Multiple Goals Theories: From Message Production to Evaluation

John P. Caughlin, Steven R. Wilson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, the authors discuss multiple goals theories, which assume that interpersonal interaction is inherently strategic in the sense that we communicate to accomplish various desired ends or interaction goals. Although there are many specific goals one can pursue through interpersonal communication, three broad categories are common in everyday interaction: Instrumental goals define the communicative task being undertaken; interpersonal goals concern relationships with others; and identity goals refer to the impressions one wishes to make for both oneself and others. The “multiple” part of multiple goals theories comes with the recognition that people typically have more than one interaction goal at a time, and often these goals can compete. This chapter illustrates the key concepts of multiple goals theories with two examples: Dillard’s goals-plans-action model and Caughlin’s multiple goals theory of personal relationships. These theories show how multiple goals theories can be applied to a wide variety of research objectives, including (a) explaining why people say what they do in particular situations, (b) making judgments about better and worse things to say in particular situations, and (c) understanding how people evaluate communication in their personal relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEngaging Theories in Interpersonal Communication
Subtitle of host publicationMultiple Perspectives, 3rd Edition
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781000457018
ISBN (Print)9780367425296
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple Goals Theories: From Message Production to Evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this