Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

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

These methodologies tend to involve family members engaging in a video-taped interaction that they can then watch and answer particular questions about, or make various types of ratings on. For example, Guthrie and Noller (1988) had couples interact about an emotional incident in their marriage. Following the interaction, they were asked to report what they were trying to do in the interaction and what they thought their spouse was trying to do in the interaction. A sample of undergraduate students was then asked to rate the similarity of the two statements of intention (e.g., the intention the husband reported, and the intention his wife attributed to him). We found that unhappy spouses were less accurate than happy spouses (i.e., their attributions of the spouse's intention tended to be quite different from those the spouse attributed to him or herself). In addition, unhappy spouses tended to attribute more negative intentions to their partners than did happy spouses.

In another study (Noller & Ruzzene, 1991), we had couples discuss a long-standing problem and then provide information about their own and their partner's affect and intentions during the interaction. As in the previous study, similarity ratings of the spouses' reports of their own intentions and their partners' judgments of their intentions, as well as the similarity of their reported affect and their partners' judgments of their affect, were obtained. The accuracy with which they judged one another's affect depended on marital adjustment level, supporting the findings using standard content methods in the earlier studies (Noller, 1980, 1984).


CONCLUSION

Overall, I believe that standard content methodology, despite the limitations, is useful for assessing nonverbal accuracy as an interpersonal skill. The methods described herein could be adapted for use with other groups such as parents and children (with competence in reading) or teachers and children. Different sets of messages, suitable for these different groups, could be written and appropriate contexts and alternative intentions devised. This method is very useful for separating the verbal and nonverbal components of messages and for looking at the effects of gender, message type, and channel on the encoding and decoding of nonverbal messages in dyadic interaction.


REFERENCES

Argyle, M., Salter, V., Nicholson, H., Williams, M., & Burgess, P. (1970). The communication of inferior and superior attitudes by verbal and nonverbal signals. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 222–231.

Bach, G. R., & Wyden, P. (1969). Marital fighting: A guide to love. In B. N. Ard & C. C. Ard (Eds.), Handbook of marriage counseling (pp. 313–321). Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

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