Social penetration theory: the relationship progress between two people
The social penetration theory was developed by Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor, they point out that this theory is a type of affective relationship in which individuals go from superficial communication to a more intimate one. It’s an attempt to understand the closeness between two people.
Social penetration theory: 5 assumptions
According to Altman and Taylor, relationships vary greatly in terms of their social penetration (an employee-boss relationship is not the same as wife-husband); they point out that all relationships follow some kind of particular trajectory, organized in some way and with a predictable development.
This theory includes three levels which are the intimate, the intellectual and the shared acts. It also includes verbal, non-verbal and environmental behavior.
The theory of social penetration has 5 assumptions:
- Relationships progress from non-intimate to intimate. Relationships begin on a superficial level and as time progresses, they progress to more intimate. Not all relationships progress, some stay somewhere in between.
- Relationships develop in an organized and predictable way. People, as well as communication, are changeable and dynamic.
- The development of the relationship includes that of penetration and dissolution. Not all relationships survive the test of time, some end or break down.
- Revealing intimate information is the essence of relationship development. Self-disclosure refers to the voluntary process of disclosing your own information to others.
- Self-disclosure can be strategic and non-strategic. Strategic disclosures are planned and non-strategic disclosures are spontaneous.
Social penetration theory:4 stages
This occurs at the public level and only superficial information is revealed.
2. Exploratory affective exchange
Aspects of the individual’s personality are beginning to be known. This is comparable to the relationship we have with acquaintances or neighbors, there is a lot of spontaneity since individuals feel relaxed and there is much more non-verbal communication. Many of the relationships do not go beyond this point.
3. Affective exchange
Interactions in this stage are much more spontaneous and informal. This stage occurs between close friends and intimate partners.
4. Stable exchange
It’s characterized by a broad expression of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that lead to a high degree of spontaneity and make the relationship unique. Partners become very intimate and behaviors become predictable. There are very few communication errors or misunderstandings at this stage because you know each other quite well.