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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2021

24 A conceptual genealogy of the situational theory of problem solving: Reconceptualizing communication for strategic behavioral communication management

From the book Public Relations

  • Jeong-Nam Kim , Lisa Tam and Myoung-Gi Chon


The situational theory of problem solving (STOPS) was constructed with the premise that communicative behaviors are purposive and epiphenomenal to problem solving. It inherits from the situational theory of publics (STP) the assumption that communication is not just what senders do to change receivers’ attitudes and behaviors - rather, communication is what individuals do to cope with problematic life situations. While STP explains the role of information in decision making, STOPS explains communicative behaviors of publics in the context of problematic situations. The shift of focus from decisional situations to problematic situations provides scholars with a new theoretical foundation to conceptualize public relations. STOPS has shifted the focus of public relations theory from generating media effects to influence the general public to understanding why and how individuals become motivated to organize into issue-specific publics. STOPS has been widely applied to multiple contexts, including health communication, employee communication, environmental communication, crisis communication, and public diplomacy.

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