The social penetration theory SPT proposes that, as relationships develop, interpersonal communication moves from relatively shallow, non-intimate levels to deeper, more intimate ones.
Altman and Taylor notes that relationships "involve different levels of intimacy of exchange or degree of social penetration". The social penetration theory is known as an objective theory as opposed to an interpretive theory, meaning that it is based on data drawn from experiments and not from conclusions based on individuals' specific experiences.
The social penetration theory states that the relationship development occurs primarily through self-disclosureor intentionally revealing personal information such as personal motives or desires, feelings, thoughts, and experiences to others.
This theory is also guided by the assumptions that relationship development is systematic and predictable. Through self-disclosure, relationships development follows particular trajectory, moving Social penetration theory of pyschology superficial layers of exchanges to more intimate ones. Social penetration theory is based on four basic assumptions.
For instance, on a first date, people tend to present their outer images only, talking about hobbies. As the relational development progresses, wider and more controversial topics such as political views are included in the conversations.
Second, interpersonal relationships develop in Social penetration theory of pyschology generally systematic and predictable manner. This assumption indicates the predictability of relationship development. Although it is impossible to foresee the exact and precise path of relational development, there is certain trajectory to follow. As Altman and Taylor note, "People seem to possess very sensitive tuning mechanisms which enable them to program carefully their interpersonal relationships.
For example, after prolonged and fierce fights, a couple who originally planned to get married may decide to break up and turn to be strangers ultimately. Fourth, self-disclosure is the key to facilitate relationship development.
Self-disclosure means disclosing and sharing personal information to others. It enables individuals to know each other and plays a crucial role in determining how far a relationship can go, because gradual exploration of mutual selves is essential in the process of social penetration. The self-disclosure is a purposeful disclosure of personal information to another person. In sharing information about themselves, people make choices about what to share and with whom to share it.
Altman and Taylor believe that opening inner self to other is the main route to reach to intimate relationships. As for the speed of self-disclosure, Altman and Taylor were convinced that the process of social penetration moves a lot faster in the beginning stages of a relationship and slows considerably.
In other words, penetration is rapid at the start but slows down quickly as the tightly wrapped inner layers are reached. Self-disclosure is reciprocal, especially in the early stages of relationship development. Disclosure reciprocity is an indispensable component Social penetration theory of pyschology SPT. Disclosure reciprocity can induce positive and satisfactory feelings and drive forward relational development.
This is because as mutual disclosure take place between individuals, they might Social penetration theory of pyschology a sense of emotional equity. Disclosure reciprocity occurs when the openness of one person is reciprocated with the same degree of the openness from the other person.
Social penetration is known for its onion analogy, which implies that self-disclosure is the process of tearing layers or concentric circles away. It is sometimes called the " onion theory " of personality.
Personality is like a multi-layered onion with public self on the outer layer and private self at the core. As time passes and intimacy grows, the layers of one's personality begin to unfold to reveal the core of the person. The development of relationship is not automatic but rather occurs through the skills of partners in revealing or disclosing first their attitudes and latter their personalities, inner character, and true selves.
This is done in a reciprocal manner.
The main factor that acts as a catalyst in the development of relationships is proper self disclosure. Altman and Taylor proposes that there are four major stages in social penetration:. De-penetration is a gradual process Social penetration theory of pyschology layer-by-layer withdrawal and it cause relationship and intimacy level to move backward and to fade away. According to Altman and Taylor, when de-penetration occurs, "interpersonal exchange should proceed backwards from more to less intimate areas, should decrease in breadth or volume, and, as a result, the total cumulative wedge of exchange should shrink".
Relational retreat takes back of what has earlier been exchanged in the building of a relationship. Relationships are likely to break down not in an explosive argument but in a gradual cooling off of enjoyment and care.
What is worth noting is that Tolstedt and Stokes finds that in the de-penetration process, the self-disclosure breadth reduces, while self-disclosure depth increases.