The cognitive and ecological approaches to social knowing : an application to initial interactions



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Much of the theory and research of interpersonal communication has centered on the issue of social knowing. Two different theoretical approaches to this issue are contrasted. The cognitive approach, well accepted within the mainstream of psychology, has been the perspective from which much communication research has been conducted. A thorough articulation of the cognitive approach is provided. The ecological approach to understanding the nonsocial world has recently been applied to social situations. A careful delination of the ecological approach, including the theoretical background of the approach, the possible applications to areas of social knowing, and the type of research conducted to date is given. Social knowing within initial interactions is specifically addressed. Evidence of the cognitive orientation typical of most initial interaction research and questions concerning the usefulness of the cognitive approach are discussed. The ecological approach is considered as a framework for studying initial interaction behavior. Some of the implications of the ecological view to the conceptual and methodological issues in the study of initial interactions are outlined.



Interpersonal relations, Interpersonal communication, Social perception