Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

Synopsis

Interpersonal sensitivity refers to the accuracy and/or appropriateness of perceptions, judgments, and responses we have with respect to one another. It is relevant to nearly all aspects of social relations and has long been studied by social, personality, and clinical psychologists. Until now, however, no systematic or comprehensive treatment of this complex concept has been attempted. In this volume the major theorists and researchers of interpersonal sensitivity describe their approaches both critically and integratively. Specific tests and methods are presented and evaluated. The authors address issues ranging from the practical to the broadly theoretical and discuss future challenges. Topics include sensitivity to deception, emotion, personality, and other personal characteristics; empathy; the status of self-reports; dyadic interaction procedures; lens model approaches; correlational and categorical measurement approaches; thin-slice and variance partitioning methodologies; and others. This volume offers the single most comprehensive treatment to date of this widely acknowledged but often vaguely operationalized and communicated social competency.

Excerpt

This volume serves as a handbook of how to think about, measure, and study interpersonal sensitivity. It does so by using that most pedagogically proven procedure: showing how it has been done by the best and the brightest thinkers and researchers studying interpersonal sensitivity.

Readers of this book (and their students) will be rewarded with a greater appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods used by the authors of these chapters. Readers will be rewarded, too, by the liberating effects of theoretical and methodological cross-fertilization. Exposure to the ideas and methods of other workers is liberating from habits of method that build up over time. When we know and really understand other approaches we can exercise more free choice in the methods we use. Our chosen method X is more likely to have been a wise choice when we thoughtfully preferred it over Y and Z than when we used it because it was the only method we knew how to use.

The editors and the authors evoke the spirit of earlier pioneers as they wrestle with some of the same fundamental issues. Among these pioneers are Don Campbell, Don Fiske, Lee Cronbach, Paul Meehl, and Gary Boring.

Campbell and Fiske's thinking about the multitrait, multimethod matrix may help to clarify when different measurement methods reflect truly distinguishable constructs, and when they merely reflect “problems of unique versus common method variance.” Cronbach and Meehl's conceptions of construct validity allow us to describe more clearly the nomological nets created by (a) the superordinate construct of interpersonal sensitivity, (b) its nested major subtypes, (c) the more specific constructs within each of the subtypes, and (d) the measures used to assess the specific constructs and the higher-level constructs that subsume them. Until there was the more specific discussion of measures undertaken by this volume, we could hardly begin to describe the nomological net that defines interpersonal sensitivity theory.

Finally, there is the now-seen-as-radical but wisely cautionary message of Boring. Psychology's historian, Boring warned us of the problems we invite when we wander too far from a path of sensible operationism. Constructs should often be richer than any simple method used to measure them. But the prudent practice preached by Boring suggests that this richness, when excessive, can be theoretically troublesome.

Never has it been more clear that the domain of research on interpersonal sensitivity is a remarkable hybrid of personality and social psychology. It is a domain that seems intrinsically to call for the examination of individual differences in performance occurring in a context of a changing person existing . . .

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