhen a person perceives or anticipates threat in interaction. [SHH]

    Democratic leadership style. The leader seeks group member participation in determining group goals and procedures. [IRW]

    Democrat personality. A person who can give or receive orders, follow or lead, and is capable of relinquishing control. [SHH]

    Dominant style. Tendency to lead and take control in social situations. [IRW]

    Downsizing. The process of adjyusting downward the number of employees required to perform jobs in newly designed organizations. [GB]

    Downward communication. Communication from higher members of the organization (i.e., managers, vice-presidents) to members lower in the organizational hierarchy (subordinates). [IRW]

    Dramatistic pentad. Means of analyzin rhetoric in context through looking at the five factors (pentad) of act (what was done), agent (by whom it was done), scene (where it was done), agency (by what means it was done), and purpose (the goal that guided the action). [AR]

    Dyad. A two-person communication system. [AR]

    EBack to the top of the page.

    Editor. Director of a newspaper´s news and editorial department; may be subordinate to the publisher or on equal footing, depending upon the newspaper´s organization. [WAAC]

    Egalitarian. A shortening of the word equalitarian, suggesting a commitment to, or a state of, equality. Egalitarian societies or groups are contrasted to hierarchical or class-based societies or groups. [DP]

    Electronic epoch. Fourth era in media history of civilization. The electronic epoch was ushered in by the invention of the telegraph, which made it possible for people to communicate personally across distance. [WO97]

    Empathic listening. Listening to understand what another person is thinking and feeling. [SB] Empowerment. The passing of responsibility and authority from managers to employees. [GB]

    Encoding. Process by which the source expresses thoughts or feelings in words, sounds, and physical expressions, which together make up the actual message that is sent. [SB]

    Ethnocentrism/ethnocentric. Judging other groups according to the categories and values of one´s own culture rather than being open to cultural differences. [IRW] The assumption that the culture of one's own group is moral, right and rational and that other cultures are inferior. When confronted with a different culture, individuals judge it with reference to their own standards and make no attempt to understand and evaluate it from the perspective of its members. Sometimes ethnocentrism will be combined with racism, the belief that individuals can be classified into distinct racial groups and that that there is a biologically-based. [DP] A person whose pride in his or her her-itage or background leads to the conviction that he or she knows more and is better than those who differ. [SB]

    Ethos. Aristotelian concept associated with persuasion; the personal character of the speaker. [SHH]

    Evaluative listening. Listening to judge or analyze information. [SB]

    Expatriates. People who are citizens of one country but who are living in another country. [GB]

    FBack to the top of the page.

    Fallacy. Arguments that are flawed because they do not follow the rules of logic. [SB]

    Feedback. Any message that aids a communicator in evaluating the success of previous message(s). [AR] The responses of the receiver that shape and alter subsequent messages from the source. [D]

    Feminine communication orientation. Fostered by socialization in feminine communication cultures, this orientation assumes that the purposes of communication are to create and sustain relationships, support others, and maintain harmony between people. It is enacted through communication that is cooperative, supportive, emotionally expressive, relationship-focused, and attentive to interactional processes. [WO95]

    Feminine culture. According to Hofstede, the cultural orientation in which people emphasize concern for others and the relationship among people. [GB] Feminist theory. Explains communication variables such as language, nonverbal immediacy, media effects, and ethics from the perspective of gender relationships; often focuses on overt and covert power implications of cultural patterns. [AR]

    Flow. Stream of communication messages. [IRW]

    Fordism. Refers to the system of mass production (e.g., the assembly line) pioneered by Henry Ford to meet the needs of a mass market. [DP]

    Formal communication systems. Communication links and networks determined and sanctioned by the organization. [IRW]

    Formal groups. Groups that are created by the organization, intentionally designed to direct its members toward some organizational goal. [GB] Format. Consistent programming designed to appeal to a certain segment of the audience. [D]

    Function of communication. According to Cicero, to entertain, inform, and persuade: to stimulate was added later. [IRW]

    Functional approach to leadership. The study of leadership which focuses on the leadership behaviors needed by the group to accomplish its goals. [IRW]

    GBack to the top of the page.

    Gangplank. Horizontal chain of communication between employees on the same hierarchical level but in different departments. [IRW]

    Gatekeeper. Any person (or group) who controls what media material eventually reaches the public. [D] Editor, reporter, news director, or other person who decides what material is printed, broadcast, or otherwise offered to the public. [WAAC] Individual who controls the flow of information to a group of people. [IRW] An individual who is positioned within a communication network so as to control the messages flowing through communication channels. [BA] A filter between source/receivers in the mechanistic model of communication. [WI]

    Gemeinschaft. A German word, translated as 'community', used by sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies to define an 'ideal type', or model, society where social bonds are personal and direct and there are strong shared values and beliefs. Characteristic of small scale, localized societies, it is in contrast to Gesellschaft which refers to complex, impersonal societies. [DP]

    Gender. A social construct related to masculine and feminine behaviors that are learned. [SB] A social, symbolic construction that expresses the meanings a society confers on biological sex. Feminine and masculine are gender terms that refer to socially expected and prescribed qualities in women and men, respectively. Sex and gender are not absolutely correlated, so women and men may be masculine or feminine or degrees of both. [WO95] Socially created system of values, identities, and behaviors that are prescribed for women and men. Unlike sex, which is biologically determined, gender is socially constructed. [WO97]

    Gender roles. Social roles ascribed to individuals on the basis of their sex. The term gender differs from sex because it refers specifically to the cultural definition of the roles and behaviour appropriate to members of each sex rather than to those aspects of human behaviour that are determined by biology. Thus giving birth is a female sex role, while the role of infant nurturer and care giver (which could be performed by a male) is a gender role usually ascribed to females. [DP]

    General Systems Theory. The description of living systems in terms of the interdependence of their components and relationships among components. [AR] A view of systems that examines the system as more than the simple interconnectedness between objects; presupposes an active and reactive system fed on information. [SHH]

    Gesellschaft. A German word, translated as 'society-association', used by Ferdinand Tonnies to refer to an 'ideal type', or model, of a society where social bonds are primarily impersonal, instrumental and narrow. Characteristic of large scale, complex societies, with a strict division between private and public spheres of life, it contrasts to the community-oriented life of the Gemeinschaft. [DP]

    Glass ceiling. A barrier preventing females from reaching top positions in many organizations. [GB] In the analysis of women in the work place, this concept is useful for describing the invisible barriers that block the promotion of women. It refers to barriers that are not explicit, but are inherent in the social organization and social relationships of the workplace. For example, women may find their corporate careers obstructed because they are excluded from the recreational and social associations created by male fellow workers and lack the social contacts that are important in gaining status and recognition. [DP]

    Globalization. The process of interconnecting the world's people with respect to the cultural, economic, political, technological, and environmental aspects of their lives. [GB] A comprehensive world-wide process of the internationalisation of communication, trade and economic organization. In the economic sphere it can be seen in international trade agreements, vast increases in the volume of international trade and growing economic interdependency. It is also marked by the expansion of the size and power of multinational corporations and the development of the American entertainment industry's domination of international cultural communication. Generally the process is seen as driven by the growth of international capitalism and involving the transformation of the culture and social structures of non-capitalist and pre-industrial societies. [DP]

    Grapevine. An organization's informal channels of communication, based mainly on friendship or acquaintance, [GB] Grass roots lobbying. Organizing local constituencies to influence government decision makers. [BA]

    Great person theory. The view that leaders possess special traits that set them apart from others and that these traits are responsible for their assuming positions of power and authority. [GB]

    Group. A collection of two or more interacting individuals who maintain stable patterns of relationships, share common goals, and perceive themselves as being a group. [GB] An aggregate of individuals having some characteristic in common. They may be distinguished from others by appearance, language, socio-economic status or cultural values and practices. A group is often characterized by a sense of common identity, shared interests and goals among its members, but a group may exist simply because its members share some objective characteristic and are defined as a group by others. [DP] Collection of individuals who form a system in which members influence one another, derive mutual satisfaction from one another, have a common purpose, take on roles, are interdependent, and interact with one another. [SB]

    Group Decision Support System (GDSS). A computer-based system that supports message exchange, collaboration on ideas, projects, and products, and/or group decision-making. [WI]

    Groupthink. A group communication process where high group cohesiveness impairs decisions by stimulating premature closure on important issues. [IRW] The tendency for members of highly cohesive groups to conform to group pressures regarding a certain decision so strongly that they fail to think critically, rejecting the potentially correcting influences of outsiders. [GB] A dysfunction in which group members value the harmony of the group more than new ideas, fail to critically examine ideas, hesitate to change de-cisions, or lack willingness to allow new members to participate. [SB]

    HBack to the top of the page.

    Halo effect. The tendency for our overall impressions of others to affect objective evaluations of their specific traits; perceiving high correlations between characteristics that may be unrelated. [GB]

    Haptics. Tactile, or touch, communication; one of the most basic forms of communication. [SB]

    Hawthorne effect. An increase in worker productivity observed at the Chicago Hawthorne plant of General Electric in the 1920's and 1930's attributed to improvements in worker-management communication and increased involvement of workers with each other. The term is now used more generally to refer to improvement of worker productivity that does not result from any objective change in working conditions or work organization, but seems to arise from workers having more positive psychological feelings about the workplace. [DP]

    Hermeneutics. The branch of philosophy that investigates the interpretation of texts; in one form popularized by Gadamer, hermeneutics emphasizes the historical and inherently linguistic nature of experience in denying a transmissional model of communication. [AR]

    Hierarchy. Ordering in which parts are related to each other in subordinate or superordinate fashions. For example, they may be more or less important, large or complex. A system is composed of a hierarchy consisting of subsystems and suprasystems. [IRW] A proposition underlying systems theory which maintains that systems are organized in a successively more inclusive and complex pattern and that to understand systems of behavior, several appropriate levels should be examined. [BA] A structuring of social statuses and roles within an organization or society ranked according to differentiations of power, authority, wealth, income, etc. Related terms are ranking or stratification. [DP]

    High-context culture. Culture in which most of the information in a message is encoded in the physical context or in the person's mental catalog of rules, roles and values. [IRW] The meaning of the communication act is inferred from the situation or location. [SB]

    Homeostasis. A characteristic of systems whereby feedback seeks to maintain the system at the current level. [SHH] A steady state, equilibrium, balance. General systems theory claims that living systems (relationships, for example) strive for, but never fully achieve, homeostasis. Dialectical theory, on the other hand, claims that continuous change is the very nature of relationships. [WO97]

    Horizontal chain of communication. Communication between organization. members on the same hierarchical level (between two managers or between two subordinates, for example). [IRW]

    Hot media. McLuhan's term for relatively complete media that do not require significant human participation. [WO97]

    Human capital. The talents and capabilities that individuals contribute to the process of production. Companies, governments and individuals can invest in this 'capital' just as they can invest in technology and buildings or in finances. [DP]

    Humanism. Form of science that focuses on human choices, motives, and meanings and that assumes the reasons or causes of human behavior lie within humans, not outside of them. [WO97]

    Hypodermic needle theory. The belief that people receive information directly without any intervening variable, as in a vacuum. [WAAC]

    IBack to the top of the page.

    Immediacy. Theory of immediacy demonstrates how persons signal the emotional responses of attraction, dominance, and arousal through nonverbal (and verbal) messages related to physical closeness; for example, eye contact and movement toward another, as indicators of immediacy, correlate with desires for increased involvement. [AR]

    Impression management. Efforts by individuals to improve how they appear to others. [GB] Creating a positive image of oneself in order to influence the perceptions of others. [SB]

    Informal communication systems. Communlcation links and networks (not determined by the organizatinal chart) which arise through natural human interaction. For example, two workers who might have no formal communication links may be connected in the informal communication system because they both play on the company golf team or eat lunch together. [IRW]

    Informal groups. Groups that develop naturally among people, without any direction from the organization within which they operate. [GB]

    Interaction. Exchange of communication in which communicators take turns sending and receiving messages. [SB]

    Intercultural communication. Communication between individuals or groups from different cultures or from different subcultures (for example, ethnic groups) of the same sociocultural system. [IRW] Branch of communication field that studies communication between people from different cultures, including distinct cultures within a single country. [WO97]

    Interest group. A group of individuals and organizations linked together for the purpose of active promotion of particular values and objectives. Interest groups are usually associated with the political process through which they seek support and resources for their objectives. [DP]

    Internet. Master computer network connecting networks world-wide, enabling computer users to exchange e-mail, hold electronic conversations, obtain information and entertainment, and operate sites on the World Wide Web. [WAAC]

    Interorganizational communication. Structures communication among organizations linking them with their environments. [BA]

    Interpersonal communication. Exchange between two or more persons in close proximity using conversation and gestures. [WAAC] Communication between two people. [IRW] The exchange of messages between individuals through which needs, perceptions, and values are shared and by which mutual meanings and expectations are developed. [BA] Communication between individuals. Interpersonal communication exists on a continuum ranging from impersonal (between social roles) to highly personal. [WO97]

    Interpretation. An active process whereby individuals perceive and assign meaning to phenomena, relying on their working models to do so. [WO95]

    Interview. Carefully planned and executed question-and-answer session designed to exchange desired information between two parties. [SB] Intrapersonal communication. Communication with oneself, including self?talk, planning, and reflections. [WO97]

    Issues management. Program of identifying and addressing issues of public concern in which a company is or should be involved. [WAAC] The process of identifying issues that potentially impact organizations and managing organizational activities related to those issues. [BA]

    JBack to the top of the page.

    KBack to the top of the page.

    Key contacts. People who can either influence the publics an organization is trying to reach or who have direct power to help the organization. [BA]

    Kinesics. Sometimes referred to as "body language"; any movement of the face or body that communicates a message. [SB]

    K.I.S.S principle. A basic principle of communication advising that messages should be as short and simple as possible (an abbreviation for keep it short and simple). [GB]

    LBack to the top of the page.

    Laissez-faire leader. Leader who gives complete decision-making freedom to the group or to individual members. [SB]

    Language. Structured system of signs, sounds, gestures, and marks used and understood to express ideas and feelings among people within a community, nation, geographic area, or cultural tradition. [SB] Laissez-faire leadership style. The leader provides the means for members to accomplish group goals and has minimal involvement in group functioning. [IRW]

    Latent public. People who are not aware of an existing problem. [BA]

    Leadership. The process whereby one individual influences other group members toward the attainment of defined group or organizational goals. [GB] An influence process that includes any behavior that helps clarify or guide the group to achieve its goals. [SB]

    Liaison(s). Person who links two groups but is not a member of either group. [IRW] Individuals who serve as linking pins connecting two or more groups within organizational communication networks. Sometimes referred to as internal boundary spanners. [BA]

    Libertarianism. A philosophy or belief system which gives priority to the liberty of the individual. May be associated with classical liberalism regarding economic matters or the protection of those negative liberties which declare the right of the individual to be free from interference by the state, or the community, unless the actions of the individual constitute harm to others. For example, the individual has the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religious expression, freedom of contract. Libertarianism is related to individualism and contrasted with communitarianism. [DP]

    Line organization. A method of structuring organizations as a sequence of ascending levels of responsibility for the production of goods or services. [BA]

    Listening. The active process of receiving aural stimuli by hearing, selecting, attending, understanding, evaluating, and remembering. [SB]

    Literate epoch. Second era in media history of civilization. Invention of the phonetic alphabet inaugurated the literate epoch in which common symbols allow people to communicate with writing. [WO97]

    Lobbying. The practice of trying to influence governmental decisions. Usually done by agents who serve interest groups. [BA]

    Lobbyist. Person who presents an organization´s point of view to members of [...] government bodies. [WAAC]

    Logos. Aristotelian concept associated with persuasion; proof or apparent proof provided by the words used in the speech. [SHH]

    Low-context culture. Culture in which most information in a message is contained in the explicit or verbal message. [IRW] The meaning of the communication act is inferred from the messages being sent and not the location where the communication occurs. [SB]

    MBack to the top of the page.

    Machiavellianism. Personality trait which involves manipulating other people as a basic strategy of social influence. [IRW] A personality trait involving willingness to manipulate others for one's own purposes. [GB]

    Magic bullet theory. Influential early perspective on media effects; held that media caused direct and measurable effects on individuals in the mass audience. [AR] Theory which suggests that the mass media influence a large group directly and uniformly. Also referred to as the hypodermic needle theory. [IRW]

    Mainstreaming. Argues that heavy television viewing diminishes differences in perceptions of reality caused by demographic and social factors. [IRW] The effect of television in stabilizing and homogenizing views within a society. [WO97]

    Management-by-objectives (MBO). A process that specifies that supervisors and employees will jointly set goals for employees. Usually followed by a joint evaluation of the employee's progress after a set period of time. [BA] The technique by which managers and their subordinates work together to set and then meet organizational goals. [GB]

    Mass communication. The process by which a complex organization, with the aid of one or more machines, produces and transmits public messages that are directed at large, heterogeneous, and scattered audiences. [D] Communication to large audiences which is mediated by electronic or print media. [IRW]

    Marketing communications. Product publicity, promotion, and advertising. |WAAC]

    Masculine communication orientation. Cultivated by participation in masculine communication cultures, this orientation views the goals of communication as asserting self, competing for attention and influence, and achieving objectives. It is enacted through a communication style that is competitive, individualistic, emotionally reserved, and instrumental. [WO95]

    Masculine culture. According to Hofstede, cultures in which people are highly materialistic and value assertiveness and the acquisition of money. [GB]

    Mass culture. A set of cultural values and ideas that arise from common exposure of a population to the same cultural activities, communications media, music and art, etc. Mass culture becomes possible only with modern communications and electronic media. A mass culture is transmitted to individuals, rather than arising from people's daily interactions, and therefore lacks the distinctive content of cultures rooted in community and region. Mass culture tends to reproduce the liberal value of individualism and to foster a view of the citizen as consumer. [DP]

    Mass media. The channels of mass communication. [D] Sociologically speaking in modern times the 'community' has been replaced by a 'mass', a set of autonomous and disconnected individuals, with little sense of community. The mass media then is that media (radio, television, newspapers, etc) which are targeted at the mass rather than at specific groups or communities. [DP]

    Matrix organization. The type of departmentalization in which a product or project form is superimposed on a functional form. [GB]

    Mcworld. A concept developed by Benjamin Barber to describe the new globalized world where nation states have little power and citizenship has become meaningless as a cornerstone of democracy. This new world is ruled by corporations (multinational corporations or in Barber's terms antinational corporations) which see everyone simply as consumers. In this new world citizens can no longer effectively use democracy to enhance or protect social values because this would interfere with the marketplace. The assumption is that the actions of countless consumers will best satisfy the social needs of communities. [DP]

    Meaning. A human construction arising out of interpreting and negotiating interpretations with others. [WO95]

    Mechanistic organization. An organizational structure in which people perform specialized jobs, many rigid rules are imposed, and authority is vested in a few top-ranking officials. [GB]

    Media richness. The degree to which a medium facilitates feedback or provides multiple cues to reduce message ambiguity. Rich media are considered most efficient for highly ambiguous communication. [WI]

    Mediated interpersonal communication. Any situation where mediated technology (for example, telephone, computer) is used to advance face-to-face interaction. [IRW]

    Medium is the message. A central idea of communications theorist Marshall McLuhan who demonstrated that each media (print, speech, television) is connected with a different pattern or arrangement among the senses and thus results in a different awareness or perception. Although the literal message of a radio report of a disaster and the television coverage of the same event may be identical, the event will be perceived differently and take on different meaning because the two media arrange the senses differently. In this sense the medium (the singular for the word media) is the message; this message is often more important than the literal message. [DP]

    Message. A stimulus to which meanings are attributed in communication. [AR] Set of verbal and/or nonverbal symbols sent to a receiver. [IRW]

    Metacommunication. The process of communicating about communication. [AR]

    Metaphor. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase relates one object or idea to another object or idea that are not commonly linked together. [SB]

    Model. A verbal or pictorial description or representation of a process. [AR] A way of looking at something. [BA] A representation of something else. Models may represent their referents physically, verbally, and/or visually. [WO95]

    Moderating public. Those people who could make it easier for an organization to get its message through to the public it really wants to reach.

    Monitor. Process of observing ourselves and our actions. Monitoring is possible because humans are self-reflective. [WO95]

    MUM effect. The reluctance to transmit bad news, shown either by not transmitting the message at all, or by delegating the task to someone else. [GB]

    NBack to the top of the page.

    Narrative paradigm/theory. Point of view that asserts humans are natural storytellers and that most, if not all, communication is storytelling. [WO97]

    News conferences. Structured opportunities to release news simultaneously to all media. [BA]

    News release. A story prepared for the media to share information and generate publicity. [BA]

    Newsletters. Regiularly published internal documents describing information of interest to employees regarding an array of business and nonbusiness issues affecting them. [GB]

    Noble self. Tendency to be inflexible in expressing a position; to base behavior on a rigid conception of self. [IRW]

    Noise. Any internal or external interference with the sending and receiving of messages. [AR]

    Nonverbal communication. The transmission of messages without the use of words (e.g., by gestures, the use of space). [GB] One of two major communication code systems; sometimes defined as all that language is not; communicated via channels other than words. [SHH] Any information that is expressed without words. [SB]

    Norm. A culturally established rule prescribing appropriate social behaviour. Norms are relatively specific and precise and elaborate the detailed behavioural requirements that flow from more general and overarching social values . For example, it is a value in Western society that one should respect the dead, it is a norm that one should dress in dark colours for a funeral. [DP]

    Not-for-profit organization. A group or company whose primary purpose is not to make a profit, regardless of whether it actually does so in a given year. [BA]

    OBack to the top of the page.

    Opinion. The verbal or nonverbal expression of an attitude. [SHH]

    Opinion-leader(s). Person who influences the opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of others through informal communication. [IRW] People who are instrumental in influencing other people's attitudes or actions. [BA]

    Organization. Hierarchically organized group of people so large that personal relationships with every member of the group are impossible. Organizations tend to outlive individual members and to be regulated by formal structures and rules. [IRW] A structured social system consisting of groups and individuals working together to meet some agreed-upon objectives. [GB]

    Organizational change. Planned or unplanned transformations in an organization's structure, technology, and/or people. [GB]

    Organizational chart. A diagram representing the connections between the various departments within an organization; a graphic representation of organizational structure, indicating who is to communicate with whom. [GB]

    Organizational climate. The collective subjective perceptions held by an organization's employees concerning organizational policies, structure, leadership, standards, values, and rules. [BA]

    Organizational commitment. The extent to which an individual identifies and is involved with his or her organization and/or is unwilling to leave it. [GB]

    Organizational communication. Communication between and among the indlviduals and groups which make up an organization. [IRW] The exchange and interaction of informal and formal messages within networks of interdependent relationships. [BA]

    Organizational culture. A cognitive framework consisting of attitudes, values, behavioral norms, and expectations shared by organization members. [GB] Understandings about identity and codes of thought and action that are shared by members of an organization. [WO97]

    Organizational structure. The formal configuration between individuals and groups with respect to the allocation of tasks, responsibilities, and authorities within organizations. The formally prescribed pattern of interrelationships existing between the various units of an organization. [GB]

    Outsourcing. The practice of eliminating nonessential aspects of business operations by hiring other companies to perform these tasks. [GB]

    PBack to the top of the page.

    Paralanguage. Vocal (but nonverbal) dimension of speech; the manner in which something is said rather than what is said. [IRW] The way we vocalize, or say, the words we speak. [SB]

    Parasocial relationship. The tendency of some audience members to identify with media figures (such as celebrities or fictional characters) as though an interpersonal relationship has been established. [AR] A situation whereby audience members develop a sense of kinship or friendship with media personalities. [D] A type of "relationship" which exists between television viewers and media performers (for example, talk show hosts, entertainers, sports stars). [IRW]

    Pathos. Aristotelian concept associated with persuasion; the emotive aspects of the speech and audience. [SHH]

    Perception. The process by which an organism assimilates, interprets, and uses sensory data. [AR]

    Personal relationship. Voluntary commitments that are marked by continuing and significant interdependence between particular individuals and that are constantly in process. [WO95]

    Personalized communication. Using nicknames, coded terms, and special vocabulary to enhance partners' feelings of being connected and to exclude others by demarcating the boundaries of an intimate relationship. [WO95]

    Persuasion. Attitude change toward a source's proposal resulting from a message designed to alter a receiver's beliefs about the proposal. [IRW] Communication process, involving both verbal and nonverbal messages, that attempts to reinforce or change listeners' attitudes, beliefs, values, or behavior. [SB]

    Plagiarism. Use of another person's information, language, or ideas without citing the originator and making it appear that the user is the originator. [SB]

    Planned publicity. Publicity that is the planned result of a conscious effort to attract attention to an issue, event, or organization. [BA]

    Policy. A type of standing plan that serves as a guide for decision making and usually is set by top management. [BA]

    Popular culture. Intellectual opinions of popular culture, the culture of the masses, have been deeply shaped by critical theory. Since the Frankfurt School, which identified with the 'high culture' of the intellectual classes, popular culture has been seen as trivial, demeaning and commercialized, serving the interests of the capitalist system. Post-modernist theorists, however, no longer accept the belief that there is some objectively superior high culture setting a standard from which to make evaluations of others. They have been more interested in popular culture as representing the voices of the previously silent, and by adopting the methods of film analysis or literary criticism they examine the way popular culture is produced and the underlying assumptions upon which its meaning rests. [DP]

    Positioning. The practice of creating corporate identity programs that establish a position in the market for a company and its products. Also, the effort to get ahead by doing something first. [WAAC]

    Positivism. One way to think about the relationship between science and society and found in the early writings of August Comte. All of the assumptions that Comte makes are now rejected by postmodernists. Comte begins by imposing meaning on history, arguing that societies evolve through three stages: the theological stage, the metaphysical stage and the positive (or scientific) stage. Each of these stages is reproduced in the evolution of the human mind. The human mind, and the most privileged among these was the sociologist, would use the scientific method to arrive at an understanding of the universal laws of social development. Comte argues against democratic discourse in the belief that parties involved in the political process are always committed to a particular viewpoint. Only science can rise above the local and particular and understand impartially. The application of this knowledge to society would enable the liberation of individuals. Positivism, therefore, places science in a privileged position; assumes the possibility of a scientific understanding of human and social behaviour; assumes the separation of knowledge and power; and assumes the possibility of objectivity and impartiality. Positivism shaped sociology for the next 100 years. In much contemporary social science debate, however, positivism has become a term of abuse. [DP]

    Postmodern. Refers to era of social life that emerged after modernism. Postmodern society is described as fragmented, uncertain, and continuously in flux; individuals are described not as a core self, but as a range of selves that are brought forth by and embodied in particular contexts. [WO97] In social theory it is best seen as a rejection of central assumptions of the modern world or of what has been described as the 'enlightenment project'. This project has had at least two core beliefs. First is the assumption that modern society will become more democratic and just because of our growing ability to rationally and objectively understand the community's best interests. Second is the assumption that scientists and social theorists hold a privileged viewpoint since they are taken to operate outside of local interests or bias. Each of these assumptions suggests the possibility of disinterested knowledge, universal truths and social progress. The late twentieth century writings of Michel Foucault and Jean Francois Lyotard called these assumption into question. Foucault's work has argued that knowledge and power are always intertwined and that the social sciences, rather than empowering human actors, have made humans into objects of inquiry and have subjected them to knowledge legitimated by the claims of science. Similarly Lyotard has argued that social theory has always imposed meaning on historical events (think of the writing of Marx) rather than providing for the understanding of the empirical significance of events. This rejection of the idea of social and intellectual progress implies that people must accept the possibility of history having no meaning or purpose, abandon the idea that we can know what is or is not true and accept that science can never create and test theories according to universal scientific principles because there is no unitary reality from which such principles can be established. We are left living in a fragmented world with multiple realities, a suspicion of science or authoritative claims and many groups involved in identity politics in order to impose their reality on others. The clearest signs of a postmodern approach to sociology can be found in social constructionism, ethnomethodology and labeling theory. [DP]

    Poststructuralism/poststructural theory. Point of view that emphasizes relationships among language, subjectivity, social organization, and power. [WO97]

    Power. Relationship between people including the ability to control the behavior(s) of others. The potential to influence or restrict a partner's behaviors. [IRW]

    Power distance. According to Hofstede, the degree to which the unequal distribution of power is accepted by people in a culture (high power distance) or rejected by them (low power distance). [GB]

    Prejudice. Prejudging others using positive or negative attitudes based on stereotypes rather than information about a specific individual. [IRW] To make a judgment about an individual or group of individuals on the basis of their social, physical or cultural characteristics. Such judgments are usually negative, but prejudice can also be exercised to give undue favour and advantage to members of particular groups. Prejudice is often seen as the attitudinal component of discrimination. [DP]

    Primary public. The group of people an organization ultimately hopes to influence or gain approval from. [BA]

    Print epoch. Third era in media history of civilization. Invention of the printing press made it possible to mass-produce written materials so that reading was no longer restricted to elite members of society. [WO97]

    Prototype. An organized understanding of what the defining qualities are of some category of people, events, objects, or situations. [WO95]

    Proxemics. Study of the use of space and of distance between individuals when they are communicating. [SB]

    Public. A group of individuals tied together by a sense of common characteristics or responses. [BA]

    Public affairs. That aspect of public relations dealing with the political environment of organizations. [BA]

    Public communication. A multistep, multidirectional process in which messages are disseminated to a broad, and sometimes undifferentiated, audience through complex networks of active transmitters. [BA]

    Public opinion. An attitudinal measure of the image a public holds concerning some person, object, or concept. [BA]

    Public relations. A management function that helps define an organization's philosophy and direction by maintaining communication within a firm and with outside forces and by monitoring and helping a firm adapt to significant public opinion. [BA]

    Public speaking. Presentation of a speech, usually prepared in advance, during which the speaker is the central focus of an audience's attention. [SB]

    Publicity. Publication of news about an organization or person for which time or space was not purchased. [BA]

    Publisher. Chief official of a newspaper who directs financial, mechanical, and administrative operations, and sometimes news and editorial operations as well. [WAAC]

    QBack to the top of the page.

    RBack to the top of the page.

    Race. A classification of humans beings into different categories on the basis of their biological characteristics. There have been a variety of schemes for race classification based on physical characteristics such as skin colour, head shape, eye colour and shape, nose size and shape etc. A common classification system uses four major groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid and Australoid. The term was once popular in anthropology, but has now fallen into disrepute, because the idea of racial classification has become associated with racism - the claim that there is hierarchy of races. The idea of race categories also appears to be unscientific, since humans are able to mate across all 'races' and have done so throughout history, creating an enormous variety of human genetic inheritance. In addition the defining characteristics of 'race' do not appear in all members of each so-called race, but merely occur with some degree of statistical frequency. If the defining characteristic of each 'race' does not appear in all members of each 'race' then the whole definition is clearly inadequate. [DP]

    Racism. An ideology based on the idea that humans can be separated into distinct racial groups and that these groups can be ranked on a hierarchy of intelligence, ability, morality etc. [DP]

    Red herring. A fallacy that uses irrelevant information to divert attention away from the real issue. [SB]

    Reengineering. The fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve drastic improvements in performance. [GB]

    Repatriation. The process of readjustment associated with returning to one´s native culture after spending time away from it. [GB]

    Resistance to change. The tendeng for employees to be unwilling to go along with organizational changes, either because of individual fears of the unknown or organizational impediments (such as structural inertia). [GB]

    Rhetorical reflector. Tendency to be too flexible in expressing a position by ignoring self and telling people only what they want to hear. [IRW]

    Rhetorical sensitivity. Tendency to be flexible in adapting to others in communication; to base behavior on a complex network of perceived selves. [IRW]

    Ritual. Communicative performances that are regularly repeated in an organization and that members of an organization come to regard as familiar and routine. [WO97]

    Role. The typical behavior that characterizes a person in a specific social context. [GB] A position, or status, within a social structure that is shaped by relatively precise behavioural expectations (norms). A role has been described as the active component of status. The individual, placed within a status in a social structure, performs their role in a way shaped by normative expectations. Individuals have varying ideas about normative standards and their own unique values, so role behaviour is not standardized, however radical departure from expected role behaviour will usually result in social sanctions. [DP] A position that specifies behavioral expectations and status in relation to others. [WO95]

    Rules. Shared understandings about what is appropriate and inappropriate in various situations. [WO95]

    Rumors. Information with little basis in fact, often transmitted through informal channels. [GB]

    SBack to the top of the page.

    Scientific management. An early approach to management and organizational behavior emphasizing the importance of designing jobs as effeciently as posiible. [GB] A method of work organization where management implements a specialised division of labour and sets out detailed instructions for the performance of work. Associated with the innovative methods introduced by Frederick Taylor to separate workers from their knowledge of the work process, to divide labour so as to pay only for the specific skill required to perform a narrow function and to establish management as the controller of work and the work process. [DP]

    Search engines. Programs used to find information on the World Wide Web. [SB]

    Self-disclosure. Communication in which information about self normally hidden is revealed honestly and accurately to another. [IRW] Voluntary sharing of information about the self that another person is not likely to know. [SB] Disclosing personal or private information about oneself to another. [WO95]

    Self-fulfilling prophecy. Molding of behavior by expectations so that what was expected does indeed happen. [SB]

    Self-presentation. An intentional tactic in which a person reveals certain aspects of himself or herself in order to accomplish specific goals. [SB]

    Sex. The biological classification of individuals as males and females. Sociologists would note, however, that even though this is a classification based on biological differences it is a socially constructed classification. [DP] Biological and genetic quality. Sex refers to being male or female. Sex is not the same as gender. [WO97]

    Sexism. Actions or attitudes that discriminate against people based solely on their gender. Sexism is linked to power in that those with power are typically treated with favour and those without power are typically discriminated against. Sexism is also related to stereotypes since the discriminatory actions or attitudes are frequently based on false beliefs or over generalizations about gender and on seeing gender as relevant when it is not. [DP]

    Sexist language. Language that creates sexual stereo-types or implies that one gender is superior to another. [SB]

    Sign. Something that stands for or represents something else and bears a natural, nonarbitrary relationship to it. For example, dark clouds, thunder, and lightning are signs of rain. [IRW]

    Signal. Another category of sign. That which stands for something by virtue of a natural relationship of causality, contingency or resemblance. For example. a blinking yellow light signals drivers to slow down. [IRW]

    Small group. Group of fewer than 20 people who develop regular patterns of interaction and share a common purpose; members influence and are influenced by each other. [IRW]

    Small group communication. Communication between and among the members of a small group; communication involving several people. [IRW] Exchange of information among a relatively small number of persons, usually three to thirteen, who share a common purpose, such as doing a task, solving a problem, making a decision, or sharing information. [SB]

    Small talk. Casual conversation that is often impersonal and superficial, including greetings, comments about the weather, newsworthy events, or trivia. [SB]

    Social loafing. The tendency for group members to exert less individual effort on an additive task as the size of the group increases. [GB]

    Social relationships. Relationships in which participants interact with social roles but do not significantly depend on each other as individuals. [WO95]

    Source. The originator of a thought or idea subsequently transmitted to others in the communication process. [D] Originator of a message. [IRW]

    Spamming. Sending unsolicited mass e-mail to members of e-mail discussion lists or Usenet newsgroups. [WI]

    Speech community. A group of people who share understandings of comrnunication that are not shared by people outside of the group. [WO97]

    Spiral of silence theory. Explains how perceptions of public opinion can minimize social expression of minority opinion while exaggerating majority voices. [AR]

    Spontaneous publicity. Publicity accompanying unplanned events. [BA]

    Stakeholder analysis. A method for characterizing publics according to their interest in an issue. [BA]

    Stereotypes/stereotyping. Beliefs about members of a group based on learned opinions rather than information about a specific individual. [IRW] Beliefs that all members of specific groups share similar traits and are prone to behave the same way. [GB] The categorizing of events, objects, and people without regard to unique individual characteristics and qualities. [SB] Predictive knowledge based on understandings of how members of some category can be expected to act. [WO95]

    Strategic plans. Long-range plans concerning a group's major goals and ways of carrying them out. These plans usually are made by top management. [BA]

    Subsystem(s). Elements that make up a system. [SHH] Smaller units which are part of a system's hierarchy. [IRW]

    Suprasystem(s). An element of systems theory that presupposes that a number of systems are interrelated to form a larger entity, the "suprasystem". [SHH] Larger units which make up a system: suprasystems are composed of subsystems. [IRW]

    Symbol. Representation of an idea. [SHH] Type of sign which is arbitrary, agreed upon, and is used to stimulate meaning. That which stands for or represents something else but bears no natural relationship to it. [IRW] Arbitrary, ambiguous, and abstract representations of other phenomena. Symbols are the basis of language, much nonverbal behavior, and human thought. [WO97]

    Symmetrical. A form of communcation and relationships in which power is equal between partners. [WO97] Symptom. Type of sign that bears a natural relation to an object. [IRW]

    Synergy. A proposition underlying systems theory which maintains that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. [BA]

    Synchronous communication. Also known as simultaneous communication. Communication during which participants engage in the process at the same time, such as telephone conversation or Internet chat room. [WI]

    System(s). Set of interdependent units which work together to adapt to a changing environment. An organization is one type of system. [IRW] A set of objects or events grouped together by sets of relationships. [BA] Entities that function as a result of the interdependent action of its components (subsystems). A closed system is neither sensitive to its environment, nor does it make adjustments for external events (e.g., a wristwatch). An open system is sensitive to environmental influences, and may have internal mechanisms for adjustment (e.g., an organization). [WI]

    TBack to the top of the page.

    Tactical plans. Short-range plans for accomplishing the steps that lead up to achieving an organization's goals. These plans are carried out at every level of an organization and on an everyday basis. [BA]

    Target audience. In advertising, the segment of the population for whom the product or service has an appeal. [D] The primary group an organization is trying to influence. [BA]

    Taylorism. The work management principles followed by Frederick Taylor designed to transfer control of the work process to management and to achieve the greatest rate of productivity from workers through dividing labour and having work performed in a manner detailed by management. [DP]

    Team. A group whose members have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose or set of performance goals for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. [GB] A special form of group that is characterized by a close-knit relationship, members with different and complementary abilities, and a strong sense of identity. [SB]

    Technological determinism. Point of view that claims that media decisively influence how individual think, fell, and act, as well as how they view collective life. [WO97]

    Technophile. Literally, a lover of technology. Likely to be a person who sees the positive benefits deriving from technology and advocating increased use of technology as a solution to economic, social and political problems within the society. [DP]

    Technophobia. Literally, the fear of technology. [DP]

    Theory. An account of what something is and/or how it works and/ or what it produces or causes to happen and/or what should be the case. Theories are points of view, human constructions. [WO97] A tentative but usually systematic explanation for a problematic situation; an educated guess open to change. [AR] An explanation or belief about how something works. [BA]

    Transaction. A relationship in which each party simultaneously defines and is defined by the other. [AR]

    Tribal epoch. First era in media history of civilization. During the tribal epoch, the oral tradition reigned and face-to-face talking and listening were primary forms of communication. [WO97]

    Trust. Faith in the behavior of another. Promotes confidence in risk taking. [IRW] The belief among employees that they will be treated fairly by their organization and, more specifically, by their immediate supervisor. [GB]

    Trustworthiness. Audience's perception of a speaker's reliability and dependability. [SB]

    Turn-taking. Behavior which exhibits the exchange of source and receiver roles during conversation. [IRW]

    Two-step flow. Theory which asserts that information from media is processed first by opinion leaders who then pass it along via interpersonal channels. [IRW]

    UBack to the top of the page.

    Uncertainty avoidance. According to Hofstede, the degree to which people in a culture feel threatened by, and attempt to avoid, ambiguous situations. [GB]

    Uncertainty reduction theory. Point of view that claims uncertainty motivates communication and certainty reduces the motivation to communicate. [WO97]

    Uncontrolled media. Those media whose actions are not under the public relations practitioner's control, such as community newspapers and radio. [BA]

    Upward communication. Communication from lower members of the organizational hierarchy (subordinates) to members higher in the organization (i.e., managers, vice-presidents). [IRW]

    Uses and gratifications approach. Explains how mass media audiences make choice to use media content for their own gratifications and their own purposes. [AR]

    VBack to the top of the page.

    Value(s). Relatively general cultural prescriptions of what is right, moral and desirable. Values provide the broad foundations for specific normative regulation of social interaction. [DP] A general, relatively long-lasting ideal that guides behavior. [SB]

    Verbal communication. One of two major communication code systems; associated with our spoken and written language; typically labeled as "language". [SHH] The transmission of messages using words, either written or spoken. [GB]

    Vertical chain of communication. Communication between members of different levels of organizational hierarchy; i.e., between managers and subordinates. [IRW]

    WBack to the top of the page.

    Whistle-blowing. Insiders telling the media what they know about improper practices by others, usually in the same company, with the hope of improving the situation. [BA] Calling attention to actions or practices that are inconsistent with established organizational norms or policies. [GB]

    Work team. A group of people who are responsible for a whole work process or a segment of the process that delivers a product or service to an internal or external customer. [SB]

    XBack to the top of the page.

    Xenophobia. An individual's irrational and obsessive hatred of people perceived as different and foreign. Related to the concepts of racism and ethnocentrism. All of these can be overcome by the study of the social sciences and coming to appreciate the ideas of culture and social structure as tools for understanding ourselves and others. [DP]

    YBack to the top of the page.

    ZBack to the top of the page.


    8.2.1: Communication Glossary is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?