On Communication Accommodation Theory

Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) is a general theoretical framework of both interpersonal and intergroup communication. It seeks to explain and predict why, when, and how people adjust their communicative behavior during social interaction, and what social consequences result from those adjustments. (Dragojevic, Gasiorek, Giles, 2015) Communication accommodation theory is guided by mainly four assumptions: There are speech and behavioral similarities and dissimilarities in all conversations; the way we perceive the speech and behaviors of another determines our evaluation of the conversation; language and behaviors have the ability to communicate social status and group belonging between people in a conversation and norms guide the accommodation process, which varies in its degree of appropriateness. (Turner, West, 2010)

Adjusting for others is an important part of successful interaction. We do not speak to our colleagues in the same way we do our spouses, or our parents in the same way we do to our children; rather, we adapt our communication to our present circumstances.(Giles, Gasiorek, 2012) Doing so helps the sender of the message gain acknowledgment from the receiver, improves efficiency in communication between both parties, and helps the sender maintain a positive social identity. Also, people’s previous experiences with others can affect their future communication and how they adapt to others. People’s attitudes and beliefs, derived from factors, determine the extent to which they are willing to adapt to a conversation. The more similarities they share with each other, the more likely they are to adapt. From a different perspective, expectations about behaviors that individuals think should or should not occur in a conversation provide guidance to help them find the appropriate way to adapt. A teenager should avoid using jargon when speaking to elders in the family to show respect. This can lead to stereotyping if the communicator is not careful, if the communicator is unsure of the norms that the other person considers socially appropriate. Making the wrong assumptions can be more harmful to the relationship than helpful.

As an interface between linguistics, communication, and social psychology, CAT is a framework for understanding the interpersonal and intergroup dynamics of speakers (and communicators) adjusting their language and nonverbal patterns to each other (Farzadnia, Giles, 2015); works as a great tool and an important factor that should be evaluated in communicative behaviors.


Dragojevic, M., Gasiorek, J. and Giles, H. (2015). Communication Accommodation Theory.

Turner, L. H., West, R. (2010). “Communication Accommodation Theory”. Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication (eds C.R. Berger, M.E. Roloff, S.R. Wilson, J.P. Dillard, J. Caughlin and D. Solomon). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic006

Giles, H., Gasiorek, J. (2012). Parameters of Non-Accommodation: Refining and Elaborating Communication Accommodation Theory. University of California, Santa Barbara.

Farzadnia, S., Giles, H. (2015). Patient-Provider Interaction: A Communication Accommodation Theory Perspective. International Journal of Society, Culture & Language, 3(2), 17–34.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store