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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 24 suggest that many of the documented differences between cultures reflect surface-level manifestations of the interaction between environmental circumstances and flexible psychological algorithms, or as Wright (1994) put it, “culturally mediated reflections of a deeper genetic logic.” For example, differences in how cultures around the world use personal space have been tied to development, as “personal space becomes a relevant concept only under conditions of a social order in which personal identity has value, and is heightened under conditions of resource shortage and threat” (Nicholson, 1997a, A tendency to gravitate toward common ground rather than exclusive territories, par. 1). Future Directions In this essay, we suggest that evolutionary scholarship shows tremendous promise in guiding our future theory-building efforts. To this end, we differentiate that perspective’s assumptions about human nature and behavior from those held by the traditional social sciences and humanities. We argue that there is mounting evidence to suggest that all humans come equipped at birth with the same content-specific information processing mechanisms, and that these are a product of adaptive pressures our hominid ancestors faced during our evolutionary past. We posit also that those psychological adaptations of immediate relevance to organizational communication scholars are likely to be those that center upon our hard wiring for reciprocation and coordination. We offer several bodies of evidence for our position. Besides the anecdotal evidence that we can all identify with, we offer an analysis of the employee- organization exchange contract, which draws on current socialization scholarship, and a few examples of the rigorous testing of adaptations that evolutionary psychologists themselves have conducted. In addition, we argue that the emotions we display in organizations are strongly tied to our perceptions of equitable exchange practices, and that using emotions as a starting point in our research can help us more readily identify the underlying causal mechanisms for our communication practices. Finally, we point to the universality of exchange and coordination. We believe, like Nicholson (1997a), that evolutionary scholarship “offers a new way of seeing which exempts almost no social phenomena from its purview” (Conclusions, par 1). Its theories are both heuristic in value and parsimonious in explication. However, we also think that an evolutionary perspective to human mind and behavior spells a ‘dangerous opportunity’ 10 for the field of communication in general and organizational communication scholarship in particular. It is dangerous because it stands to create a crisis for the field, perhaps more profound than the epistemological battles of the 70’s (e.g., laws, rules, systems), 80’s (e.g., functionalist, interpretive, critical) and 90’s (e.g., positivism vs. post- modernism). Perhaps more optimistically though, it also grants scholars a deeper, more meaningful platform upon which to engage in debate - one that allows us to ponder the very meaning of our existence as a species and the role of communication in our development. On the other hand, its heuristic value,

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
24
suggest that many of the documented differences between cultures reflect surface-level manifestations of
the interaction between environmental circumstances and flexible psychological algorithms, or as Wright
(1994) put it, “culturally mediated reflections of a deeper genetic logic.” For example, differences in how
cultures around the world use personal space have been tied to development, as “personal space becomes
a relevant concept only under conditions of a social order in which personal identity has value, and is
heightened under conditions of resource shortage and threat” (Nicholson, 1997a, A tendency to gravitate
toward common ground rather than exclusive territories, par. 1).
Future Directions
In this essay, we suggest that evolutionary scholarship shows tremendous promise in guiding our
future theory-building efforts. To this end, we differentiate that perspective’s assumptions about human
nature and behavior from those held by the traditional social sciences and humanities. We argue that there
is mounting evidence to suggest that all humans come equipped at birth with the same content-specific
information processing mechanisms, and that these are a product of adaptive pressures our hominid
ancestors faced during our evolutionary past. We posit also that those psychological adaptations of
immediate relevance to organizational communication scholars are likely to be those that center upon our
hard wiring for reciprocation and coordination. We offer several bodies of evidence for our position.
Besides the anecdotal evidence that we can all identify with, we offer an analysis of the employee-
organization exchange contract, which draws on current socialization scholarship, and a few examples of
the rigorous testing of adaptations that evolutionary psychologists themselves have conducted. In
addition, we argue that the emotions we display in organizations are strongly tied to our perceptions of
equitable exchange practices, and that using emotions as a starting point in our research can help us more
readily identify the underlying causal mechanisms for our communication practices. Finally, we point to
the universality of exchange and coordination.
We believe, like Nicholson (1997a), that evolutionary scholarship “offers a new way of seeing
which exempts almost no social phenomena from its purview” (Conclusions, par 1). Its theories are both
heuristic in value and parsimonious in explication. However, we also think that an evolutionary
perspective to human mind and behavior spells a ‘dangerous opportunity’
10
for the field of communication
in general and organizational communication scholarship in particular. It is dangerous because it stands to
create a crisis for the field, perhaps more profound than the epistemological battles of the 70’s (e.g., laws,
rules, systems), 80’s (e.g., functionalist, interpretive, critical) and 90’s (e.g., positivism vs. post-
modernism). Perhaps more optimistically though, it also grants scholars a deeper, more meaningful
platform upon which to engage in debate - one that allows us to ponder the very meaning of our existence
as a species and the role of communication in our development. On the other hand, its heuristic value,


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