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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Jon F. Schamber

First Committee Member

Kenneth Day

Second Committee Member

Randall J. Koper


This study replicates and extends previous research on the relationship between interpersonal construct differentiation and message production in regulative communication situations (O'Keefe & McComack, 1987; O'Keefe, 1988). The research examines whether a subject's use of a particular message design logic (expressive, conventional, or rhetorical) and goal structure (minimal, unifunctional, or multifunctional) is related to his or her level of cognitive complexity, gender, and locus of control. Subjects (n = 160) were asked to complete the Crockett's (1966) Role Category Questionnaire (RCQ) and Levenson's (1981) Internal, Powerful Others, and Chance Scale. Subjects were also asked to respond to a hypothetical regulative communication task. Their responses were then classified according to criteria established by O'Keefe. The study found a significant positive relationship between construct differentiation and message design such that less complex subjects wrote expressive messages, moderately complex subjects wrote conventional messages, and highly complex subjects wrote rhetorical messages. There was a significant negative relationship between construct differentiation and goal structure such that less complex respondents sought multifunctional goals while highly complex subjects sought minimal goals. There were no gender related differences. The locus of control constructs (internality, powerlessness, and chance) were related to message design. Internal, powerful, and low chance orientated actors composed conventional or rhetorical messages. External, powerless, and high chance orientated respondents wrote expressive messages. Powerlessness was related to goal structure such that powerless actors sought multiple goals while powerful subjects sought minimal goals. The results ofthe study provide partial support for O'Keefe's (1988) theory of message design. In particular, the results confirm the premise that construct differentiation is a predictor of message design logic. The findings also identify locus of control as a predictor of message design. The negative relationships identified in the study suggest that there may be conceptual or methodological problems with O'Keefe's model which must be addressed before any additional conclusions can be made.



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