Meet Dr. Brian Spitzberg

Biographical Information

Brian H. Spitzberg received his B.A. (1978) in Speech Communication at University of Texas at Arlington, and his M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1981) in Communication Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California. He is currently professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State University.

His areas of research include interpersonal communication skills, conflict, jealousy, infidelity, intimate violence, sexual coercion, and stalking. His areas of teaching include relational communication, conflict management, communication theory, research methods, philosophy of science, and the dark side of communication.

He is author or co-author of 3 scholarly books, co-editor of 3 scholarly books, and author or coauthor of over 40 scholarly articles and over 40 scholarly book chapters. Included among these are four books on ‘the dark side’ of communication and relationships. The 2004 Dark Side of Relationship Pursuit: From Attraction to Obsession and Stalking won the International Association for Relationship Research book award in 2006.

He also serves as an active member of the San Diego District Attorney’s Stalking Case Assessment Team, and is an active member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals.

Interest in Stalking and Communication

My interest in stalking emerged as a natural progression from becoming interested in the dark side of communication and relationships. Specifically, years back I began noticing that undergraduate textbooks, and even graduate level books in business, communication, and other fields, touted and repeated clarion calls for the importance of cooperation, trust, empathy, self-esteem, confidence, rationality, mutuality, understanding, clarity, assertiveness, and so forth. Rarely were the drawbacks of such characteristics considered, and certainly it was rare to discuss the strategic advantages of initiating or escalating conflict, of avoidance, of suspicion, of self-focus, of caution and modesty, of emotional bases for decision-making, for ambiguity, etc. This led me and my colleague William Cupach on a journey exploring the darker sides of our nature—not only the evil and destructive aspects we enact in our daily communication and relationships, but also those facets and phenomena that (a) are normatively viewed as bad, immoral, or dysfunctional, and yet can be shown to have positive effects (e.g., we dislike jealousy and it is often dysfunctional, and yet it can under various conditions enhance relationship arousal, interest, and intimacy); and (b) are normatively viewed as good, moral, and functional, and yet can be shown to have negative effects (e.g., we extol the virtues of trust, and only occasionally examine the conditions in which it leads to exploitation).

In the process of investigating the dark side, I progressed down a path of studying interpersonal conflict, and then jealousy, and then intimate partner violence, and then sexual coercion, and stalking became the next logical extension of these interests. Not only was I able to get in on the “ground floor” of stalking research, but I was able to bring the sensibilities of a “relationship and communication” perspective to it, when everyone else was bringing psychology or criminal justice perspectives to it.

The Colloquium

The colloquium will cover the nature of stalking and how it relates to more common behaviors that we sometimes experience in relationships, referred to as obsessive relational intrusion (ORI). The prevalence, duration, sex differences, motives, types, and tactics of stalking are described, along with a description of the effects such behavior has on victims and the kinds of behaviors and coping responses victims employ to manage their unwanted pursuit (including examining the role of law enforcement and protection orders). Some explanations for such behavior are examined as well, including a theory I have been working on that examines issues related to conceptions of courtship that are common in our culture, including relationship proprietariness (the tendency to view our partners as our property), entitlement, and cultural myths (e.g., “persistence pays off,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” etc.). The lecture is PowerPoint rich, but designed for significant visual ease and interest for broad audiences, with information relevant from those ranging from the uninformed to the professional.

**All information on this page provided courtesy of Dr. Spitzberg**

Back to top