Stages of social penetration process
The theory deals with the ways in which relationships develop and progress. It explains how communication enriches the relationship of two or more individuals. The theory states that closeness penetration develops if communication begins at relatively shallow non-intimate levels and moves in gradual and orderly fashion to deeper more personal levels. The theory proposes that relationships get more intimate over time when people disclose more information about themselves. Personality is like a multilayered onion, having the public self height, weight, gender on the outer and the private self values, self-concept, deep emotions on the core. Social penetration refers to the open interpersonal behaviours which take place through social interaction and the subjective internal process which occurs before, during and after the social exchange.
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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 note that relationships "involve different levels of intimacy of exchange or degree of social penetration". SPT 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. SPT states that the relationship development occurs primarily through self-disclosure , or intentionally revealing personal information such as personal motives, desires, feelings, thoughts, and experiences to others. Today, this remains the building block of relationship theory. Through self-disclosure, relationship development follows particular trajectory, moving from superficial layers of exchanges to more intimate ones. SPT also examines the process of de-penetration and how some relationships regress over time and eventually end.
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At a party, one observes various levels of interpersonal communication. At an open table, new acquaintances exchange names and share their musical preferences. A couple on their second date chats about their political views. Long-time friends discuss their feelings about a difficult family situation. Meanwhile, a married couple sits quietly, making only occasional comments about the other guests and chuckling in agreement.
Social Penetration Theory proposes that, as relationships develop, interpersonal communication moves from relatively shallow, non-intimate levels to deeper, more personal ones. Social penetration is defined as a process that moves a relationship from non-intimate to intimate. Social penetration theory states that this process occurs primarily through self-disclosure. This theory is also guided by the assumptions that relationship development is systematic and predictable and also includes deterioration, or growing apart.