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Centre for the Study of Communication and culture


Husband and wife, parent and child, priest and penitent, supervisor and employee, the 'happy hour' regulars at the corner pub - almost all of us communicate interpersonally every day. Important decisions can depend on success or failure in carrying out this process. Ultimately, it probably is of far more practical importance than mass media communication. But what do we really know about it?

As the author of this issue points out, only three of the last forty issues of Trends have focussed on topics which can be labelled 'interpersonal communication'. Most of the other's have been devoted to various aspects of mass communication.

While trying to rectify this neglect, we have to recognize some obstacles. Those studying interpersonal communication often are not able to define just where it ends and other categories of communication begin. The field is handled differently in different countries. In the United States it has been welcomed within the fold of communication science, although others, such as psychologists and anthropologists, have long been interested in it. In Europe and elsewhere it is most often a part of psychology.

To describe the study of interpersonal communication on a worldwide basis therefore is a challenging task. We have elected, for the sake of coherence, to limit our survey to the North American perspective: interpersonal communication treated as a subfield of communication studies. The references, bibliography and current research sections do try to suggest the broader geographic and disciplinary range of relevant efforts, and hopefully a future issue of Trends will be able to deal with the same topic as it is more characteristically studied in other academic traditions.


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