Argumentativeness and Its Effect on Verbal Aggressiveness: A Meta-Analytic Review
Argumentativeness theory (Infante, 1987) proposes that sources choose between messages that are argumentative and those that are verbally aggressive (Infante, 1981,1982,1985; Infante & Rancer, 1982, 1993). Arguments tive messages attack the positions that others take on given issues, whereas verbally aggressive messages attack the self-concepts of others rather than their positions (Infante & Rancer, 1982). As Dowling and Flint (1990) noted, the theory depicts this choice as dichotomous: A source must choose between attacking issues or people. A central proposition of argumentativeness theory is that by developing procedures that foster enlightened debate, researchers can provide recommendations for the control of verbal aggression (Infante, Hartley, Martin, Higgins, Bruning, & Hur, 1992; Infante, Trebing, Shepherd, & Seeds, 1984). We refer to this hypothesized causal chain as the constructive learning process. Advocates of the theory believe that the accumulation of knowledge about argumentation has been a defining feature of the communication discipline and that this pursuit should play an important part in the discipline’s future (Infante & Rancer, 1996). If the advocates are correct about the constructive learning process, then the theory has important social, political, and interpersonal ramifications.