Table of Contents
Last updated February 14, 2001
SPRING 2001 THEORY WORKBOOK
Explanation of Theory: Functional Perspective claims that there are four functions for effective decision making which include an analysis of the problem, goal setting, identification of alternatives, and an evaluation of positive and negative characteristics, all of which are equally important.
Theorists: Randy Hirokawa & Dennis Gouran
Dennis & Hirokawa, R. "The Role of Communication in Decision-Making
Groups: A Functional Perspective," in Mary Mander (ed.) Communications
in Transition, Praeger, NY, 1983, pp. 168-185.
Model: Can be found on page 287 in Theories of Human Communication by Littlejohn
Individual Interpretations: I believe that this theory is very good in guiding groups through different types of communication. The theory stresses all four functions as being important, which they are.
theory is very deterministic in that the groups follow a linear pattern
along four steps, not necessarily inputing their own thoughts.
theory is based on one truth. There is a system that groups will follow
theory is value-neutral because there is a four- step system that groups
follow to rationalize their communication, regardless of their original
There are many political and social factors, which are not accounted for
in this theory. These will inevitably play a role in group communication,
therefore inhibiting the group process. People like to do things the way
they always have been (historical function) & a discussion of those
who aren¹t present, but are involved (institutional function).
Ideas and Implications:
- By following the four functions, effective decision can be made.
- The functions do not need to be prioritized because they are all important to fulfilling group needs.
- There are some losses due to the process of group decision making.
- Promotive communication keeps the group moving along, yet some members can be disruptive or even counteractive.
- Most of the research on this theory has been some in a controlled setting.
When a group gets together in one of the classes here at UK, one of their
first assignments is usually to form a peer evaluation form. The process
that they go through to determine what is important to them could very
easily follow along these four functions so that the group can reach their
Gouran, D., Hirokawa, R., Julian, K., & Leatham, G., "The Evolution & Current Status of the Functional Perspective on Communication in Decision-Making & Problem Solving Groups," in Communication Yearbook, 16, Stanley Deetz (ed.), Sage, Newbury Park, CA, 1993, pp. 573-600.
Hirokawa, R., "Group Communication & Decision-Making Performance: A Continued Test of the Functional Perspective," Human Communication Research, Vol. 14, 1988, pp. 487-515.
Hirokawa, R., "Functional Approaches to the Study of Group Discussion," Small Group Research, Vol. 25, 1994, pp. 542-550.
Stohl, C. & Holmes, M. " A Functional Perspective for Bona Fide Groups," Communication Yearbook, 16, 1993, pp. 601-614.
Communication Scholars who have done work on this theory: Dirk Scheerhorn,
Cynthia Stohl, Michael Holmes, and Kelly Julian.
Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:
Anderson, R. & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of Communication: A practical
introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin¹s Press,
Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, p. 211-222.
Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 247-258.
Infante, D. A., Rancer, A.S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, not in.
Littlejohn, S.W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 286-287.
West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, not in.
Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, not in.