Stability as an Outcome in Communication Research
Since the earliest days of communication research, key findings have often involved the claim that attitudes or behaviors become stable because of communication. Research tends to focus on changes in attitudes or behaviors, however, which can cause confusion when changes are not observed. A lack of theorizing about stability leaves scientists unable to distinguish between null results and attitude stabilization that occurs because of communication. Furthermore, research tends to use the term reinforcement in a way that sometimes means stability, but in others means attitude change. This article argues that stability can be an effect of communication and provides an overview of the research designs needed to perform research of this kind. It concludes by showing how an existing theory, the reinforcing spirals model, can be used to make predictions about how communication leads to stability.
stability, communication theory, reinforcement, longitudinal design, media