Perceptions of Communication Style and the Self-Concept Theory

What Are The Effects Of The Self-Concept Theory In High School Students

Lance Maruscsak

Western Connnecticut State University


The question examined how the structure of communication style differ with sex and age among high school aged people. This study took place in a small Southeastern New York Town and involve male and female high school students, who are members of a local church youth group. The examiner observed the group in the following areas of communications: (1) degree of attention; (2) degree of relaxation; (3) degree of animation; and (4) degree of dominance. Data gathered on a chart of the above-mentioned categories.

The findings showed that there was a difference in the above-mentioned categories dealing with high school aged people. There is a noticeable change in the percent difference in the four areas of communication.


The following study examines the structure of communications style and the association between such variables as sex, age and self-concept. First order analysis has indicated the existence of communication dimensions as the following: attention; relaxation; animation; and dominance. (Hansford and Hattie, 1982, p. 189).

To elaborate a bit more in the area, some examples are necessary. (Attention as it applies to this study is when and how is a subject attentive.( This would mean, if a subject is attentive in a group type setting, there what is the subject gaining from the conversation. Relaxation, as applied to this study, is simply how relaxed the individual is, and does the subject act in a relaxed or nervous manner when put in a group setting? Animation would consist of facial and body movement. (Dominance, as applied to this study, consists of how dominant a person can be.( Dominance can be shown in many ways, but the main way is usually how the figure takes control of situations, which can range from group activity to an emergency situation. A dominant person is the one who usually stands out in a group.

The second order analysis has suggested that these dimensions had an underlying structure that suggested and described attention supported style and animation-dominance style. In the research that has been conducted, a strong association was found between attention supportive communication style and self-concept. The most fascinating piece of evidence to support this was found among high school students. The high school students thought of themselves as being relaxed and attentive, very low on communication, apprehension, and having a positive view of their image of the communication process. (Hansford and Hattie, 1982, p. 189).

Over the years there has been a long history of literature that supports the theory of a relationship between conceptions, self, and communication. In the early nineteenth century, authors such as (Baldwin (1897) and James (1890)( were in favor of making a connection between self-perceptions and communication. (Hansford and Hattie, 1982, pp. 189-190). However, in 1902, Cooley came up with the "Looking Glass: Self Theory." It was this theory that popularized the belief that "the self" was, to a considerable extent, a function of the social world. This would be defined as the interaction of humans in a social environment. (Hansford and Hattie, 1982, pp. 189-190). In recent years the development of the interactionist self-theory has projected that in the social world the concept of the self has potential cause and effect of social interaction. This theory between self-perceptions and communication as a whole is demonstrated by the implication of the work of Coopersmith (1967), Glauser (1984), and Shranger (1975).

An examination of classrooms indicates the diversity of the dependence on the communication process. (Hurt, Scott, and McCroskey 1978, pp. 138-145). There are a number of reasons why some children use the communication process to their advantage and other children do not. One reason put forward is the child's desire to have a good solid relationship with others, especially teachers. This desire that a child feels is clearly related to how the child perceives him or herself. (Hurt, Scott, and McCroskey 1978, pp. 138-145). The example is a direct link to the self-concept theory. Given the diversity of communication skills and styles in classrooms, and the fact that problems such as language differences among the student population, it does not surprise scholars (that much of the instructional communication integrates give different interpretations of the self-theory.(

Research that generally links the perceptions of self to communication usually looks at communications and its behavior with the exception of communication apprehension, tends to be somewhat fragmented and of theoretical rather than empirical in nature. For example, some experts have assumed that individuals that are high in self-esteem are more verbal and more competent communicators than those low in self-esteem. (Hansford and Hattie 1983, p. 115).

In a study involving 292 undergraduates, Glauser (1984) examined the relationship between self-esteem and verbal dominance and reported a correlation between the variables. (Hansford 1984, pp. 200-201). In 1980, Hansford and Neidhart performed a study with 463 high school girls. A significant relation was found between self-concept and communication skills and a relation between each of the subscales. Norton (1983) has indicated that an important aspect of communication process is the way individuals communicate with each other. This aspect of communicating is referred to as communicator style. Communicator style, according to Norton (1983), is the observable, multifaceted form of literal meaning. An examination of the findings provides the investigator with support for the theory of a significant association between the self and specific communication skills of humans. In certain studies, like the study completed by the Journal of Learning Disabilities (Volume 16, November 10, 1983), this study compared the language abilities of 7 to 8 and 12 to 13 year-old children with learning disabilities. Another interesting study was completed by the same Journal, wherein this study compared the learning disabled children with their siblings, in terms of their self-concept and retention level. These studies dealt with self-perceptions and behavior. It has been determined by the researchers, that it is not unusual to find differences that deal with sex and age differential. The remaining focused on the investigator's current study of perceptions of self and communicator style, the investigator does see evidence that points out that there are differences relating to sex and age. However, what was concluded was that on a balance, there was evidence to support the notion of sex differences in self-concept. (Hansford and Hattie, 1983, p. 191).

In a longitudinal study, the scholars looked at the adolescent self-concept. The findings again showed the existence of sex difference but it was noted that these differences are related to very specific aspects of the self. (Similarly age and grade differences in self-concept did not resemble the other adolescent samples.(

In an overview of the investigator's findings, it would seem that there is some type of evidence to support the connection between some measures of self and certain communication skills. Current studies such as Differential Genetic Etiology of Reading Disability as a function of IQ and communication apprehension are underway to clarify the nature of relationship that could exist between the various types of self-perceptions among high school students. (Wadworth, Olson, Pennington, and DeFries 2000, pp. 192-199, Differential Genetic Etiology and Reading Disability As A Function IQ and Communication Apprehension, Journal of Learning Disabilities).

In particular, the investigator researched the following questions: (1) What is the underlying factor structure of communicator styles in data obtained from high school students? (2) To what extent are these dimensions of communication style moderated by sex and age? (3) What relationships exists between the dimensions of self and dimensions of communicator styles as a reflection in data obtained from high school students? (Monge, P.R., 1987, Communication Research, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 189-203).

(Another model was used, as suggested above, for the underlying of other methods that have not taken shape as of this moment.( The first of the second-order factors was described as animation and dominance; the scales animation and dominance were left alone, while the other scales were factored in to be near zero. (Burns, 1979, p. 194). The other second-order factor was supportive and attention, and the scales apprehension, attention, relaxation and communicator image were constrained to zero. In constraining scales that amount to zero it is possible that the scales are not expected to factor into the equation. In the judgment of the experts, it is assumed that this model and data are acceptable. (Schmitt and Wolfe (1978-1981, pp. 195-196). In constraining scales to zero, it is predicted that they are not expected to contribute to the factor. The fit of this model is acceptable. (See Appendix).

The past twenty years of research on instructional communication has identified several relations that are positively related to self-concept and learning. An example of this would be learning disabilities among high-school aged people and understanding the student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationship and how it results in learning. The investigator performed observations and a study to compare similarities in the numbers of the previous mentioned studies. The experiment functioned around a youth group, grade level ten through twelve. The following numbers were based on the perceptions from the investigation and those who performed the investigation.

(Bievenue, M.M. (1978)( states that perceptions of communication and the self-concept theory play a major role in child development. Bievenu states that a child's perception of itself plays a vital role in its development in the years to come. According to Bievenue, the child must have a good sense about their inner self in order to compete in society. (Perceptions of communication and self-concept showed the researcher some major findings in communication and self-concept.( This applies to the investigators project through child development during the teenage years.

Burns, R.B. (1989), adds to this statement by introducing the self-concept theory in the social world. The purpose of this statement is for the investigator to gain knowledge in the process of communication as seen through the child's eyes. Motor skill development plays a major theme in children right through the high school years.

(Dusek, J.B. & Flaherty, J.F. (1981)( talk about verbal dominance with regards to teenagers. This is a major factor in terms of self-confidence during high school years. The dominance factor can make or break a student's self-concept.

Glauser, M.J. (1984) states that apprehension in today's classroom is caused by what happens outside of the classroom. Glauser states that this problem can range from peer pressure to family life. This showed the investigator how what happens outside the classroom could affect a student's apprehension to communicate.

Hansford, B.C. & Hattie, J.A. (1982), demonstrate the importance of classroom communication. This is shown to the investigator through communication apprehension during the teen years. Hansford and Hattie state from their own studies such as the Hansford and Hattie apprehension study of high school students, that apprehension is a drawback to success among high school students.

Monge, P.R. (1997), communication research and how it applies to different theories such as the self-concept theory and the famous Looking Glass Theory: developed by Cooley. More importantly, it applies to the study of graphs and charts, which relate to the investigation.

Schmitt and Wolfe (1990) compare the perceptions of communication style and its relationship to self-concept. (A relationship that ties into the image of the student as viewed from their peers.(

Special Education Services Oregon Department of Education (1989), Standardized Language and Communication Development. A language test comparison over a one-year period. A development of language skills among high school students. The investigator viewed sample exams, but no conclusions could be drawn.

Wadworth, Olson, Pennington, and DeFries (2000) state that there is a genetic difference between the learning disabled and the non-disabled student. What that difference is, is not known at the present time. According to the experts, it is a function of IQ and communication apprehension.

Wylie, (1990) goes over in detail the self-concept theory and how it relates to communication and the high school years. Wylie gives sample studies that have been done in the past, such as the study of the learning disabled child in the mainstream classroom. This study compared the reading scores of the learning disabled child against the non-learning disabled child. No scores were available to the investigator.


The group consisted of ten high school students from a small southeastern town in New York. The youth group consisted of six females and four males. The session was forty minutes long and covered four areas of communication: (1) Degree of Attention; (2) Degree of Relaxation; (3) Degree of Animation; and (4) Degree of Dominance. Two studies took place on two separate dates, and two examiners reviewed the sessions, with special emphasis being put on the first five minutes of each session. Data collection was done with a check, upon which the results will constitute the method.


There are ten students that participate in the youth group. The participants consists of male and female high school students and each person participating in the experiment would equal 10%.

Using the data collection that was created earlier, the results of the observation of the first meeting are as follows: Degree of attention: females (6) = 60%; males (1) showed signs of attention = 10%; males (3) showed signs of no attention = 30%. Degree of relaxation: females (5) showed signs of relaxation = 50%; (1) showed no signs of relaxation = 10%; males (3) showed signs of relaxation = 30%; (1) showed no signs of relaxation = 10%. Degree of animation: females (2) showed signs of animation = 20%; (4) showed no signs of animation = 40%; males (3) showed signs of animation = 30%; (1) undecided = 10%. Degree of dominance: females (1) showed clear signs of dominance = 10%; (5) showed no signs of dominance = 50%; males (2) showed signs of dominance = 20%; (2) showed no signs of dominance = 20%.

The observation of the second meeting showed: Degree of attention: females (4) showed signs of attention = 40%; (1) showed no signs of attention = 10%; (1) undecided = 10%; males (3) showed signs of attention = 30%; (1) showed no signs of attention = 10%. Degree of relaxation: females (4) showed signs of relaxation = 40%; (1) showed no signs of relaxation = 10%; (1) undecided = 10%; males (4) showed signs of relaxation = 40%. Degree of animation: females (3) showed signs of animation = 30%; (1) showed no signs of animation = 10%; (2) undecided = 20%; males (2) showed signs of animation = 20%; (1) showed no signs of animation = 10%; (1) undecided = 10%. Degree of dominance: females (1) showed clear dominance = 10%; (5) showed no signs of dominance = 50%; males (2) showed signs of dominance = 20%; (2) showed no signs of dominance = 20%. The investigator's results show that there is a difference in degree of communication in the above-mentioned categories that took place on two separate dates. (See Appendix).

Through these studies it has been found that the male high school students had significantly higher mean score than their female counterparts. This was tied into the dimensions relaxation at (.096), dominance (.269) and impression at (.105). The female high school students had significantly higher mean scores than their male counterparts with respect to the dimension animation (-.121). An examination of the mean differences associated with overall grade differences, showed signs that the scores for apprehension increased and the scores in the area of relaxation and animation showed signs of decrease. (Dusek 1979, pp. 196-198). This grade level difference in the area of communication also reflects an age difference among the participants. It is interesting to take notice of the fact that the sex differences are largely associated with aspects of the animation-dominance communicator style and the grade and age difference with special attention to the style of communication that one chooses to use.

A correlation analysis was completed on the two styles of dimensions and another analysis was carried out on the self-concept dimensions. (Wylie 1990, p. 199 Vol. 2 The Self-Concept Theory Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press). What were found were two significant variants. With this being said, it would indicate to the investigator that the first variant would account for 60.6% of the variance, within the set of variants and that the second variant for 43.1% of variance. An examination of the chart would suggest that the supportive-attention communicator style was ranked highest on the first variant and the various dimensions of self-concept tend to have their highest ranking located on the same variable. This would prove from the numbers given to the investigator, that high school students who perceived themselves as being low in apprehensiveness and ranked high in attention, relaxation, and communicator image were also found to consider themselves to be high in self-concept. (Glauser 1984, pp. 198-201). The animation-dominance communicator style had its highest ranking on the second canonical variants and the dimensions of the self generally did not prove to have a positive impact on the participants. In fact, it appears to the investigator that the numbers would suggest that the styled dimensions would be associated with low self-concept and communications. (Hansford and Hattie, 1983, pp. 115-202). Given the fact that this method was attached to an animation-dominance communicator style, it may have been anticipated in the view of the investigator that students would also perceive themselves as one of high self-concept, but that appears not to be the case in this study.


The findings from this study will be compared to a similar type of study that was conducted in this area of communication. An example of another type of experiment would be the assessment of language development among high school students. This experiment looked at the standardized measure of language competence for high school students in a group setting. The experiment involved language competence and communication context. (Special Education Services Oregon Department of Education, 1989, pp. 1-4). (See Appendix).

The study of communication style and self-concept in high school students had three main points. First, was the exploration of dimensions of the communicator style. Secondly, the investigator examined the possibility of age and sex differences in the dimension of the communicator and the dimensions of self-concept.

A communication theory was developed from the previous research of Hansford and Hattie, 1983. The research completed by the investigator demonstrates a modification of two communicator styles and an index of problems related to communication apprehension and the self. The results show that the communication among group members contained the following style dimensions: attention; relaxation; animation; and dominance. The results of the above-mentioned provide the investigator with strong support for all conclusions drawn by dimensions of the communication process. However, after further review of the analysis, the results have suggested that the factors of the equation have an underlying structure that is defined by two dimensions of the communication style. These dimensions reflect supportive, attention, and animation-dominance communicator styles. (Wadworth, Olson, Pennington, and DeFries, 2000, Volume 33, Journal of Learning Disabilities). It would be worth noting that the two dimensions of style reported in this study are related to the attention and dominance study, which was done by Norton in 1983. As research in this field continues through the years, it is possible to link this study to the work of Norton. In discussing the results, Norton suggests that one continuum within the data reflects nondirective communicative activity. Clearly, the animation-dominance and supportive-attentive dimensions relate to this suggested continuum (Norton 1983, p. 80).

What the investigator found in high school students, that there were sex and age differences in their communication style. The difference in sex was largely related to the animation dominance dimensions and the age difference leaned toward the supportive-attention dimension. The major contributions to the overall sex differences came from all male students having the higher mean score than did their female counterparts with respect to dominance and impression, leaving aspects in the area of animation-dominance style. Female students did however come up with a higher mean score in the area of nonverbal behavior (facial gestures or cues). In the view of the findings that have been put before the investigator, it may be within reason to anticipate that females would have a greater propensity to be more attentive than males. After further investigation of the findings, it turns out that in reality both male and female had near identical scores.

Following a literature review with regards to the existence of sex differences in the area of interpersonal relations, Montgomery and Norton (1981) came to the conclusion that a large but very fragmented body of findings suggests that both men and women differ significantly in the area of interpersonal communication. The difference lies in the area of perception, how the male and female perceive each other to be intellectual and aggressive. However, following the analysis of data from two samples, Montgomery and Norton (1981) stated that "Men and women sampled for these studies differed relatively little in their perceptions of their own communication style." (Montgomery and Norton 1981, pp. 132-200). The fact that the sexes associated with the above-mentioned statement are not taken into consideration, leads the investigator to believe that there is not enough evidence to support such a statement. The data that were collected from the high school students from Australia consisted of a younger age group from a socio-cultural setting may be dissimilar to that used in the United States studies. It does not surprise the investigator that perceptions of male and female adolescents are different. Given the age group studied here, the students would be expected to adhere strongly to traditional roles dealing with both male and female behavior.

In regard to the age, the mean difference was developed from the supportive attention dimension meaning (apprehension and relaxation), and the other one being from animation-dominance dimension. The studies show as the high school students increased in age, their apprehension scores increased and their relaxed behavior decreased. The reason for these changes in behavior patterns cannot be determined in this type of study, but it would be interesting to look at the role of high school education procession in these outcomes.

Out of all the theories that have been discussed, only one of the general dimensions of communicator style was found to be positively related with the dimensions of self-concept. Students who believed that they exhibit such active communicative behaviors, as dominance and impression-leaving styles, did not rate themselves high in the area of self-concept. A conclusion like this, in keeping intact with Glauser's (1984) findings that saw self-esteem and self-perceptions of verbal dominance are independent of each other. However, students who rank high in supportive and attention behavior and rank low in communication apprehension did perceive themselves as being rated high in the various areas of the self, meaning (self-concept). Previous research has been done by (McCroskey, Daly, Richmond and Falcione (1977)(, and reported an association between apprehension and the self. But there was no evidence found to link the communication styles together with the philosophy to self-concept. The above-mentioned research was performed in the area of learning disabilities.

All findings that have been reported on in this study were obtained from a large population. Although, in the view of the investigator, more research would be needed to be able to identify and clarify the dimensions of communicator style in other type settings, such as the area of education. This study clearly provided evidence from the charts that relates to the structure of communication style among high school students, the male-female role, and age differential. In the interpretation of these findings, it should be noted that the data for both measures of self and communication style are considered to be based on perceived assessments. The extent to which these perceptions are indications of actual communicator style and self-concept is not precisely known. Clearly research that related these self-perceptions to observed behaviors would further the investigator's understanding of the relationships examined in the current study. (Hansford 1984, pp. 200-201).

In closing, further recordings would include an examination of the college age student, because it is easier to get the information at the undergraduate level. Future projects for the investigator to research could very well be the self-concept theory and the learning disabled child. The investigator feels that there is a connection between self-concept and learning disabilities. The perception could come in many forms, but mainly how teachers perceive the learning-disabled child and how teachers perceive the learning disabled child as compared to the non-learning disabled child. It is clear that a great deal of work needs to be done in the field of communication and self-concept, especially among the younger students. This was a challenging and demanding paper from the investigator's standpoint, but one that could very well help a student struggling with communications and the self. The better a student feels about his or herself, the better that a student will perform. The self-concept theory should be a very important tool used in the educational process.


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