The system of beliefs and practices that produces a physical and mental standard that is projected as normal for a human being and labels deviations from it abnormal, resulting in unequal treatment and access to resources.

actual self

The attributes that you or someone else believes you actually possess.

Antimiscegenation laws

Made it illegal for people of different racial/ethnic groups to marry.

Ascribed identities

Personal, social, or cultural identities that are placed on us by others.


An explanation for what is happening.

avowed identities

Those that we claim for ourselves.


A “cause and effect” relationship for all actions.


The method a sender uses to send a message to a receiver such as verbal and nonverbal forms of communication.


Changing from one way of speaking to another between or within interactions.

Cognitive flexibility

The ability to continually supplement and revise existing knowledge to create new categories rather than forcing new knowledge into old categories.

cognitive style

Gathering information, constructing meaning, and organizing and applying knowledge.


The process of using symbols to exchange meaning.

Communication climate

The overall feeling or emotional mood between people.

communication studies

An academic field whose primary focus is who says what, through what channels of communication, to whom, and what will be the results.

Cultural identities

Socially constructed categories that teach us a way of being and include expectations for social behavior or ways of acting.

cultural-individual dialectic

Captures the interplay between patterned behaviors learned from a cultural group and individual behaviors that may be variations on or counter to those of the larger culture.


The ongoing negotiation of learned and patterned beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors.


Dualistic ways of thinking that highlight opposites, reducing the ability to see gradations that exist in between concepts.

differences-similarities dialectic

How we are simultaneously similar to and different from others.

Dominant identities

Historically had and currently have more resources and influence.

empirical laws paradigm

Approach communication from the perspective that there are universal or natural laws that govern how we communicate.


Reduce and overlook important variations within a group.

External attributions

Connect the cause of behaviors to situational factors.

extrinsic motivation

Do something to receive a reward or avoid punishment.

fundamental attribution error

Tendency to explain others’ behaviors using internal rather than external attributions.


An identity based on internalized cultural notions of masculinity and femininity that is constructed through communication and interaction.


If a prediction shows that a behavior produces a certain outcome, we can broaden our predictions to include a wide variety of people, situations, and contexts.

halo effect

Initial positive perceptions lead us to view later interactions as positive.

history/past-present/future dialectic

While current cultural conditions are important and our actions now will inevitably affect our future, those conditions are not without a history.

horn effect

Initial negative perceptions lead us to view later interactions as negative.

ideal self

The attributes that you or someone else would like you to possess.

ideology of domination

Makes it seem natural and normal to many that some people or groups will always have power over others.

Intercultural communication

Communication between people with differing cultural identities

Intercultural communication competence (ICC)

The ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in various cultural contexts.

Intercultural relationships

Formed between people with different cultural identities and include friends, romantic partners, family, and coworkers.

Internal attributions

Connect the cause of behaviors to personal aspects such as personality traits.


The process of assigning meaning to our experiences using schemata.

intersectional reflexivity

A reflective practice by which we acknowledge intersecting identities, both privileged and disadvantaged, and implicate ourselves in social hierarchies and inequalities.


Acknowledges that we each have multiple cultures and identities that intersect with each other.

intrinsic motivation

Do something for the love of doing it or for the resulting internal satisfaction.

Linear Model of Communication

The transmission of a message from the sender to the receiver.

looking glass self

We see ourselves reflected in other people’s reactions to us and then form our self-concept based on how we believe other people see us.

mass communication

The public transfer of messages through media or technology-driven channels to a large number of recipients from an entity, usually involving some type of cost or fee (advertising) for the user.

medical model of disability

Places disability as an individual and medical rather than social and cultural issue.


The particular meaning or content the sender wishes the receiver to understand. It can be intentional or unintentional, written or spoken, verbal or nonverbal, or any combination of these.


A state of self- and other-monitoring that informs later reflection on communication interactions.


The underlying force that drives us to do things.


Anything external or internal that interferes with the sending or receiving of a message.

nondominant identities

Historically had and currently have less resources and influence.


Sort and categorize information that we perceive based on innate and learned cognitive patterns called schemata.

ought self

The attributes you or someone else believes you should possess.


A way for us to organize a great number of ideas into categories.


A system of social structures and practices that maintains the values, priorities, and interests of men as a group.


The process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting information.

personal construct

Measure people and situations by generalizing people into their category or stereotype.

Personal identities

The components of self that are primarily intrapersonal and connected to our life experiences.

personal-contextual dialectic

The connection between our personal patterns of and preferences for communicating and how various contexts influence the personal.


Once someone determines a particular law is at work, they can use it to predict outcomes of future similar communication situations.

privileges-disadvantages dialectic

The complex interrelation of unearned, systemic advantages and disadvantages that operate among our various identities.


An ideal or best example of a particular category.


Someone who receives a message that they must decode (interpret) in a way that is meaningful for them.

Reference groups

The groups we use for social comparison, and they typically change based on what we are evaluating.


The degree to which something attracts our attention in a particular context.


Singular form of schemata.


Innate and learned cognitive patterns such as prototypes, personal construct, stereotypes, and scripts.


A sequence of activities that spells out how we and others are expected to act in a specific situation.


Focus attention on certain incoming sensory information.


The overall idea of who a person thinks they are.

Self-discrepancy theory

Beliefs about and expectations for their actual and potential selves that do not always match up with what they actually experience.


The judgments people make about their ability to perform a task within a specific context.


The judgments and evaluations we make about our self-concept.

Self-fulfilling prophecies

Thought and action patterns in which a person’s false belief triggers a behavior that makes the initial false belief actually or seemingly come true.

self-serving bias

Attributing the cause of our successes to internal personal factors while attributing our failures to external factors beyond our control.


Someone who initiates communication by encoding and sending a message to a receiver through a particular channel.


Biological characteristics, including external genitalia, internal sex organs, chromosomes, and hormones.

Sexual orientation

A person’s primary physical and emotional sexual attraction and activity.

Social comparison theory

We describe and evaluate ourselves in terms of how we compare to other people based on two dimensions: superiority/inferiority and similarity/difference.

Social constructionism

A view that argues the self is formed through our interactions with others and in relationship to social, cultural, and political contexts.

social identities

The components of self that are derived from involvement in social groups with which we are interpersonally committed.

static-dynamic dialectic

Culture and communication change over time yet often appear to be and are experienced as stable.


The process of predicting generalizations of people and situations.


A way of looking at events, organizing them, and representing them.

Tolerance for uncertainty

An individual’s attitude about and level of comfort in uncertain situations.

Transactional Model

Communication participants act as senders and receivers simultaneously, creating reality through their interactions.

Transformative learning

Occurs when we encounter situations that challenge our accumulated knowledge and our ability to accommodate that knowledge to manage a real-world situation.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression do not match the gender they were assigned by birth.


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Fundamentals of Communication Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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