Department of Communication

 Lexington, KY 40506-0042



Robert N. Bostrom

Professor of Communication Emeritus
Department of Communication
University of Kentucky
Lexington KY 40506



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Brief Biography






Began with Corax and Tisias, developed substance with Aristotle, and underlies the manner in which we describe and predict communicative phenomena. Modern communication theory has adopted a “subjectivist” flavor based on humanistic philosophy, and relying heavily on the assumption that theory and data are inseparable Two years ago, Communication Monographs ran my initial statement showing that theory and data were not only separable but had to be so. Then last year Editor Boster gave Charles Pavitt space to air some of his misgivings about my position, and gave me space to answer some of them. References for this exchange are on the right, and if you would like to read each in its entirety, click on the reference.


Bostrom, R. N. (2003). Theories, data and communication research. Communication Monographs 70, 275-294.


Pavitt, C. (2004). Theory-data interaction from the standpoint of scientific realism: A reaction to Bostrom. Communication Monographs, 71, 333-342.


Bostrom, R. N. (2004). Paradigms, theories and data. Communication Monographs, 71, 343-351.


  Should lawyers be good listeners? If so, should the LSAT (Law School Assessment Test) measure listening ability? They tried, and for an evaluation of their efforts, see the following report.

Bostrom, R. French, R. Johnson-Laird, P. Parshall, C. (2004). Review and Evaluation of the Development of a Listening Comprehension (LC) Section of the LSAT. Newtown, Pennsylvania, Law School Assesssment Council.






cllge48.gif TALKING 

 Why on earth would anyone want to study just "talking?" (you may ask)  One answer is that  after spending several years examining listening, it might be time to learn more about talking!   But the correct answer is simple: we just don't know very much about why people talk.  We have some ideas about social fears that inhibit talk, but little information about what it is that makes one person talk too much, and the other too little. 

        There are few things more rewarding than discovering something you (and everyone else) didn't know before.  Following a theoretical lead and seeing where it takes you is as much fun as fishing, exploring, and making music.    Several years ago, Mark Prather, Nancy Grant Harrington and I were trading anecdotes about people who talk too much.  One thing followed another, and we tentatively decided that they had learned this as children and their upbringing was responsible.  These efforts have come to fruition with two recent research reports: an article about compulsive talkers in Communication Education ( February (1999). and a paper about talking and birth order presented in Jerusalem at the ICA conference there.  


 We found that compulsives are more argumentative, less apprehensive, and have more positive attitudes about communication than did "normals."  They did not differ in self esteem or locus of control.    If you would like to read about the compulsive talkers, click on  Compulsive. If you would like to read about talking and birth order, click on Birth. In general, I am rethinking the whole problem of why people talk. Not that I have anyanswers! But to look at the problem anew,click on talking.


Remarkably little work has been done on this important subject, which seems to be fundamental to many other issues in theory. Marvin Harris wrote (in 1974) “It is quite imposible to subvert objective knowledge without subverting the basics of moral judgment. If we cannot know with reasonable certainty who did what, when, and where, we can scarcely hope to render a moral account of ourselves.” (from Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches, New York, Vintage Books, p. 251)

Communication, as a discipline, would seem to be foundationally eengaged with ethical issues. So far, however, we haven’t seemed to be.