Social Penetration Theory

social penetration theory essay

Whether we like it or not, nearly all of us a part of society. And it is in that society where we meet people, become friends with them, find our loved ones and spent most of our lives. Yet there is a thing that almost everyone has experienced but hardly anyone every thinks about – social penetration theory. What does this theory talk about? Well, let’s together find the most suitable answer for this question.

How do people become friends? Most people will answer: people first meet each other, then they get to know each other and finally – they become friends. But why is it going in this particular order? Why can’t we just simply become friends instantly? The answer is short – social penetration. A theory of social penetration suggests that we start from non-intimate relationship and then move to a deeper level. This is just an oversimplification, to read the full definition order a book called “Social Penetration the Development of Interpersonal Relationships” from

It was introduced in 1973 by psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor. They were studying how relationships progress between people and came up with this theory. They say that there are multiple levels of intimacy, and that the more time individuals spend with one another the more likely they are to develop a more intimate relationship.

A scientific article that’s called “Social Penetration Theory Breadth and Depth” points out that probably the most important part of reaching new level of intimacy between two individuals is self-disclosure. It is a process of exchanging personal data between people. This is basically the main engine between intimacy. The process starts off fairly quickly, but then gets slower and slower as information becomes more and more personal.

Social penetration model breadth and depth also introduces the metaphor of the onion. Just like an onion, our personality consists of multiple levels. The first level is biographical data, the second one – preferences in things like clothes, movies and such, third one is about goals and aspirations. The fourth level is the level belief and religion convictions, fifth one is about deeply hold fears and subconscious fantasies. The final level is the concept of self. Among all social penetration theory class activities, one it when a student tries to name the levels of his friend to see how intimate their relationship is.

After reading all this, almost everyone is ready to take social penetration theory quizlet at This theory is an extremely interesting one that can quite perfectly describe the interactions between people and explains the complicated phycology quite easily. Knowing more about how people become friends can help us understand ourselves. We can see social penetration theory real life examples all around us every single day – simply try to notice them next time.


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