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Reciprocity and Compensation in Interaction

Miles L. Patterson

Subject Psychology
Communication Studies » Interpersonal Communication

Key-Topics emotion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Social interaction is a complex, yet often subtle, process through which humans transmit information, pursue social goals, and initiate and sustain relationships. Even in the current digital age with its various forms of remote communication, face-to-face interaction is still critical for our social and emotional well-being. One way of characterizing the give-and-take between people in interactions is in terms of the relative changes partners make in their behavior over time; specifically, compensation and reciprocation. Compensation refers to a pattern of balancing or controlling the partner's behavioral intimacy by moving in the opposite direction. Thus, too much intimacy by one person precipitates avoidance and too little intimacy precipitates approach. In contrast, when a partner's behavioral intimacy is matched or intensified, the resulting pattern is described as reciprocation. On the verbal side of interactions, reciprocation or matching of self-disclosure seems to be the dominant pattern. Although verbal communication is obviously important, nonverbal communication typically has a greater impact than the verbal on social judgments, interpersonal attitudes, and influence ( Patterson 2002 ). In fact, most of the research and theory on compensation and reciprocation has focused on nonverbal communication. Consequently, this discussion examines the evolution of our understanding ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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