Prosocial Communication

This discussion of prosocial communication is a preliminary version of a section I'm considering adding to the new edition of The Interpersonal Communication Book. It would be the final section of the last chapter. I'd be very interested in hearing what you think of this section. Any comments, positive or negative, will be greatly appreciated.

Prosocial Communication
In Chapter 10 we looked at the dark side of interpersonal relationships (jealousy and relationship violence) and, in this chapter, we looked at the misuses of power (sexual harassment, bullying, and power plays), other “dark” sides. As a counterpoint to these “dark” sides we need also to highlight the more positive sides of interpersonal communication and relationships or what we might call prosocial communication. Here we consider the nature of prosocial communication, the factors that influence or inhibit such communication, some examples of prosocial communication, and some of its potential effects.

The Nature of Prosocial Communication

Prosocial communication is communication that benefits another individual, group, society, or the entire species in some way. The communication may be verbal or nonverbal or, as usual, some combination of verbal and nonverbal messages.
          A simple smile, compliment, or helpful advice would be examples of prosocial communication benefiting another individual’s self-esteem or future behavioral choices. A phone call or text to report a crime or a person in need of medical attention would also be examples of prosocial communication. The publication of research is another example of prosocial communication since it advances our knowledge of some topic in some way.  And, to the extent that knowledge is beneficial, the publication of research is prosocial. Speeches or posts espousing accepted values in a culture—whether they be equality, democracy, freedom of speech-–would be considered examples of prosocial communication benefiting the larger social group.
          As you might expect the definition of prosocial communication will vary with the culture. And so, while supporting gay rights or women’s rights in some cultures would be considered prosocial, it would not be in others. And the same is true with a wide variety of religious, political, and social issues.
On the Internet both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are examples of prosocial communication (Sproull, Conley, & Moon, 2004). When you help another person find the right plumber or get opinions on different graduate schools (as you would in responding to a crowdsourcing request), you’re engaging in prosocial communication. Similarly, when you send in a donation for a particular project (as you would in responding to a crowdfunding request), you’re engaging in a prosocial act or at least you assume the request is legitimate rather than a scam. Also needed to be included here are the numerous prosocial communication options for comments on posts.
Prosocial communication is not the opposite of anti-social communication. If you give a homeless person money for coffee, we’d say this is a prosocial act but if you don’t give it, it doesn’t mean that your behavior is anti-social. It’s just not, in this case, prosocial.
And, contrary to what many would think, prosocial communication is not necessarily altruistic. Altruism may motivate the prosocial communication but it is not an essential component. In fact, there is some evidence that altruism is the primary motivation for prosocial behavior generally (Stiff, Dillard, Somera, Kim, & Sleight, 2009). But, prosocial communication may also be motivated by selfishness, the need for approval or as a preface to asking a favor. It does not have to be motivated by positive emotions such as love, empathy, or friendship. In fact, some theorists would argue that all behavior (even prosocial behavior) is motivated by egoism, not altruism (http://www.iep.utm.edu/psychego/).

Factors Influencing Prosocial Communication

A wide variety of factors can be identified that may influence prosocial communication. Some factors encourage and others inhibit the expression of prosocial communication.
One factor is that of similarity. Similarity encourages prosocial communication; you’re more apt to engage in prosocial communication with those who are similar to you than with those who are different—whether in sex, in age, in culture, or in religion--than you are with those who are unlike you. Dissimilarity often reduces the likelihood of prosocial communication.
Your relationship bonds will influence your prosocial communication.  As you’d expect, you’re more likely to engage in prosocial communication with those you are friends with or those you love. This seems partly due to the expectation (or perhaps obligation) you have towards friends and family and partly due to your wanting to do good things for friends and family (that is, to people you like). With enemies or with disliked others, prosocial communication is likely to be inhibited.
When someone engages in prosocial communication that benefits you, you’re more likely to reciprocate and return prosocial communication. This is simply another example of the law of reciprocity—you are apt to engage in behavior that is similar to the behavior of others; you tend to give back what you are given.
Your history of reinforcement will influence your prosocial communication, as it will any form of communication. If you’ve been rewarded for prosocial communication, you’d be more likely to continue to engage in and even increase such communication. If you were punished for it or if it was ignored, you’d likely decrease such communication. Even expressions of gratitude increase the likelihood of prosocial behavior and communication (Grant & Gino, 2010). Similarly, the expectation of reward will influence your prosocial communication. We live in a world that, at least on the surface, rewards prosocial communication. Those who engage in prosocial communication seem to be liked more than those who don’t. And so, you might engage in prosocial communication because you anticipate that it will lead others to reward you in some way, perhaps to like you more.
Your personality affects your communication and certain personality traits, for example, altruism, will encourage prosocial communication and other personality traits, for example, selfishness, will likely lead to less such communication. Some research finds that the prosocial orientation depends on two major personality traits: other-oriented empathy and helpfulness (Penner & Orom, 2010).
The teachings of your culture and with those with whom you come into contact will influence your tendencies to engage in prosocial communication. Your culture has taught you about the rules for prosocial communication and you likely follow these unconsciously internalized rules. For example, collectivist cultures such as Venezuela, Indonesia, Pakistan, Guatemala, and China emphasize prosocial communication more than individualist cultures such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, and Denmark. It is, for example, extremely important in collectivist cultures to be supportive of the other person, to praise the other person, to not call any errors to attention, to agree rather than disagree—all prosocial communication. This doesn’t mean that these communications are not supported in individualist cultures; they are, but just not as much. In addition to the rules of the culture, you also learn to engage in prosocial communication from parents, from teachers, and from peers. You may be praised by your parents for saying nice things about your kid sister or notice that those who engage in prosocial communication seem to be liked more than those who don’t.
And, because culture influences the gender roles we learn, your gender will also influence prosocial communication. Generally, research finds that both genders engage in prosocial communication equally but in different ways.  Women seem to engage in more prosocial verbal communication while men are more likely to engage in more prosocial nonverbal communication (Dickman & Eagly, 2000).  For example, a man is more likely to go into a burning building to rescue someone or to break up a fight and a woman is more likely to express positive feelings and give compliments.
One additional factor should be noted and that is the situation that arises when you’re in a crowd and someone is in need of help. Research shows that in these situations, you are less likely to help. This tendency is referred to as the diffusion of responsibility (Darley & Latane, 1968). The idea here is that people feel they needn’t do anything since someone else in the crowd is likely to do it. A related factor influencing whether or not you offer to act prosocially is your view of the crowd. When you make your decision to act or not to act (that is, to help the person in need), you may take your cues from the crowd and if the crowd does nothing, then you figure you shouldn’t either. Appropriately enough, this tendency is referred to as pluralistic ignorance (Latane & Darley, 1970) and can lead to a variety of negative consequences (Fisher, et al., 2011).

Examples of Prosocial Communication

Throughout your course and textbook, numerous examples of prosocial communication have been identified. Here are just ten to remind you of the varied ways in which following the principles of interpersonal communication may lead to prosocial communication.
·       Communicating with cultural sensitivity. People benefit in their self-view when their cultural beliefs are understood and respected.
·       Listening empathically. When you listen empathically, you’re performing a prosocial communication act by providing a supportive and understanding ear.
·       Responding appropriately to the emotional expression of others. When you offer comfort and support to the grief stricken, you’re performing a prosocial communication act.
·       Confirming. Communications that acknowledge the importance and contributions of another are likely to have a beneficial effect while disconfirming messages are likely to yield no such benefits and perhaps a variety of negative responses.
·       Advising. When you offer advice, assuming it is asked for, you are performing a prosocial communication act by sharing what you know or think with another person in an effort to comfort or reassure them.
·       Complimenting. When you compliment someone for a job well done or for looking good, you’re performing a prosocial communication act by helping the other person to feel more positively.
·       Mentoring/Sharing. When you mentor someone, you’re performing a prosocial communication act by sharing with them your expertise and experience—making them more efficient workers or better speakers, for example. Teaching in all its forms would be included here.
·       Communicating politely. When you respect a person’s need for both positive and negative face, you’re engaging in prosocial communication.
·       Argue fairly and constructively. When you engage in conflict fairly and constructively you show respect and confirm the other person. So, when you’re argumentative rather than aggressive, you’re engaging in prosocial communication.
·       Responding to the dark side of interpersonal communication. When you confront bullying or sexual harassment constructively (and safely) you’re performing a prosocial communication function.

Effects of Prosocial Communication

Prosocial communication most obviously has an effect on the other person. As the examples given above illustrate prosocial communication benefits other people by making them feel better about themselves or enabling them to do what they do more effectively and/or more efficiently.
          But, your prosocial behavior also has an effect on you; you feel better about yourself for having done something good for someone else. In fact, there is considerable research showing that personal pleasure and happiness often comes from helping others (https://thinklivebepositive.wordpress.com/category/helping-others-makes-you-happy/).
          And, in many ways, prosocial communication benefits the society as a whole when, for example, you campaign for clean water or when you argue against injustice. Even when you mentor a young person, for example, you’re influencing the larger society by helping this person do a better job—be a better bus driver (benefiting the passengers), or teacher (benefiting students), or store clerk (making life easier for harried customers). Each act has ripple effects and prosocial communication has positive ripple effects.

Exercises and Discussion Questions

Giving and Receiving Prosocial Communication
Here are two scenarios which have the potential for prosocial communication. Examining these situations will further clarify the nature and function of prosocial communication. The first scenario focuses on your making prosocial communication choices and the second on the prosocial communication you might like to receive from others.
Giving Prosocial Communication
One of your close friends has been having a pretty awful time; failed two courses, lost a great part-time job, and was dumped by a long-time romantic partner. Your friend call you; tells you all this and pauses, waiting for you to say something.
1.     Identify two or three choices for prosocial communication, select the one you think best, and explain why you think this is the best choice.
2.     In what way might this choice benefit the other person?
3.     In what way might this choice benefit you?
4.     In what way might this choice benefit the larger social group or society as a whole?
Receiving Prosocial Communication
At dinner with four of your closest friends, you mention that you are feeling depressed lately and are thinking of quitting college.
1.     Identify two or three choices for your friends’ prosocial communication that you might find useful.
2.     In what way might these choices benefit you?
3.     In what way might these choices benefit your friends?
4.     In what way might these choices benefit the larger social group or society as a whole?

Defining Prosocial Communication
There is no universally accepted definition of prosocial communication. Some theorists define it as behavior that benefits another but with no thought of personal reward; others define it as behavior that is intended to serve a prosocial function. Here are a few questions about: Where is prosocial communication?
a.      Is it in the intention of the communicator? Would a totally destructive bit of advice be prosocial communication if there was the intention to help. For example, would a friend’s advice on how to dress, that leads the person into a long period of depression, be prosocial if the friend’s intentions were good and were intended to help rather than harm the friend? 
b.     Is it in the non-expectation of gain? Some definitions of prosocial behavior define it as behavior that benefits others without the expectation of any personal gain. So, does the real estate salesperson engage in prosocial communication when she convinces a potential buyer to buy a house—that is sure to (and actually does) increase dramatically in value—when her motivation is the commission she’ll earn from the sale?
c.       Is it in the message? Consider this: you’re having coffee with your romantic partner and announce your desire to break up. Your partner is overcome with shock and goes to the restroom. Almost immediately after getting up, a stray bullet is fired and would have hit your partner had your partner not gotten up. Was the breakup speech prosocial communication?
d.     Is it in the effect? Let’s say, Jim wants to bankrupt John and so convinces him to invest all his assets in a particular stock. Contrary to Jim’s expectation, the stock soars in value and John becomes a multi-millionaire. Was Jim’s communication prosocial?
So, in your opinion, where is prosocial communication? How would you define prosocial communication?

Discussion Questions
1.     How would you describe an insincere compliment in terms of prosocial communication? A forced smile?
2.     What role does emotion work play in prosocial communication?
3.     How would you describe the rules of netiquette generally or the rules for communicating on any one of the varied social media sites in terms of prosocial communication?
4.     In what way does Facebook, Twitter, or any of the online dating sites promote prosocial communication? Can you find examples that might discourage prosocial communication?
5.     How would you describe the prosocial behavior in general and the prosocial communication in particular exhibited by the typical superhero?
6.     How would you explain the role of prosocial communication in developing and maintaining friendship and/or romantic relationships? What role does prosocial communication have on the immediate and extended family?

7.     How would you describe your own prosocial communications? Consider, for example, such concepts as the contexts in which such behavior occurs, the channels used, the feedback, and the effects.


Here is something I'm very proud of. Thank you Champ Ravirath.

การพัฒนาความสามารถในการสื่อสารระหว่างบุคคลโดยใช้โปรแกรมฝึกอบรมเชิงจิตวิทยา • Thesis • 267 pages • Joseph DeVito Your IC approach was published in Thailand as training methodology!


Cultural Identifiers
Liliane Maestrini
Here's a good example of the value of learning the appropriate cultural identifiers and the embarrassment that follows from not learning/using them from the Olympics. In brief: the announcer said: “She gives a hug to Lili,” Marlowe [the sports announcer] said. “That is her husband. She married Lili in 2013.”


Reducing Communication Apprehension
Here's a novel method for rehearsing your speech and for reducing your communication apprehension.


Inspired to Educate

I received this request from Nina Martin and it seems a noble one and so I'm posting it as I received it. It should be of interest to lots of educators who pass by this blog.

Hi Joe,

Happy summer! I’m reaching out to you to let you know about #Inspired2Educate, a program designed to recognize and praise educators and the people who inspired them. Each month we will award $2,000 to someone who shares their story -- $1,000 to the person for their professional development and $1,000 for their educational institution. I’d love for you to share this news with the readers of The Communication Blog and across your social channels. I’ve put together a page with all the info here:


Please let me know if you are able to share the #Inspired2Educate program and the news of our $2000 monthly giveaway. We’re using the hashtag #Inspired2Educate on Twitter. I’m here if you have any questions.


The Two-Minute Speech: Distinguish Between

Here is a brief public speaking exercise built around the theme of distinguishing two things. The main purpose of the exercise is to illustrate some principles of organization and can be used as a regular prepared/researched speech or as an impromptu speech. For this exercise, the speeches should be organized in either of these two ways.Blogarama - The Blog Directory
Organizational Patterns
A basic orientation as to what will be discussed
I.                     Item No. 1 (e.g., muffin)
A.      Property No. 1 (e.g., ingredients)
B.      Property No. 2 (e.g., appearance)
C.      Property No. 3 (e.g., taste)
II.                   Item No. 2 (e.g., cupcake)
A.      Property No. 1 (e.g., ingredients)
B.      Property No. 2 (e.g., appearance)
C.      Property No. 3 (e.g., taste)
A brief summary of the distinguishing properties.

A basic orientation as to what will be discussed
I.                     Property No. 1 (e.g., ingredients)
A.      Muffin
B.      Cupcake
II.                   Property No. 2 (e.g., appearance)
A.      Muffin
B.      Cupcake
III.                 Property No. 3 (e.g., taste)
A.      Muffin
B.      Cupcake
A brief summary of the distinguishing properties.

Speech Topics
Here are a few topics that would be easy enough to discuss in a two-minute speech. But, more complex ones can easily be substituted: pragmatism and existentialism; behavioral and cognitive theories, Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, diffusionism and cultural relativism, Democratic and Republican tenets.

1.       Acting and directing
2.       Snail and email
3.       Sociology and anthropology
4.       Animal and insect
5.       Verbal and nonverbal communication
6.       Credit card and debit card
7.       Football and baseball
8.       Jealousy and envy
9.       Friendship and romantic relationship
10.   Co-op and condo
11.   Muffin and cupcake
12.   High school and college
13.   Radio and television
14.   Army and navy
15.   Netflix and HBO

16.   Herb and spice
17.   Sneakers and oxfords
18.   Fruits and vegetables
19.   Language and dialect
20.   Vegan and vegetarian
21.   Film and video
22.   Love and hate
23.   Male and female
24.   Perennial and annual
25.   Butter and margarine
26.   Sight and sound
27.   Task and ambient lighting
28.   Comedy and tragedy
29.   Social exchange and equity theory
30.   Attitude and belief



Public Speaking Trends

Here’s an interesting article that I just ran across while researching trends in public speaking. Lisa B. Marshall identifies 7. I paraphrase these in brief but the article is worth reading especially if you’re teaching public speaking.
Smart Talk

1.       Public speaking in the business world is becoming more casual.
2.       Audiences no longer can be viewed as passive recipients of a speaker’s message but are listeners who want to participate.
3.       Speakers are addressing smaller audiences with more focused presentations.
4.       Webinars are increasing but so are live presentations.
5.       Videos are being increasingly incorporated into public speaking presentations.
6.       Technology is playing an ever increasing role in public speaking.
7.       The white board’s “less polished” presentation can help the speaker appear more approachable.


Digitizing and Widgetizing Our Textbooks

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

The textbook as many of us have known it, it on the way out and the digital/widgetal textbook is in. Well, not exactly, just yet but it’s coming. This brief description of what’s happening may be of some value to those new to this type of textbook but also to those who intend to write a textbook as well as to students who want to know why the change is happening. All of the major publishers and a variety of smaller publishers are engaged in creating these interactive textbooks. They’re all betting that this is the wave of the future and will become standard in the not very distant future.

The Digital/Widgetal Textbook

A digital textbook is simply an e-book, a book that can be read on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. Except for the fact that it can be accessed electronically, the digital textbook is little different from a print book. A widgetal textbook (see glossary at the end of this post), on the other hand, is not only digital but interactive.  This interactivity is the hallmark, the defining feature, of the widgetal textbook. The student has to do things to read the book. So, for example, when a dialogue is presented the student can click the audio icon and hear the excerpt. To view a table, the student may have to click on the heading to reveal the contents of the table’s rows—not surprisingly called “click and reveal”.

Image result for how to succeed

Not too long ago, a widget stood for something that was unspecified because it was unimportant to the story line.  And so, in How to Succeed, the company made widgets.

Or a table is presented and the student is asked to study it and, when ready, to click the start button at which point the second column disappears except for one item. The student’s task is to position the item in the correct row. Videos are built into the text so periodically, at the click of the arrow, the student can view a speech, an animated trip through the process of conflict resolution, or an interview, for example.
Figures are animated so that with various clicks, the student can view a process—blood flowing through the heart or the communication process from sender to receiver. Images of art work and maps, for example, can be examined in greater detail with a click of the + button. Definitions pop up when you hover your cursor over a bold-faced term. And periodically, usually at the end of each module, there is a brief quiz to assess the student’s understanding of the material. Similar quizzes appear at the ends of the videos. A figure that is referred to in Chapter 6 but was presented in Chapter 1, can be viewed with a simple click.
One of the most important changes is the incorporation of writing experiences throughout the textbook. Whether that is a commitment to “writing across the curriculum”—an approach we thought died in the 80’s—or a way to force the student to interact with the material or a way to, again, assess performance—or some combination of these and perhaps other reasons is not clear to me.
Ultimately these mini-essays—some ask for a limit of 200 words (a lot more than a tweet but a lot less than a traditional essay)—will be machine scored. Spelling and grammar checks are easy—thematic coherence and well-reasoned arguments will be a lot more difficult for the program to assess. But, clearly, the movement is to take away from the instructor the role of assessing the student’s performance. Of course, instructors don’t have to count in their assessment what they don’t want to count, the widgetal textbook makes it very easy to use what is built into the system.
Part of these writing experiences is one called Shared Writing—at least in my books—and is meant to be shared among students. In a way, this builds a community, a closeness as would any sharing of one’s thoughts.
These and various other widgets can be viewed on YouTube and on the websites of a variety of publishers.

Reasons for the Move to Digital/Widgetal

There are lots of reasons for the move from print to digital/widgetal. Perhaps the economic reason comes to mind most easily. Print books are expensive to produce, to ship, and to buy. Digital/widgetal textbooks, on the other hand, will be less expensive for the publisher to produce and for the student to buy. It also eliminates the used-book market from which no one but the bookstore makes any money.
Another reason is convenience. Books—especially textbooks—are heavy. According to Amazon.com: Ciccarelli and White’s Psychology weighs 3.9 lbs, Mader and Windelspecht’s Biology weighs 4.8 lbs, and Stewart, Redlin, and Watson’s Precalculus weighs 5.1 lbs. Communication texts generally weigh less; my Human Communication weighs 1.8 lbs, O’Hair, Wiemann, Mullin, and Teven’s Real Communication weighs 2.2 lbs as does Verderber, Verderber, and Sellnow’s Communicate! And so instead of carrying around 3 or 4 books weighing ten or more pounds, the textbooks can all be accessed from a lightweight phone or tablet which the student carries around anyway. Another convenience factor is that instead of waiting for the book to ship to the student or waiting in line at the bookstore, the book can be accessed immediately. This will prove especially important to online courses that enroll students from different parts of the country and the world. All will have equal and easy access to acquiring the course materials.
Still another factor is that students interact more with the computer/mobile screen than with newspapers, magazines, or books and so the digital/widgetal textbook simply uses the format with which students are most comfortable.
There is also an education or pedagogical reason and that is that the new textbooks promote more active learning and provide easy-to-use assessments.   

How Digitizing and Widgetizing is Influencing/Changing our Textbooks

With this widgetization come a variety of changes. One major change is that uniformity—across textbooks as well as across disciplines--is promoted. Tables, for example, cannot have captions within the widgetized table and key terms must be outside any widget and put into the basal text.
The author becomes more than a content provider—and ideally and ultimately will become a director, visualizing the content not just in print but in video, in animated figures, and in tables that test the students understanding, for example. Right now, that’s handled by the publisher’s widgetizer, a kind of developmental editor who examines the content and then tries to fit various pieces into a pre-existing widget template. However, the new and successful author will be one who can visualize the content in widget terms, who can create and present content in ways that can be made into interactive experiences, i.e., widgets.
The digital/widgetal textbook, as already noted, is assessment focused—with quizzes and writing assignments positioned throughout the book. This frequent assessment—whether for good or ill--would be virtually impossible in a print book. Because of the emphasis on assessment, the learning objectives must be very specific and need to be phrased in behavioral terms—we used to call these behavioral objectives, in fact—and so objectives like “the student will understand the principles of interpersonal communication” or “the student will be able to prepare and present a speech of demonstration” are replaced by such learning objectives as “the student will be able to paraphrase the principles of interpersonal communication” and “the student will be able to identify the principles for preparing and presenting a speech of demonstration.” Along with the specificity of learning objectives, is their repetition, ideally to keep the student focused on what needs to be learned. And so, the learning objectives are identified first in the chapter opener, then at the beginning of each module, and then again, in the summary.
The new textbook becomes more like the instructor. It takes over many of the previous responsibilities of the instructor. Most obviously, the testing. But, in providing audio, for example, it provides, say, the correct pronunciation for difficult terms—something the instructor would normally do when using a print book. In providing videos, it makes the decision for the instructor as to which videos to show. No longer do you have to search the available film and video catalogues. Of course, you can but you don’t have to.
A change that is likely to come in the future is that content choices will increase. Right now, in the print books, the content is limited to what is covered in the majority of courses—no more, no less. Part of this is due to the legitimate complaint from students that they don’t want to pay for chapters that aren’t used. And the physical book can get overwhelming in size and in cost if realistic limits are not imposed. Not so with the digital version. Whereas a print text might contain 12 chapters, a digital text might contain 15 or even 20 chapters, giving instructors the freedom to make selections that perhaps better reflect the needs of their students and their own focus. In this sense, each book can itself be customized. But, digitizing will also increase cross-text customization because of the ease with which such a customized book can be put together, the uniformity in their style, and the ease with which the varied choices can be examined. And likely the cost will decrease.

A Glossary
Some of the terms and definitions in this glossary are standard; some are made up to provide a way of talking about the new textbooks.
Basal text (noun) The main textbook content—minus the chapter opener, boxes, end of chapter material, photos, captions, tables, figures, and marginal notes.
Digital textbook (noun) An e-book, a book that can be read through any number of electronic devices.
Learning objective (noun) A statement that identifies what the student should be able to do after reading a specific part of the text.
Module (noun) A main section of the chapter
Static text (noun phrase) A text without a widget
Widget (noun) An interactive. More precisely: According to WhatIs.com: “A widget is an element of a graphical user interface (GUI) that displays information or provides a specific way for a user to interact with the operating system or an application. Widgets include icons, pull-down menus, buttons, selection boxes, progress indicators, on-off checkmarks, scroll bars, windows, window edges (that let you resize the window), toggle buttons, form, and many other devices for displaying information and for inviting, accepting, and responding to user actions.”
Widgetal (adjective) Interactive
Widgetal textbook (noun) An e-book that is interactive
Widgetization (noun) The process of making something digital/widgetal
Widgetize (verb) To create a widget out of static text
Widgetizer (noun) Someone who creates widgets out of static text

Widgetizing (gerund) The act of creating widgets