Burgoon's work initially analyzed individuals' allowances and expectations of personal space and how responses to personal space violations were influenced by the level of liking and relationship to the violators.
Because EVT is sociopsychological in nature and focuses on social codes in both intrapersonal and interpersonal communication, it is closely related to communication theories such as cognitive dissonance and uncertainty reduction theory.
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In psychology, such behavior is frequently referred to as behavioral dis-confirmation.
Burgoon (1978) notes that people do not view others' behaviors as random.
Rather, they have various expectations of how others should think and behave.
Expectancies can be derived directly from the current communication interaction but are often determined by a prexisting blend of person requirements (biological/survival needs), expectations (normative schemata) and desires (likes and dislikes) known as the mnemonic 'RED'.
This is known as a person's interaction position (IP).
The theory predicts that expectancies influence the outcome of the communication interaction as either positive or negative and predicts that positive violations increase the attraction of the violator and negative violations decrease the attraction of the violator.
Beyond proxemics and examining how people interpret violations in many given communicative contexts, EVT also makes specific predictions as to how individuals will react to a given expectation violation.
Will an individual reciprocate or match someone's unexpected behavior, or will that individual compensate or counteract by doing the opposite of that person's behavior?
Before making a prediction about reciprocation or compensation, however, one must evaluate EVT's three core concepts: Expectancy, violation valence, and communicator reward valence.