Adaptation in Dyadic Interaction: Defining and Operationalizing Patterns of Reciprocity and Compensation

Judee K. Burgoon, Leesa Dillman, Lesa A. Stem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Interaction patterns of reciprocity and compensation have received extensive consideration in the literature on mutual influence processes. Unfortunately, conflicting and ambiguous definitions of these concepts, along with inadequate differentiation from other patterns such as matching, convergence, divergence, and complementarity have hindered theoretical and empirical progress. This article is dedicated to sorting out the differences among the various accommodation processes and offering appropriate constitutive definitions and operationalizations. It is proposed that definitions of reciprocity and compensation be distinguished from matching and complementarity in that the former incorporate principles of(1) directedness, (2) contingency, (3) both unidirectional and mutual influence, (4) change rather than maintenance, (5) directionality rather than magnitude of change, (6) intentional and automatic processes, and (7) functional equivalence of behaviors. Operationally, these criteria imply a focus on designs demonstrating causality or strong association between partner behaviors, concatenous and lagged responses, within‐dyad and longitudinal analyses, and, for many purposes, a more molar perspective. Issues of macro versus micro measurement, perceived versus actual reciprocity and compensation, and reliance on observer versus participant perspectives are also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-316
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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