Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

J. Renee Edwards


This study explores the causes of a widespread and important communication phenomenon, interpersonal equivocation. Literature is reviewed which shows clearly that a sufficient cause of interpersonal equivocation is situational avoidance-avoidance conflict, but also which suggests the possibility of additional situational (formality of social setting) and trait (self-monitoring) precursors of equivocation. Using a questionnaire technique, participants were asked to imagine themselves in three different interpersonal situations, which were manipulated to vary the level of situational formality. In addition, in each situation, they were asked to respond to a question from their hypothetical conversational partner. These questions were designed to manipulate the other key situational variable, presence or absence of avoidance-avoidance conflict. Participants' responses, consisting of how likely they were to use each of several possible answers previously scaled for degree of equivocation, resulted in equivocation scores for each situation and an overall score. Participants also completed the Revised Self-Monitoring Scale. As expected, results supported a strong role for avoidance-avoidance conflict as an influence upon equivocation, and also suggested that formality level and avoidance-avoidance conflict interact to influence the degree of equivocation. However, none of the hypothesized interactions between self-monitoring and the other independent variables were significant, probably due to the intrusive nature of avoidance- avoidance conflict as an element of social situations. A surprising discovery was that higher self-monitoring results in less equivocation, a finding that is explained by the likelihood that higher self-monitors are more aware of the importance of Grice's Cooperative Principle to the smooth functioning of human interactions. In addition, several post hoc findings regarding gender are discussed, especially in terms of future research possibilities. This research has demonstrated that, while avoidance-avoidance conflict is certainly a sufficient cause, there are other situational and dispositional factors that contribute to our understanding of interpersonal equivocation.