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13. Исследование неслучайных событий взаимодействия в малых группах Р. Мак-Кензи (The Study of Non-Random Interactional Events in Small Groups. K. Roy Mackenzie)

13. The Study of Non-Random Interactional Events in Small Groups. K. Roy Mackenzie

University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The terms "conscious", "preconscious", and "unconscious" are deeply enshrined in Western psychiatric thought. The implication of separate discrete states is unfortunate for they are most usefully conceptualized as lying along a continuum of awareness which has continually shifting borders of accessibility to partial or full awareness. This accessibility is heavily influenced by both biologic and experiential factors. It would seem evident that much of the motivation for human behaviors stems from obscure and poorly understood internal sources. However, the traditional concept of the unconscious is of dubious value in researching these wellsprings of human thought and actions.

A number of critiques may be offered of the typical scientific reporting of internal events.

Much of the data base is dependent upon patient verbalizations which are subject to considerable selectivity. Both self reports and material obtained during therapeutic interaction may be influenced by intense personal and interactional variables, many of them not readily apparent. This source of information is, therefore, of uncertain validity.

Much psychotherapeutic research has focussed exclusively on cognitive verbal material with a de-emphasis of nonverbal parameters of communication. Given the difficulty in accurately measuring the latter, this neglect is understandable but seriously limits a total appreciation of interactional events.

Often clinical research data is presented in the literature at a high level of conceptualization. Themes are drawn from a small and stereotyped list including such items as dependency, aggression, and sexuality. While such issues are clearly fundamental in human development, their use as high level abstractions from clinical data results in low differentiability and an uncomfortable impression that most cases end up sounding very much the same.

There has been a related tendency, especially in the North American literature, for the utilization of an exclusively psychodynamic perspective. This can lead to the loss of material of high relevance because of a disregard of interactional sequences and feedback cycles.

A number of recent studies have indicated that the curative factors in a therapeutic relationship may be couched in relatively simple interactional terminology. These factors include the following:

(1) a patient-therapist relationship characterized by warmth, empathy, and genuineness

(2) the opportunity for release of emotional tension

(3) a process of cognitive learning or the acquisition of a belief framework for explaining behavior (the exact terminology seems to be irrelevant).

(4) implicit or explicit emotional therapeutic support

(5) identification with the therapist

(6) repeated opportunity for reality testing or practicing of new adaptive techniques

(7) suggestion or persuasion

(8) operant reconditioning through implicit or explicit approval-disapproval cues.

Much of our current understanding of the subtleties of human behavior has been derived from the study of dyadic events. When one enlarges the scope of investigation to include small group phenomena, the complexities are seriously increased. This potential difficulty is counterbalanced by the opportunity to analyze a multidimensional field where events tend to occur in a more flexible and spontaneous fashion and where the role of the therapist is more diluted. Each of the members may demonstrate a variety of interactional patterns thus allowing the opportunity to study the multiple potentials available for use.

In addition to the ramificatio ns of more complex interaction sequences to study, another major conceptual issue must be confronted. There has long been the belief that groups function as more than just a collection of individuals but as an entity in themselves. Indeed, it is a basic tenet of systems theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and conversely, that the interaction loops generated in a group of stable composition greatly affect the functioning of each individual.

Certainly, three major traditions bear mentioning in this context. First is the sizable literature devoted to the evaluation of predictable phases of group development, generally described as beginning with issues of trust, acceptance, and dependency, moving onto the stage of intra-group conflict and power testing, and finally to issues of intimacy. This conceptualization has been termed the linear-progressive model which basically states that all groups go through this developmental sequence in this order although perhaps at variable speeds and, of course, always subject to derailment if specific problems arise.

The second major tradition in group-as-a-whole thinking is that of the pendular or cyclical model which stated in its essentials suggests that any group goes through recurrent, necessary, and predictable cycles consisting of a period of task-oriented work (varying in its content according to the purpose of the group) alternating with periods of tension release or affective ascendancy which are necessary to clear the air before resubmersicn in group work. Some authors have described a combination of group development themes and nodal points of increased tension at transition periods from one stage to the next (1).

The third tradition stems from the psychoanalytic orientation of Bion in which defense mechanisms are described for the group. The three basic assumptions of fight/flight, dependency and pairing seem inadequate to account for all deviations from constructive work and are imprecise enough to make research documentation difficult. Nonetheless, as concepts, they have some utility for facilitating understanding of blocks to effective group work and warrant further investigation (2).

Any study of group process must, therefore, take into account this other concept of the unconscious - the evolution of group events of which the individuals involved may be only dimly aware. If one must express caution regarding intra-psychic assumptions, there is an even greater need to treat group themes with caution, for a summative process is being conceptualized in which each individual participates to a variable extent.

Groups also allow the investigation of interactional phenomena such as role assignment, dominance, triangulation, and sub-group clumping. In addition, there are, of course, therapist-member variables having much in common with those found in dyadic situations.

It will be noted that the term "interactional" has been used extensively in the foregoing discussion. This is perhaps a crucial issue of underlying importance in conceptualizing human behavior. Historically, behavioral motivation in the North American tradition was seen as intra-psychically driven. Increasingly, however, the importance of interactional cycles has been recognized both in childhood developmental and in current behavior. To put it more bluntly, all behavior occurs in the present, and the surrounding environment is constantly influencing what emerges.

A useful conceptual approach for looking at group behavior is to consider each action or bit of behavior as having a number of simultaneously operating relevancies, anyone of which may, at a given point in time, be of ascendant concern with the others providing a background of motivational influence. Each orientation presents a different aspect of reality, and thus a series of possible interfaces may be described each with a unique set of interactional parameters. The task of the researcher and clinician is to identify and clarify as many of these interfaces as possible. This position is graphically demonstrated in Fig. 1. The interfaces diagrammed do not, of course, constitute a complete list by any means, although they do encompass a good number of the variables generally considered relevant.


In the study of groups, we must, therefore, struggle with two concepts of processes beyond awareness, two avenues of "unconscious" motivation. The first deals with individual intra-psychically driven phenomena, the second with group-as-a-whole themes in which all members participate albeit to varying extents. Unfortunately, both of these conceptual perspectives deal with global issues which are difficult to operational ize.

For reliable and valid research investigation, one is on safer methodologic grounds if interactional data can be stringently defined around relatively simple measures. These measures must be carefully screened to free them as far as possible of the need for inferential judgement by the rater. Perhaps another way of saying this is to suggest that higher level conceptualizations and hypotheses should follow data collection and not be a part of it.

In keeping with this rationale, one would not study the "unconscious" per se but rather look for recurring behavioral patterns which take place whether or not the individual can specify his awareness of them. By concentrating one's observations at a basic level, reproducible results may be obtained which will eventually throw light on internal processes, the complexilies of which are inadequately understood. By including the behavior of the therapist in such observations, relatively low level skills may be analyzed and specifically taught.

A number of research instruments are available which begin to meet these oneeds. Most have problems, none is satisfactorily encompassing. They are imperfect solutions to the enduring quest for the hidden motivational promptings which govern our interactional behavior and our private internal thoughts. At least, two basic assumptions seem to underlie all of them:

(1) that human behavior is nonrandom, that is, it is motivated and purposeful, and

(2) that human behavior is a carefully orchestrated whole, from EEG patterns and corticosteroid levels through micro facial movements and body posture, to overt verbalizations and highly abstract thoughts.

The group of instruments described is by no means complete but does represent a reasonable sampling of diverse approaches to the study of human interactional behavior.

A. Interaction Process Analysis

By far the most basic approach consists of interaction process analysis. This technique portrays interaction in its simplest dimensions, what Matarazzo has termed its "anatomy". (3) The ingredients consist of the time dimensions of speech and silence, speaker sequencing, and interruption rate. Collins and Collins (4) describe one additional component of considerable interest, partitioning of the directional field of the subsequent utterance. As Speaker A addresses Speaker B, three directional messages are possible: (i) speak back to me, (ii) speak to someone else, (iii) or don't speak, i. e. end of sequence. Does the interaction sequence then adhere to these partitioning instructions or violate them. All of these measures except partitioning are "hard" data. Partitioning rating involves rater inferences of intent but is still at a relatively basic level where interrater reliability is high. Such dimensions may seem far from the luxuriation of psychodynamic conceptualization, but if we review the two original assumptions that all behavior is integrated and motivated, the potential relevance oi interaction process analysis may be appreciated.

For example, each time Speaker D emits an utterance, Speaker В interrupts and Speaker D becomes silent. Or each time Speaker A and E become involved in dyadic interchange, Speaker G joins in. The latter example by the way is the subject of current interest in our laboratory as a possible demonstration of triangulation echoing early genetic experiences of one or more of the participants.

Interaction process analysis per se does not embody theoretical issues apart from those extremely basic ones mentioned. It does focus on hard descriptive data which may then be the subject of higher level conceptualization. Comprehensive psychotherapy research must include measures at this basic level if it is to withstand the criticisms alluded to earlier in this paper.

B. Bales Interaction Process Analysis

One of the earlier instruments for analyzing interaction in groups, the Bales has had a continuing influence on the conceptualization of interaction sequencing. The data is organized into discrete overt acts and these are scored, not by simple time and directionality as in the first example discussed,, but into categories with interactional significance based on manifest content. This approach imposes greater conceptual control and boundaries, but does lead to reproducible results at an intermediate level of abstraction. Bales basic conceptualization of "task area" with group work directed to problem resolution, and "socio-emotional area" concerned with tension level and group' maintenance functions, have stimulated much research of basic group processes. (5).

D. Mann's Process Analysis Scoring System

This instrument owes much to Bales but has useful modifications for therapeutic groups. Categories deal with hostility, affection and dominance. Additional ego state measures are provided for anxiety, depression, guilt, and self-esteem. Thus, most of the predominant interactional and individual themes commonly dealt with in group therapy are represented. Greater scoring difficulties are encountered than in either of the above methods but acceptable inter-rater reliability can be achieved. It should be noted that despite the clear application to psychodynamic theory, the scales themselves are based on careful definition of thematic content with avoidance of assumptions of meaning or motivation. (6) (7).

D. Licberman, Yalom, Miles

These researchers have conducted the most encompassing study of encounter groups and are in the process of similar research on therapy groups. While their work may be criticized on some methodological grounds, it has the advantage of sampling both process and outcome from a wide diversity of viewpoints. The four leadership dimensions which emerged after factor analysis deserve continued attention particularly toward creating greater specificity of measures. These four cut across therapies and theories and focus upon four basic qualities: (1) caring (basically a Rogerian dimension of warmth, empathy, and genuineness, (2) meaning attribution, or the provision of a framework, any framework, for achieving cognitive understanding of behavior, (3) affective intensity, or techniques which increase involvement and alerting, and (4) structuring, or specific process control techniques (8).

E. Ekman

This American researcher has developed facial movement analysis techniques which offer considerable potential in researching nonverbal communication. He has focussed on facial zones, micro expression of partial or very brief emotional display and masking techniques which distort and screen communicative content. He has also demonstrated that most humans are extremely proficient at picking up these partial cues. Interestingly, some of his data suggest that, even though reception occurs, responses may be censored as a social acknowledgement that the sender didn't wish to reveal his message. Video techniques make interactional research at this level possible and are offering exciting augmentation to traditional verbal analysis. Their application to therapy situations is in its infancy. (9). Similarly, analysis of body position and movement such as that pioneered by Birdwhistell can contribute to a more total appreciation of interactional exchanges. (10).


To conclude, let us return to the theme of this Congress - the Nature, Methods, and Functions of Study of the Unconscious Mental Activity. Let me be presumptuous enough to suggest that the topic isjpremature for 1978 and perhaps even eventually will prove ajruitless endeavour. This is not to suggest that many of the antecedents of overt behavior and thoughts do not arise from a level of organization which is beyond our capacity to appreciate - but rather that speculation concerning unseen processes is liable^ to end in weak documentation of dubious therapeutic value.

I would submit that research devoted to phenomenologic interactional events must be firmly rooted in carefully defined low level replicable data. The spectrum of behavioral theories has been unfortunately, if not disastrously, influenced by schools of beliefs most of which have stemmed from philosophical considerations or the force of a charismatic leader. Minimal evidence exists that the curative factors have much if anything to do with espoused theory. On the contrary, several studies have indicated (a) that the theory held has little to do with the clinical behavior of the therapist and (b) that in all likelihood a relatively short list of curative factors may be created which cuts across all techniques.

It is highly relevant that these factors are couched in basic interactional terms and avoid hypothetical constructs such as "the unconscious". It is time that psychotherapy research endeavours focus on these, rather than attempting to second guess internal processes which must be expressed in vague and quasi-philosophical terms.

Such an approach can hope to curtail the development of even more diverse schools of thought, each claiming to superiority and unique methodology. Our objective must remain to document techniques which offer the most effective use of limited mental health resources to produce maximum diminution of human suffering and social loss.


1. Gibbard, G. S., Hartman , J. J., and MANN, R. D. Ana1уsis of Groups. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1974.

2. Bion, W. R. Experiences in Groups. Tavistock Publications, 1959.

3. Matarazzo, J. D. and WIENS, A. N. The Interview-Research on its Anatomy and Structure. Aldine-Atherton, 1972.

4. Collins, Orvis and Collins, June M. Interaction and Social Structure. Mouton Publications, 1973.

5. Bales, R.F. Interaction Process Analysis: A Method for the Study of Small Groups. Addison-Wesley, 1950.

6. Mann, R. D. "The Development of the Member-Trainer Relationship in Self-Analytic Groups". Human Relations, 1966, 19, 85-115.

7. Gibbard, G. S., and Hartman, J. J. "Relationship Patterns in Self-Analytic Groups". Behavioral Sciences 18, 335-353, 1973.

8. Lieberman, M. A., Yalom, I. D., and Miles, M. B. Encounter Groups: First Facts. Basic Books, 1973.

9. Ekman, Paul, Friesen, W. V., and Ellsworth, Phoebe. Emotion in theHuman Face. Pergamon Press Inc., 1972. 30. Birdshistel, R. L. Introduction to Кinesiсs. University of Louisville Press, 1952.

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