Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation provides a novel understanding for communication in interpersonal relationships. The instinctual human need to observe serves as a social navigation tool, yet individuals also recognize when they are under observation. Individuals respond to social stimuli from others, attempting to understand another person’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and anticipated actions (Heider, 1958). Complimenting partners and recognizing their accomplishments exemplify affectionate communication (Floyd & Morman, 1998), yet may elude to observational communication within interpersonal relationships when expressions do not accurately reflect underlying feelings. While modest amounts of observation could promote affectionate relationships, extreme forms of observation may be an effect of jealousy (e.g., Attridge, 2013; Buss, 2000) where jealousy is directly related to the expressed observational communication.

This dissertation focuses on observational communication as a unique communicative behavior that is not recognized in scholarship and distinct from affection and jealousy. Through two studies, this dissertation develops and validates the communication observation measure (COM), offering conceptual and operational definitions to the construct. Study 1 develops the measure through the layperson’s perspective. Participants (N=56) provided the initial referents. Study 1 then explores the initial factor structure of the measure. The result is a 16-item three factor solution. Study 2 validates the measures psychometric properties through convergent and discriminant correlational analyses. Observational communication emerged as verbal and/or nonverbal behaviors that communicate inquiry, contempt, and thoughtfulness.



Committee Chair

Honeycutt, James



Available for download on Monday, March 15, 2027