AN OVERVIEW OF ACTION ASSEMBLY THEORY
Action Assembly Theory (AAT) was developed by John Greene in 1984, and the first generation of his theory published in a Communication Monographs article was entitled, “A cognitive approach to human communication: An Action Assembly Theory”. A second generation of Greene’s theory (1997) was published in the book “Message production: Advances in communication theory”. It is a post-positivism theory.
Greene (2007) noted in Explaining Communication that cognitive theories in general focus on representation and processing (p. 168). Representation refers to information which is stored in the mind, and how this information is coded and structured (p. 168). Processing refers to the mental operations on and with the information that is stored. Since AAT is a cognitive theory about communication, the theory’s primary concern is message production; furthermore, Greene stated that his primary goal is to address “what information is represented in the mind and what processes operate over that information such that we are able to conceive and enact verbal and nonverbal messages” (p. 169).
People continuously engage in cognitive processing, and communication flows from these processes. They form ideas and share them with others. This process is often taken for granted and happens often seamlessly, effortlessly, and repeatedly … except when it doesn’t, and then it is noticed. Greene’s AAT seeks to unveil this taken-for-granted process and understand the basic cognitive workings of message formation and production. As the abstract of Greene’s first published article on AAT noted, Greene (1984) sought to address the seemingly paradoxical nature of communication, that it is simultaneously “novel and creative yet patterned and repetitive” (p. 289).
Action assembly theory (AAT) is an approach to explicating the processes by which people produce verbal and non-verbal messages. The domain encompassed by verbal and non-verbal message production is obviously quite broad, thus, AAT addresses issues such as the nature of consciousness, the processes that give rise to creativity in what people think and do, the link between verbal and non-verbal components of behavior and how people plan and edit what they say. The theory argues that individuals in the process of communication possess both content and procedural knowledge.