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Explanation of Theory: Rules Theory claims that communication is most successful and competent when interactants have shared rules influencing their communication processes.

Theorists Susan Shimanoff

Date: 1980

Primary Article: Shimanoff, S. "Group Interaction via Communication Rules," in Robert S. Cathcart & Larry A. Samovar (eds.), Small Group Communication: A reader, 6th ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: am. C. Brown, 1992. 

Individual Interpretations: I believe that this theory this interesting because it refers to rules as norms. Rules can also be broken though, so the theory explains how rules are followed and used in certain ways. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumptions: This theory is deterministic. It views groups as following specific set rules to be able to function properly. 

Epistemological Assumptions :This theory is based on one truth, that no matter what the culture is, there are rules that structure the comunication of group participants. The truth also claims that these rules may differ from group to group and culture to culture, yet they will always be present. 

Axiological Assumptions: This theory is value-laden because it does account for culture differences. Rules may structure communication, but the values of a particular culture are what structure the rules to begin with.

Critique: People interact in certain ways according to rules, yet we do not know their motive, as to whether or not they are following rules, avoiding rules, or simplying identifying with the situation.

Ideas and Implications:

- People have a choice to follow rules or not. A rule is prescriptive and contextual. In groups, rules indicate which behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate.

- There are seven categories to go by which include: who says, what, to whom, when, with what duration and frequency, through what medium, and by what decision procedure.

Example: Certain public places have rules we automatically follow, like waving as a way to say hi. Yet, if we were to travel to a different country, we would find that simple things such as waving hands, or eye contact, could be taken in a very negative way and we could be looked down upon. 

Relevant Research:

     Beebe & Masterson. (1997). Communicating in Small Groups: Principles & Practices. New York: Longman. Pp. 39-40

     Shimanoff, S., Communication Rules: Theory and Research (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1980), p.57.

Other Communication Scholars who have done work on this theory: Beebe & Masterson, & Joan Ganz. 

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, p. 39-40 & 141-149.

    Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, not in. 

    Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, numerous listings, see index. 

   Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, numerous listings, see index.

     Infante, D. A., Rancer, A.S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, numerous listings, see index.

      Littlejohn, S.W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 24, 84-88, & 184-191.

     West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, p. 250-253. 

      Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, numerous listings, see index.