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Article from ejc/rec Interface of Personal and Mediated Communication
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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 11 Number 1, 2001


Alan M. Rubin and Rebecca B. Rubin
Kent State University

Abstract. In 1985 we sought to explain the interpersonal dimension of uses and gratifications models (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985). In that essay we focused on individual needs, personal and mediated channels, functional alternatives, and parallels between interpersonal and uses and gratifications perspectives. We also proposed an agenda for future research. In the current essay we consider in greater depth two areas of personal and mediated communication research: personal involvement with the media and interpersonal communication motives. In doing so, we address some of the questions presented in the earlier research agenda about the role of interpersonal perceptions of media communicators and parallels between personal and mediated motives. We address audience activity and involvement, media orientations, parasocial interaction, functional alternatives, and interpersonal motives. We also suggest some directions for future research.
Interfacing Personal and Mediated Communication: Fifteen Years Later

In 1985 we published an article in Critical Studies in Mass Communication in which we sought to explain the interpersonal dimension of uses and gratifications models (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985). We focused on individual needs and functional alternatives, and addressed interpersonal channels as being coequal alternatives to media channels for gratifying social and psychological needs. We explained some parallels between uses and gratifications and interpersonal communication perspectives. We also created a research agenda that focused on how and why media and personal interaction are used to fulfill communicative needs. The agenda posed a series of questions for examining the interface of personal and mediated communication. The agenda included the need to address:

  • interpersonal channels as coequal alternative to media channels in meeting people's needs; for example, how do perceptions of personal characteristics of media communicators affect the outcome of media use?
  • the centrality of human needs and motives in explaining communication behavior; for example, how would people with different interpersonal needs use mediated channels?
  • interpersonal research trends and functional relationships among personal and mediated communication; for example, how do gratification-seeking behaviors affect differences in interpersonal communication?
  • the interface of mediated and personal communication; for example, are media motives parallel to interpersonal communication motives?
In a 1998 article in Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Jonathan Cohen and Miriam Metzger condensed and synthesized much of the research that had been conducted to address several of those research questions we posed in “Interfacing Personal and Mediated Communication” (A. M. Rubin & R. B. Rubin, 1985). In presenting their review, Cohen and Metzger suggested that a need for security stems from a desire to know who we are in our surrounding world. They argued that this need for security underlies social affiliation as a basic need leading to all motives for media and face-to-face communication.

Consequently, instead of revisiting that agenda to consider how research about media orientations, audience activity, interpersonal motives, functional alternatives, and parasocial interaction has supported the interface of personal and mediated communication, we have chosen to focus on two prominent areas reflecting the personal and mediated communication interface: (a) personal involvement with the media, including parasocial interaction; and (b) interpersonal motives for communicating. The foundation for this article lies in our previous research and writings, especially as summarized in A. M. Rubin’s 1998 essay, "Personal Involvement with the Media," and R. B. Rubin and M. Martin's 1998 essay, "Interpersonal Communication Motives."

Involvement and Audience Activity

Personal involvement with messages and those who produce messages is crucial to understanding the processes and outcomes of communication (A. M. Rubin, 1998). How involved we are affects our behavior when we communicate, how satisfied we are with the communication encounter, and whether a message has the opportunity to influence us. It brings to bear personal and media influences on the communication process. Uses and gratifications theory stresses the role of involved or active communicators who can exhibit purposeful and selective behavior, make choices among available alternatives when communicating, and cognitively process information. People are motivated to act according to their interests, needs, and wants. The degree of purpose, motivation, selectivity, and attention, though, varies based on a variety of individual and structural factors.

Involvement as Motivated Activity

Media researchers often place involvement under the rubric of audience activity. They have defined activity as: (a) the degree of connection between the audience member and the media content, and (b) the degree with which audience members psychologically interact with the medium or message (e.g., Blumler, 1979; Levy & Windahl, 1985). Involvement links the individual and message. It is evident before media exposure (e.g., planning), during exposure (e.g., attention), and after exposure (e.g., identification) (Levy & Windahl, 1984, 1985). However, it is not consistent across time; for example, selectivity before exposure does not mean that one is selective during exposure (Perse, 1990a).

Involvement is a motivated state of anticipation and engagement (e.g., Petty & Cacioppo, 1979; Zaichkowsky, 1986). It is an “activated motivated state” (Mittal, 1989), which signifies interest, motivation, and arousal (Munson & McQuarrie, 1987). Involvement mediates how we acquire, process, and share information (Salmon, 1986). Being involved—that is, motivated and engaged—suggests participation, attention, and emotion with and about messages (Krugman, 1966). It is a state of readiness to select, to interpret, and to respond to messages. Being involved means being attentive, perceptive, and responsive to others (Cegala, 1981; Cegala, Savage, Brunner, & Conrad, 1982; A. M. Rubin, 1998).

So, we are motivated to communicate, and we anticipate and form expectations to meet our interests and desires in a communication setting or relationship. However, we are not always equally or fully motivated and engaged. Our purpose, intent, and desire vary. So, we have learned that motivation and involvement are variable. Over the years, we have sought to understand how certain factors affect the variable nature of motivation and involvement and, consequently, how they affect communication processes and outcomes.

For example, researchers have examined how social and personal circumstances affect communication behavior and media use (e.g., Finn & Gorr, 1988; A. M. Rubin, Perse, & Powell, 1985). They have observed that the social context and potential for interaction influence the degree of audience motivation and media involvement. For instance, immobility leads to greater reliance on television (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1982), and loneliness leads to more reliance on electronic media than on interpersonal interaction and to more passive television viewing to occupy one's time (Perse & Rubin, 1990). In addition, personality and individual differences affect media use and outcomes. Reduced life satisfaction and anxiety, for example, contribute to escapist television viewing (Conway & Rubin, 1991; A. M. Rubin, 1985).

In addition, attitudes such as affinity, perceived realism, perceived relevance, and credibility mediate responses to messages and media content. For example, Biel and Bridgwater (1990) noted that persuasion effects are more likely for involved viewers who perceive television commercials to be relevant. Also, cultivation effects are more possible when people perceive television content to be realistic (e.g., A. M. Rubin, Perse, & Taylor, 1988).

As illustrated in several studies, motivation and involvement also are central to media or communication orientations. Media audience members can be distinguished based on whether they orient themselves to content or the medium (Hearn, 1989; A. M. Rubin, 1984). Involvement reflects participation with relevant or salient media content. It is “the extent to which audience members attend to and reflect on content” (A. M. Rubin & Perse, 1987b, p. 59), cognitive and emotional participation during message reception (Perse, 1990a, 1990b), and attentive and deep message processing (Roser, 1990). Motivated and involved participants often are instrumental communicators. We have found, for example, that an instrumental—that is, motivated and involved—orientation reflects selective and attentive television viewing that results in a greater sense of parasocial relationship with soap opera characters (Kim & Rubin, 1997).

Such views of motivation and involvement reflect a cognitive, information-processing perspective. Involvement mediates attitudes and responses to people, objects, or messages such as product advertising. Individual needs, communication sources, messages, and situational factors affect the degree of involvement (Zaichkowsky, 1986). Being cognitively involved means being more aware of and knowledgeable about characters, plots, and information (Lemish, 1985; Shoemaker, Schooler, & Danielson, 1989). Lin (1993) observed that more strongly motivated television viewers engage in more activities when viewing and experience higher levels of satisfaction. Condra (1992) found that higher need for cognition means greater political interest, political activity, and political-content media use.

In addition, greater activity and involvement facilitate interpretations and outcomes such as cultivation and communication satisfaction (Kim & Rubin, 1997). Differences in personality, motivation, and exposure affect cultivation, satisfaction, parasocial interaction, and news recognition and elaboration (e.g., Carveth & Alexander, 1985; Perse, 1990a, 1990c; R. B. Rubin & McHugh, 1987). For instance, Roser and Thompson (1995) observed that affect and cognition mediate how viewers respond to fearful messages. This helps to create active publics who are persuaded to take action about a problem. Brown and Basil (1995) found that emotional involvement with a media celebrity (i.e., Magic Johnson) mediates persuasive communication and can increase personal concern about health messages (i.e., about AIDS and high risk sexual behaviors).

Such research supports the premise that being motivated and involved—that is, having more instrumental communication orientations—should result in more robust communication outcomes such as learning, modeling, and attitude formation (A. M. Rubin, 1993a, 1994a, 1998). However, the variable nature of activity and involvement suggests that certain activities—such as avoidance, disinterest, and being distracted—render audience members more impervious to influence and reduce the chances for attitude change because they lessen message involvement (e.g., decrease awareness and comprehension of messages), as compared to such processes as selectivity and attention (Kim & Rubin, 1997).

Involvement as Parasocial Interaction

Being affectively or emotionally involved could mean developing a parasocial relationship with a media personality (Rosengren & Windahl, 1972; A. M. Rubin & Perse, 1987a). Involved viewers are more likely to form parasocial relationships. Parasocial interaction is a key affective-involvement construct that links personal and mediated communication. It is a relationship of friendship or intimacy with a media personality, which is based on one’s affective ties with the personality (Horton & Wohl, 1956). It may be experienced as “seeking guidance from a media persona, seeing media personalities as friends, imagining being part of a favorite program's social world, and desiring to meet media performers” (A. M. Rubin et al., 1985, pp. 156–157). Viewers experience an almost concrete friendship with their favorite television characters (Gleich, 1997).

Parasocial interaction is grounded in interpersonal notions of attraction, perceived similarity (homophily), and empathy. Horton and Wohl (1956) stated that such elements remind us of face-to-face interaction, as media personae use informal gestures and a conversational style that mirror interpersonal communication and invite interaction (A. M. Rubin et al., 1985). Gleich (1997) suggested that parasocial interaction might have three dimensions: companionship, person-program interaction, and empathetic interaction. Parasocial interaction, then, “parallels interpersonal interaction so that a sense of intimacy and self-disclosure should follow from increased and regular interaction” (A. M. Rubin, 1994b, p. 273). However, it is the quality of the relationship, rather than the amount or duration of exposure, that seems to lead to stronger parasocial relationships (e.g., A. M. Rubin et al., 1985; R. B. Rubin & McHugh, 1987).

Several studies support the interpersonal nature of parasocial interaction. In particular, in separate studies R. B. Rubin and her colleagues found parasocial interaction to relate positively to: (a) perceiving the relationship to be important; (b) being socially and task-attracted to a favorite television personality (R. B. Rubin & McHugh, 1987); (c) reducing uncertainty; and (d) predicting the attitudes and feelings of the persona accurately (Perse & Rubin, 1989). Hoffner (1996) found that different perceived character traits predicted parasocial interaction with a favorite television character for boys and girls. Attractiveness was the only significant predictor for female characters, who were chosen only by girls. Cohen (1997) also found male/female differences when focusing on dating relationships. Males who felt more attachment anxiety about their dating relationships had stronger parasocial relationships with favorite television characters.

Researchers often have treated parasocial interaction as an outcome of media behavior (e.g., Rosengren & Windahl, 1972), and Levy (1979) argued that the causal direction is from media exposure to parasocial interaction. For example, Kim and Rubin (1997) found that a greater sense of parasocial interaction with soap opera characters follows from instrumental (i.e., information and social utility) motivation to watch and a more selective, attentive, and involved viewing orientation. Besides needs to seek political information and to interpret reality, Hofstetter and Gianos (1997) suggested that listening to political talk radio serves companionship needs through parasocial interaction.

Parasocial interaction also is an antecedent that affects media motivation, selection, and outcomes: “parasocial interaction is a salient component of viewing intention and selection” which “may be more important for viewing intent and expectations than a program’s content” (Conway & Rubin, 1991, p. 458). Being linked to perceptions of affinity, realism, and cognitive and emotional involvement, the formation of parasocial relationships should accentuate potential effects (Perse, 1990c; A. M. Rubin & Perse, 1987a; A. M. Rubin et al., 1985). This is supported by several studies. For example, Grant, Guthrie, and Ball-Rokeach (1991) suggested that those with “a strong dependency relationship with a new media genre, such as television shopping . . . develop parasocial relationships with television shopping personalities” (p. 793). These relationships lead to television exposure and purchases. Similarly, when studying television home shopping, Stephens, Hill, and Bergman (1996) found that hosts sought to establish parasocial relationships in order to encourage their viewers to purchase products. We also recently found that having a parasocial relationship with a favorite public-affairs talk-radio host predicted planned and frequent listening to that host, treating the host as an important source of societal information, and feeling the host influenced how listeners felt about and acted upon societal issues (A. M. Rubin & Step, 2000).

This latter study extended some of our other work that has found that media can serve as functional alternatives to face-to-face interaction. For instance, we found that telephoning a talk-radio host served as an accessible and nonthreatening alternative to interpersonal communication for those who were apprehensive or anxious about face-to-face communication and found it to be less rewarding (i.e., others did not value their opinions when communicating interpersonally) (Armstrong & Rubin, 1989). Similarly, we recently found that the Internet may serve as a functional alternative to face-to-face communication for those anxious about interpersonal interaction and who did not find face-to-face interaction to be rewarding (Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000). Earlier, we found that watching televised soap operas for social utility reasons (e.g., to be with or to discuss the content with others) was negatively linked to parasocial interaction with soap opera characters (A. M. Rubin & Perse, 1987a). Perhaps those lacking an interpersonal context for face-to-face interaction sought parasocial relationships with media characters.

Future Directions

What we have learned from audience activity and personal involvement research during the past decades is that a valid view of audience behavior lies between the extremes of being active and expected to make rational decisions about which messages to accept, reject, or act upon, and being passive and expected to be influenced by whatever content is communicated (A. M. Rubin, 1993a). A research agenda must include a better understanding of the mediating influence of personal involvement on cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors, and how it interacts with interpersonal, family, personality, and situational or environmental influences in affecting motivation and communication outcomes.

As an active but variably motivated state, involvement influences and mediates our communication choices, interactions, and outcomes. Involvement, especially the affective or emotional involvement witnessed in parasocial interaction, has been shown to influence how people think about, feel about, and act upon information they receive. In future research we still need to clarify the antecedents (e.g., need for cognition, relevance) and outcomes (e.g., learning, persuasion) of involvement.

The research agenda also must emphasize the nature and influence of parasocial interaction, itself. As Bente and Vorderer (1997) argued, parasocial interaction is a key concept for future research on the emotional component of media use. We need to:

  • clarify the nature of parasocial interaction,
  • understand the functions served by parasocial relationships and the links between media-person interaction and face-to-face interaction,
  • consider the significance of the relationship for viewers based on relevant individual differences and background characteristics,
  • examine questions of development of such relationships over time,
  • explore parasocial relationships in a manner similar to the evolution of interpersonal relationships,
  • consider the effects of parasocial relationships on individuals' attitudes and behavior, and
  • comparatively examine the role of parasocial interaction in different cultures.
In short, we still lack knowledge about the formation, development, and role of parasocial relationships. For instance, although Horton and Wohl (1956) argued that parasocial interaction might compensate for the missing attachments of “the socially isolated, the inept, the aged and the invalid, the timid and the rejected” (p. 223), a compensation model has typically failed to explain the development of parasocial relationships (e.g., Tsao, 1996). Being lonely, for example, has not predicted greater parasocial interaction (A. M. Rubin et al., 1985).

A greater sense of parasocial interaction with media personalities and characters follows from instrumental motivation and a more active orientation to use media content (Kim & Rubin, 1997; A. M. Rubin et al., 1985). As in interpersonal relationships, viewers may seek different levels of knowledge (i.e., description, prediction, and explanation) to know the media personality, and may develop inferences or attributions about the attitudes and behaviors of these personalities (Berger, Gardner, Parks, Schulman, & Miller, 1978). We attribute motives to and develop expectations about the behavior of parasocial partners. In short, audience members also may use active and passive strategies for acquiring information about their relationships with media personalities, and these strategies may produce information with different degrees of accuracy (Berger, 1979). Researchers need to understand the role and outcomes of such information-seeking and uncertainty-reduction processes in parasocial relationships (R. B. Rubin & Rubin, in press).

Media and their content vary as to their parasocial potential (Nordlund, 1978). In addition, different media such as television use various techniques to foster parasocial relationships. Meyrowitz (1986) suggested that camera shot composition and distances affect parasocial interaction, as viewers interpret and react to paraproxemic relationships. We need precise, empirical examination of the technological and aesthetic components that foster the development of parasocial relationships.

We also must recognize the changes that have occurred in societal structures and communication technologies. Family and organizational structures and communication technologies are different than they were several years ago. Communication technologies have increased the rapidity and expansiveness of information and the multiplicity of choices that are available to many people. Such changes accentuate differences among societal groups and societies themselves. The changes will affect our motivation to communicate and the manner of our communication.

Personal involvement occurs, not only with media and messages, but also with objects and partners in interpersonal communication. Similar to mediated communication, interpersonal communication is purposive, active, and involved to a greater or lesser degree. We now turn to another fruitful area of personal and mediated communication inquiry, interpersonal communication motivation.

Interpersonal Communication Motives

Interpersonal communication is goal-directed behavior. People use communication as a tool to mold their self-concepts (e.g., ego needs) and to fulfill other psycho-social needs. They initiate conversations with others to satisfy social needs. Fifteen years ago, we suggested that researchers should look at interpersonal communication motives and their relationship to mediated motives (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985). We have made substantial progress in doing so, but much is still to be learned.

Research about interpersonal communication motives has addressed several important issues: why we talk, to whom we talk, what we talk about, how we talk, and the outcomes of talking. In the 1980s, we developed a measure of interpersonal communication motives and linked the motives to antecedents. Later, we examined relationships between motives with other communication variables and looked at interpersonal communication motives contextually. Currently, we have combined what we know into a model of Interpersonal Communication Motivation. Much of what follows draws on a model where we started putting together the interpersonal-motives puzzle (R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1998). First, we will summarize what we and others have learned about interpersonal motives over the past dozen or so years, and then suggest some areas of study that still remain.

As we noted 15 years ago (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985), Schutz (1966) was the first to identify three primary interpersonal needs. Inclusion is the need to be part of a group, to be affiliated with others, to have companions, or to include others in one’s own group. Affection is the need to express love or be loved by others. Control is the need to exert power over others or give others power. These three primary needs are closely tied to Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs, which includes social needs. As we mentioned at the outset of this essay, Cohen and Metzger (1998) suggested that social affiliation is an overpowering need that motivates communication; this is why it is central to interpersonal communication. Communication motives develop from internal interpersonal needs.

Operating within a uses and gratifications framework, we first examined several interpersonal communication motives and discovered that inclusion, affection, and control were, indeed, central or primary motives (R. B. Rubin, Perse, & Barbato, 1988). We also found three other strong motives: pleasure, relaxation, and escape. Pleasure reflects a need to be entertained and aroused, to have fun, and for excitement. Relaxation reflects a need to unwind, rest, or feel less tense. Escape reflects a need to avoid other activities and worries by communicating with someone. Inclusion, affection, control, pleasure, relaxation, and escape, then, have become the basic interpersonal communication motives examined in motives research (see R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1998), although some research has added context-specific (i.e., secondary) motives.

Theory Development

In 1993, Graham, Barbato, and Perse suggested we examine not only why we communicate (i.e., motives), but also with whom we communicate (receiver, target, or partner) and how we choose to communicate our motives (channel choice and strategic actions). As interpersonal needs change, so do possible conversational partners. Graham et al. saw this process analogous to that in uses and gratifications research: just as certain media channels are used to satisfy certain motives, certain people are more appropriate targets for fulfilling interpersonal needs. For instance, people talk to close friends, lovers, and family members more often than strangers and co-workers for the motives of pleasure, affection, inclusion, and relaxation. Anderson and Martin have examined father-adolescent communication motives and extended this to group settings and to families (Anderson & Martin, 1995b; Anderson, Martin, & Zhong, 1998; Martin & Anderson, 1995). In addition, a line of research focusing on interpersonal motives for teacher-student interaction has uncovered other context-specific motives (Martin, Myers, & Mottet, 1999). Research is warranted that examines relational intimacy and its influence over topic choice, amount of disclosure, and number of people in the interaction.

Graham et al. (1993) also found that relationship level influenced the frequency and type of interaction. The relationship’s intensity may influence the channels used to fulfill interpersonal needs. All channels, though, may not satisfy all motives equally well. For example, intimate relationship partners may use face-to-face channels more often than mediated channels (Finucane & Step, 1994). And, certain channels may be seen as more appropriate and effective for interpersonal need fulfillment (Westmyer, DiCioccio, & Rubin, 1998). Future research that examines the interaction of motive, partner, channel, and type of relationship will yield rich data about interpersonal behavior.

Based on early theory and research suggesting a uses and gratifications approach to interpersonal motives (Graham et al., 1993; A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1985; R. B. Rubin et al., 1988), we have learned that individual needs, manifested in expressed motives, influence the selection of interpersonal partners, communication strategies, channels, and expectations about the strategy’s success. People develop strategies to guide their communication behavior. We first outlined this model in 1992 (R. B. Rubin & Rubin) and, subsequently, developed it further (R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1998). R. B. Rubin and Martin proposed that there are primary needs, which are trait-like, and secondary needs, which are influenced by the context or situation. Primary needs allow people to protect themselves and survive. These needs are ordered in a hierarchy, with more basic needs requiring fulfillment before less central needs. Motives are coupled to these needs, as are behavioral goals, plans, and behaviors, ultimately.

Some motives are targeted at primary need fulfillment and some are not. Motives such as inclusion, affection, and control are primary motives related to primary needs (R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1998). But other communication motives are better related to secondary needs. Secondary needs are not life sustaining, but are more situation- or context-governed. The situation might create or enhance needs. A stressful day might motivate communicating for relaxation, for example. Secondary needs are more variable. They might be instrumental (e.g., to control) or ritualistic (e.g., to escape) (A. M. Rubin, 1984). Likewise, a secondary communication motive, such as habit, would follow from a secondary need, such as a need to eliminate boredom.

Goals, which follow from motives, are objectives that induce strategic and planned communication (McCann & Higgins, 1988). Goals, too, can be either primary or secondary (Dillard, Segrin, & Harden, 1989). A primary goal—in a control situation, for example—might be “to bring about behavioral change in a target person” (Dillard et al., 1989, p. 20). Secondary goals, however, are “objectives of several sorts that derive directly from more general motivations that are recurrent in a person’s life” (p. 20). A secondary goal might be socially appropriate interaction. Thus, primary and secondary goals result from primary and secondary needs and motives.

A plan is a predetermined sequence of actions designed to achieve a goal (Berger, 1988). Plans include the communication target, an appropriate channel, and a vision about how the behaviors might be enacted strategically within the context. Once a plan is set, communicators can act in ways that achieve their goals. Much of our literature examines such behaviors, but does not consider prior needs, motives, and goals.

Future Research

The model proposed by R. B. Rubin and Martin (1998) suggests several important future lines of research. First, we must confirm which motives are primary and which are secondary. In so doing, we must examine needs in relation to these motives and see how behavior is ultimately affected by these primary needs. Researchers have already started looking at these associations.

Primary motives. Some research studies report relationships between interpersonal communication motives and other communication behaviors and traits—such as interaction strategies, conflict, competence, affinity seeking, loneliness, and sense of humor—and the results suggest that some motives are more central or primary. In particular, motives for control seem central to compliance-gaining tactics. Javidi, Jordan, and Carlone (1994) found that people who consistently use cooperative compliance-gaining strategies have a relatively high motivation for control and a low motivation for pleasure, but those who use rational compliance-gaining strategies have a relatively high motivation for control and a low motivation for affection. In that study, control significantly discriminated between people who would, or would not, use a particular compliance-gaining strategy. Control seems to be a primary motive.

Control also is involved in relationship-conflict settings in romantic relationships. Myers, Zhong, and Mitchell (1995) found six motives for resolving conflict: concern for the relationship, avoidance, affection, control, inclusion, and situational factors. They concluded that their results support the proposition that certain motives might be context-related (e.g., conflict settings). We also have found that communicating for interpersonal control is closely related to using videocassette recorders for similar purposes (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1989).

Affection also seems to be a primary motive. In examining interpersonal communication motives in the affinity-seeking process in initial interactions, we found control motives related to using rewarding affinity-seeking strategies, but those who communicated for affection and pleasure, used more other-involvement and positive self-image strategies (Martin & Rubin, 1998). Control motives affected behavior in predictable ways, but those who sought affection scored higher in interpersonal communication competence. Likewise, Anderson and Martin (1995a) found that competent communicators reported pleasure, affection, and inclusion motives more often than those who saw themselves as less competent. Interpersonal communication competence also has been positively related to pleasure and affection motives (R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1994).

Various lines of loneliness research represent research about inclusion. Hosman (1991), when looking at the relationship between privacy, loneliness, conversation sensitivity, and interpersonal communication motives, found that people with a need for intimacy reported communicating more for pleasure and affection than people with a need for seclusion. Similar to the findings of Downs and Javidi (1990), Hosman also found that lonely people communicated less for affection and pleasure needs; conversational sensitivity was positively related to the motives of pleasure, affection, and relaxation. In studying elders’ loneliness and their use of the telephone, Holladay et al. (1997) found that lonely elders used the telephone for escape and safety needs, whereas less lonely elders used the telephone for affection. Here, the need for inclusion resulted in primary need gratification. Canary and Spitzberg (1993) distinguished between chronic and situational loneliness. They concluded that the chronically lonely become more habitual users of communication and are less instrumental in their motives. The media, in particular, were useful channels for situational loneliness.

Sense of humor and self-disclosure also have been related to interpersonal motives. Barbato, Graham, and Perse (1994) found that using positive conversational humor was related to pleasure, affection, and comfort motives. Conversely, using negative humor was related to escape and control motives. In their article introducing the Interpersonal Communication Motives Model, Graham et al. (1993) studied the relationship between motives and self-disclosure. People who communicated for pleasure or affection were willing to converse about many topics, but not on a personal/intimate level. Affection was linked to greater disclosure of low intimacy topics. Control was related to depth of self-disclosure, but not breadth. Self-disclosure consistently is connected to interpersonal communication motives. Graham et al. thought that communicating for control might affect conversational dominance, so behavior associated with this motive might be context bound (i.e., a secondary motive).

Second, we need to understand how context can produce secondary needs, motives for communication, and interaction goals. Researchers have begun looking at family, small group, organizational, and cross-cultural contexts, and have reported variations based on the secondary nature of the motives.

Motives in contexts. Graham et al. (1993) examined the family as a context and suggested that family members communicate more for affection, pleasure, inclusion, and relaxation than do those in more formal relationships. Martin and Anderson (1995) found that fathers and their children had similar interpersonal motives; for both fathers and their children, satisfaction resulted from affection or pleasure motives. Anderson and Martin (1997) found similar results in the mother/young-adult relationship, but satisfaction was lower when mothers or their children communicated for control. This shows how the partner can affect interpersonal motives.

In the group context, communicating for pleasure, affection, inclusion, and relaxation all related positively to satisfaction, whereas communicating for control related negatively to satisfaction (Anderson & Martin, 1995b). The motives of pleasure and affection related positively to being attentive and responsive during the group interactions, whereas the motives of control and escape related negatively.

Organizational employees reported less communication with their superiors and co-workers for pleasure, affection, and inclusion, but not for escape (Anderson & Martin, 1995c). Although women communicated more with their bosses and co-workers for affection, men communicated more with their co-workers for control. Employees also reported communicating more with their co-workers than with their superiors for every motive, except for a motive labeled duty (e.g., I communicate with this person because it is part of my job). Duty seems to be context based.

In addition, several studies have looked at cross-cultural comparisons of interpersonal communication motives. For example, Mexicans reported lower affection and pleasure motives than U.S. samples (R. B. Rubin, Fernandez-Collado, & Hernandez-Sampieri, 1992). Anderson, Martin, and Zhong (1998) found that the Chinese communicated with their friends for the motives of inclusion, helpfulness, solidarity, expressiveness, relational maintenance, and pleasure. And, because Geddes (1992) found no regional differences in motives, we might also think that motives are consistent within cultures.

Third, we need to examine other antecedents to this entire process. For example, what traits are closely connected to primary needs and how do these influence communication plans and behavior?

Antecedents. The communication literature reveals consistent antecedents to interpersonal communication motives, which suggests that trait-like qualities exist for these motives. Barbato (1995), too, has noted consistent relationships between interpersonal motives and other trait-like communication variables in the research literature. This literature, then, supports the notion that people have some consistent motives for interpersonal communication.

Over the years, researchers have examined various antecedents of interpersonal communication motives. Two antecedents that consistently influence interpersonal communication motives are locus of control (Brenders, 1987; Canary, Cunningham, & Cody, 1988; A. M. Rubin, 1993b; R. B. Rubin & Rubin, 1992; Steinfatt, 1987) and communication apprehension (Kondo, 1994; A. M. Rubin, 1993b; R. B. Rubin et al., 1988).

We originally reported that there was no relationship between communicating for control and communication satisfaction (R. B. Rubin et al., 1988). Although satisfaction was positively related to communicating for pleasure, affection, inclusion, and relaxation, there was no such relationship for control. In comparing people with an internal locus of control versus those with an external locus of control, we found that internals sought control in conversations, but so did externals who felt controlled by powerful others (A. M. Rubin & Rubin, 1989). We also found that mobility related to control: people who were less mobile sought less interpersonal control.

However, when considering the effect of locus of control on communication motives in both interpersonal and mass media contexts, externals scored higher on interpersonal and television inclusion, escape, and pass time, and interpersonal social ritual (A. M. Rubin, 1993b). They also were motivated to communicate more ritualistically, had higher communication apprehension, and found interaction less rewarding or satisfying than internals.

Likewise, communication apprehension is an antecedent that influences why and whether people talk to one another. Kondo (1994) found that high communication apprehensives communicated for escape, whereas low apprehensives communicated for pleasure and relaxation. Previously, we found that high communication apprehensives were less likely to communicate for pleasure, control, inclusion, and affection than were low apprehensives (R. B. Rubin et al., 1988). Certain interpersonal motives may be related to a general avoidance tendency.

Two other antecedent variables might be biological gender and age. When we initially established the validity of the Interpersonal Communication Motives measure, we found that women were less likely than men to communicate for control, but more likely to communicate for pleasure, to express affection, to seek inclusion, and to relax (R. B. Rubin et al., 1988). Younger people communicated for pleasure, inclusion, and escape, and older people to give affection. These results, based on trait differences, point to gender and age as potential influences on interpersonal motives.

But, perhaps, chronological age is not the issue. We have argued that contextual age should be considered when looking at the relationship between locus of control and interpersonal communication motives (R. B. Rubin & Rubin, 1992). Contextual age considers how healthy, happy, economically stable, mobile, and socially interactive people are. We have found that people who are less healthy and have an external locus of control communicate for escape, inclusion, and control. But people who are more socially interactive, healthy, and happy communicate for affection, pleasure, and inclusion motives. Barbato and Perse (1992) also considered contextual age in elders’ interpersonal motives and found that those who viewed life negatively communicated more for control and comfort, whereas those who viewed life positively communicated more for pleasure and affection. Downs and Javidi (1990), likewise, found that lonely elders communicated for escape, and less lonely elders communicated for pleasure, relaxation, and control. These three studies demonstrate that there are antecedent and mediating variables when studying the relationship between age and motives.

Fourth, we need to fill in the gaps in this model that examines the influence of these needs, motives, and goals on plans.

Plans and strategies. Strategic interaction assumes nonrandom behavior. People fulfill their needs by selecting certain partners or targets, channels of communication, and actions that are thought to be sufficient to satisfy those needs. Determinations of what targets, channels, and actions will be most effective and appropriate are made every time we communicate with others (Westmyer et al., 1998). Understanding everyday “logic” of how and why these strategies are chosen and experimental testing to see if they are indeed effective will help complete this needs-based model. Strategic actions need to coincide with interpersonal motives.

Fifth, we need to continue our comparisons of interpersonal and mediated communication motives. We have done some comparisons under the name of functional alternatives research, mainly looking at channel of choice and comparison of motives. Earlier research examined television, videocassette recorder, and interpersonal motives, but more relevant today is Internet communication and concomitant information/communication needs and motives.

Functional alternatives. Those who have looked at interpersonal motives, have found that face-to-face channels are more appropriate and are selected more often than other alternatives (Perse & Courtright, 1993; Westmyer et al., 1998). Under what conditions, however, would asynchronous mediated channels be selected over synchronous interpersonal channels? Besides questions surrounding what channels people prefer, how does channel availability determine strategic actions? Some researchers have examined this in technology-mediated situations and have found that relational control is an important factor when there is relational competitiveness (Kayany, Wotring, & Forrest, 1996). A. M. Rubin and Windahl (1986) proposed a popular-media functional alternative: “If television use provides a viable means for satisfying an escapist motive, magazines and music may be functional alternatives for gratifying that motive” (p. 193). Katz, Gurevitch, and Haas (1973) suggested that certain media are better substitutes (e.g., television for radio, friends for lectures), and that interpersonal channels might be more gratifying than mediated ones, even for escape and entertainment motives. This finding has been replicated repeatedly (e.g., Perse & Courtright, 1993; Westmyer et al., 1998).

A growing interest is Internet communication and interpersonal need fulfillment. Is the Internet a functional alternative to face-to-face communication? Flaherty, Pearce, and Rubin (1998) pretty much concluded that it was not a functional alternative because interpersonal needs were best fulfilled through face-to-face channels; one did not substitute for the other. Papacharissi and Rubin (2000), however, concluded that it was a functional alternative in that those who tended to avoid face-to-face communication and found it less rewarding, used the Internet for social utility purposes. Previously, research on electronic messaging systems (EMS) suggested that EMS complemented face-to-face communication (Rice, Grant, Schmitz, & Torobin, 1990). Ferguson and Perse (2000) extended this line of research to see if Web surfing is a functional alternative to television viewing. Although most of the motives were more closely aligned to media motives, social information reasons for searching the web were prominent. Not all the motives were instrumental (e.g., work, school, information), but then again, relaxation was not a primary motive. Issues that remains are: What precisely is a functional alternative? And, how much of a substitute or a complement must it be to be an alternative?

Given these fairly consistent results, research hypotheses in the future can become more elaborate. We could hypothesize, for instance, that lonely people with high inclusion needs who live alone or do not have telephones or e-mail would parasocially interact with television personalities more than would their counterparts who live with others or have sufficient electronic contact. Or, we could hypothesize that children who establish friendships with chatroom acquaintances, rather than play with their neighborhood friends, would be seeking alternative means of fulfilling inclusion needs. “Alternatives, then, are functional when they supplement and complement primary need satisfaction channels, but dysfunctional when they substitute needlessly for those channels” (R. B. Rubin & Martin, 1998, p. 302).

These questions, then, constitute a short-range research plan to help flesh out the remainder of this model. We encourage researchers to consider a variety of channels in their research, that they link motives with goals, plans, and behavior, and that they extend the theoretical base of the uses and gratifications model. We now have a significant body of research that encourages us to move beyond description to multivariate explanatory models. And, as we did 15 years ago, we encourage the melding of personal and mediated perspectives.


The past 15 years has witnessed a substantial body of research addressing the interface of personal and mediated communication. This research has examined communication channels in traditional interpersonal and mediated contexts, and has expanded to newer communication technologies, as well. We have somewhat of a clearer understanding of the variable nature of involvement, the role of involvement in communication processes and outcomes, and the importance of personal and perceived relationships in mediated contexts. We also have seen a growing body of research that has explored the motives people have for communicating with others and the links between interpersonal and media motives. Lastly, this research has helped address a 15-year old agenda, and has introduced additional questions and complexities to pursue in the coming years.


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