Communication Apprehension Personal Report of Term Paper

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Women and men vary not only in their choice of language but also in their conversational behavior. Differences have been found in turn-taking (who speaks when), expressivity, the selection of topics, and the use of humor.

Men have been found to take more turns and to talk more in mixed groups, in part because they interrupt women more often and answer questions not addressed to them. Turn-taking violations may take several forms: overlaps-two people speaking at once because the second speaker has started before the first one finished; interruptions-two people speaking at once before any signal that the first is near the end of the statement; and delayed minimal response. In same-sex conversations, turn-taking violations seem to be fairly equally divided; but in male-female conversations, practically all of the overlaps and interruptions are by male speakers, a general disregard by males for female speakers. In a study of turn-taking among university faculty members, this pattern was quite evident. Males interrupted more than females; the female who interrupted the most did so to other females. The person most often interrupted was a woman, the one person without a Ph.D. degree; the person interrupted least was the department chair. These observations would suggest that status had a good deal to do with turn-taking. The content of conversation also differs along gender lines. Women's conversations tend to be more expressive or relational, while men's contributions are more instrumental and goal-oriented. These styles generally reflect social roles in which men tend to be more instrumental and women more nurturing.

These styles generally reflect social roles in which men tend to be more instrumental and women more nurturing. In mixed-sex groups, women seem to take concern for group maintenance, for relief of tension, and for ego protection of other members. In choosing conversational topics, women choose to talk about persons about twice as often as men do. Men's preferred conversational topics are business and money, followed by sports and amusements. Women's preferred topics are men and clothes.

A final sex difference in conversation has to do with the use of humor. Women are generally less able than men to tell amusing narratives, especially in mixed-sex groups. Spontaneous humor, wit, and laughter in organizations seem to be distributed by status, with those at the lower end of the spectrum making many fewer witticisms than those with more authority. A pecking order prevails in which jokes or witticisms are never directed at persons higher in authority or rank. Women rarely make jokes, but they laugh hard at the jokes told by men. Social and situational factors other than sex also affect the use of language. The use of hesitant or uncertain forms may be influenced by individual psychological factors (for example, communication apprehension or low assertiveness), or by familiarity with the topic or with the listener. Speakers of both sexes also tend to use more intensifiers when they are familiar with the topic. In an interesting, if not reassuring, twist on the issue, women were found in one study to be more tentative in their speech when talking to men than when talking to women. However, contrary to expectations, women who spoke cautiously were more influential with men and less influential with women than those who spoke assertively. Clearly, more research is needed to fully understand how men and women differ in their use of language, what variables affect their choice of language, and how differences in language are perceived by others.


In the past 25 years, a substantial amount of research has accumulated regarding the nature and prevalence of communication apprehension (CA). The overwhelming majority of this research is based on McCroskeys (1982) conceptualization of CA as the fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated interaction with others. McCroskey's (1982) original conceptualization of CA focused exclusively on oral communication and included no specific mention of whether the construct is a trait -like feature of the individual or an individual's response to the situational features of the context. Although the majority of research on CA has treated this construct as trait -like, considerable attention has been directed toward situational CA. For example, the Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA) developed by McCroskey (1978; 1982) measures CA across four generalized contexts, including dyadic, small group, meeting, or public speaking. Recently Neuliep and McCroskey introduced another context in which people may experience CA; that is, intercultural communication. Andersen, (1999) defines intercultural communication apprehension (ICA) as the fear or anxiety associated with interacting with people of different cultures and/or ethnic groups. Leibowitz & Andersen, (1976) contend that ICA functions as a separate context of CA, like dyadic or public speaking. ICA is experienced when people are confronted by communication with people who are from ethnic or cultural backgrounds different than other own.

Larsen & LeRoux, (1984) argue that when individuals encounter cultural differences they tend to view people from other cultures as strangers. Strangers are unknown people who belong to different groups. Interacting with people from different cultures or ethnic groups may involve a very high degree of strangerness and a very low degree of familiarity. Lower, (1980) asserts that such circumstances may lead to intercultural communication apprehension. Two other salient situational features leading to increased anxiety include novelty and dissimilarity (Coker & Burgoon, (1987). Situations containing new, atypical, or conspicuously different stimuli are likely to increase anxiety. Intercultural communication is potentially fraught with novelty and dissimilarity.

Coussoule & Andersen, (1979) argues that effective intercultural communication is based, at least in part, on the ability to manage anxiety and uncertainty. Generalized anxiety is a multifaceted affective response characterized as an unpleasant emotional state marked by subjective feelings of tension, apprehension, and worry regarding potentially negative outcomes (Mehrabian, 1971). Anxiety manifests itself in feelings of discomfort, distress, and fear. Persons suffering from ICA experience these responses when confronted by communication situations involving persons from different cultures or ethnic groups. Uncertainty is a cognitive response and refers to the inability to predict or explain the behavior of others. In their formulation of Uncertainty Reduction Theory, Montagu, (1971) argues that whenever two people come together and interact for the first time, considerable uncertainty exists. Situations high in uncertainty often lead to high anxiety. Montagu, (1971) contends that the primary motive of interactants in these types of communication situations is to reduce uncertainty. Montagu, (1971) also argues that interactants are motivated to reduce uncertainty when they interact with people with whom they expect future interaction, provide rewards, or behave in some deviant fashion. Lederman, (1983) speculate that interactants may be more likely to try to reduce uncertainty in intercultural communication (i.e., with strangers) than during communication with someone who is familiar.

Many factors may influence the amount of uncertainty experienced by interactants during an intercultural encounter. Lederman (1983) points out at least five factors, including "expectations, social identities, and degree of similarity between interactants, shared communication networks, and the interpersonal salience of the contact with strangers." In addition, Wheeless, (1984) maintain that individuals have maximum and minimum thresholds of uncertainty. If uncertainty is above individuals' maximum threshold, they may not have enough information to communicate or they may feel uncomfortable communicating. In such cases, interactants may lack confidence in their ability to predict how a stranger will behave. If uncertainty is below individuals' minimum threshold, they may interpret interaction as boring and may become disinterested.

Conclusion and Findings

Uncertainty and anxiety are related such that as uncertainty increases so does anxiety. Like uncertainty, individuals have maximum and minimum thresholds for anxiety Andersen, (1985). When anxiety is above the maximum level, persons may feel so anxious that they avoid communicating with others or withdraw during communication. When anxiety is below minimum levels, people may not feel motivated to reduce uncertainty. In such cases, predictability may be high. Andersen, (1985) argues that to communicate effectively an individual's level of anxiety needs to be below the maximum and above the minimum thresholds of anxiety. Moreover, when anxiety is above the maximum threshold people have difficulty processing information. Mehrabian, (1971) have argued that anxiety interferes with normal information processing.

Although high levels of uncertainty are present whenever two people come together and interact for the first time, there may be inordinate levels of uncertainty during initial cross-cultural interaction. Interacting with a stranger within the boundaries of unfamiliar context may generate levels of ICA that hinder the ability of an individual to reduce uncertainty. Based on this rationale the following hypothesis was deduced:

H1: There will be a direct relationship between intercultural communication apprehension and uncertainty in initial cross-cultural interaction.


Andersen, J.F., Andersen, P.A., & Jensen, A.D. (1979). The measurement of nonverbal immediacy. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 7, 153-180.

Andersen, P.A. (1985). Nonverbal immediacy in interpersonal communication. In A.W. Siegman & S. Feldstein (Eds.), Multichannel integrations of nonverbal behavior (pp. 1-36). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Andersen, P.A. (1999). Nonverbal communication: Forms and functions. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Andersen, P.A., & Coussoule, A.R. (1980). The perceptual world of the communication apprehensive: The effect…

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