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Interaction Adaptation Theory

Judee K. Burgoon

Subject Psychology
Interpersonal Communication » Communication and Relationships

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


In interpersonal encounters, people are usually responsive and adaptive to others (→  Interpersonal Communication ). Their gestures, voices, and words take on the quality of a dance as they mesh with one another to create a coordinated interaction. Interaction adaptation theory (IAT; Burgoon et al. 1995b ) predicts and explains how, when, and why people adapt to another's verbal and nonverbal communication (→  Nonverbal Communication and Culture ) in similar or dissimilar ways. It focuses on how pairs of communicators – actors and their partners – coordinate their communication styles with one another in ongoing conversations. The process of interaction adaptation is complex, nonobvious, and at times invisible. It can take a variety of forms, some of which are defined in Table 1 (see also Bernieri & Rosenthal 1991 ). Table 1  Forms and examples of adaptation Term Definition Example Matching Verbal or nonverbal behavioral similarity between two or more people A and B both speak loudly Mirroring Visual nonverbal similarity between two or more people A and B both sit with their arms crossed Complementarity One person's verbal or nonverbal behavior is the opposite of the other's A speaks loudly and B speaks softly Convergence One person's verbal or nonverbal behavior becomes more like another's over time A uses formal language and B uses informal language at time ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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