Expectancy Violation Theory

Theory Have you ever felt like someone was violating your personal space? What makes you decide what is too close for comfort? The Expectancy Violation Theory explains how we react to our person space being invaded and how we perceive the violator. We have different opinions of people invading our personal space depending on who the violator is. Would you feel the same way about your boss hugging you as if your friend hugged you? That is what the expectancy violation theory is trying to explain.

We judge if someone is too close to us or invading our personal space by retain criteria such as: age, gender, and ethnicity. The amount of space we put between one another can have an influence of the message and meaning that you or someone else is trying to portray. There are four zones that we consciously use to define the boundaries of which we want people in. There’s the intimate space which is from 0-18 in. This space is reserved for people you feel extremely comfortable around. Next is the personal space which is from 18 in. -aft.

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This space is mostly where you keep friends and family. The further of this space is usually for acquaintances or people such as cashiers. Then there’s your social space which ranges from 4- aft. People that may occupy your social space are fellow employees or people you see in a more formal manner. The last zone is your public space which is from aft. And beyond. This zone is for exactly what its named for, the public. This is the space for which you keep complete strangers. This is seen as a very formal space. (Turner, 2014, p. 128. I think this theory proves true in my everyday life. There are certain people that feel comfortable enough around to where it doesn’t bother me if they’re n my personal space, but if it were someone that I didn’t know very well then it would feel extremely uncomfortable. There are only certain people that I would feel comfortable enough to be in my intimate space, such as a boyfriend, family member, or really good friend. I think the theory holds true when it explains how you can either find someone violating your personal space as favorable or unfavorable.

If a guy that a girl really liked came into her personal space, she may not mind and actually welcome is; whereas if a complete stranger did the same thing, she may find it extremely threatening. Hind this theory is a good theory because it has a good clear scope, meaning it isn’t too broad. It also has very good utility because we use it every day whether we recognize it or not. It also has good testability because you could very easily test this theory. (Turner, 2014, p. 137. ) The Expectancy Violation Theory also explains how we have expectancies, or we anticipate certain behaviors and actions to occur in a conversation or interaction.

There are three factors that influence a person’s expectations: individual communicator factors, relational factors, and context factors. Individual communicator factors include gender, age, race, etc. I think this is very true because when I talk to the 3 year old that babysat, I know to expect very random and scattered thoughts and ideas. He has a very short attention span so I know that I have to keep the conversation short and to the point. On the other hand, if I were to have a conversation with someone older such as my dad, I would expect a more formal kind of setting.

Relational factors include status difference and levels of attraction and liking. For example, if I were to have a meeting with my boss, I would probably be very formal and expect the same from my boss. Or if I were to run into someone I met at summer camp years ago, I would probably be more relaxed and expect the same from a friend of the past. (Turner, 2014, p. 131 When someone’s expectations are violated, it sparks the person’s interest because they recognize that something is off. This is called arousal. There are two types of arousal, cognitive and physical.

Cognitive arousal means that you have mentally registered that your expectations have been violated. For instance, once was having a conversation with my roommate about our emperor that was due the next day, and she started talking about her volleyball practice she had that afternoon. This cognitively aroused me because I knew that my expectations had been violated. I expected her to converse with me about our homework, but instead she switched the subject which threw me off instantly and caused me to be mentally aware of the deviation. Physical arousal is when you recognize that someone has violated your expectations by bodily changes.