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3: Intrapersonal Communication

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    Who are you? Have you ever sat around thinking about how you fit into the larger universe. Manford Kuhn created a simple exercise to get at the heart of this question.1 Take out a piece of paper and number 1 to 20 (or use the worksheet in the workbook). For each number, answer the question “Who Am I?” using a complete sentence. Results from this activity generally demonstrate five distinct categories about an individual: social group an individual belongs to, ideological beliefs, personal interests, personal ambitions, and self-evaluations. If you did the Twenty Item Test, take a second and identify your list using this scheme. All of these five categories are happening at what is called the intrapersonal-level. Intrapersonal refers to something that exists or occurs within an individual’s self or mind. This chapter focuses on understanding intrapersonal processes and how they relate to communication.

    Larry Barker and Gordon Wiseman created one of the oldest definitions of the term “intrapersonal communication” in the field of communication. Barker and Wiseman defined intrapersonal communication as “the creating, functioning, and evaluating of symbolic processes which operate primarily within oneself.”2 The researchers go on to explain that intrapersonal communication exists on a continuum from thinking and reflecting (more internal) to talking aloud or writing a note to one’s self (more external).

    More recently, Samuel Riccillo defined intrapersonal communication as a “process involving the activity of the individual biological organism’s capacity to coordinate and organize complex actions of an intentional nature… For the human organism, such complex interactions are anchored in the signaling processes known as symbolic language.”3 Both the Barker and Wiseman and the Riccillo definitions represent two ends of the spectrum with regards to the idea of intrapersonal communication. For our purposes in this book, we define intrapersonal communication as something of a hybrid between these two definitions. Intrapersonal communication refers to communication phenomena that exist within or occurs because of an individual’s self or mind. Under this definition, we can examine Barker and Wiseman’s notions of both ends of their intrapersonal communication continuum while also realizing that Riccillo’s notions of biology (e.g., personality and communication traits) are equally important.

    • 3.1: Who Are You?
      In the first part of this chapter, we mentioned Manford Kuhn’s “Who Am I?” exercise for understanding ourselves. A lot of the items generally listed by individuals completing this exercise can fall into the areas of self-concept and self-esteem. In this section, we’re going to examine both of these concepts.
    • 3.2: Personality and Perception in Intrapersonal Communication
      After the previous discussions of self-concept, self-image, and self-esteem, it should be obvious that the statements and judgments of others and your view of yourself can affect your communication with others. Additional factors, such as your personality and perception, affect communication as well. Let us next examine these factors and the influence each has on communication.
    • 3.3: Communication and Relational Dispositions
    • 3.4: Chapter Wrap-Up

    Thumbnail: Lilibeth Bustos Linares (

    This page titled 3: Intrapersonal Communication is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jason S. Wrench, Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter & Katherine S. Thweatt (OpenSUNY) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.