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Social Penetration Theory - Essay Example

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This essay “Social Penetration Theory” will demonstrate the link of this theory to everyday life experiences. The objective of this theory was to explain the relationship and predictability of linear dependency on time. It was based on a view that trust has to be developed in the process of relationship. …
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Social Penetration Theory
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Social Penetration Theory Social Penetration Theory Altman and Taylor introduced social penetration theory in 1973 (Altman $ Taylor, 1973). The theory states that as tictiveiveme goes by, the relationship between individuals gradually changes from casual and shallow to the formal and intimate association. The entire theory was based on a view that trust has to be developed in the process of relationship. The objective of this theory was to explain the relationship and predictability of linear dependency on time. This essay will demonstrate the link of this theory to everyday life experiences.
The social penetration theory can be broken down into five distinct stages. First is the orientation stage, which is characterized by playing safe with simple and harmless talk between individuals. The affective exploratory stage is the next stage. Here, personal attitude is expressed on moderate topics although individuals are not completely comfortable with one another. Typically, most of the friendships rarely go past this stage. Thirdly, the relationship moves to the affective stage where private matters are discussed, and arguments may arise. Physical closeness and intimate touching occasion it. After this stage, the relationship graduates to stability. This is the plateau on which private matters are deeply exhibited each of the involved parties can envisage the expressive response of each other (Altman $ Taylor, 1973). Lastly, depenetration may arise if the costs outdo the benefits accruing from the relationship (Altman $ Taylor, 1973).
This theory is well illustrated in music lyrics involving a love story line. The artist first introduces the characters and briefly gives a scenario of how they met. He then describes how they developed an interest in each other and superficial interaction, which is not personal. It is inferentially based on discussion of general issues such as education, economy among others. Later, the artist narrates how intimacy grew between the characters and how they handle arguments and criticism. Lastly, the artist climaxes the lyrics by recounting the aftermath of the relationship; that is if the association survived or depenetrated.
In applying the theory in the film titled “Jack Reacher,” the main character, Reacher, approaches Helen, who is an attorney to a murder suspect. Reacher believes that the suspect is innocent and tries to create rapport with the attorney by making a casual appearance in her office. He then tries to understand why Helen was defending the culprit. After some time of interaction, he offers to help in investigations that would aid in acquitting the suspect. When enough evidence is collected, Reacher serves justice and cuts contacts with Helen due to threats on his life.
From the above film synopsis, it is clear that relationship between Reacher and Helen conformed to the assumptions of social penetration theory with the exemption of physical intimacy. This is because Reacher wants to disguise his identity thereby curtailing the growth of their relationship. Apparently, their relationship ends with Reacher withdrawing since the cost of maintaining their legal association exceeded the benefits.
However, several factors affect the communication between individuals that are ignored in this theory such as gender, age, and racial background. These factors make it difficult to use the social penetration theory in the prediction of emotion and future of relationship beyond affective stage. For instance, two male students can be close friends who know each other well over time. In the event that one of them falls in love with a girl, this may cause communication breakdown between the two male friends if they are not used to sharing emotional experiences in the past. Therefore, the theory may fail to hold in such an instance.
References
Altman, I. & Taylor, D. A. (1973). Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal Relationships. New York. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Read More
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