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Understanding Human Communication

Twelfth Edition

Ronald B. Adler, George Rodman, and Athena du Pré

Publication Date - November 2013

ISBN: 9780199334322

528 pages
8-1/2 x 11 inches

Retail Price to Students: $97.95

The #1 choice for over 30 years . . . and the best just got better.


For over three decades, this has been the bestselling text for the Human Communication course. Understanding Human Communication is written with one goal in mind: to provide students with the insights and skills to succeed in our changing world. Fully updated and expanded to include more information on culture and communication, gender and communication, and the effects of technology and social media on communication, this twelfth edition also features two new types of boxes, "Understanding Diversity" and "@Work," as well as new annotated sample speeches.

New to this Edition

  • Updated and expanded coverage of:
  • --Culture and communication, in a full chapter (Chapter 3) and new "Understanding Diversity" boxes
  • --Gender and communication, including gender roles and sexual orientation (Chapter 4)
  • --The effects of technology and social media on communication, throughout the text and in new "Understanding Communication Technology" boxes
  • --Communication strategies for career success in an expanded career appendix and new "@Work" boxes
  • --Tips on effective speaking, with new annotated sample speeches (Chapters 11 through 14)
  • New design and features:
  • --Chapter-opening profiles highlighting real-world communication challenges
  • --Self-assessments for evaluating and improving communication skills
  • --Checklists in the public speaking chapters, summarizing tips at a glance
  • --"On Your Feet" prompts for public speaking practice
  • --Contemporary examples and videos, including a YouTube channel of clips from films, TV shows, ads, and Internet videos that bring communication concepts to life
  • A revised and updated support package:
  • --The Dashboard platform delivers high-quality resources for instructors and students in an intuitive, web-based learning environment and is compatible with mobile devices
  • --YouTube channel brings communication concepts to life through TV and film clips
  • --Instructor's Manual and Test Bank on CD or in print
  • --PowerPoint©-based and Prezi slides include quizzes, video links, discussion prompts, class activities, and more
  • --Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/adler offers free resources for instructors and students
  • --Now Playing: Learning Communication Through Film
  • --Student Success Manual
  • --Bonus chapters available on Mass Communication and on Communication and Service Learning
  • --Cartridges for course management systems are available as an alternative to Dashboard

About the Author(s)

Ronald B. Adler is Professor of Communication, Emeritus, at Santa Barbara City College. He is coauthor of Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication, Twelfth Edition (OUP, 2013), Looking Out, Looking In (2014), and Communicating at Work: Principles and Practices for Business and the Professions (2013).

George Rodman is Professor in the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, where he founded the graduate media studies program. He is the author of Mass Media in a Changing World, Fourth Edition (2012), Making Sense of Media (2001), and several books on public speaking.

Athena du Pré is Professor of Communication at the University of West Florida. She is the author of Communicating About Health: Current Issues and Perspectives, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2014), as well as other books, journal articles, and chapters on communicating effectively in modern organizations.

Previous Publication Date(s)

January 2011
February 2008
April 2005


"Understanding Human Communication is highly readable, its coverage is well balanced, and it's visually pleasing--this is a text that students will actually read. It also emphasizes real-world applications, which students these days need and WANT."--Debi Hill, Sauk Valley Community College

"Understanding Human Communication is one of the most comprehensive and affordable texts on the market."--Shawnalee A. Whitney, University of Alaska Anchorage

"I truly prefer this text to the 8-9 other books I've used and reviewed. It is clearly organized, well written, conversational, relevant, modern, and fun."--Cheryl Chambers, Mississippi State University

"In the years I have taught this course, I have never found a more comprehensive yet relatable text for students than Understanding Human Communication."--Cole Franklin, East Texas Baptist University

"The self-assessments really make this text stand out and the real-life opening scenarios are much stronger than those in other texts."--Jennifer McCullough, Kent State University

"I admire the authors' openness to teach necessary concepts that are outside the world of academia. They set the tone immediately by presenting a real-world application; a blog. Also, for those students who may not be aware of how communication and technology are fused, the 'Understanding Communication Technology' feature offers thought-provoking situations about how we use and abuse social media."--Jason Ziebart, Central Carolina Community College

"I love Now Playing. It engages students using current films and provides them with common ground to discuss examples. I also love the consistent focus on diversity, culture, ethics, and technology. Any student exposed to this text-be it a communications major or a non-major-will walk away with a basic yet textured understanding of the importance of effective communication."--Marie Baker-Ohler, Northern Arizona University

"I love the way that the authors have incorporated 'private and interpersonal' communication into the book. It's not just about making speeches; it really is about understanding how people communicate and learning about communicating more effectively in all settings."--Deanna Brooke-Armentrout, Potomac State College of WVU

"Updated topics, pictures, and scenarios make this book a timely and interesting read. It offers students all the tools that they need to become dynamic communicators."--Kimberly Batty-Herbert, South Florida State College

"The most relevant, current, and complete text I've seen for an introductory communication course. This edition incorporates social media better than any other text and has self-assessments, 'on your feet' prompts, film clips, up-to-date examples, more on communication apprehension, and profiles of real people."--Brittany W. Hochstaetter, Wake Technical Community College

"Reading this book is like having a conversation, and my students will like the contemporary look and feel."--Don Taylor, Blue Ridge Community College

Table of Contents

    Part One: Fundamentals of Human Communication
    1. Human Communication: What and Why?
    Communication Defined
    Characteristics of Communication
    Modeling Communication
    Types of Communication
    Intrapersonal Communication
    Dyadic/Interpersonal Communication
    Small Group Communication
    Organizational Communication
    Public Communication
    Mass Communication
    Communication in a Changing World
    Changing Technology
    Changing Discipline
    Understanding Social Media
    Mediated Versus Face-to-Face Communication
    How People Use Social Media
    Communicating Competently with Social Media
    Functions of Communication
    Physical Needs
    Identity Needs
    Social Needs
    Practical Needs
    Communication Competence: What Makes an Effective Communicator?
    Communication Competence Defined
    Characteristics of Competent Communicators
    Clarifying Misconceptions about Communication
    Communication Does Not Always Require Complete Understanding
    Communication Will Not Solve All Problems
    Communication Isn't Always a Good Thing
    Meanings Rest in People, Not Words
    Communication Is Not Simple
    More Communication Isn't Always Better
    Self-Assessment: Your Communication Choices
    Understanding Communication Technology: Social Media Meet
    Communication Needs
    Self-Assessment: Your Communication Strengths and Goals
    Ethical Challenge: To Communicate or Not to Communicate?
    @Work: Can You Be Too Connected?
    2. The Self, Perception, and Communication
    Communication and the Self
    Self-Concept Defined
    Biology, Personality, and the Self
    Communication and Development of the Self
    Culture and the Self-Concept
    The Self-Concept and Communication with Others
    The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Communication
    Perceiving Others
    Steps in the Perception Process
    Influences on Perception
    Narratives, Perception, and Communication
    Common Perceptual Tendencies
    Perception in Mediated Communication
    Empathy, Perception, and Communication
    Communication and Identity Management
    Public and Private Selves
    Characteristics of Identity Management
    Why Manage Identities?
    Identity Management in Mediated Communication
    Identity Management and Honesty
    Self-Assessment: Communication and Your Self-Esteem
    Ethical Challenge: Is Honesty the Best Policy?
    Understanding Diversity: Managing Identity and Coming Out
    @Work: Identity Management in the Workplace
    Understanding Communication Technology: Avatars Offer New Virtual Identities
    Ethical Challenge: Honesty and Multiple Identities
    3. Communication and Culture
    Understanding Cultures and Cocultures
    Intercultural and Intergroup Communication: A Matter of Salience
    Cultural Differences Are Generalizations
    Cultural Values and Norms Shape Communication
    Individualism and Collectivism
    High- and Low-Context
    Uncertainty Avoidance
    Power Distance
    Beliefs about Talk and Silence
    Competitive and Cooperative Cultures
    Cocultures and Communication
    Ethnicity and Race
    Regional Differences
    Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
    Physical Ability/Disability
    Socioeconomic Status
    Developing Intercultural Communication Competence
    Increased Contact
    Tolerance for Ambiguity
    Knowledge and Skill
    Patience and Perseverance
    @Work: Power Distance and Culture in the Workplace
    Understanding Diversity: Communicating with People Who Have Disabilities
    Self-Assessment: What Is your Intercultural Sensitivity?
    Ethical Challenge: Civility When Values Clash
    Part Two: Communication Elements
    4. Language
    The Nature of Language
    Language Is Symbolic
    Meanings Are in People, Not Words
    Language Is Rule Governed
    The Power of Language
    Language Shapes Attitudes
    Language Reflects Attitudes
    Troublesome Language
    The Language of Misunderstandings
    Disruptive Language
    Evasive Language
    Gender and Language
    Language Similarities and Differences by Gender
    Understanding Gender Differences in Language Use
    Transcending Gender Boundaries
    @Work: What's in a Name?
    Ethical Challenge: Sexist and Racist Language
    Understanding Diversity: Language and Worldview
    Understanding Communication Technology: Twitter Lingo Incites Controversy
    Self-Assessment: Your Use of Language
    Ethical Challenge: Euphemisms and Equivocations
    5. Listening
    The Importance of Listening
    Misconceptions About Listening
    Listening and Hearing Are Not the Same Thing
    Listening Is Not a Natural Process
    All Listeners Do Not Receive the Same Message
    Overcoming Challenges to Effective Listening
    Mindful Listening Requires Effort
    Faulty Listening Behaviors
    Reasons for Poor Listening
    Types of Listening
    Task-Oriented Listening
    Relational Listening
    Analytical Listening
    Critical Listening
    Listening and Social Support
    Social Support and Mediated Communication
    Gender and Social Support
    Types of Supportive Responses
    When and How to Help
    @Work: Multi-tasking: A Recipe for Inattention
    Self-Assessment: Your Listening
    Ethical Challenge: How Carefully Should You Listen?
    Understanding Communication Technology: Who Is Listening To You Online?
    6. Nonverbal Communication
    Characteristics of Nonverbal Communication
    Nonverbal Behavior Has Communicative Value
    Nonverbal Communication Is Primarily Relational
    Nonverbal Communication Is Ambiguous
    Nonverbal Communication Is Different from Verbal Communication
    Nonverbal Skills Are Important
    Influences on Nonverbal Communication
    Functions of Nonverbal Communication
    Types of Nonverbal Communication
    Body Movements
    Building Competence in Nonverbal Communication
    Tune Out Words
    Use Perception Checking
    Pay Attention to Your Own Nonverbal Behavior
    Understanding Diversity: How Accurate is Gaydar?
    Understanding Communication Technology: Expressiveness in Online Communication
    Self-Assessment: How Worldly Are Your Nonverbal Communication Skills?
    Ethical Challenge: Clothing and Impression Management
    @Work: Touch and Career Success
    Part Three: Interpersonal Communication
    7. Understanding Interpersonal Relationships
    Why We Form Relationships
    Reciprocal Attraction
    Characteristics of Interpersonal Communication
    What Makes Communication Interpersonal?
    Interpersonal Communication in Online Relationships
    Content and Relational Messages
    Communication over the Relational Lifespan
    A Developmental Perspective
    A Dialectical Perspective
    Intimacy in Interpersonal Relationships
    Dimensions of Intimacy
    Male and Female Intimacy Styles
    Personal Preferences for Intimacy
    Cultural Influences on Intimacy
    Self-Disclosure in Interpersonal Relationships
    Models of Self-Disclosure
    Characteristics of Effective Self-Disclosure
    Guidelines for Appropriate Self-Disclosure
    Lies, Equivocation, and Hinting
    Understanding Communication Technology: To End a Romance, Just Press "Send"
    Understanding Diversity: Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?
    Self-Assessment: Your Love Languages
    Ethical Challenge: The Ethics of Lying and Equivocating
    8. Improving Interpersonal Relationships
    Communication Climates in Interpersonal Relationships
    Confirming and Disconfirming Messages
    How Communication Climates Develop
    Creating Positive Communication Climates
    Understanding Interpersonal Conflict
    The Nature of Conflict
    Styles of Expressing Conflict
    Characteristics of an Assertive Message
    Gender and Conflict Style
    Conflict in Online Communication
    Cultural Influences on Conflict
    Managing Interpersonal Conflicts
    Methods for Conflict Resolution
    Steps in Win-Win Problem Solving
    Understanding Communication Technology: Can You Hear Me Now?
    @Work: Dealing with Sexual Harassment
    Ethical Challenge: Choosing an Ethical Conflict Style
    Self-Assessment: Your Assertiveness Level
    Understanding Diversity: They Seem to be Arguing
    Part Four: Communication in Groups
    9. Communicating in Groups
    The Nature of Groups and Teams
    What Is a Group?
    What Makes a Group a Team?
    Virtual and Face-to-Face Groups
    Goals of Groups and Their Members
    Group Goals
    Individual Goals
    Characteristics of Groups and Teams
    Rules and Norms
    Patterns of Interaction
    Patterns of Interaction
    Leadership and Communication
    Approaches to Leadership
    Leader-Member Relationships
    Becoming a Leader
    Followership and Communication
    Types of Followers
    The Power of Followers
    Ethical Challenge: Rules for Hidden Agendas
    Self-Assessment: Your Leadership Approach
    @Work: "I'll Do It Myself"--Or Should I?
    Self-Assessment: How Good a Follower Are You?
    10. Solving Problems in Groups
    Problem Solving in Groups: When and Why
    Advantages of Group Problem Solving
    When to Use Groups for Problem Solving
    Setting the Stage for Problem Solving
    Maintaining Positive Relationships
    Developmental Stages in Problem-Solving Groups
    Group Problem-Solving Strategies and Formats
    Problem-Solving Formats
    Solving Problems in Virtual Groups
    Approaches and Strategies for Problem Solving
    A Structured Problem-Solving Approach
    Decision-Making Methods
    Overcoming Dangers in Group Discussion
    Information Underload and Overload
    Unequal Participation
    Pressure to Conform
    Understanding Diversity: Maximizing the Effectiveness of Multicultural Teams
    Self-Assessment: How Effective is Your Team?
    @Work: The Power of Constructive Dialog
    Understanding Communication Technology: Developing Trust Long Distance
    Ethical Challenge: Dealing with Overly Talkative and Quiet Group Members
    Part Five: Public Communication
    11. Preparing Speeches
    Getting Started
    Choosing Your Topic
    Defining Your Purpose
    Writing a Purpose Statement
    Stating Your Thesis
    Analyzing the Speaking Situation
    The Listener: Audience Analysis
    The Occasion
    Gathering Information
    Online Research
    Library Research
    Survey Research
    Managing Communication Apprehension
    Facilitative and Debilitative Communication Apprehension
    Sources of Debilitative Communication Apprehension
    Overcoming Debilitative Communication Apprehension
    Choosing a Type of Delivery
    Practicing the Speech
    Guidelines for Delivery
    Visual Aspects of Delivery
    Auditory Aspects of Delivery
    Sample Speech
    Ethical Challenge: Adapting to Speaking Situations
    @Work: Sample Analysis of a Speaking Situation
    Self-Assessment: Speech Anxiety
    Understanding Diversity: A Compendium of American Dialects
    12. Organization and Support
    Structuring Your Speech
    Your Working Outline
    Your Formal Outline
    Your Speaking Notes
    Principles of Outlining
    Standard Symbols
    Standard Format
    The Rule of Division
    The Rule of Parallel Wording
    Organizing Your Outline into a Logical Pattern
    Time Patterns
    Space Patterns
    Topic Patterns
    Problem-Solution Patterns
    Cause-Effect Patterns
    Using Transitions
    Beginning and Ending the Speech
    The Introduction
    The Conclusion
    Supporting Material
    Functions of Supporting Material
    Types of Supporting Material
    Styles of Support: Narration and Citation
    Sample Speech
    Self-Assessment: Main Points and Subpoints
    Understanding Diversity: Nontraditional Patterns of Organization
    @Work: Organizing Business Presentations
    Ethical Challenge: The Ethics of Support
    Understanding Communication Technology: Plagiarism in a Digital Age
    13. Informative Speaking
    Types of Informative Speaking
    By Content
    By Purpose
    Informative Versus Persuasive Topics
    An Informative Topic Tends to Be Noncontroversial
    The Informative Speaker Does Not Intend to Change Audience Attitudes
    Techniques of Informative Speaking
    Define a Specific Informative Purpose
    Create Information Hunger
    Make It Easy to Listen
    Use Clear, Simple Language
    Use a Clear Organization and Structure
    Use Supporting Material Effectively
    Emphasize Important Points
    Generate Audience Involvement
    Using Visual Aids
    Types of Visual Aids
    Media for the Presentation of Visual Aids
    Rules for Using Visual Aids
    Using PowerPoint
    Sample Speech
    Self-Assessment: Information Overload
    Understanding Diversity: How Culture Affects Information
    Ethical Challenge: The Ethics of Simplicity
    @Work: The Pros and Cons of Presentation Software
    14. Persuasive Speaking
    Characteristics of Persuasion
    Persuasion Is Not Coercive
    Persuasion Is Usually Incremental
    Persuasion Is Interactive
    Persuasion Can Be Ethical
    Categorizing Types of Persuasion
    By Types of Proposition
    By Desired Outcome
    By Directness of Approach
    Creating the Persuasive Message
    Set a Clear, Persuasive Purpose
    Structure the Message Carefully
    Use Solid Evidence
    Avoid Fallacies
    Adapting to the Audience
    Ethical Challenge: Analyzing Communication Behaviors
    Understanding Diversity: Cultural Differences in Persuasion
    Self-Assessment: Persuasive Speech
    Ethical Challenge: Adapting to a Hostile Audience
    @Work: Persuasion Skills in the World of Sales
    Appendix: Communicating for Career Success

Teaching Resources


  • Companion Website and Dashboard: (www.oup.com/us/adler
    • A YouTube channel of 3-4 clips per chapter that illustrate key comm concepts and theories. 
    • Examples of real student speeches, both good and bad, permissioned from students of instructors who have used and/or reviewed UHC. 
    • The ability for students to record and upload speeches directly to the Dashboard platform, and for instructors and classmates to then comment on those speeches. 
    • Assignable Pre- and Post- tests (80 multiple choice q’s) per chapter for either student practice or for a grade. They give correct and incorrect answer feedback.
    • An online gradebook
    • Activities for students that refer them to outside resources across all media platforms (print, online, video), incorporate current events, and require they answer critical thinking questions.  Instructors will have the option of assigning these activities as graded homework assignments through Dashboard.
  • New and Improved Instructor’s Manual and Test Bank (9780199338498) includes teaching tips and course information, chapter-by-chapter overviews, objectives, critical-thinking and classroom activities, and suggested readings and films.  The comprehensive Test Bank includes an average of sixty exam questions per chapter in multiple-choice, true/false, matching, and completion formats. An online only portion features the media room, Youtube Channel, and discussion questions.
  • Instructor’s Resource CD (9780199338511) includes the full Instructor’s Manual, a computerized test bank, and pre-built, editable PowerPoint-based lecture presentations with selected tables and figures from the main book.
  • Now Playing 2014 Instructor’s Edition includes an introduction on how to incorporate film clips in class, as well as even more film examples, viewing guides and assignments, sample responses to the discussion questions in the student edition, and a full list of references. Now Playing 2014 Student Edition illustrates how communication concepts play out in a variety of situations, using a mass medium that is interactive, familiar, and easily accessible to students
  • Lecture Presentation Materials – Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software with a 3-D zooming feature that allows the author to create a spatial, provides a more engaging lecture experience for students. Powerpoints are also available.  Both the PowerPoints and Prezis are authored by Athena du Pre, with the aid of one of her graduate students.
  • Student Success Manual (9780199338504) (available free to students in a package) includes a primer on effective study habits as well as chapter-specific information such as outlines, summaries, key terms, review questions, and critical-thinking exercises.


Package our Communication texts with any Oxford book for a 20% savings off the total package price! 

Package this book with Now Playing or the Student Success Manual for free! Package both for only $5 more!

  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Now Playing 2014: 9780199364510
    • $92.95
  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Student Success Manual: 9780199364527
    • $92.95
  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Student Success Manual + Now Playing 2014: 9780199364534
    • $97.95

Package Options with Dashboard:

  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Now Playing 2014 + Access Code Card for Dashboard
    • $97.95
  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Student Success Manual + Access Code Card for Dashboard
    • $97.95
  • Understanding Human Communication 12E + Now Playing 2014 + Student Success Manual + Access Code Card for Dashboard
    • $102.95

Visit www.oup.com/us/he for Oxford’s full catalog.

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