Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 15, Iss. 3, July, 2011, pp. 389-406
@2011 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


The Sweet Spots in Human Communication

Philip Salem, Texas State University

Abstract: In baseball, the sweet spot is a special place on a bat where the batter can hit the ball with the most power. It is the place where the performances of the batter and pitcher collide with maximum effect. It is the place where the dynamic tension between opponents leads to transformation. The dynamic tension in all living systems is between similarity and difference. Chaos and complexity scholars recognized this tension as amounts of information. When the amounts of information were high, but not too high, the system moved to the edge of chaos, to the complexity regime, to strange attractors, or to chaos, depending on the model. The sweet spot is that range of relative variety, just the proper mix of similarity and difference, leading to transformation. This essay contains a model of human communication as an emergent social process with its own sweet spots. The essay also includes a description of current literature highlighting tensions between similarity and difference, and there is an exploration of the potential to move from one basin of attraction to another. The primary constraints on finding communication sweet spots are paradigmatic - adopting a process orientation, discovering the proper parameters, bracketing sequences to define initial conditions, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various modeling techniques.

Keywords: chaos theory, complexity theory, communication, interpersonal communication, organizational communication