By Lois M. Tamir
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Additional info for Communication and the Aging Process. Interaction Throughout the Life Cycle
Straightforward attributions about the environment or the target person are relatively simple to identify. For example, one may attribute poor performance on a test to the unfairness of the tasks requested (environment) or the lack of skill of the testée (person). However, the interaction of the perceived and perceiver characteristics can result in a complex set of attributions and expectations (Nardi, 1973). There are multiple personal factors involved in perceptual attributions about others. As the perceiver identifies the actions, motives, affects, and beliefs of the target person, the perceiver characteristics such as prior experience, intelligence, empathy, affect, and self-concept all serve to influence his cognitive evaluations of the other in direct and indirect ways (Heider, 1958).
Language categorizes experience and channels our perception of the social and physical world. But the process is not static; it varies and changes. As long as we communicate, we are affected by communication and are subject to personal change as well as personal confirmation at all stages of life. Some part of the self is revealed in nearly all communication (Pearce & Sharp, 1973). It can then be accepted, rejected, confirmed or discredited by the listening participant. How the participant in fact reacts makes or breaks the social relationship.
Most typically, specific variations of these features occur simultaneously. For example, in the work setting supervisor and employee talk only about work-related topics. Conversation is formal and messages politely conveyed. Research has shown, however, that shifts in form of speech co-occur with role, topic, and/or setting changes (ErvinTripp, 1968; Fishman, 1972; Schegloff & Sacks, 1973). Supervisor and employee discuss football at the company party. Talk becomes informal. They act like pals.