The Social Constructionist Model

I. Revising the theory

Exercise 1. Provide the definitions of the following notions.

  • Cognitive customs;
  • the social constructionist perspective;
  • cultural tools

Exercise 2. What are the elements of the social constructionist model? Add to the list below.

Shared roles and rules …

Exercise 3. Insert the missing words.

  1. According to the social constructionist model, communication is a process whereby people in groups, using the tools provided by their , create collective representations of reality.

  2. The model specifies four of these cultural tools: languages, or codes; the ways we’ve been taught to process information, or customs; the beliefs, attitudes, and values that make up our cultural traditions; and the sets of roles and that guide our actions.

  3. Our constructions of reality, according to the model, often distort our .

  4. The social constructionist model suggests that communication creates .

  5. To be successful communicators we must be willing to follow cultural and norms.

  6. Social constructionist model defines good communication as appropriate communication.

Exercise 4. Speak on the cultural tools employed by the social constructionist perspective. How can they influence communication?

Exercise 5. In what case is communication considered to be unsuccessful? Think of the ways to improve faulty communication.

Exercise 6. What are the shortcomings of the social constructionist perspective?

II. Practicing

Exercise 1. Dwell on the following situations.

Situation 1

Mark, an American living in Delhi, meets Ajay, who is a government official. Mark is interested in building a partnership with Suresh, a local businessman with whom Ajay worked in the past. Mark wants to know if Ajay thinks partnering with Suresh is a good idea.

Mark: Do you happen to know Suresh?

Ajay: Of course, I have worked with him on a number of projects. I know him very well.

Mark: I would like to meet him and see if there is a possibility for collaboration. What do you think?

Ajay: Yes, you should meet him, and you should also meet others.

Mark: Thanks. Who else should I meet?

Ajay: You know there are some girls who fall in love with a boy who is very popular, well dressed, and good looking. After they get married, they realize that they made a mistake because the boy has no substance. Other girls will look for a guy with good character – checking out his family situation and talking with his friends about him. When she gets married, she is much happier than the girl who married the popular guy.

Situation 2

A sales manager in Hong Kong tried to control employees’ punctuality at work, and insisted that they arrive at work on time, rather than 15 minutes late. The employees duly complied. However, they also left exactly on time, instead of working on into the evening as had previously been their practice. As a result, a lot of work was left unfinished. Finally the manager was forced to relent and the employees returned to their usual time schedule.

Situation 3

An advertisement released by Mountain Bell to promote its telephone services in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s failed miserably. The advertisement showed an executive talking on the phone with his feet propped up on the desk, and showed the soles of his shoes – an act that is considered extremely offensive and which an Arab would never do.

Situation 4

Margaret’s dishwasher is broken. While at lunch with friends, she’s complaining about the situation. Margaret’s dishwasher is a top model, and the part to fix it must be ordered. Margaret will have to hand wash her dishes for the next week or two.

Abby is one of the friends listening to Margaret’s story. She is trying to be friendly, but Abby has never had a dishwasher. Abby has lived in other countries where dishwashers are rare. She currently lives in a small apartment. Abby’s family has always hand washed their dishes. Abby likes Margaret, but she thinks Margaret sounds like a spoiled brat.

Adapted from:

Exercise 2. Provide your own examples of miscommunication arising from differences in the participants’ cultural identity. Suggest your own ways of improving faulty communication.

III. Applying the model

Exercise. Think about your favorite foreign film. Analyze an episode from it, paying attention to the values, beliefs, attitudes of the participants and the symbolic codes they use. Compare them to the values of your culture.