Interpersonal style and complementary response evocation

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Leary (1957) presented a circumplex system to classify the entire domain of interpersonal behavior around two major axes - -dominance - submission and hostility-affection. The four quadrants of the Leary Circle have also been used to characterize four basic styles of relating. In addition to a classification system, Leary has also provided notions about the types of interpersonal behavior which are naturally elicited by, or complementary to, every type of behavior on the circumplex. Carson(1969) has summarized Leary's notions about interpersonal complementarity into one general hypothesis, which states that complementarity occurs on the basis of reciprocity in respect to dominance -submission and on the basis of correspondence in respect to hostility -affection. There has been some empirical validation of this hypothesis, and further empirical investigation was attempted in the present study. With regard to psychopathology, both Leary and Carson maintain that "normal" individuals are flexible in terms of the interpersonal styles they choose to adopt in relating to others, while disturbed individuals are much less flexible,, Because disordered individuals continually respond in the same style, they force others to respond to them in a self-image confirming, pathology-reinforcing fashion. The chief aim of the present study was to investigate the above conceptualization empirically. The general experimental procedure entailed presenting groups of undergraduate female subjects with sets of statements prepared to simulate "fixated" (stylistically limited) and "flexible" interactants. There were 8 content-controlled stimulus tapes, consisting of 36 statements each; and 10 subjects were randomly assigned to listen to each tape. The same actress performed the statements on each tape. Subjects were told to respond to each recorded statement they heard as if they were interacting with a real person, and their responses were recorded. After the subjects finished responding to the tapes, their responses to the first three, middle three, and last three statements were rated on 7 -point Dominance -Submission and Hostility-Affection scales by three independent raters. The rating system used by the raters was prepared for the experiment in order to overcome a number of shortcomings evidenced in previously employed methods to code interactions according to the Leary system. It was predicted that: (a) Complementarity, as hypothesized by Carson, would be evident in response to any given statements made in the same style. This should be true whether the interactant making the statement was fixated or flexible, (b) As the interaction proceeds from beginning to end, however, fixated interactants should elicit complementary responses more regularly and successfully than flexible interactants. (c) By the end of the interaction, when comparing the responses of subjects to identical statements made by fixated versus flexible interactants, differences should be evident; i.e. subjects responding to fixated interactants should be responding in a less variable and more complementary fashion than subjects responding to flexible interactants. The results provided confirmation only for that part of Carson's complementarity hypothesis stating that complementarity occurs on the basis of correspondence with respect to hostility-affection. All of the other predictions were not confirmed. The inter-rater reliability of the rating system was at a high level, and the experimental manipulation was shown to be effective; i.e. fixated and flexible interactants were simulated. Careful inspection of the pattern of the results pertaining to dominance - submission complementarity, and a re-examination of relevant empirical studies previously undertaken, suggested a reformulation of Carson's complementarity hypothesis when it pertains to dominance and submission. Explanations were offered which could account for the failure of all of the other predictions to be confirmed. Possible difficulties with both the conceptual foundations of the hypotheses and with the methodology employed in testing the hypotheses were considered in these explanations o The methodological attainments of the study--the rating system and the stimulus' tapes employed--were also discussed in some detail. Implications and suggestions for future research were presented throughout the Discussion section.






This thesis was digitized as part of a project begun in 2014 to increase the number of Duke psychology theses available online. The digitization project was spearheaded by Ciara Healy.



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