Expectancy Violations Theory Abstract

A New Horizon for a Classic Perspective: Facebook and Expectancy Violations Theory


Using the Expectancy Violations Theory in respect to online relationships, the purpose of this study was to test Facebook as a means of communication and whether its users establish a sequence of social norms in their expectations when they go online.

There are three main premises of EVT: expectancy, violation valence, and communicator reward valence. Applying this premise to relationships and communication made via. Facebook, the author states that, “EVT should be applicable to Facebook if aspects of that SNS and the relationships existing within that medium can be described through EVT terminology. The norms used to develop expectations are largely dependent on established and generally understood societal assumptions about a class of behaviors…” (Fife, Nelson, & Zhang, 2012, p. 16).

From the two research studies that were completed and discussed, both asked people ranging from 18-40 years old the following questions:

  • What are some “surprises” and negative behaviors on Facebook that exist as a way of people trying to identify previous expectations?
  • Do you generally accept friend requests from known requesters, as well as carefully consider privacy needs of friends?
  • To what extent are the tenets and predictions of Expectancy Violation Theory relevant to communication on Facebook?

After coming up with three hypotheses which correspond to the research questions, the author makes the claim that, “One of the key tenets of expectancy violation theory is that violations by more ‘rewarding’ interactants will be perceived more positively than the same violations committed by less ‘rewarding’ interactants” (Fife et al., 2012, p. 17).

The methodology that was used throughout these studies was by surveying 236 students from a liberal arts college with four provided scenarios. For each scenario, participants reacted to the same things which where developed to assess their responses, with answers in a range of Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. Students were recruited by their professors, either for class participation or for extra credit.

The study’s overall findings were that EVT does seem to enable predictions for Facebook-based communication in relationships, which are in harmony with its basic tenets.

As scholars begin to understand more of the norms of communication through Facebook, they will be able to explain and predict reactions to violations of those norms more easily.


Fife, E., Nelson, C. L., & Zhang, K. (2012). A New Horizon for a Classic Perspective: Facebook and Expectancy Violation Theory. Journal Of The Communication, Speech & Theatre Association Of North Dakota2513-23.


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