The Psychology of Communication


1.3 Psycomm is Ubiquitous

Although its importance can not be denied, the Psychology of Communication (may I suggest Psycomm - in contrast to Masscomm - as a handy abbreviation?) is a difficult topic to get a handle on. Whereas most other disciplines can point to a system on which they focus, communication studies can point only to an aspect of all systems. It is the "glue" which holds ALL systems together. The ubiquitous is paradoxically elusive. The fish will be last to discover water.

The Psychology of --- helps narrow the topic down somewhat. Psycomm obviously focuses down on the individual level of analysis in contrast to Mass Communication (Masscomm) which considers the institutional level of analysis. It is important that the usual sociological level of analysis (Masscomm) is supplemented by the psychological level of analysis (Psycomm). However, Psychology itself is a broad topic. The Psychology of Communication would thus seem to pile vagueness on vagueness. Everything seems to involve Psycomm.2 In talking about everything, one runs the risk of saying nothing. Since the topic of this book - psycomm - is such a vast domain, there is a danger that we may focus on everything and therefore focus on nothing.

As one simple illustration of its ubiquity, I culled fifteen articles from The Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette during one week between two classes and demonstrated how they could all be considered as within the domain of Psycomm (see Figure 1-3).

2   When I played professor of psychology and was tempted to abandon my duties and go see a movie, I usually took Oscar Wilde's advice and succumbed to the temptation. However, I told myself that seeing the movie would help me in my work. It was a psychological movie - there were people in it. Now that I'm a professor of communication studies, I don't need any excuse to go see a movie. The movie is a medium, and there's communication in every movie.