Though CA has been studied for many years, there is still a lot of research being conducted in order to learn more about it and how it affects people. That being said, there are also a lot of areas regarding CA that need to be examined. For example, though researchers have examined data about how the brain sends signals to other areas of the brain in people experiencing CA, there is little research where the people who experience CA are asked to record how it affects their lives. More research on this would produce a more complete picture of CA and how it impacts peoples' lives.
Honeycutt, Choi and DeBerry argue that CA goes beyond the actual act of communication. They believe that CA can even arise in the mental preparation people go through before they actually communicate or speak to someone. The researchers argue that when people imagine how a conversation will go, that person can experience just as much CA as when they actually communication with a person or group.
For individuals who fall into the category of CA being a trait, they will either have extremely high or extremely low levels of communication apprehension as determined on the PRCA scale. It is believed that approximately 15-20 percent of the population experiences either extremely low or extremely high levels of CA.
It is believed that between 30 and 40 percent of people experience some degree of communication apprehension. One scale used to test for CA is the Personal Report of Communication Apprehension (PRCA) scale. The scale ranges from 24-120, with scores between 50 and 80 representing normal scores. Scores lower than 50 or higher than 80 indicate the possibility of communication apprehension being present in a person's behavior.
Researchers found that in people who report having high levels of CA, 20 percent of them had asymmetrical electrical signals between the two halves of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. Though the percentage of people that have asymmetrical signals in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain is relatively low, Pence et. al.'s study creates an important link to research conducted by others by creating a sense of agreement among the research that the signals between the two halves of the prefrotnal cortex are potentially responsible for the sense of CA experienced by some people.
Once CA began to be thought of as a trait and the prefrontal cortex of the brain began to be looked at more closely as researchers, those researchers began to think about how that region of the brain could be linked to CA. Upon closer examination, researchers began to examine the electrical signals between the two halves of the prefrontal cortex. The signals sent between the two halves of the prefrontal cortex is referred to as the alpha range.
Another aspect proposed by researchers to help think of communication apprehension as a trait was cross-situational consistency. This concept, developed by Biggers and Masterson, states that in order for communication to be considered as a trait, it must be present in people in different situations when people communicate with various people or groups. If communication apprehension is not present in different situations, then it is less likely that it could be considered as a trait engrained in peoples' personalities.
Now that CA and trait have been defined, it is time to move on to understanding how the two fit together. In order for CA to be understood as a trait, attention must be turned to the source of personality: the brain. Within the brain lies the prefrontal cortex, which has two sides and is responsible for producing people's communication behaviors.
In people who experience CA, it is often a very powerful characteristc. Many people experience it in a wide range of situations and with different people or groups. Because of this characteristic strength, it is easy to think of CA as a trait or as something instilled deep within a person's personality.
Before diving deeper into how CA can be thought of in terms of being a trait, 'trait' needs to be defined. The University of Utah defines a trait as, "a notable feature or quality in a person."
One of the founding scholars of Communication Apprehension (CA), is McCroskey. McCroskey defined CA in 1977 as, "an individual's level of fear or anxiety with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons." In other words, CA is how afraid someone is to engage in any form of communication, such as conversations, with other people.