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James M Honeycutt

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Name  James Honeycutt

James M. Honeycutt wwwlsueduhsscmstimageshoneycuttjpg
Books  Imagined Interactions: Daydrea, Cognition - Communication - and Rom, Scripts and Communication for Relati

James M. Honeycutt is a Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, internationally known for his work in relationship scripts and daydreaming, particularly imagined interaction conflict-linkage theory which explains why it is hard to forget old arguments and relational scripts for the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. Instead, conflict may fester within the human mind as people imagine retribution that may or may not occur. One of the common attributes of imagined interactions is "discrepancy" where conversations that are imagined in the mind may be quite different from what actually happens in verbal discourse. For example, there is high discrepancy if you imagine that your boss will chastise you for being late in meeting a deadline; but then he/she tells you that they understand the delay because of other pending matters. Research has shown that discrepancy is associated with chronic loneliness and lack of satisfaction in interpersonal relationships.


On September 10, 1972; Honeycutt was diagnosed with Diabetes mellitus type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes at age 15. He initially diagnosed his own case reading a Family Medical Guide in the home library. In August, he passed a medical exam in order to play junior-varsity football that included a urinalysis which was negative. Yet, at the beginning of September, he was dehydrated, had blurred vision, and thirst due to polyuria. His initial blood sugar was 385. For over 35 years he used daily insulin injections. Elizabeth, his inspirational wife, assisted him in transferring to insulin pump and continuous blood glucose monitoring where he consistently maintained glycated hemoglobin between 6 and 7. Before this technology, long-term side effects were occasional hypoglycemia and fluctuating blood sugar levels. Occasionally, he encouraged others in his classes on motivation by discussing how disabilities for some people could instill psychological resilience and be a lifelong impetus and energizer.


Honeycutt received a Ph.D. in Communication with a complementary emphasis in social and cognitive psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1987. He has been the recipient of numerous research awards including the Distinguished Book of the Year in 2006 by the social cognition division of the National Communication Association for his initial book on imagined interactions. He was the recipient of 2011 LSU Rainmakers Senior Scholar Award in the humanities, social, and behavioral sciences for sustained research productivity over a 25-year period as well as being designated the Outstanding Scholar in Communication Theory by the Southern States Communication Association in 2013. He was the recipient of the 2012 LSU Distinguished Faculty Award for scholarship, teaching, and service in the humanities and social sciences which recognizes a sustained record of excellence in research, teaching, and/or service. He received his M.S. from Purdue University in 1981 with a supplemental emphasis in social psychology and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with honors in 1979 with a B.S. degree. He is the author of several books on the subjects of relationships and imagined interactions. Honeycutt created the Matchbox Interaction Lab (the name was coined by students because some conflict discussions are measured) at LSU in 2007 where individuals, couples, and groups discuss a variety of topics, have their heart rates measured, and receive communication tips to enhance communication competence. Research reveals increased heart-rate variability among some people when imagining discussing sensitive issues with a relational partner.

Honeycutt teaches classes at LSU focusing on emotion and communication, interpersonal conflict, relationships, evolutionary communication, family dynamics, intercultural communication, emotions, physiology, and imagined interactions. He is a member of several social science journal editorial boards. Honeycutt has lectured throughout the United States and Thailand to academic and business groups.

He is known for imagined interaction (II) conflict-linkage theory which consists of three axioms and 9 theorems. The theory explains why it is hard to forget old arguments, let alone forgive those whom the arguments were with. Individuals can become caught in an absorbing state of resentment in these cases. It is based on the assumption that individuals ruminate about conflicts as they are exposed to daily reminders (e.g., songs, media messages, other people that remind us of the source of the conflict) of pent-up grievances. There a number of methods that help manage daily conflict including compensation as individuals may not be in a position to enact revenge or retribution. Hence, they may feel catharsis by imagining discrepant scenarios that relieve tension or anxiety.

Honeycutt is co-editor of the interdisciplinary journal Imagination, Cognition and Personality with Keith Markman of Ohio University and Jennifer Cumming of the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England that is produced by Sage Publications.

This pioneering journal explores uncharted scientific territory and creative research-based clinical interventions. Articles examine the stream of consciousness and the flow of human experience in relationship to human development and behavior, imagery and creativity, fantasy and imagination, brain structure and function, aesthetics and the humanities, and social and cultural influences. A variety of authorities examine the uses of imagery, fantasy and other resources of consciousness in psychotherapy, communication, relationships, behavior modification, hypnosis, medicine, education, and other applied fields.

He has authored or co-authored several books dealing with communication in relationships and family interaction, cognitive and social psychology, physiology and imagined interactions.

Major Research Programs

1. Relational Scripts (Individuals have expectations and cognitive scripts for different types of relationships including online relationships including facebook, blogging, intimate offline or face-to-face relationships, work, family, etcetera. He endorses the classical work of Wish, Duetsch, & Kaplan (1976) in which there are four universal, bipolar dimensions that all relationships are based on: 1) cooperative/friendly vs competitive/hostile, 2) vs unequal, 3) intense vs superficial and 4) socioemotional/informal vs task-oriented/formal.

2. The theory of imagined interaction is designed to explain the attributes and functions of intrapersonal communication. Imagined interactions are a type of social cognition and mental imagery theoretically grounded in symbolic interactionism and cognitive script theory, in which individuals imagine conversations with significant others for a variety of purposes (Honeycutt, 2003; 2010). Honeycutt and Bryan (2011) have discussed how cognitive scripts are a type of automatic pilot providing guidelines for how to act when encountering new situations. Scripts are activated mindlessly and created through imagined interactions, as people envision contingency plans for actions. In contrast to mindless processing, engaging in imagined interaction requires conscious cognitive processing. Imagined interactions are a type of daydreaming that have definitive attributes and serve a number of functions including rehearsal, self-understanding, relational maintenance, managing conflict, catharsis, and compensation. Retroactive imagined interactions often occur in television shows in terms of “flashbacks” as characters relive prior conversations in their mind.

3. A secondary theory imagined interaction conflict-linkage theory explains the motivation for revenge, not being to forget old arguments, and why time-out does not work (Honeycutt, 2004; 2010). The table of applied findings below shows rules for constructive arguing in terms of signaling positive understanding, rationality, consideration, and conciseness while in an argument with someone that you disagree with.

4. Physiological arousal and induced imagined interactions. Honeycutt and his associates examined how in the midst of trauma, imagined interactions using the catharsis function to release emotion, dealing with anxiety and tension relief helped family members in dealing with the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, theorem six of imagined interaction conflict-linkage theory states how recurring conflict is a function of physiology arousal due to neurotransmitter stimulation in the brain (Honeycutt & Cantrill, 2001; Honeycutt, 2004; 2010). The theorem is reprinted below and has been modified over the years due to reach on cardiovascular reactivity.

Theorem 6--Recurring conflict is reflected in physiological arousal in which anxiety is triggered and persons “fight” or take “flight” in terms of the sympathetic nervous system.)

Indeed, any explanation of conflict must acknowledge the impact of neurology and physiology. In the Matchbox Interaction Lab, Honeycutt observed the rise in heart-rate variability as relational partners relive and express ongoing grievances with each other. His physiological work in mental imagery has revealed how imagining thoughts triggers physiological responses similar to actual behavioral involvement of the imagined sequence. The work of Eric Klinger on daydreaming reveals similar results.

5. Nonverbal immediacy and social control cues—A research program that began at Illinois and resulted in numerous, early publications. When people are expected to interact with unfriendly people, they can subliminally influence the responses of others by using nonverbal, immediacy cues in order to create a more palatable conversation (e.g., smiling, eye gaze, talk initiation, pseudoagreements such as “uh-hum,” “yes”) hoping the other person will reciprocate (Honeycutt, 1989; 1992; 1995). Critical cues are mutual eye gaze as opposed to unilateral or no gaze. Witness the eye gaze of Claire and Cliff Huxtable of the old Cosby Show. Claire is the leader of the family even though Cliff talks more.

6. Music therapy is the ability to experience an altered state of physical arousal and subsequent mood by processing a progression of musical notes of varying tone, rhythm, and instrumentation for a pleasing effect. Honeycutt played music instruments including Ludwig Vistalite Drums, harmonicas, five-string banjo, and violin. He routinely played music in terms of music therapy to his students at the beginning of every class in order to simultaneously stimulate relaxation, inspiration, and serenity. He discussed how music is a universal language in terms of tones and rhythm. He indicated that music ultimately has a significant impact on the mood of an individual and can also enhance resolution during interpersonal conflict depending on the type of music and genre that was played. Music affects alpha, delta, and theta waves. A prime example of this is the research on the classic Mozart effect in order to calm emotions since this works in conjunctions with brains’ neurotransmitters in terms of alpha wave activity (Sound machines such as listening to a waterfall may have similar effects).

A primary goal behind music therapy is to control emotions by playing a medley of songs depending on the existing emotional state of the person. For music therapy to be fully effective as a relaxation technique it is best that the music be instrumental without lyrics.

Honeycutt (2014) defined the ISO principle of music therapy as the following: ISO principle—Incremental sound organizer (Play rhythmic & tonal music that matches the existing mood of the person & gradually increases its rhythm & intensity) to a more positive tone in order to generate positive emotion. A medley of songs or sounds must be arranged in which slow, sullen music is initially played that matches to mood of the listener with positive music appearing after serene songs. A classic example of the ISO principle is Maurice Ravel's Bolero which starts out slow and soft and builds to a crescendo. The universal ISO consists of sound archetypes formulated over the generations. Conversely, the gestalt ISO develops during fetal development as a result of fetus’ perceptions of sound experiences inside the womb, such as their mother’s voice, heartbeat, their own heartbeat, and blood flow. The universal ISO and the gestalt ISO united to give the fetus its own unique characteristics of sound identity

He published research with Michael Eidenmuller, a former doctoral student and faculty at the University of Texas at Tyler in 2001 a fellow colleague and musician dealing with conflict resolution and listening to positive and negative music in relation to conversations with intimates at home as well as road rage. In his research on road rage, Honeycutt (2010) found support for the Mozart principle of playing classical music even if drivers disdained classical music. According to research, certain types of music can reduce the levels of stress, depression or anxiety. He found that if driver education instructors disseminated information about the Mozart effect to new drivers, their level of stress and anxiety would decrease and they will be less likely to vent their anger at other drivers on the road. Heart rate variability was negatively associated with riding the brake, but positively associated with increased speed and tailgating. Hence, while accelerating, persons actually feel calmer in heavy traffic conditions.

Unfortunately, this gives drivers time to ruminate and mull over old arguments and conflicts. He found that being a punishing driver was associated with venting in terms of imagined interactions, raging, and talking out loud, such that the car was used as a weapon. Yet, this decreased if Mozart or tranquil, instrumental music was playing in the background. There was less of an effect with lyrical music.

There are physiological arousal in terms of music as the brain is stimulated Indeed, the pitch, rhythm, meter and timbre are processed in various parts of the brain including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and parietal lobe. Rhythm and pitch are primarily left brain hemisphere functions, while timbre and melody are processed primarily in the right hemisphere. See more at:

He highly endorses the Global Z Recording Project which is a nonprofit project designed for young musicians from around the world based on the belief that music can heal and inspire in a culturally and philosophically diverse world. The Global Z Recording Project seeks to serve and improve the socio-cultural good of mankind by embracing diversity, encouraging democratic practices, fostering dialogue, and promoting peace through out-of-the-box, educational, youth-oriented music-related projects.

7. Signalling theory in which individuals consciously or subconsciously emit verbal and nonverbal communication cues about their personality, temperament, and motivations. He examined this in terms of the cues that people send out to indicate if they are aggressive and that conflict will escalate (Honeycutt & Eldredge, 2015). This has important ramifications for victims of domestic violence who may either be desensitized to the clues as well as highly sensitive to them and can pinpoint early signs of abusive tendencies as well as police interrogators examining claims of domestic violence within the home and among intimates. This research is continuing and provides critical insights into cue detection

Applied Findings Regarding “Rules for How to Argue"

Following is a list of rules that couples endorse in terms of how to argue more constructively. These rules have been confirmed in Australia and America (Honeycutt, Woods, & Fontenot, 1993; Jones & Gallois, 1989). A technique known as factor analysis revealed four underlying rules for constructive arguing: showing positive understanding, being rationale, concise, and showing consideration characterize happy relationships more than unhappy relationships when persons are arguing. The higher the factor loading in parentheses the more important that rule is in portraying the underlined factor. How many of these examples you do?

Positive Understanding

Should be able to say you are sorry (.81) Resolve problem so both are happy (.79) Support and praise your partner where due (.69) Listen to your partner (.67) See your partner's viewpoint (.64) Be honest & say what is on your mind (.63) Should look at each other (.57) Explore alternatives (.55) Make joint decisions (.55) Don't dismiss your partner’s issue as unimportant (.55)


Don't get angry (.85) Shouldn't argue (.75) Don't raise voice (.72) Avoid combative issues (.60) Don't lose your temper or be aggressive (.58) Try to remain calm and not get upset (.52)


Be specific, don't generalize (.68) Be consistent (.66) Keep to the main point (.63) Clarify the problem (.59)


Don't talk too much (.69) Don't make your partner feel guilty (.66) Don't push your view as the only one (.65) Don't mimic or be sarcastic to your partner (.62) Understand other's faults & don’t be judgmental (.62) Don't talk down to your partner (.55)

Acronym for Effective Listening and Communication

L – Listen, O- Observe, V-Verify, E- Express


  • Honeycutt, James M.; Cantrill, James G. (2001). Cognition, Communication, and Romantic Relationships. ISBN 0-8058-3577-6. 
  • Honeycutt, James M. (2003). Imagined Interactions: Daydreaming about Communication. ISBN 1-57273-414-0. (Recipient of the 2006 Distinguished Book Award by the Social Cognition Division of the National Communication Association)
  • Honeycutt, James M., ed. (2010). Imagine that: Studies in Imagined Interaction. ISBN 1-57273-830-8. 
  • Honeycutt, James M.; Bryan, Suzette P. (2011). Scripts and Communication for Relationships. ISBN 978-1-4331-1052-8. 
  • Honeycutt, James M., ed. (2013). Diversity in Family Communication. ISBN 978-1-62131-175-1. 
  • Honeycutt, James M. Sawyer, Sawyer, Chris, R, & Keaton, Shaughan A., eds. (2014). The Influence of Communication on Physiology and Health. ISBN 978-1-4331-2219-4. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Honeycutt, James; Hatcher, Laura, eds. (2015). Diversity in Family Communication. ISBN 978-1-62661-786-5. 
  • References

    James M. Honeycutt Wikipedia

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