Expectancy Violation Theory
Expectancy Violation Theory of Judee Burgoon deals with violation valence, expectancy, and communicator reward valence. Edward Hall discussed proxemics, which consisted of four personal zones in which the Americans correspond with each other:
a) intimate distance
b) personal distance
c) social distance
d) public distance.
Each of these have different distances between the sender and receiver of a message. Intimate distance is 0-18 inches, personal distance is 18 inches to 4 feet, social distance is 4 feet to 10 feet, public distance is 10 feet and more, each of these zones are norms for the American society. Burgoon did not argue that there were these "zones" but she believed that by "violating social norms and personal expectancy is a superior strategy to conform" (Griffin 1997). Burgoon believed that there is a time to break these rules. Expectancy is not used in a traditional sense, Burgoon says " prefer to reserve the term expectancy for what is predicted to occur rather than what is desired" (Griffin 1997). In expectancy three factors determine how we act. Context, relationship, and communicator are gauges on how we act. Context are culture norms, for each culture has its own set of proxemics. Also context has to deal with the environment that the conversation takes place in. "Relationship factors include similarity, familiarity, liking, and relative status" (Griffin 1997). Burgoon discovered that lower-status people will always tend to keep their distance. Communicator has to deal with personal qualities which include, age, sex, place of birth, appearance, personality and communication style.
Violation valence is first evaluated by the receiver then judged on weather we liked it or not. The meaning is not always easy to receive or interpreted, although sometimes it can be very obvious. One ambiguous violation is when a unexpecting touch on the arm can leave one wondering for days if it was "total involvement of conversation, warmth and affection, display of dominance, or a sexual move" (Griffin 1997). Although it may seem there must be thousands of ambiguous violations, Burgoon has proved it not to be true through the expectation theory. A touch of an arm accompanied by a gaze in ones eyes, with intimate distance, is easily interpreted to be a sign of a sexual move.
Communicator reward valence is a term used to "label the results of our mental audit of likely gains and loses" (Griffin 1997). This part of the theory involves the "what can you do for me" also "what can you do to me" (Griffin 1997). The issue of reward potential is prevalent when someone violates our expectancies and there is no explanation of what they have done. Factors that affect what we would do in this situation are: status, ability, good looks, liking, appreciation, and trust. If a person A finds person B attractive and person B violates person A personal space, person A will be less offended than normal response.
There are many tests that show that this theory works in reality. These tests are just one factor that shows this theory as being scientific. Other factors that include it in being scientific are that the theory is practical and also predictable. Traditionally deception was judged by gaze inversion, speech disturbances, postural shifts. If the expectancy violation theory is correct, factors that determine deception should be able to determined in non-verbal communication.
Test by Charles Bond prove that the Expectation violation theory is true. First subject where video taped aloud giving responses to questions. Then judges evaluated the tapes, saying weather the subject where telling the truth or lying. The judges came to this conclusion if the subject answered the question quickly or delayed they where perceived to be lying. "If the subject answered with intimidated delay then they where perceived to be telling the truth"(Bond 1992). Then Bond set up a test for non-verbal signs, to tell if deception could be interpreted through body movements. Strange postures and actions (raising left shoulder to ear, raising hand above head) were videotaped while telling the truth and while lying, also the judges where showed normal behavior in communication. The hypothesis was that the judges would pick out the strange behaviors as being lies. The method included fifty-four undergraduate students, forty-eight which participated in the truth and lie procedure and six subject participated in posed behavior procedure. The lie and truth subjects identified:
a) a person they liked
b) person they disliked
c) a person they liked as if they disliked them
d) a person they disliked as if it was a person they liked.(Bond 1992).
No behaviors where posed during any of these descriptions. The six other subject participated in the posed behavior procedure describing two people that they liked and disliked. While doing that the subjects were asked to do nothing for one of the two procedure, for the other one they where asked to:
a) close there eyes
b) raise hand above head
c) touch right shoulder to right ear
d) raise hand to point at the camera
All of these have no reference to deception, although according to expectancy violation theory "weird behaviors are perceived to be more dishonest than normal communication" (Burgoon 1988). Then the judges saw the videotapes with no sound, first seeing the forty-eight unopposed students followed by the six posed students. The judges had ten seconds to choose if the subjects where telling lies or the truth. Consistent with the expectancy violation theory the subjects that posed were perceived to be telling lies. The judges came to this conclusion that 1/4 of the subjects where telling the truth, 1/4 of the subjects where lying, 1/4 of the subjects where anxious, and 1/4 of the subjects where calm" (Bond 1992).
"Most people can barely discriminate lie from truth,
where as a few are gifted at lie detection. Perhaps individual differences in lie detection are related to the tendency to infer deceptions from weird behaviors" (Bond 1992).
To assess this possibility, testing the subject ability to detect lies was the next experiment. Then the subjects saw a videotape without sound and given false information on what the subjects where saying. Then asked to discriminate truth from lie. Nineteen of the twenty-nine subjects achieved more than 60% accuracy, where as ten of the subjects achieved better than 40% accuracy. "As shown by the correlation analysis, accurate detectors and inaccurate detectors were likely to infer deception from weird behaviors" (Bond 1992).
Bond also did another experiment showing that other cultures could also be used to prove that the expectancy violation theory does work. Bond went to a remote village in India where he paid the subjects to lie in front of a camera and in front of the judges while he had them pose. "If the expectancy violation theory is valid, deception should be attributed to weird behaviors. Even if the people posing these behaviors are telling lies and are motivated the theory should still be true"(Burgoon 1988). This experiment differs from Bonds earlier one in three ways: in the sampling of the subject, in presentation format, and in control procedures. In this experiment a new set of behaviors were added while keeping the previous four things that were said about the non friend, friend in the first experiment. Not knowing it was off camera the Indians where asked to raise their right heel off the ground while lying about two acquaintances (one he like and one he disliked). Then lying about the two other acquaintances, the Indians where asked either to: touch left ear to left shoulder, lift leg and hold parallel to the floor, bend their torsos, touch both hand to bottom of jaw. These poses appeared on the camera and also on audio tape. The judges all agreed that this behavior was weird, and "according to the expectancy violation theory, weird looks should make a person look dishonest"(Bond 1992). This prediction was supported when the judges saw four subject on camera then heard four subjects on the tapes. The judges came to the conclusion that the people that where on camera where lying more than the subject on the tape.
An experiment done by Burgoon to confirm the expectancy violation theory is to prove that interacting with friends and interacting with strangers has stronger reward valence towards friends. Though this may seem to be obvious, to go along with the expectancy violation theory requires taking "evaluations into account" (Burgoon 1988). A significant increase in level of involvement should be regarded as desirable when a friend presented a positive violation, when committed by a stranger and a negative violation should occur. Thus the hypothesis is "friends are perceived as more attractive, more credible , more intimate/similar, non aroused/composed, and immediate relational communication than strangers"(Burgoon 1988). In this experiment Burgoon says
"A significant increase in the level of involvement should be regarded as desirable when committed by a friend but possibly excessive and discomforting when presented by a stranger.”
The results were tested on a high/ normal/ low rating system of friends. This system was the reward valence system. According to this hypothesis friends where more understanding when they violated what the friend was expecting. Although friends received immediate relational communication strangers had midpoints. These included attraction, creditability and non-dominant. This initial rating system is not completely correct so the rest of the hypothesis is un-testable.
Another test that was done by Burgoon is the "communication effects of gaze behavior." Gaze is highly ranked among non-verbal cues that carry relationship messages. Even in 1924 Simmel states "Mutual gaze is the most direct form of interaction that exists." Gaze is important because without looking into people face it is impossible to convey other action that such as, "facial, gastrul and postural communication becomes impossible." There has been many test that show if looking into people in the eyes when talking, the speaker seem more creditable and on the other hand, not looking at people when talking, gives the impression that they are lying or less creditable. Burgoon also says persuasion can be affected by gaze. To test this Burgoon set up job interviews with high, normal, and low gaze, during the interview. The results came back the people with high or normal gaze got the job more often. Although tests done by Manusov could not prove this to be true and believes "gaze has no likelihood of hiring." Burgoon and many other found that gender plays an important role in the gaze persuasion.
Burgoon conducted a test at a large South-Western university, that involved 87 females and 58 males (145 total). Three hypothesis where made to determine how gaze affects peoples opinion. Hypothesis one, "Gaze aversion carries more negative relational meaning than do normal or high amounts." Hypothesis two, "Gaze aversion produces less communication creditability, attraction, and persuasion than normal or high amounts of gaze." And the final hypothesis "for rewarding communicators, high amounts f gaze produces greater attraction, creditability, and persuasion than normal amounts of gaze."(Burgoon 1986).The test was
"Subjects, serving as interviewers,conducted six-minutes interviews with one of four confederate interviewees who manipulated eye contact (high, normal, and low) and who were attributed to have either strong or weak credentials (high or low reward). Following the videotape interviews, subject completed scales measuring their likelihood of hiring andperception of the interviewee/confederate on creditability, attraction, and relational communication." (Burgoon 1986, 509).
The four confederates, two male and two female, had
extensive training in learning confederate script and
participating in gaze manipulation, maintaining consistency through out the whole experiment.The test that took place in a one bedroom apartment, was set up with video equipment. When arriving subjects where told they had been randomly assigned the role of an interviewer and the interviewee,who already arrived was filling out an application form. The subject were then given written "instructions concerning the interview, a one page description of the company, job description itself, and a set of questions to be asked the interviewee."(Burgoon 1986, 510).
The subject then equal amounts of time to look over their instructions. The applications were then rewarded as high or low reward conditions. "The assignment of reward level was random but completely counterbalanced across the gaze conditions and confederates, who were blind to the reward condition" (Burgoon 1986). Then the interview was conducted with the confederates ranging their gaze patterns:
a) High- 90% plus, gaze
b) Normal- 45-60%, gaze
c) low- 10% gaze
The results of the test proved hypothesis oneand two
were consistent with Burgoons thoughts. Low gaze or gaze
aversion yield less favorable in communication than high
normal amounts of gaze.In hypothesis three, high gaze was
found to have the most favorable "interpretations and
The theory of expectancy violation is practical in the real world and applicable for many reasons. This theory helps in how to change your relationship and keep it alive. The breaking of norms, such as getting into the proxemics zones of friends is not always necessarily bad, and can stimulate a friendship. The theory also teaches you not to break the proxemics zones with certain people. The reward valence is practical although sounding shallow, it is true. You are friends with people that can do things for you, although you also do things for you friends. When some one changes their normal response or look at you in an unexpected way, it now can be proven why. Also this theory proves why or why not people do certain body gestures in certain instances.