Researching communication science phenomena from all angles

Published on June 16, 2020 –  In a recent article in the Journal of Communication, ACHC member Christin Scholz and co-authors introduce a domain general explanatory framework that integrates biological explanation with communication science. A full explanation of a communication behavior like persuasion requires three levels of investigation: computation (Why does the behavior occur?), algorithm (What happens exactly?), and implementation (How is the behavior physically implemented?). The authors argue that communication science has mostly focused on “Why?” explanations. 

To fully understand a communication behavior or effect like persuasion, it needs to be studied from multiple angles. Scholz and her co-authors argue that a multi-level approach to communication science research can lead to a deeper, more generalizable understanding of communication processes and integrate knowledge produced across many different communication science sub-fields like political and health communication. Specifically, the authors draw on David Marr’s classical framework, suggesting that human behaviors can be explained on the three levels computation, algorithm and implementation. They apply this framework to three research domains in communication science—audience research, persuasion, and social comparisons—to demonstrate what a unifying framework for explaining communication across the levels of why, what, and how can look like, and how Marr’s framework speaks to and receives input from all subfields of communication inquiry.

Richard Huskey, Amelia Couture Bue, Allison Eden, Clare Grall, Dar Meshi, Kelsey Prena, Ralf Schmälzle, Christin Scholz, Benjamin O Turner, Shelby Wilcox, Marr’s Tri-Level Framework Integrates Biological Explanation Across Communication Subfields. Journal of Communication, 70, 356–378.

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