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General Contexts

Intrapersonal Communication (Persuasion)

Interpersonal Communication

Small Group Communication

Organizational Communication

Intercultural Communication

Mass Communication

Applied Contexts

Health Communication

Instructional Communication

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Last updated February 24, 2000


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Explanation of Theory:

Human behavior can be predicted because people make choices with a purpose about their actions.  Behavior is chosen by individuals to reach certain goals.

Theorist: P. Winch

Date:  1958

Primary Article:

      Winch, P. (1958). "The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy," Atlantic HIghlands, NJ. Humanities Press.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumption:
There is some fate concerning this theory, although free will does rule behavior which can be predicted when goals are observed. 

Epistemological Assumption:
Since there can be many different goals assessed for a person's behavior, there are many truths that could be possible for this humanistic theory.

Axiological Assumption:
Values definitely play a part in this humanistic theory- which ones are more important to an individual are the ones that goals will be modeled after and could be used to track behavior.


This theory is used as a measure to provide better understanding of behavior that has already occurred, it says nothing about future behavior.

Ideas and Implications:

The Human Action Approach is useful to apply in situations when trying to explain behavior that has already occurred.  Studying historical events or known past experiences could use the Human Action Approach.


An applicable example to help illustrate the Human Action Approach is a group of people listening to a persuasive speech about smoking and lung cancer.  Fear appeals had nothing to do with changing people's minds.  They were presented with new information- that stopping smoking increases life expectancy even for former smokers- that was what led the audience members to quit.  There was a change in behavior because the audience saw living longer as a goal.

Relevant Research:

      DeVoe, D. (1999). "Employers can help with personal problems." InfoWorld.

      Choi, Y.B. (1997). "Professor Choi's response." The American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

      Mwanthi, M.W., Nyabola, L.O., Tenambergen, E. (1997). "Solid waste management in Nairobi City: knowledge and attitudes." Journal of Environmental Health.


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. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. pp. 76-90, 179-181, 260, 272-78, 309-311, 332-341, 381-383, 415-418, 433-35, 451-53.

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A