Interpersonal Communication

Elucidate the fundamental processes that underlying interpersonal communication and social interaction in face-to-face and mediated contexts...


Scholars who study of interpersonal communication are interested in understanding how people engage in their relationships with others. Interpersonal communication includes the processes surrounding individuals’ social interactions with each other to modify rapport and accomplish goals. Interpersonal communication occurs in a variety of settings and across multiple contexts, both face-to-face and mediated.

Topics common to interpersonal communication include the initiation, development, maintenance, and dismantling of personal relationships (e.g., friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships); social support, (cyber)bullying and other destructive patterns of interaction; emotional expression; nonverbal behavior; the use and interpretation of language; deception; compliance gaining; conflict management; doctor-patient interaction; cultural and contextual influences of social interaction; and social identity and communication.

Interpersonal communication informs various contexts in which people manage their relationships and exchange and process information. Our students learn about interpersonal communication from scholars whose expertise spans various domains of communication and gain research skills in experimentation, surveys, content coding, network analysis, and others.


Communication Faculty: Robert Bell, Bo Feng, Nicholas Palomares, Jorge Peña

Affiliated Faculty: Jeff Sherman, Richard Kravitz, Steven Henry

Ongoing Research Programs

Our faculty are currently involved in the following research projects:

  • Supportive communication in online forums
  • Goal pursuit and understanding
    Advice communication in personal relationships
  • Health influence in close relationships
  • Relational escalation in friends and friends with benefits contexts
  • Effects of social identity primes on virtual conversations
  • Increasing confident public speaking using virtual reality
  • Physician-patient communication in decision making
  • Uncertainty and victims’ perceptions in bullying

Relevant Courses

CMN 210: Experimental Methods
CMN 230: Social Interaction Theory and Research
CMN 231: Tactics of Interpersonal Influence
CMN 234: Intercultural Communication
CMN 252: Computer-Mediated Communication
CMN 280: Special Topics in Social Interaction

"What can I do with this?"

Students who focus on interpersonal communication will gain insight into the ways in which people engage in social interactions with each other, which provides a broad set of potential occupational applications. Careers in social media, consulting, law enforcement and legal field, health care, marketing, organizational development, public relations, and managerial relations fit well for PhD graduates. Academic jobs at teaching and research institutions are also excellent examples of what students who emphasize interpersonal communication can do.


"My focus on interpersonal communication has provided me with the tools to be a successful communicator and jump-start my academic career. With the guidance of my faculty collaborators, I have learned to employ a variety of research methods, such as experiments and surveys, to understand cognitions related to romantic relationships and fundamental interpersonal processes."

Dr. Cassie Alexopoulos
Assistant Professor
University of Massachusetts, Boston