Communication Theories at Their Finest: Symmetry Theory

Symmetry theory is one of my personal favorites when it comes to communication theories. Symmetry theory was proposed by Theodore Newcomb, in association with balance or consonance theory, and suggests that people seek an attitude similar to that of those they are close to. People will agree or disagree with others, not only based on what they say, but also because of their relationship with that person.

Personally, I think symmetry theory is interesting because it tends to relate to people’s beliefs, and the values they are brought up on, while reflecting their personal relationships and the value they place in those relationships.

Symmetry theory is important to public relations writing because it requires research. Before a PR campaign can be launched, research must be done, and it would seem that people most agree with those around them, which could impact the message they are receiving.

Personally, if I am close to someone and appreciate their opinions, I am more likely to agree with them. If I do not like someone, and they come off strongly and in a negative light, I am less likely to agree with them if they present me with a topic I am on the fence about.

By doing extensive background research, public relations professionals can know what type of person would make the majority of consumers agree with them, making their campaigns more successful. This idea is already in play in a number of campaigns, like the P&G “Thank You Mom” commercial. If you tend to agree with your mom and have a positive relationship with her, you most likely agree with this commercial, which may prompt you to buy P&G products. If you do not have a close relationship with your mother and do not typically agree with her, this commercial may steer you away from P&G products.

Symmetry theory is very relevant in today’s world. By gaining an insight into consumers’ minds through research, symmetry theory can be a useful tool of persuasion.


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