New Girl and the Social Penetration Theory In a new sitcom called New Girl, Jess, an offbeat young woman, decides to moves in with three men that she has never met before after experiencing a bad breakup. Even though she does not know the group of men, she takes the chance to get to know them better through an interview to discuss her interests in becoming the new room mate. In this famous series, Jess, the three men, and Jess’ model best friend Cece come together in an unusual fashion and transcend from awkward strangers to great friends.
This transition that the group experiences is best understood through a concept known as the social penetration theory. The social penetration theory proposes that, as relationships develop, interpersonal communication moves from relatively shallow, non-intimate levels to deeper, more intimate ones. The theory was formulated by psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor to provide an understanding of the closeness between individuals.
The social penetration theory states that this process occurs primarily through self-disclosure and closeness evelops if the participants proceed in a gradual and orderly fashion from superficial to intimate levels of exchange as a function of both immediate and forecast outcomes. Altman and Taylor believe that only through opening one’s self and becoming vulnerable to another person can a close relationship develop. This process, like mentioned before, must occur in sequential phases in order to guarantee success in a relationship according to Altman and Taylor.
The first phase of this theory is the orientation stage where small talk occurs which follows common social normalities . The second is the exploratory affective stage where one starts to reveal oneself and expresses personal attitudes about moderate topics without disclosing a great deal of personal information. Next is the affective stage in which private and personal matters start to arise and opinions are more openly expressed.
Lastly is the stable stage where the relationship now reaches a plateau in which some of the deepest personal thoughts, beliefs, and values are shared and each can predict the emotional reactions of the other person. Along with these phases, there re other contributors to this theory such as depth and breadth; the degree of intimacy and the range of areas in an individual’s life that an individual chooses to share, costs and rewards ratio; negative and positive aspects of a relationship, and depenetration; the slow deterioration ofa relationship.
Through this theory, predictions can be made about a relationship based on its development through these levels of self disclosure. Based on a sort of cost-reward model, this theory argues that for a relationship to develop, both parties must self disclose. However, Its ogic is not necessarily logical in that Altman and Taylor explain this theory in a linear model, which is not always the case.
Because people are constantly changing, it can be argued that what is considered to be self-disclosure often depends on the attitudes of a relational partner. This indicates that self-disclosure and close relationships do not necessarily develop over time in a parallel, incremental, and continuous fashion. Relationships are also intertwined within a network of other social relationships which affect communication patterns exhibited by the partners. I nereTore, otner people may Innuence tne alrectlon 0T a relatlonsnlp.
New Glrl Is a primary example of a relationship moving from non intimate to intimate through disclosure as this theory suggests, but it does so in a non linear and unorthodox manner when compared to Altman’s and Taylor’s model. In New Girl the series starts off with Jess and the three men in the orientation phase as they conduct an interview to see if Jess fits the criteria needed to become the new room mate. They begin the interview by asking her simple questions, such as what her occupation was and if she ad any pets, to determine whether or not Jess would be a suitable addition to the apartment.
Before the men are able to reach the next phase, the exploratory affective stage, Jess goes straight to the affective stage by explaining to the men that she had just gone through a traumatic breakup, which she still wasn’t completely over and in order to cope with the emotions she watches and plans on continuing watching dirty dancing several times a day. This outburst left the men feeling apprehensive in her moving in as this new information not only shocked them, but also made them feel ncomfortable due to her abnormal behavior in disclosing such personal details within such a brief time frame.
However, when Jess explains that she is tired of living with her best friend and model, Cece, the guys decide that the cost of living with Jess may not be too great a price if they can reap the benefits of her model friends. By doing so the relationship between Jess and the three men eventually reaches the stable stage as Jess shares her personal problems with the guys and they in turn get her to date again so she can move on.
In this new formed relationship there is a balance of depth and breadth as they become open with one another in a broad variety of topics. Due to this close knit and open relationship, depenetration does not take place and their friendship continues to flourish. Although skipping stages and inclosing a great deal of information at once is highly discouraged and often times risky when forming a relationship, it can also prove to be beneficial and successful when having the right kind of leverage.
Due to Jess’ ability to openly disclose her houghts and feelings without any hesitation, she and the men build a strong bond with one another that doesn’t have much chance of depleting given their expressive relationship. For this reason The gang demonstrates this theory perfectly by showing that a relationship can flourish through the ability of self disclosure, but it does not necessarily have to follow a linear fashion to be a successful one. Given this information, it is clear that Jess and the men can maintain their correspondence and friendship as long as they remain open and willing to disclose with one another.