Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

By Judith A. Hall; Frank J. Bernieri | Go to book overview

1
Toward a Taxonomy
of Interpersonal Sensitivity
Frank J. Bernieri
University of Toledo

Fundamentally, the contributors to this volume are interested in both the aptitude and achievement related to an individual knowing and understanding others. A person is considered sensitive if he or she can perceive or otherwise respond appropriately to the internal states (e.g., cognitive, affective, motivational) of another, understand the antecedents of those states, and predict the subsequent affective, cognitive, and behavioral events that will result. The presumption is that similar to other intellectual, physical, and emotional competencies, this ability should enable an individual to function more effectively in day-to-day life by facilitating interaction with others. Interpersonal sensitivity, then, can be defined most generally as the ability to sense, perceive accurately, and respond appropriately to one's personal, interpersonal, and social environment.


FROM SENSATION TO BEHAVIOR

This definition clearly spans a number of distinct perceptual, cognitive, and motivational processes. An individual who is sensitive must first sense and perceptually discriminate various stimuli in his or her surroundings. If John's wife rolls her eyes in disgust at the breakfast table, but John doesn't notice it because he happened to be looking down at the newspaper when it occurred, his understanding of his immediate social environment will be compromised. Interpersonal sensitivity starts with sensation and perception. Thus, interpersonal sensitivity is a function of (a) one's opportunities to experience and interact with the environment, (b) attention, and (c) any constraints on the perceptual

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