Table of Contents

General Contexts

Intrapersonal Communication (Persuasion)

Interpersonal Communication

Small Group Communication

Organizational Communication

Intercultural Communication

Mass Communication

Applied Contexts

Health Communication

Instructional Communication

Honors Capstone Home Page

Last updated February 19, 2001


Click Here to Go Back to Persuasion Context Page

Congruity Theory

Explanation of Theory:

The Congruity theory predicts that if there are two contradicting people, sets of information, or concepts on which a judgment must be made by a single observer, the observer will experience pressure to change his or her judgment on one of the sides.  However, if the two sets of information are similar or congruent, then there will be no problem, and the observer will not experience pressure of any form. 

Theorist: Osgood, C., & Tannenbaum, P.

Date:  1955

Primary Article:

      Osgood, C., & Tannenbaum, P. (1955). The principle of congruity in the prediction of attitude change.  Psychology Review, 62, 42-55. 

Individual Interpretations:

My interpretation of the Congruity theory is that only the observer will determine whether or not they will feel pressure.  The observer alone must decide the level of congruence between the two sides, before doing one of two things: (1) taking a stance in the middle and viewing the exchange as one without problem, or (2) changing their viewpoint of one of the sides. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Through the analysis of the ontological, epistemological, and axiological assumptions, it can be dervied that the congruity theory is naturalistic. 

Ontological Assumptions:
Congruity theory appears to have multiple realities, and there are numerous ways to view things when using the theory to conduct a study or perform an analysis. 

Epistemological Assumptions:
Congruity theory takes a dependent view of things, as things could change to each observer, depending on the way they view what is going on between the two main parties involved. 

Axiological Assumptions:
Congruity theory appears to value-laden in nature, and it takes into account that separate observers may be biased. 

Congruity theory is a scientific model because it is predictive of how third-party observers will react to an argument between two main parties. It does little to explain why people do what they do necessarily in such a situation, but simply states how their actions and views might change. 

Ideas and Implications:
The basic premise of the theory is to help determine the levels of congruence between two sides.  If a third-party observer feels pressure to take a side or change a viewpoint, there must be low levels of congruence between the two sides.  If the third-party observer feels no pressure, than there must be a high level of congruence between the two immediate parties. 

Dan and Patty are having a discussion regarding what movie they feel is the best of all time.  If Dan argues that Star Wars is much better than Return of the Jedi, and that the two are not similar in any fashion, it is less likely that an independent observer will gauge the two movies to be similar.  The two movies will remain on opposite spectrums to the observer.  Consequently, if Patty argues that the two movies are very similar, but that Return of the Jedi was much better, an on-looker to the discussion will begin to view the movies on more of an equilibrium. 

Other Scholars Who Have Used This Theory: 
Brown, R.
Kerrick, J.
Moss, C.
Stachowiak, J.

Relevant Research:
     Brown, R. (1962). Models of Attitude Change. In R.Brown, E. Galanter, E. Hess, & G. Mandler (Contributors), New Directions in Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. (1-85)

      Kerrick, J. (1958). The effect of relevant and non-relevant sources on attitude change. Journal of Social Psychology 15-20.

      Stachowiak, J. & Moss, C. (1965). Hypnotic alterations of social attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology  77-83.

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. N/A

      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