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Pointers

Some retained notes from our discussion of the Intermediate Interpersonal Course with Social Pscyh:


Hello, I am Rich Izzett. I would like to respond to your message pertaining to a request about the Social Cognition literature. Sydne, I hope I don't come across as wanting to start a "turf war" but I have some concerns. I have looked in the 2001-2002 official course catalogue to get an idea of what your department is calling "Interpersonal Communication: Self & Society". I can't locate the course for a description.

My concern is this. Social Cognition is a sub-content area of social psychology and virtually all of the researchers in the area publish their work in social psychology journals. I have a list of many articles currently under review for publication or recently published and they are predominantly in the most respected journals of social psychology. The text that I use for Social Psychology has at least two chapters on social cognition, and social psychology would be a pre-requisite to a course on social cognition if offered in our department. Both Pam Brand and I have heavy demands placed on our time (Pam for her Violence courses which support PBJ and I for research statistics for psych majors) and hence are unlikely (I can't speak for Pam here but am surmising) to be able to directly offer a course in Social Cognition. Of course if we had a third social psychologist (like we have had in the past here - at one time during by tenure here there were 4 of us in the department) such a course in Social Cognition would most likely be offered.

My concern is that departments not teach material indigenous to other disciplines and then try to bootleg the material under a different name. You have peaked my curiosity about the course you refer to as Interpersonal Communication: Self and Society which I can not locate within the course catalogue. Could you please send me an outline of said course so that I could review it for its content?


When I spoke with you in the elevator the other day, it was not clear to me that the *primary* focus of this Comm Studies course you were planning to offer was to be social cognition. As Dr. Izzett pointed out, this is an area within social psychology. It is also quite a complex and sophisticated area of social psychology. It would be irresponsible of us to support the teaching of a social cognition course by anyone who has no training or background in this area, regardless of that person's talent as a teacher.

Indeed, I have very well qualified psychologists on my faculty who I would not endorse to teach this material because it falls outside their area of expertise. Fritz, I'm sure you would find it objectionable if I were to offer a course in journalism based upon the fact that I read the New York Times.

I understand the need for more II offerings in the fall, but it would be a mistake to sell students on courses focusing on material that the instructor has not mastered. It is my understanding that this course outline was rejected earlier by UCC on the basis that it was a psychology course to be taught by an individual who is not a psychologist. So far as I can tell, nothing has changed. If I am wrong, and the course outline has been substantially changed since then to focus on communication studies, I appologize and would be happy to take a look at it and offer suggestions as to how examples from research in social cognition may be able to add something. However if it is indeed the same course, I have to strenuously object to non-psychologists representing our science to undergraduates at this institution.


I fear that we may have accidentally created a very large misunderstanding. The Communication department has, for several years now, been trying to gain approval for the third course in a three course sequence on Interpersonal Communication. We don't really have good information on why it has not succeeded in gaining approval, but there are indications that, at least the first time around, that there were concerns in the psychology department. Your notes certainly clarify the concerns that psychology has in this area and the reasons, which we unfortunately did not have good information on, for the courses prior rejection under the title "Communication and Social Cognition".

I think it is important, at this juncture, to step back and make sure that we all understand first that we are drafting this course (so it isn't on the books) and second that the major focus of the course was not (and certainly is not now) social cognition. The major focus of the course is Interpersonal Communication. This was explicit in its sequence numbering with other Interpersonal Communication courses and in its intent. Psychology has a tradition related to "social cognition". So does communication. So, for that matter, does education. In communication, however, one major assocation, NCA, has a division named "Intrapersonal Communication and Social Cognition". Major textbooks on Interpersonal Communication, including one that I'm using now, explicitly use the vocabulary. This is not the result of an attempt to appropriate the subject matter of psychology. It reflects, rather, an edge that we share with psychology that is not unlike some of the edges between physics and chemistry.

Our focus, in communication, is not the mind. It is the systems and processes that enable messages to be constructed by people and understood by other people. Hence we have a focus on messages, the languages and media that enable them, the contexts in which they are created, and the people that create, receive, and facilitate them. The edge that we share, in a very limited way, with pscyhology, relates largely to the people that, in particular, receive messages, because many of the things that go wrong when people communicate with each other have to do with the processes by which they interpret them. This edge cuts both ways. Textbooks and courses in Interpersonal Communication routinely talk about perception and attribution (with references that originate, in some cases, in the psychology literature). Textbooks and courses in Psychology often refer to language and non-verbal communication (with references that originate, in some cases, in the communication literature).

The thing to keep in mind is that we are talking about an edge. Chemistry books and courses necessarily talk about high level atomic structure, as it is fundamental to molecular chemistry. Physics books necessarily talk, at least to some extent, about chemical reactions, as these reactions illustrate our understanding of high level atomic physics. Neither field is impinging on the other when it does so, for the edge is rarely the focus, but simply a necessary referent for understanding issues that are more central to each area. Physics care passionately about atomic structure, and uses chemistry to illustrate it. Chemistry cares passionately about molecular chemistry, and use physics to illustrate it. The same kind of edge is in play here. I won't characterise the focus of a psychology course, even though I have graduate level training in social psychology (with Ralph Rosnow) and cognitive psychology (with Massaro). You are certainly correct in asserting that I am not trained to teach a psychology course. I took these courses because I recognized that they were at the edge of my training, and that understanding of the subject matter was useful to my study of interpersonal communication.

Perception and attribution clearly are not the only areas in which we have overlapping edges. Persuasion has been a communication discipline since Aristotle, but attitute change research in psychology by Festinger and others is important to teaching persuasion. Heck, my masters thesis contrasts Festinger's theories of Distraction and Cognitive Dissonance in a controlled experimental manipulation of persuaive contexts and messages. I would note, relative to this area, that Martin Fishbein, whose work is certainly widely cited in both the Psychology and Communication literature, currently has a chair at the Annenburg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. I can name a number of similar edges, including friendships, relationships, pragmatics, and even linguistics. All are the subject of research, texts, and courses in both psychology (Psycholinguistics, for example) and communication (Semantics, for example). The issue, however, is not the edges. Communication proceeds from these edges to the study of how people create and use messages. Psychology proceeds from these edges to the study of how people think and behave.

The newly drafted third Interpersonal Communication course is tentatively titled "Communication, Self, and Society". In an earlier draft is was titled "Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Communication". I will not be surprised if changes again before it reaches the college curriculum review function. Regardless of title, its focus remains on messages, the languages and media that enable them, the contexts in which they are created, and the people that create, receive, and facilitate them. I, like most practitioners in Interpersonal Communication, make brief reference to perception, attribution theory, and emotion, among other things that are covered in somewhat parallel chapters of Interpersonal Communication and Social Psychology texts and courses. I also make reference to semiotics, phenomonology, transformational grammer, and semantic memory models. My references to phenomonology don't put me in competition with philosophy. My references to semantic memory models don't put me in competition with either artificial intelligence courses (even when I make reference to Turing, Simon, and others) or cognitive psychology. My references to transformational grammer don't put me in competion with linguistics. Similarly, my references to perception, attribution, and social cognition don't put me in competition with social psychology. Indeed, the introductory social psychology text in the bookstore covers these issues in considerably more detail that I do. In the end, however, people both send and receive messages, and the structure of meaning, grammar, language, and interpretation (including perception, attribution, and learning) are important to understanding the miracle of two people understanding each other.

I hope this note provides some insight into the course we have been drafting and our intentions in drafting it. Perhaps it can provide the basis for a reasoned dialog about perceived conflicts in our curriculums. I would share the web page reference to the draft syllabus if it were ready for external review, but we still haven't said yes to it within the human communication area. I would, however, be happy to sit down with you, at your convenience, to discuss the course design and intent. Better to work these issues out now than to go through another review cycle and have it turned down because of a misunderstanding.

Thanks in advance.


I have sent, under seperate cover (you were copied), a reply to the notes of Darville and Izzert. The intent of the note is to try to calm things down with information, and I think it does that, but I thought I should add a bit more for you folks.

I have taken the trouble to get a little more background on this. Social Psych has been shrinking in recent years, with two of what was once four headcount shifted to developmental psychology and one of the remaining two acting as department chair (Darville). From what I gather, this is representive of a general trend in Psychology (I've heard cognitive psychologists make jokes about the increasing irrelevancy of social psychology). Hence we appear to have sat ourselves down into a bit of a hornets nest that has less to do with the boundaries of communication and social psychology than it has to do with a self-esteem problem in social psychology. I feel bad about that. I have some training in social psych, and I had, at one point, a social psychologist (Rosnow) on my dissertation committee. He was traded out just a bit before the end in favor of a media theorist. A lot of good work has been, and continues to be, done in the area. Their problem should not be ours, however.

As a check (I'm not surprised at what I found), I took a look at the Social Psych texts that are currently being taught from (in the bookstore and library). It is certainly the case, as I note in less detail below, that two whole chapters of their social psych text overlaps, to some extent, with whole chapters of the Interpersonal texts we teach from. Ours include references to perception and attribution that are associated with psychology (even in the cites the texts use). Theirs include references to non-verbal communication, friendships, and relationship formation that we would associate with communication (even it the cites the texts use). I argue in the note I sent out that this overlap is minimal, reasonable and proably unavoidable. Our job now is to help reasonable minds to reach reasonable resolutions.

And if nothing else, the note may inform our discussion on Wednesday.


I spoke with Izzert and Darvill today. Both seem to be OK with the notion that we have some overlapping content at the edges of our courses but want to take a look at the outline when one is available.


You and fritz seemed to have addressed tom's concerns. that is for you folks to work out. i just wanted to point out that the tentative title overlaps a general education intellectual issues category. that might have been deliberate, but it also might cause some confusion. the title is yours to decide, but i thought i ought to make the point. as you say, better to work these things out now...

David Alan Bozak Associate Dean, Arts & Sciences


-- Last edited September 18, 2015

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Unless otherwise noted, the contents of this page were written by participants on the Media Space Wiki, operated by Davis Foulger, and should be cited accordingly. For example (APA):
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